Netscape.com += OpenID; more...

Note: The folks over at Netscape are doing this on their own and I haveno inside information whatsoever.  So I can blog freely.

It's great to see Netscapestart accepting OpenIDs.  It's good to see the user experienceissues being worked out -- the best methods will win out over time.  Dmitry Shechtman calls for theelimination of registration, though what he actually says is a bitstronger:
The usefulness of OpenID is void if yourservice requires all users to sign upregardless of whether they have an OpenID. This doesn’t mean that youshouldn’t ask them to provide additional details, such as an activee-mail address (although OpenID Simple Registration usually handlesthat for you). You can do it after the user signs in for thefirst time. Just don’t ask her to sign up.
I understand this point of view, but disagree:
  • Users expect to find "sign up" or "register" links when going toa new site; not providing them breaks their expectations and that's bad.
  • If a user doesn't have an OpenID already, they do need toregister with your site.  You have to make this just as easy as beforeyou added OpenID to your UI.
  • Sometimes you really do need to gather an e-mail address, agreeto Terms of Service legalese, etc. before using a site.
Whether you call this "providing additional details" or "registration"the flow is much the same.  I do agree that in the long run itwould be better if you could simply let OpenID-enabled people sign in,collect whatever registration info you can automatically, and thendecide if and when to bother them with registration administrivia atthat point or when you actually need it.  In the short run, it's simplynot feasible to optimize for OpenID experience at the expense of yourother users.

Unfortunately, you don't currently know who has an OpenID and whodoesn't.  Maybe there's room here for a service: gotopenid.org.  Yousign in there once with your OpenID, and it cookies you as someone whowants to use OpenID wherever possible.  Sites that want to offer anOpenID-streamlined experience could make a JSON call tohttp://gotopenid.org/check.js.  This would tell the site that the userknows what OpenID is and prefers to use it for signing in.

On a side note, it looks to me by the screen shots that the AOL/AIMscreen name integration is simply using the AOL OpenID identityservice.  We'll see on Monday;  certainly that's the easy way to do it-- a convenience wrapper around an OpenID sign in.

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