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2/7/2008
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Major Tech Companies Join OpenID Board

The addition of Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign, and Yahoo is expected to help build support for a single Web sign-on service.

Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign, and Yahoo have joined the OpenID Foundation Board, a move that's expected to help the organization build mainstream support for a single-sign-on service for the Web, the foundation said Thursday.

The addition of the major tech vendors is a big boost for the upstart organization that's charged with promoting the work of the OpenID community, a long list of organizations and developers building technology that would let users create a single identity for signing on to an unlimited number of Web sites. The idea behind the project is to relieve Web surfers of the need to remember and manage a variety of IDs and passwords.

While a single-sign-on mechanism for the Web would be beneficial, OpenID proponents have only managed to convince a small fraction of Web sites, mostly blogs, to accept OpenID credentials. The tide, however, could turn with the support of Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo, as well as established tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.

The OpenID Foundation, which was founded in 2006, said in a statement that the new board members and the resources they bring will help the foundation "better serve the needs of the entire OpenID community."

"In 2008, we can expect to see a larger focus on making OpenID even more accessible to a mainstream audience, the development of a worldwide trademark usage policy (much like the Jabber Foundation and Mozilla have done), and a larger international focus on working with the OpenID communities in Asia and Europe," the foundation said.

OpenID is a URL that a user enters into the logon field when accessing a Web site. The OpenID framework provides the cryptographic underpinnings that prove users own the URLs they are logging in with. The OpenID specification is currently in a 2.0 draft version.

While progress is being made toward a single sign-on for the Web, there's still a lot of work to be done. The self-assigned IDs that OpenID employs remain unsuitable for high-value e-commerce transactions. To that end, OpenID developers are working with other authentication frameworks such as Microsoft's Windows CardSpace and the Liberty Alliance specifications to create an identity infrastructure that would allow users to move among identity systems and increase authentication and assertion measures as necessary.

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