Home Why AOL Created 63 Million New OpenIDs

Why AOL Created 63 Million New OpenIDs

Written by Jitendra Gupta of Karmaweb
and edited by Richard MacManus

Late last week AOL announced its
support of the open identity system OpenID, for all 63
million of their AOL/AIM Ids (for those looking for a quick introduction to OpenID, click
). The details of the announcement, via the dev.aol.com blog, are as

  • Every AOL/AIM user now has at least one OpenID URI,
  • This experimental OpenID 1.1 Provider service is available now and AOL is conducting
    compatibility tests.
  • AOL’s blogging platform has enabled basic OpenID 1.1 in beta, so every beta blog URI
    is also a basic OpenID identifier. (No Yadis yet.)
  • AOL doesn’t yet accept OpenID identities within their products as a relying party,
    but they’re actively working on it. That roll-out is likely to be gradual.
  • AOL is tracking the OpenID 2.0 standardization effort and plan to support it after it
    becomes final.

AOL trying to make AOL/AIM user names sticky

This is an interesting gambit from AOL, which has generally been shifting from a
subscription model (as it was in the 90’s) to a rich media content/ad based business
model. One of the ways they’re doing this is by leveraging their access to the Time
Warner content library. Opening up AOL/AIM user names via OpenID adds another dimension
to this strategy. With OpenID integration, AOL hopes to find more uses for AOL/AIM
usernames and therefore drive more sticky and consistent traffic to AOL. 

How does it affect AOL/AIM users? With the OpenID integration, an AOL user will be
able to login to a service provider that accepts OpenID, using their AOL/AIM
username/password, without needing to create a new service-specific username/password.
This is a great way for AOL to try and retain its once formidable (and still significant)
user base, by providing an OpenID-based solution to the knotty problem of web single
sign-on. So AOL user names will potentially be an entry into hundreds of different web
sites and services, thanks to OpenID.

Further momentum for OpenID

For the OpenID community, AOL provides a significant number of users – which could
force more vendors to accept OpenID as a sign-on mechanism. One issue to keep on eye on
is that this announcement could cause ‘premature mass adoption’ for OpenID, before it is
fully baked. This could potentially expose OpenID to user backlash, because of its well
documented security issues (see
our analysis of the OpenID security issues here

Single sign-on solution in sight?

Still, AOL opening up OpenID to its 63 million users is a great validation for OpenID.
On the heels of the
Microsoft announcement
, the AOL announcement builds further momentum for the OpenID
solution, as the answer to the long sought after goal of Web single sign-on.

Let’s hope
we continue with this torrid pace, towards a Web where users don’t have to create and
remember separate IDs for each service they use.

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