Orange SA, a subsidiary of France Telcom, announced today at the Digital ID World conference in San Francisco that France Telecom will act as an OpenID server-agent. That means the company will verify the identities of their 40 million users immediately, without the need for another account to be created, for any other site on the web that supports OpenID.
This according to Six Apart's David Recordon who blogged and Twittered excitedly from the event. Recordan, an expert in emerging identity issues, says that the move makes France Telecom the world's first major telco to support OpenID.
Recordan reports that the company also discussed allowing access to Orange branded mobile services using external accounts - presumably OpenID. That'll be putting their money where their mouths are - huge companies can offer to authenticate for other sites all day long without significantly changing the game.
This is a huge move for the federated identity movement and it's no surprise that it's coming from Orange - one of the most daring players in the whole sector. It may be the second biggest swath of OpenID accounts ever created, after AOL's adoption of the standard for its 63 million users in February. Unfortunately, not much has come of AOL's move - in large part I believe because the company has done as bad a job communicating about OpenID as the rest of the OpenID community has to date. Orange, on the other hand, already celebrates on their website some of the 3rd party services that users can now log in to with their France Telecom ID. Hopefully this will have a much bigger impact than AOL's adoption. Flexible, secure and federated identity with a single sign-on could still have a bright future ahead of it.
Many sites have been waiting for the OpenID 2.0 spec to be finalized before implementing OpenID. Believe it or not, that could happen as early as next week, according to a post on the blog of JanRain, a leading OpenID vendor.