A different view on OpenID branding

Nico Popp has his new year’s wishes for OpenID here. There are a lot of good suggestions, but there is one I would be beg to differ with:

Everyone agrees that OpenID needs to emerge as a brand that consumers can recognize.

Clearly Nico’s definition of “Everyone” is slightly different from mine. At the very minimum it doesn’t include me. But putting semantics aside Nico continues:

Similarly to Visa for payment, Dolby for music and Gore-Tex for rainwear, OpenID ought to become the “ingredient brand” for identity. The reason the OpenID brand needs to emerge is that we need a “network mark” that transcends all the identity silos. Very much like consumers know that their bank card will work when they see the Cirrus network logo on an ATM machine, consumers need to know that their identity will work on a Web site that carries the OpenID network logo. A network mark has a simple yet powerful meaning. It does not matter whether the card is from Bank of America, Wells Fargo or WAMU, it just works with this ATM machine. It does not matter whether the identity is from Google, Yahoo! or MySpace, it just works with this Web site.

In the OpenID brand lies the one big problem. Although a strong OpenID brand will prove to be good for everyone in the long run (by creating ubiquitous interoperability, Visa helped card issuing banks make more money than they would made on their own), at this time, none of the large consumer companies involved in the OpenID foundation have any incentive to promote another brand than their own. Therefore, the foundation needs to create a forcing function. My recommendation would be to leverage its ownership of the OpenID intellectual property to enforce the network mark. Let us keep OpenID free to all, but let us require everyone who uses the technology and benefit from the free IP to display the OpenID logo.

I don’t think this is a very promising strategy. Rather than OpenID being branded, I believe the important branding is the Identity providers that would enable OpenID. In other words the brand should be Yahoo, Google, and other big identity providers, not OpenID. In the same way the brand the Facebook users care about is Facebook, not Facebook Connect.

Trying to push the OpenID branding above the identity provider branding will inhibit OpenID adoption, not enhance it.  You are then asking identity providers to do something not in thier own best interest.

The average user doesn’t care about OpenID. What they care about (if they care about such things  at all) is that by using OpenID they can use the identity provider they already have a relationship with to explore new and interesting services that would automatically know who they are, without them having to register at every page.

The comparison to Visa is a bit off the mark. People care about Visa because it is an enabling service. OpenID is not. It is a means by which an identity provider becomes an enabling service.

Just my two cents.


One response to “A different view on OpenID branding

  1. Very insightful post! I think some of the major players within the OpenID community are beginning to jump on board with your premise.

    JanRain’s RPX (http://rpxnow.com ), for example, is a software as a service platform solution that allows website visitors to sign-in to an enabled site using their existing Facebook, MySpace, Google, Yahoo, AOL or Windows Live ID accounts.

    What we’re seeing is that most users don’t necessarily know or care about OpenID. They just want to carry their identities from the major providers (like those mentioned above) to sites across the internet, instead of being forced to maintain separate identites in “walled gardens.” This is why RPX is such a great fit given the mentality of today’s web user.

    Thanks again for the insightful post.

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