Microsoft's Passport service has just lost one of the biggest e-commerce companies on the planet. eBay said in a statement on its site that from late January it will no longer support the ability for members to sign on using Passport.
This means that members currently using this service will have to sign in through eBay directly. "Once this takes place, the Microsoft Passport button that is currently displayed on Sign In pages will be replaced with links to a page with more information, including Help in case you cannot remember your User ID or password," said eBay in the statement. "As part of this change, we will also discontinue sending eBay Notifications through Microsoft .Net alerts."
The move by eBay will further limit Passport to Microsoft-owned sites, as even close partners desert the service thanks to a combination of customer apathy, high-profile Microsoft glitches and credible competition from the industry-backed Liberty Alliance. In October, Liberty Alliance signed up seven new members and announced a full-time executive director in the shape of long-time Silicon Valley IT consultant and ex-IBMer Donal O'Shea.
Earlier this year analysts were already predicting that Passport is likely to become little more than part of Microsoft's Internet infrastructure over the next year, with broader plans to manage identity information now deferred until Longhorn, the next version of the Windows operating system.
"There doesn't seem to be a huge role for Passport -- certainly not the role that was sketched out for it two or three years ago," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst for research firm Directions on Microsoft, at the time. "I expect at some point, Microsoft is going to say Passport is for Microsoft sites and close partners and leave it at that."
"The market largely rejected a proprietary, tied-to-Microsoft approach," Gartner analyst John Pescatore said. "We've actually seen the Liberty Alliance keep moving forward and get some traction in a variety of places, where Passport has pretty much remained a Microsoft, under-the-covers thing."
As if to underline the diminishing use of Passport -- or perhaps to save its blushes -- Microsoft has closed its directory of sites that work with the service.