Google moves towards single sign-on with OpenID

OCT 29, 2008
By Eric Sachs, Google Security Team

Currently users are required to create individual passwords for many websites they visit, but users would prefer to avoid this step so they could visits websites more easily. Similarly, many websites on the Internet have asked for a way to enable users to log into their sites without forcing them to create another password. If users could log into sites without needing another password, it would allow websites to provide a more personalized experience to their users.

In September we announced some research that we shared as part of an effort by the OpenID community to evaluate the user experience of federated login. Other companies like Yahoo have also published their user research. Starting today, we are providing limited access to an API for an OpenID identity provider that is based on the user experience research of the OpenID community. Websites can now allow Google Account users to login to their website by using the OpenID protocol. We hope the continued evolution of both the technical features of OpenID, as well as the improvements in user experience. will lead to a solution that can be widely deployed for federated login. One of the companies using this new service is Raju Vegesna at ZoHo says that "We now offer all our users the ability to login to ZoHo using their Google Account to avoid the need to create yet another login and password."

The initial version of the API will use the OpenID 2.0 protocol to enable websites to validate the identity of a Google Account user, including the optional ability to request the user's e-mail address. Below is an example of the flow that a user might see if he or she starts at a website that uses this new feature:

The website could use a modified login box that looks like the one below. If the user enters a Gmail address and indicates that he or she does not have a password for this site, then the site can redirect him or her to Google.

The user would then be taken to the Google website and asked to confirm whether he or she wants to sign in to KidMallPics.

Finally, the user would be redirected back to KidMallPics, where he or she would be immediately signed in.

More information about this new API can be found on the Open ID page in Google Code. To request access to the limited trial, please visit our Google Federated Login discussion group and register using the online registration form.

Google is also working with the open source community on ways to combine the OAuth and OpenID protocol in the future. That way a website can not only request the user's identity and e-mail address, but can also request access to information available via OAuth-enabled APIs such as Google Data APIs as well as standard data formats such as Portable Contacts and OpenSocial REST APIs. In the future, this should allow a website to immediately provide a much more streamlined, personalized and socially relevant experience for users when they log in to trusted websites.