BrowserID: A Revolutionary Way of Signing Into Websites

Websites of all types and sizes require us to create an account and use that login credential to sign into their service everytime. This was all fine and dandy ten years ago when we were using just couple of websites often. But today, a lot of us learn and earn online, resulting in creating a truckload of user accounts.

This is true even for an average Internet user who is accustomed to casual browsing. Sure, you can use a password manager to remember and manage all your accounts, but given the number of devices we use everyday (at home and office) it isn’t the ideal solution. To solve this painful problem, Mozilla has proposed an experimental new way of signing into websites. Is BrowserID the silver bullet we are looking for?

Overview

The concept of Mozilla’s BrowserID is extremely simple. You get your email address verified by Mozilla and webmasters will implement BrowserID authorization process leaving authentication of a valid email address to Mozilla.

Creating a BrowserId

Creating a BrowserId

As a user of BrowserID, you confirm your email addresses (yes, multiple addresses) once. Then, you can sign into any web site that supports BrowserID with just two clicks. First by clicking on the BrowserID icon and then by choosing the email address to login from the pop up window. That’s all you will have to do. No need to remember and enter passwords at all.

And for developers, BrowserID could save a ton of development time creating a complex registration and verification system. With just a few lines of Javascript (just copy and paste from the official website), they can now have a world class authentication system. Heck, there are a bunch of colorful sign in buttons available as well.

The Downsides

Does BrowserID sounds like the magic wand we were all looking for, and is it too good to be true? It might actually become far less exciting when it launches widely. Why you ask? Greedy developers. Even if it isn’t as painless and as transparent, Facebook, Twitter, and Google offer one click authentication even for third party sites. But in practice, this is one awesome opportunity totally mishandled by webmasters.

Since Mozilla is one of the well respected and innovative online companies, it won’t be a problem to convince us users to sign up for the BrowserID service. But will webmasters and developers be as flexible and accommodating? I don’t think so. In my experience as a web app reviewer, I have come across dozens of websites promising one click sign up via existing Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and other popular social media accounts.

But in reality, it is anything but one click. After integrating your existing social media account it’s natural that you want to head straight away to the dashboard and start using the app. Most of the web app developers have this nasty habit of adding another layer of verification – a standard sign up form. So in essence you will have to go through two different steps of account creation.

And the best part is that, developers get to data mine your social media account as well. This is not only annoying to the core but is also very misleading. That’s why I make it a point to mention in all my reviews if a web app uses true OAuth integration or not.

I don’t imply that all developers are trying to be deceitful on purpose (some do), but I guess their urge to flaunt the size of their registered userbase clouds their judgement. It would be really great if Mozilla kicks those who don’t implement the service completely or publicly display a list of such websites, forcing them to fall in line.

Share Your Thoughts!

So how do you manage all your online user accounts? Think BrowserID will be implemented and used widely?