A lot of coverage last week (e.g. here, here and here) about the news that AOL is embracing OpenID, the open and distributed digital identity system. Simply put, the system enables a single-sign on for users on web services that support OpenID, offers them the possibility to host their personal details on a location they decide and the possibility to share different personal details with different web services. At this point the number of service providers that support OpenID is not that big. Examples of providers are photosharing community Zooomr and open source content management system Plone. But the decision by AOL to offer this service to their 63 million subscribers is big news in that it will probably make it more interesting for service providers to use the system. This will increase the number of services that use OpenID which will increase the value to end users. But I agree with this remark made at Slashdot:
“The next big challenge for OpenID proponents is teaching AOL’s userbase how to make use of this new technology.”
The concept might be easy to explain but actually changing peoples behaviour might take longer than expected. This is where the real marketing wits of players like AOL will have to pay off if this is going to fly.
UPDATE: Just read this excellent post by Simon Willison. Check out the ppt he is reffering to which explains what OpenID is about and tackles the issues involved. Indeed, the concept might not be as simple to explain as I think 😉