Want to deeply understand how OpenID would make our lives better on social networks? Check out this piece by Dare Obasanjo, a program manager within Windows Live. But be prepared to be jolted. According to Dare, there is indeed a promised land, but we won't be allowed into it.
Dare is responding to Wired's Slap in the Facebook: It's Time for Social Networks to Open Up. He talks about the common-sense economics of identity, then asks why “there seem to be more OpenID providers than there are consumers”, concluding:
Why would Facebook implement a feature that reduced their user growth via network effects? Why would MySpace make it easy for sites to extract user profile information from their service? Because openness is great? Yeahâ€¦right.
Openness isnâ€™t why Facebook is currently being valued at $6 Billion…
Dare's explanation of how the big web properties see things is spot on. But are they right?
Here is Dare's state of the union:
The major online services such as Yahoo! via BBAuth, Microsoft via
PassportWindows Live ID, and AOL via OpenID all provide ways for third party sites to accept user credentials from their sites. This increases the value of having an account on these services because it means now that I have a Microsoft PassportWindows Live ID I not only can log-in to various Microsoft properties across MSN and Windows Live but also non-Microsoft sites like Expedia.
I have to ask, “So what?” Once I'm on Expedia, who clicks my eyeballs and reaps the eyeball tax? Expedia, not Windows Live.
This increases the likelihood that Iâ€™ll get an account with the service which makes it more likely that Iâ€™ll be a regular user of the service which means $$$.
Is this logical? It all escapes me. Suppose I start to log in to Dare's blog using an AOL OpenID. Does that make money for AOL? No. I don't have to give AOL two eyeball seconds.
What would make $$$ for AOL? To get my pretty eyeballs over there PDQ. What's the best way to make that happen? Make it easy! Acquire new eyeballs! Acquire new eyeballs! Acquire new eyeballs! From anywhere and everywhere!
The secret? Auto-create an account on AOL no matter WHAT credential a user employs to get there. You need this anyway to manage their profile. Then get the user transparently to great experiences and start ringing up those eyeball seconds.
Summary: what counts is the ACCOUNT, not the CREDENTIAL. Credentials should be seen as a cost center, and accounts as a profit center.
The world is standing on its head, my friends. Some Facebook is going to figure this out and gobble up eyeballs from every nook and cranny of the internet. That's the one I would invest in if I were a betting man.