User Experience, Attribute Exchange and MapQuest 5

Last month at the first Content Provider Advisory Committee meeting in New York, several media companies and affinity groups identified two desired areas for improvement around OpenID: the user experience as it reaches mainstream adoption and the increased ability to exchange profile information given user consent. Since then, the OpenID Foundation, its members and the wider community have been working hard to understand what it will take to make OpenID more usable by mainstream users and why the larger OpenID Providers have not been quick to support OpenID Attribute Exchange.

As a quick aside, AOL has just launched My MapQuest which sports a great new OpenID login experience. It’s worth noting that in the process of signing up for a MapQuest account using OpenID, you’re also creating what seems to be an account at AOL too. Additionally, AOL requests profile information from your OpenID Provider meaning that in some cases you’re able to sign up for a new account without having to type your email address, name, nickname, etc. AOL is the first large internet company to support OpenID sign in on a non-blogging product and while they don’t yet let you use your OpenID to sign in on, it’s seems clear that is the direction they’re headed.

From the user experience front, Yahoo! hosted the first OpenID User Experience Summit where nearly forty people came together sharing what they’ve learned around usability, user experience, and various interface designs for OpenID and OAuth. In the following weeks, more work has been underway focused on implementations that improve the intuitiveness of OpenID registration and login. At the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View the week before last, sessions were held around many different aspects of OpenID; technical, business and user experience, among others.

The general approach to improving user experience over the past year has been the idea of graphically representing various larger OpenID Providers. The main critique is that it will only scale to a fixed number of providers since not every logo can be displayed. That said, it represents the approach taken on an increasing number of OpenID enabled sites, by Facebook Connect, and is being productized by companies such as JanRain with their RPX interface.

As Google continues their usability research around federated login, they’ve built a login widget which allows the user to enter their email address and say that they don’t have a password but need help logging in. This then allows the site to see if they recognize the email address within their own login database or if it belongs to a domain such as or which also acts as an OpenID Provider. The ability to use an email addresses within OpenID is currently a highly discussed topic that is leading to the formation of a new technical working group to better understand the motivations and challenges, while also proposing a technology solution.

On the data side, Yahoo! has just announced a controlled beta of support for the Simple Registration extension (SREG) which provides full name, nickname, email address, gender, language, and timezone if the user chooses to share it. AOL has also just announced preview support for SREG profile information transfer of email, nickname, country, date of birth, gender, and postal code if the user chooses to share it. Additionally, Google’s OpenID Provider supports the transfer of a validated email address via Attribute Exchange if the user chooses to share it. This trend of being able to more easily and securely exchange profile information via OpenID is one that we expect to increase through 2009.

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5 thoughts on “User Experience, Attribute Exchange and MapQuest

  • Will Norris

    wow, so mapquest supports, but not the actual Yahoo! OpenID Provider? Really? The list of supported OpenID providers seems somewhat random anyway. Looks like it is only supporting OpenID 1.0 providers?

    In any event, I have no doubt it will certainly improve with time. This is great to see AOL’s level of commitment to OpenID as a protocol, as well as the concept of externalized identity.

  • George Fletcher

    Yes, the AOL OpenID Relying Party support is only at 1.1 and since both the Yahoo! OP and the Google OP only support OpenID 2.0 Relying Parties, they don’t work with the MapQuest deployment. This is of course temporary as we work on the 2.0 implementation. I mention this briefly, though in relation to SREG 1.0 support, in this post on the AOL Developer Network.

  • Brian Kissel

    The reason AOL doesn’t support Yahoo or Google yet is that both are OpenID 2.0 only and AOL’s current code base is still based on OpenID 1.1. According to George Fletcher, AOL definitely wants to support Yahoo and Google and is working on the 2.0 upgrade.

  • George Fletcher

    Thanks Brian. It seems that somewhere between the Google Blogger OP and the OpenID Blog, my comment got “eaten” (this is attempt #2) :) You are correct. AOL is working on the 2.0 upgrade. I speak briefly about this in this post on MapQuest’s OpenID RP support on the AOL Developer Network blog.