Friday, March 11, 2011

An introduction to Internet SSO

SSO is one of those things where if it’s done well, you don’t notice it. Internet Single Sign-On (SSO) is the idea that you, the consumer, should be able to use the same username and password across multiple websites. If you’re a Hotmail or Xbox Live user, you're a user of SSO without even noticing it.

Windows Live ID was the first major Internet SSO implementation and is still the largest. I can remember using Microsoft Passport (the predecessor to Windows Live ID) a decade ago. Microsoft have consistently implemented Windows Live ID you can use your Windows Live ID to login to Microsoft web properties including Windows Live Hotmail, Messenger, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, Office Web Apps, Zune, Azure, MSDN, TechNet and HealthVault as well as a host of 3rd party sites. While Windows Live ID isn’t very popular outside Microsoft properties, it still processes a staggering one billion authentications daily.

Windows Live ID - sign in screen

Facebook Connect is the new kid on the block. The prevalence of Facebook accounts and the willingness of their users to share data has made Facebook Connect the most ubiquitous SSO on the internet. If you’ve commented on a blog lately, you’ve probably seen the ubiquitous blue “Login with Facebook” button.
Facebook Connect - Sign In ScreenNever used Kiva? Try it! No need to sign up, simply sign in with your Facebook account.

All things considered, I believe Facebook will overtake Windows Live ID because Facebook users are already in the habit of sharing personal data. Logging into a website they trust using a brand they trust isn’t a stretch. That, and Facebook’s login badge is more visually confident.

image image
One of these badges was designed by a committee.

Even though there are some companies don’t want to play ball and insist on keeping authentication to themselves (ie. eBay), the state of internet SSO is quite healthy and competitive.
In the next part in this series, I will look at the state of SSO in the Australian Government’s web properties.

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