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Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Larry Drebes, VP of Engineering and Founder of JanRain. JanRain has a product named Pibb which we reviewed earlier this year and they also are heavy participants into OpenID. It’s OpenID 2.0 that we spoke about for well over an hour. I look at OpenID as an interesting challenge, one which I would love to be the head of marketing for. It’s a developer product, not a nice, fluffy marketing product which makes it interesting to try to get the mainstream to adopt. There is a huge need for a way to use the same identity credentials at multiple locations. Just yesterday, I had to create logins at 9 new services and each one basically asked me the same things – what a pain.
We spoke about the technology side of OpenID 2.0 for half the call, and the marketing/outreach side for the other half. Here are my notes from the call. And please read Marshall Kirkpatrick’s article on making OpenID easy.
OpenID 2.0 is more secure with better cryptography than the previous releases. Larry kept hitting on the point that the 2.0 release will have actual documentation which is a good thing. I hear there are several hundred pages of documentation. Available on the Kindle?
OpenID 2.0 comes with identifyer recycling – Larry noted that the largest Internet players (msn, aol, etc.) can often run out of logins, and OpenID 2.0 fixes this as it allows the providers to reuse the logins as needed.
Directed Identity is another new feature. Basically what this allows a site to do is to associate a person’s OpenID login with other accounts to build a reputation level. This is pretty cool – could be the reputation system we’ve been speaking about for ten years now.
There are 160 million "enabled" users – this includes any AOL user. Of course this is not the same as "active" users – the 160 million refers to accounts that could be used with OpenID.
Apple’s Leopard operating system comes with built-in OpenID libraries. This is the first time that an OS comes with OpenID built into the core.
We briefly spoke about Pibb and Larry noted, "We believe communication is the killer app of the Internet and the current crop of communication tools has stalled on features and functions." Pibb has 8000 users and they are working towards a 2.0 release early next year. Naturally it will be rich in OpenID functionality.
One of the things I asked about is why there is no browser plugin with OpenID built-in. This way, when I hit a site that uses it, it automatically logs me in and gets everything setup in the background without any work on my part. Larry said there is a plugin in the works for Firefox called "Seatbelt" and it’s created by Verisign.
There is talk that Google and Microsoft will begin supporting OpenID as well. Google announced yesterday that Blogger now supports OpenID for commenting.
Fine, the technical side of OpenID 2.0 is set and ready-to-go. It’s hot. Now, what I’d like to see is marketing staff added to the project. Let’s make this a bit sexier, and way more consumer-friendly. I’d love to see OpenID camps only for marketing. OpenID has to become as common a term as Google is for searches or iPod is for music devices. When we reach this point, the 160 million enabled users will actually become active users. And then instead of focusing our time building "YALS" (yet another login system), we can focus on building great applications and let the login be handled by OpenID.
Pibb has announced their entry into the land of Facebook applications. Pibb is an embeddable chat/messageboard application which uses OpenID. Pibb Product Development Manager Kevin Fox says regarding the launch, "By adding the Pibb Facebook application to your account you can easily tie together two end points of your social graph, Facebook and Pibb. Once you add the application to your Facebook account, you will easily be able check for new messages and connect with your Facebook friends on Pibb and vice versa. We feel that allowing people to integrate their Pibb and Facebook network is an important step forward for this movement toward openness."
So the application ties Facebook with Pibb, and shows you who is a friend on either or both and allows you to ping non-friends on either to join the other service.
Check out our previous Pibb coverage including an extensive product review.
We wrote about Pibb first back in May and I called it a "comprehensive communications tool". It's "like" a combo of a very fancy IRC client plus a top notch message board. Pibb is brought to you by the folks at Janrain who also are contributors to the OpenID protocol.
Today they announced that you can embed Pibb into your web site or blog. Adding Pibb is easy with just a simple script code addition and if you use WordPress, they offer a plugin as well. Users will need an OpenID account to post comments into embeddable Pibb which might limit comments until OpenID becomes more well accepted. Check out the details on the Pibb blog.
Here is a sample of an embedded Pibb (click the image for the larger version):
Pibb, a comprehensive communications tool has launched some major updates today. The most important new feature is that you no longer need to login to see what the Pibb community is up to. Simply go to Pibb.com and browse or search the channel directory for a topic that interests you. Then click on the channel link or icon and you will be taken to the channel's landing page which will show all active threads on the right hand side. There is also a link to an RSS feed for the channel on the bottom left.
The other major update is the way they handle OpenID and this is an update I like. Basically AOL and LiveJournal accounts automatically have an OpenID account associated with them. Rather than having to remember a complicated URL for the account, just enter your AOL or LiveJournal account and Pibb will do the rest to get you to the login screen on the respective service. I hope they push this out so sites like CN can use it as well. They claim over 75 million OpenID accounts are "active." Now if they could just make the "nicknames" more friendly than: http://myspaceuser.myspace.com/billjones that would be excellent :)
I asked Michael Graves, Pibb CTO for a quote about these updates, "Pibb is a communications platform built on top of OpenID. As the single sign-on and social networking benefits emerge in the ecosystem that OpenID enables, Pibb will provide messaging tools to leverage those benefits in your communications.
"Consolidate your blog comments, chat, private channels and public forums, all taking advantage of the same social networking and identity resources that make portable identity and portable reputation useful for OpenID users. As the OpenID-enabled web develops, users will find increasing value in tools that facilitate flexible communications and connections between OpenIDs, and Pibb is a platform that will enable those features."
Check out my review of Pibb from earlier this year.
I was checking out on of my favorite blogs this evening.. that is the one of Chris Messina… and he had a review of BarCamp Portland. In the review he discusses a new comprehensive communications tool (CCT) called Pibb. Now I remember Pibb. My roomate in college loved Mr. Pibb. Oh boy he drank that soda day and night!
Anyway, back to this new Pibb. I have played with this for a bit now and am really impressed. I love the multi-threaded discussions. Pibb is built using the GWT (Google Web Toolkit). This tool looks like a great way to communicate as a team. You can invite people to your Pibb Channel. I could see using this for a new product launch and having multiple streams of discussion within the channel. What's great is that then the tech team can see what's going on in marketing and vice-versa.
I guess I think of it as a very fancy IRC plus a top notch message board.
Chris notes one issue, "Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there are permalinks available for the transcripts, but I’ve put in a request to the developers who were on-site for such a feature."
And I have one item that I think will hinder their ability to grow quickly/exponentially. It's the forced OpenID requirement. Yes, OpenID is growing, we have it as an option on CN for login. But it should be just that for now. An option. Don't force it on the average non-geeks unless you only want your app to be geek-friendly. Eventually OpenId might become the standard protocol for login services, but for now, offer me a choice.
Update: Chris sent over this quote regarding the OpenID after reading the above, "This app, and the other JanRain projects, are important in that they dispense with archaic siloed user accounts and require the use of the decentralized OpenID authentication system. We'll probably start to see more of this, as we have on AOL's Ficlets."
Here is a screenshot from the BarCamp Channel (Chris has some additional screenshots on Flickr):