Universal Login Debate

Along with a new invigorated session of the browser wars, 2009 will set the stage for the universal login debate to finally heat up. As a front end developer I’m chomping at the bit for a definitive, easy to use, universal login.

Of all the universal logins OpenID, MySpaceID, Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect have the greatest potential of find themselves on top of the heap. Funny enough, a quick google search for “universal login” brings up no direct links. Most of these universal logins are relatively new being announced early 2009 or late 2008, except for OpedID which has been around since 2005.

Who will win?

In short Facebook Connect.

Logging in

When I think of a Universal Login I think one username and password that I can use to sign in anywhere. OpenID, Google and Myspace all allow you to use a multiple of different accounts to login to a site using their service. For example, Google Friend Connect allows you to login using your google account, AIM account, Yahoo account, or even OpenID. So what if you are like me and you have one of each of these or rather multiple accounts of each of these. Good luck remembering which account type you used for this site and which of those multiple accounts you chose to login with. And God forbid you realize that your Yahoo accounts can double as OpenID’s, then you might really confuse yourself.

Facebook Connect offers one way to login and that’s your Facebook account. Whether or not you have multiple accounts is your business, but I would be willing to bet most people are less likely to have multiple Facebook accounts.

Usability

The biggest possible competitor to Facebook in the universal login race I figured would be Google, but Google Friend connect looks to be huge letdown. Mainly because it looks like they have taken the focus away from developers and put it on bloggers and grandmas. Friend Connect allows you to just cut/past pre-made gadgets into your page. Great if I’m specifically looking for something already created and there is the option of writing my own gadget, but what if I like using jQuery instead of pure JavaScript. And lets face it Google is not known for creating super accessible, standards compliant, visually appealing applications.

All other login forms get you logged in and the rest is left up to the developer to figure out in whatever form they see fit.

Marketing

When it comes to using your selected universal login to also promote your site, Facebook Connect is second to none. Google does offer the ability to share your content with your Google contacts, but I don’t picture Google as ever being a viral social marketing service.

Facebook Connect on the other hand has an ever growing potential to get your content out to the masses. You are given the opportunity to allow your members to post back to their outgoing news feed via status updates. Think about it, 150million users up from just 11million users just 6 months ago, half of which login on a daily basis, with the fastest growing population being 35+(people that actually spend money), and the average user having 100-200 friends. Every time a user enters info on your site they are also advertising for you. Now just make it an opt-out situation, Facebook does it why can’t I, and there’s no stopping you.

Evil empire

I know we’re all worried about Facebook becoming a huge evil empire, but aside from OpenID, these are all evil empires. Myspace is a bastardization unto the web. Google will have its own operating system in a matter of years (you all know its true) and the takeover from Microsoft will be all but complete. And Facebook has this evil arrogance about them. They force new features in opt-out mode only onto their users and the whole internets turns upside down for a few days but ultimately everyone accepts it.

It’s not all roses

Facebook Connect is heavily reliant on the end user having JavaScript turned on. As in it does not work if you don’t have JavaScript enabled. Not a huge issue I know. Most people have come to realize that JavaScript is for more than annoying you with pop ups/unders and have it enabled, even if by default. But this will greatly affect its ability to be accepted for use in the private sector as JavaScript and screen readers do not mix. At least until everyone switches over to being ARIA compliant. But, maybe they don’t care about this sector and maybe would even want to stay out of it, but there are still accessibility proponents out there such as myself that can’t easily overlook this.

Growth comes at a price. It is estimated that for every 1million new users Facebook has to spend 1million on new servers. Pocket change for a company worth billions, but what if their user base doubles over the next year and internet advertising continues to decline during the recession. Facebook will be worth less on paper and will still need to be shelling out the cash. It’s a situation where certain side features might start to get cut, if you catch my drift.

Facebook has a history of just doing things that many of their users oppose, but ultimately cramming it down their throat. Most recently it has been over their Terms of Service where they changed the verbiage to read Facebook owns all your data forever and there is nothing you can do about it. The TOS has been changed back after threat of some legal action. There is a bigger question here. How much longer are users just going to sit back and take it? Probably only until something bigger and better comes along.

2 thoughts on “Universal Login Debate

  1. Ernest Samuel llime  

    I cannot find anything that is really relevant. I guess I am a developer (though most of the time I have no idea…) and to me it seems quite simple to build a universal login. Here’s how it would work:

    version1:
    A database table where you enter all of your userids and passwords for all the sites you like to to frequent.
    A front end that will log you in to all of those – if you are on your home computer it could be done with system start up.

    version2:
    A way for all your apps to share cookie info that you can than use in your bridge or something to get into any data base.

    I am currently rewriting my songweavers.com (on songweavers.org) and it is a major priority so will not spen too much time on this, however I don’t see why I couldn’t have an app like this ready sometime in March 2010.

    It seems so simple that it’s probably already out there, so somebody please point me in that direction.

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