Passkeys work a lot like passwords do today. You create a different passkey for each website and use it to log in. Your passkeys are stored in what’s called a “Passkey Authenticator”, agent software on your computer. (Behind the scenes passkeys use public key systems that are better than passwords.) Your phone probably works today as a passkey authenticator but most sites don’t support passkeys yet.
Managing passkeys — backing up, migrating, sharing passkeys between devices — is still a work in progress. Android and Apple both support syncing passkeys between devices, that’s important so you can log in even if you don’t have your phone with you. Some software can also delegate. For instance Chrome on Windows will use Bluetooth to use a passkey on a nearby Android phone.
The passkey authenticator is the main user interface. The rest of this post is notes on what authenticators are available to consumers. See also this companion piece that’s a deep dive into the user experience on Android, Chromebooks, and Windows.
Apple seems the best implementation of a passkey authenticator today. It’s built in to Keychain, Apple’s existing authentication product that is pretty well designed. There’s a bunch of screenshots in this article of how the Apple experience works. My Apple-using friends say it’s pretty usable. Keychain syncs passkeys between devices via iCloud.
Android has a passkey authenticator built in called “Google Password Manager,” which already saves ordinary passwords you use in the phone’s web browser. Here’s Google’s docs for users about that and some technical notes on security. Android syncs syncs passkeys between devices. It’s also pretty usable but passkeys are Android-only, not available on desktop (yet).
Chrome on Windows or a Chromebook has passkey support. But the Chrome browser doesn’t store passkeys itself, it delegates to nearby Android devices via Bluetooth. Firefox and Edge on Windows can also do this delegation. Chrome can also delegate to Windows as the passkey authenticator instead of Android.
Microsoft Windows has an authenticator that is connected to Windows Hello, their relatively new login system. I don’t know much about it but it's what you'd use to store passkeys on your Windows machine.
1Password, the password agent, is shipping passkey support in about a month. They have a demo that actually works on Chrome and Edge. It’s nice! In theory this should be a good cross-device way to manage and sync passkeys. I'm waiting for it before adopting passkeys widely.
Dashlane, the password agent, has passkey support. Sounds like early days but usable.
Yubikey, the hardware login token, has a passkey story. I don’t know much about it, their writing points out that passkeys aren’t really anything new and they’ve been doing this kind of thing all along.
Having spent most of a day playing with passkeys my impression is they work today and are usable. My main concern is there’s no support for migrating your passkeys out of, say, Google Password Manager and in to Apple Keychain. And I fear given business realities no one is in a hurry to enable that. The other problem is how long it will take sites to adopt passkeys; we’re going to be stuck with passwords for a good long time.