Will OpenID catch on?

Summary:A survey of more than 300 people shows that few people have heard of OpenID, and even fewer are actually using it. Chris Messina, the guy with the guitar pictured here, has written up results of a survey conducted using Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

A survey of more than 300 people shows that few people have heard of OpenID, and even fewer are actually using it.

Chris Messina conducted a survey on Mechanical Turk about use of OpenID
Chris Messina, the guy with the guitar pictured here, has written up results of a survey conducted using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Messina, rightly, took issue with Yahoo!'s "survey" of 9 users -- which, of course, isn't anything close to a representative sample size.

The results of the survey, where 302 users responded (one response was rejected) showed that just shy of 20% of the respondents were aware of OpenID -- but only 9% were sure of what it's used for, and only 1.3% actually used it.

In case you're in the 81% who aren't familiar with OpenID -- it's a distributed service to allow users to have a single user ID across multiple sites. In theory, getting rid of all the various user IDs and passwords that we have to juggle for all the sites we use online, without handing over too much control to a single provider.

As Messina points out, pulling respondents from Amazon's Mechanical Turk gives a very good set of users to survey:

Because Turkers must have either a US bank account or be willing to be paid in Amazon gift certificates, the quality of participants you get (especially if you design your HIT well) will actually be pretty good (compared with, say, a blog-based survey). Now, Mechanical Turk actually has rules against asking for demographic or personally identifying information, but some information has been gathered by Panos Ipeirotis to shed some light on who the Turkers are and why they participate. I’ll leave the bulk of the analysis up to him, but it’s worth noting that a survey put out on Mechanical Turk about OpenID will likely hit a fairly average segment of the internet-using population (or at least one that doesn’t differ greatly from college undergraduates).

So, even among Internet-savvy users who ought to be the right demographic for OpenID -- there's very little adoption. And I'm not surprised by this.

In theory, OpenID sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread. In practice, I've tried using OpenID a few times and find it less than intuitive. A few days ago I was trying to use OpenID with Twitterfeed, and kept running into errors trying to utilize my OpenID on Wordpress.com. (I eventually got it working through my Flickr ID.) My understanding is that OpenID isn't exactly trivial to implement for Web services, either.

I'd love to see OpenID catch on, but it does still need some work to make it more intuitive and more robust. Given that the service has been around now since 2005, I have to wonder if it's ever going to hit critical mass, or if I'm going to be stuck with dozens of usernames and passwords for the rest of my online life.

(Photo credit to "kk+" from his Flickr collection.)

Topics: Amazon

About

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is the community manager for openSUSE, a community Linux distro sponsored by Novell. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist primarily covering the Linux and FOSS beat, and wrote for a number of publications, such as Linux Magazine, Linux.com, Sys Admin, UnixReview.com, IBM developer... Full Bio

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