User Experience in the Identity Community

DEC 02, 2008
By Eric Sachs and Ben Laurie, Google Security Team

One of the major conferences on Internet identity standards is the Internet Identity Workshop(IIW), a semiannual 'un-conference' where the sessions are not determined ahead of time. It is attended by a large set of people who work on Internet security and identity standards such as OAuth, OpenID, SAML, InfoCards, etc.  A major theme within the identity community this year has been about improving the user experience and growing the adoption of these technologies. The OpenID community is making great progress on user experience, with Yahoo, AOL, and Google quickly improving the support they provide (read summary from Joseph Smarr of Plaxo). Similarly, the InfoCard community has been working on simplifying the user experience of InfoCard technology, including the updated CardSpace selector from Microsoft.

Another hot topic at IIW centered around how to improve the user experience when testing alternatives and enhancements to passwords to make them less susceptible to phishing attacks. Many websites and enterprises have tried these password enhancements/alternatives, but they found that people complained that they were hard to use, or that they weren't portable enough for people who use multiple computers, including web cafes and smart phones. We have published an article summarizing some of the community's current ideas for how to deploy these new authentication mechanisms using a multi-layered approach that minimizes additional work required by users. We have also pulled together a set of videos showing how a number of these different approaches work with both web-based and desktop applications. We hope this information will be helpful to other websites and enterprises who are concerned about phishing.

[Also posted on the Google Online Security Blog.]