If you don’t know about Mozilla’s Persona sign-in and identity, you’re apparently not the only one. Citing low adoption rates, Mozilla has decided to give up on this project and is allocating its developer resources to different projects. Mozilla will continue to host the service and patch security issues as needed, however.
The organization hopes the community will continue to develop the product, but given that there had been very little interest in supporting it in the first place, it seems doubtful that many developers will volunteer to pick up the slack.
I always liked the idea behind Persona, which uses email addresses as a way to authenticate users. It was a pretty simple and easy way to log in to sites, but sadly, very few developers actually integrated it into their own products. For the most part, even Mozilla always pointed those who wanted to try it out to some of its own products like Webmaker or a demo on 123done.
That never seemed to dissuade Mozilla, though. Just last year it added built-in support for more email providers, including Gmail and Yahoo Mail. For many of those services, Persona piggybacked on the OAuth support the providers already offered, but Google is going to phase out its old systems in favor of OpenID Connect. As a Mozilla spokesperson told me, though, there is no connection between its decision and OpenID’s recent launch.
Here is what this looked like:
It’s worth noting that Google and many other providers recently threw their weight behind OpenID Connect as a cross-vendor standard for authentication. Mozilla itself is shifting its focus to offering its own cloud services around Firefox accounts and Firefox Sync. Indeed, it hopes to end the year with 20 million users signed up for Firefox accounts.
To get to this point, Mozilla plans to create a unified Firefox Account experience across all of its products. That’s a slightly scaled-back ambition from offering an identity system for the web, but it feels like a more realistic path. Online identity, for the time being, is dominated by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter (with smaller players that dominate some other niches, including the likes of GitHub, for example).
Yahoo just said that it is shutting down support for Google and Facebook logins on many of its properties. Owning a user’s identity across the net is extremely valuable. Yahoo clearly wants to be in total control of its user’s identity — as do the other players in this business. Given the high stakes here, there was little room left for something like Persona then, which would have needed support from large vendors to be successful. Those larger vendors, however, have little interest in playing nice with Mozilla.