The Internet is at a dangerous inflection point. Facebook Connect is quickly creating a monopoly on identity. Sites are increasingly requiring Facebook logins now: Techcrunch comments and early access are two examples. And many more sites like TripAdvisor now promote Facebook over their own logins.

As a user the Facebook Connect experience is great. I see a familiar blue button, I click it, and I'm done. No creating an account, no coming up with a new username and password, no entering specific data. And it's not just a login, many Facebook integrated sites give me a better experience with access to my Facebook social network. For site owners the advantage of Facebook connect is clear: good user experience, less code to manage, and access to Facebook data.

The problem is that Facebook is creating a monopoly. That's a huge risk to every other company on the Internet. It's bad for users too, we're losing the ability to use pseudonyms online. And while Facebook's technical execution is excellent the company has demonstrated over and over again its willigness to act unethically towards their users. We don't want them controlling user identity.

There is a terrific technical alternative to Facebook Connect: OpenID. The tech works well and it's open, letting users and companies choose their identity provider. But despite some four years' headstart it's never succeeded in being adopted widely like Facebook Connect has. And while I like competing login systems like Sign in with Twitter, identity is too important on the Internet to let any proprietary solution dominate. Our ecosystem needs a productive open standard. I still think OpenID is sufficient, but I'm in a dwindling minority.

  2011-06-13 16:45 Z