[OpenID] About Facebook, MySpace and OpenID

SitG Admin sysadmin at shadowsinthegarden.com
Fri Apr 3 16:53:58 UTC 2009

>MySpace recently announced there support for OpenID. The idea here is that
>MySpace users will be able to log in to third party sites with their MySpace
>Id's. MySpace users needn't get too exited about it too soon.
>Consider this. A MySpace user would like to log in to her favorite shopping
>site with her MySpace Account.

I daresay users aren't going to be utterly dismayed if OpenID can't 
be used for, of all site types on the internet, *shopping*. There's a 
reason they call it the "social web", you know :)

In the same vein, don't be so excited about that scholarship award 
you received in the mail from a prestigious university; sure, they 
only give those out to the best and the brightest, but the pieces of 
paper (and letters after your name) earned there won't help you with 
*every* job. If you're planning to apply for one of those jobs that 
don't care about a formal education, and for the purposes of this 
example we're assuming that *every* person has no higher aspirations 
;), going to school could be considered just a useless waste of time.

>This will also be true for many
>other web sites that require their users to login.

What's the ratio of "many" to "all" here? It's a big internet, you 
could easily be speaking of thousands of sites while millions of 
others *don't* need to E-mail users.

>This is not a problem for MySpace alone. When Facebook decides to support
>OpenID it will be faced with the same dilemma. It is really a frightening
>thought for social networking sites to hand over their users email address
>to a third party. For social networking sites keeping the users bound their
>network is of primary importance.

A little-known principle of web design is that, if you send your 
users away, they will be encouraged to come back. (Don't believe it? 
Note that Google, now a successful provider of webpages and E-mail, 
started out as little but a collection of . . . links.)

But even if we ignore that evidence, HOW does handing over users' 
E-mail addresses (at their specific request) endanger a social 
networking site? If anything, it seems like this would *enhance* the 
users' ability to interact with people socially.

Is it because other networks might solicit MySpace users to join them 
instead? I think if a social networking site offered "free" accounts, 
but demanded that users close down all their accounts elsewhere 
before joining, everyone would laugh and scorn them. Many users have 
accounts at *several* social networking sites, there is nothing 
preventing them from doing so. Being on Facebook does not preclude 
users from being on MySpace.

Is it because users might receive spam at supplied addresses? If the 
user is concerned about that, they can certainly utilize a (free) 
proxy service to supply them with temporary addresses that cannot be 
traced back to their permanent address and can be instructed at any 
time to cease forwarding E-mail. If the social network is concerned 
about that, it can provide such a service itself, integrated. In 
either case, the danger of spam is often less heightened than it 
seems because users have *already* left their E-mail address all over 
the web in guestbooks, profiles, etcetera.

>However an equally frightening possibility for social networking sites is to
>see their users start using Google accounts and Yahoo accounts to log in
>into third party sites! They could start loosing users in that case too.

Not with MultiAuth:
See similar, earlier work here:
Not only is it *possible* for users with Google, Yahoo, and MySpace 
accounts to use all of them simultaneously while logging into third 
party sites (while MultiAuth is not formally part of the spec, there 
is nothing in the spec to *disallow* it), but it would actually be 
*desirable* in some cases, and some third party sites might *require* 
users to have more than one OP to log in, meaning that social 
networking sites which directed users to the "competition" would 
actually be *enhancing* the value of their own OpenID's to users.

>The jury is out on what these guys should do.

I don't think the jury has a say in it. Stockholders might, but the 
rest of us can only plead and try to formulate convincing arguments 
with the confidence that leaders at those companies are looking for 
great ideas coming from outside their own minds.

>small advantage over Facebook on this account.

Trying to be better than your competitors, while a very *traditional* 
approach (much like E-mail, in fact), is not necessarily the *best* 
strategy. If you succeed in it, you'll only end up being better than 
*them*. If you focus on being the best (to your users) that *you* can 
be, you won't be limiting yourself to (or defining yourself by) the 
achievements of another company.

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