distributed social networking. Both Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect - two services designed to help user manage a single profile across multiple sites - launched on the same day. Then, MySpace followed in close succession with their MySpaceID offering, another distributed social option built on the Open Stack. In a matter of days, the distributed social space went from nascent to completely confusing. Now, JanRain hopes to alleviate some of that confusion with RPX.
JanRain RPX brings all of the potential login options - Facebook Connect, MySpaceID, and Google Friend Connect, as well Yahoo!, AOL, and other OpenID accounts - into a single login interface. This does two things. First, it enables developers to deploy a variety of similar, yet not synonymous, logins more efficiently. And second, it gives users the option of choosing the most familiar method of providing credentials to sites.
Interscope Geffen A&M, a division Universal Music Group, likes what they've seen from JanRain - no doubt thanks to the names "MySpace," "Facebook," and "Google." So they have chosen to deploy RPX across 200 artist sites, enabling fans to login to the sites with the credentials they prefer. In so doing, Interscope Geffen A&M stands to connect a number of artists to their fans - and their fans' existing social networks. Currently, artists like OneRepublic, Robin Thicke, Keri Hilson, The Game, and Lady Gaga all offer access via RPX.
Without a doubt, this is big news for JanRain and their fledgling RPX product. But it raises a question: what does this mean for OpenID?
With RPX, the OpenID logo winds up alongside the likes of Google, MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo!, and AOL. Even the most steadfast OpenID user has to admit that's stiff competition. When it comes to the everyday user, is it likely that they're going to click on the OpenID logo for anything more than satisfying curiosity? Not likely. What's more likely is that they'll choose the login method with which they're most familiar.
Could this be the another step in the inevitable subjugation of OpenID as an underlying technology instead of a top level option? That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Discussions around this topic, in fact, have been swirling for quite some time.
When it comes right down to it, JanRain is providing a solution that solves a problem for developers - how to efficiently implement the variety of logins - and users - how to log into sites with the most familiar credential. As an added bonus, JanRain is getting OpenID out in front of the public at large, putting it in direct context with other distributed login options, and - perhaps best of all - beginning to collect data on which options users choose for their login credentials.
We'll just have to wait and see which path the Interscope Geffen A&M fan base chooses to take.