Facebook Becomes Largest OpenID Relying Party

OpenID is getting a big boost today as Facebook goes live with its support as a relying party for the standard. It’s a major win for OpenID, which has long had to deal with major companies only half-heartedly embracing the standard, sometimes announcing support to reap the press coverage only to let the effort languish for many months. Facebook announced its intended support of OpenID in April, and less than a month later they’ve delivered.

So what changes for users? You’ll now be able to link your Facebook account with your Gmail account, along with those from other OpenID providers. This means that if you’ve logged in to Gmail to check your messages, and you pop over to Facebook, you won’t have to sign in with your Facebook username – you’ll already be logged in. New Facebook members will also be able to register with their Gmail accounts.

Now, Facebook isn’t the first major company to hop on board the OpenID movement – we’ve seen announcements from Google, Microsoft, and a bevy of others. But for the most part these are only signing on as “issuing parties”, which means they’ll let you log in with their accounts on other OpenID supporting sites. But they’re not “relying parties”, which means that they won’t accept OpenID logins created through other services. In other words, Google is happy to let you use your Gmail account to log in to Facebook, but you can’t use your OpenID-enabled Microsoft ID to login to a Google service.

Depending on how much Facebook promotes the new feature, it could help OpenID get broader recognition than it currently has (most people have no idea what it is, and many of us who do still find it more than a little confusing). But even if it does see wide use on Facebook, don’t expect big players like Google or Yahoo to follow suit and become relying parties any time soon.

Facebook has really been a relying party since its inception – there’s never been a “Facebook ID” because you’ve always used your university Email (or more recently, your personal Email) to log in. So the site isn’t really sacrificing anything by enabling OpenID support. The likes of Google and Microsoft have built many services tied to their own proprietary accounts, and they’re going to be far more hesitant to give those up.