The following post on OpenID was submitted by Yung Chin from YC’s Ramblings.
Undoubtedly you’ve seen the icon shown here appear in the comments section of many Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and MovableType blogs recently. What it means: “this site is OpenID enabled”. In case you’ve missed all the news buzz on it, OpenID is the up-and-coming universal login technology, bound to become as ubiquitous as email.
While that sounds like future-talk, let me convince you that for blogging specifically, it makes a lot of sense to start using OpenID today. In short: your comments on others’ blogs will look more professional, having your verified signature, and you can offer that same convenience to your visitors, while also keeping commenting on your blog easy.
What it does
I’ll skip telling you what OpenID does in general – here’s a scenario specific to the context of blogging: visitors that want to comment on your blog can use the address of their own blog to verify their identity.
- your visitors enter their comment and their blog address
- your blog server connects to their blog server
- their own blog server checks that it’s really them (by login)
- their blog server confirms this to your blog server
- their comment gets a confirmed link back to their own blog
See how convenient this is? You only ever have to login at your own blog, and you’re automatically allowed to comment on any other OpenID-enabled blog. For an illustrated introduction, there are walk-throughs at eg. Blogger and WordPress.
Just to be clear, you won’t replace your regular commenting system. OpenID login is merely an optional convenience you’re adding. Oh and, although I’m focusing on bloggers, commenting also gets more convenient for visitors who don’t blog but do have an OpenID.
By now you may be wondering how relevant the whole OpenID thing is. If its support in Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and MovableType (in that interview by Darren, Anil Dash puts it among their top ten features!) isn’t convincing enough, recent coverage at eg. News.com, BBC News, and ITBusinessEdge will tell you that all the biggest players in the web services space are on top of it, including Yahoo, Google, and AOL. What’s best is that the OpenID foundation is a non-profit that ensures the technology is freely available to anyone – including you.
OpenID keeps you out of the spam filter
Spam blocking firm Defensio suggest that your use of OpenID may simplify comment spam filtering. Here’s the idea: if you consistently use your OpenID to comment on blogs, spam filters like Defensio’s will learn that you don’t spam people. Thus, your contributions will never be accidentally marked as spam. And as a blog host, you can be a bit less worried that valuable contributions from your readers got stuck in your backlog of spam awaiting moderation. Saves you work!
Signed communications: a professional touch
Put in other words, OpenID allows you to tell another blogger “it’s really me, the author of (insert your blog), commenting here”, because indeed you can prove to them that you are the owner of your blog. I think that’s the closest thing to an official signature that the blogging world has yet seen.
If blogging is your profession, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to be professional in your communications, to actually sign the messages you leave on other blogs, and to more officially say “I’m backing my statements”? So now you can.
Make leaving comments smoother than ever
Let’s recap all this. Why was requiring a login annoying for your readers? They’d have to create a new account, and then remember that later on. So now you don’t require logins, but use aggressive spam filtering instead. As a result, many comments go into a moderation queue.
When you give visitors the option to use their OpenID, they won’t need to create an account and logins are mostly automatic, while they’ll still get the benefit of being recognized by the spam filter. In addition, you’re giving them the opportunity to come across more professionally, in the same way other bloggers are offering that to you.
Getting set up
The little technicalities of setting your blog up for OpenID of course depend on your blogging platform. All I’ll say is that it is typically rather simple – see eg. this description of installing a WordPress plugin.
If your blog is hosted by one of the big blog providers, you’re probably only a click in the configuration panel away of getting it going. If you host your blog yourself, a query for OpenID on the help pages of your favourite blogging platform should get you a long way. Short of that, here are some links into the OpenID community. And do ask questions, too!
OpenID as a technology provides much more than I could show you here. In some other context, it might for example make sense to use not your blog but your Flickr account as your OpenID to say “I really own these photos”. So in case you thought you’d just learned everything: it was really only the start. Have lots of fun!