OpenID is a protocol for authenticating your identity through a single chosen provider instead of creating unique accounts at every website you use.
The Foundation, which was formed 18 months ago, says it "will not dictate the technical direction of OpenID; instead it will help enable and protect whatever is created by the community." That often means legal paperwork (to keep a single company from patenting important open standards, for example), and that means money is needed. Cash will also help with some much needed marketing and communications efforts.
Fortunately, the newest board members are buying the beer for meetings into the indefinite future; while a seat in the majority "community member" section of the board is free - corporations wanting to make up a minority part of the board have to make a financial donation to the foundation for the position.
For users, OpenID means much easier account creation, better personalization, privacy and security when trying out new web sites. It makes for a greatly improved user experience. For websites and other companies, OpenID means more and happier users and potentially greater access to information about those users.
There's a whole lot of momentum right now for OpenID. In January Yahoo! increased the number of OpenID enabled user accounts by orders of magnitude, the long-awaited OpenID 2.0 spec was just recently finalized and the entire Data Portability paradigm is moving into the public consciousness quickly.
All of that said, big vendors have a lot of short term interest in controlling identity silos. It won't be easy to get their long term interests in openness to prevail. Fortunately, they are participating but are in the minority on the OpenID Foundation board.
We wrote about the Foundation chair Scott Kveton's new day job, at a particularly interesting OpenID vendor called Vidoop, earlier this week. There are many, many places you can get an OpenID and there are significant differences in advanced feature sets. To get a good look at the range of options and details beyond mere simple one-way authentication check out the vendor comparison at SpreadOpenID.org. If issues like these are of interest, check out the ReadWriteWeb Toolkit for tracking top technology themes of 2008, including Data Portability and OpenID.