One of the major obstacles of OpenID is certainly usability. Most people are not used to a URL as a method of login. This prevents OpenID from mass adoption. So any tool, service, or application making the login procedure easier and more comfortable is welcome.
Today ClickPass has launched which promises one-click signin to OpenID enabled websites. As far as I understand it, it aims to reduce transfers which happen behind the scenes between the OpenID provider and the relying party. Well, I have tried it, so here is a small guide of how to use it.
Currently ClickPass just works with a small number of websites, one being Plaxo. It is not really suprising that Plaxo is one of the sites. Everytime some company is offering a new service making things easier for users, it seems like those companies are calling Joseph Smarr of Plaxo and asking him to implement it quickly. And faster than I could add a new plugin to WordPress, Joseph implements those services to Plaxo. It’s strange, but not surprising at all anymore. Oh yeah, other sites currently supported include Disqus and Hacker News; also a WordPress plugin is available.
Since I have a Plaxo account already I have tried logging in to it with ClickPass; I have created a ClickPass account before. On the Plaxo sign in page there is a new button now: the ClickPass button. If you click on the OpenID image, a list of popular OpenID providers is dropping down. Anyway, clicking Enter I am forwarded to ClickPass to set things up.
Once forwarded to ClickPass I am asked which websites I want to use with it. I only choose Plaxo.
Next I have to connect Plaxo to ClickPass and something strange happens: I am asked for my Plaxo login credentials! Although it says, those credentials are not stored on ClickPass I feel rather uncomfortable giving away my login details. Luckily I can skip this step.
After choosing a username (which is part of my ClickPass OpenID) my ClickPass profile is build.
ClickPass appends a unique ID to each site. This is directed identity, right? So ClickPass will only work with OpenID 2.0 enabled websites since it is not supported by OpenID 1.1.
So can I use Plaxo with ClickPass now? Let’s see. Back at Plaxo I click on the ClickPass button, magic happens…
…and then I should merge my existing Plaxo account with ClickPass. It wants my Plaxo login credentials again! And this time I can’t skip the step.
I don’t give passwords to any third party website anymore. That’s simply not cool! The ClickPass guys are probably totally sound people and even Scott Kveton is on their board. But I refuse to do that.
There have to be better solutions for making the OpenID experience more comfortable for mainstream users. OpenID is here to overcome the password dilemma of many people, even trying to be more secure. Giving away passwords to third party sites is contradictory and is giving the wrong signal to users.
Also it is not really looking good to have another button on relying parties’ sites. Yahoo! has introduced a signin button already. Now there is ClickPass. How will websites look if every provider had their own signin button? Ugly, unclear, confusing even.
I don’t like it. But maybe I just totally missed the point of it. Maybe…
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