Facebook Pledges Support For OpenID; But Will Anything Change?

The OpenID Foundation has just announced that Facebook’s Luke Shepard will be joining the OpenID board as a corporate member, and that Facebook has made a $50,000 donation to the cause. The news marks the first time Facebook has officially signed on with the campaign, though some of its employees have been actively involved with improving the open standard for some time.

At this point it’s unclear exactly what change this will bring to Facebook. Facebook’s increasingly popular Connect product, which allows users to secure use their Facebook ID’s as logins across over 4,000 sites (including ours), is a closed and proprietary system. But it is also very well designed – members from the Facebook Connect team have given several talks in the hopes of improving the OpenID effort, and are holding an event on the topic next week. From Facebook’s development blog:

As we’ve launched and built Facebook Connect, we’ve been participants in OpenID efforts. One of our user experience experts, Julie Zhuo, presented at the UX Summit in October. Several of our engineers have been participating in meetups, and one of them ran as a community member for a board seat. We’re happy to announce today that we are formalizing our support of the OpenID Foundation by officially joining the board. It is our hope that we can take the success of Facebook Connect and work together with the community to build easy-to-use, safe, open and secure distributed identity frameworks for use across the Web. As a next step in that effort, we will be hosting an OpenID Design Summit next week here at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto.

Facebook is apparently “building up momentum towards their adoption of OpenID as a standard”, but that too is ambiguous – many companies have signed on as “issuing parties”, meaning they’ll allow their IDs to be used elsewhere. But far fewer have been “accepting parties”, which means that accounts from other sites can be used to log-in to their services. OpenID has long been exploited by major internet brands who have pledged support to the cause (and reaped the positive press), only to put their plans on the backburner indefinitely. That said, even if Facebook doesn’t wind up implementing OpenID, it sounds like they’ll at least help make it a little easier to use.