Twitter, Facebook vs. OpenID: Identity Management Made Easy

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As Facebook Connect and Twitter grow so does single sign-on

Digital Photo Gallery Connect with Twitter
Digital Photo Gallery Connect with Twitter

The more I experiment with new platforms the more I find myself trying to manage my online identity. With the huge adoption of both Twitter and Facebook, I find myself having the option to sign-in with either Facebook Connect or Twitter’s API. Could Twitter and Facebook be the real portable online identity management tools?

In 2006, the Open ID foundation began building and promoting the concept of a portable, open source, online identity. In the early days of Open ID I signed up and hoped I’d be able to use my OpenID everywhere. However, it was extremely slow to take off. Today, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Flickr and thousands of other sites accept OpenID, but I rarely use it. So, what’s happened? I’ve found myself using Twitter or Facebook connections instead.

Portable online identities in Experimentation

New Media Life Cycle: Online Identity Management
New Media Life Cycle: Online Identity Management (Search Share) - as you can see from the chart, Twitter's API and Facebook Connect have taken off. Could these be the true portable identity management tools?

As you can see from the chart, Google’s ruled the roost when it comes to propagating it’s online identity (not surprising.) However, in recent months (since the beginning of 2009) more and more developers have been using Facebook Connect and Twitter’s API to allow users to login with their existing identities.

This concept of the portable identity has been talked about for years and the giant bubble of social networking sites has only increased the need for such a concept. Identity authentication with Twitter or Facebook connect is a logical next step and, unfortunately, professional networks like LinkedIn have missed the boat.

Ease of integration and added information keys to long term growth

I think a great example for the potential of a portable online identity can be found in the online social networking platform Ning is basically a social network of social networks and allows one to sign up very easily.

The key to the concept that Ning has created is that as you connect or join with social networks on the platform, each social network can ask you a series of questions relevant to their network. This kind of additive approach to building your online identity allows each network to gather relevant information over time, instead of having you fill out a giant, generic profile (like Facebook or LinkedIn).

Twitter is ripe for this kind of additive approach to building a deeper profile of its members. As the API is adopted across the internet, users and channel creators could gather relevant information that adds to the Twitter profile. Perhaps over time, your Twitter ID will become more valuable and deeper than your Google ID?

What’s even more exciting is the potential for a portable identity to help aid in the kind of search recommendations any search engine could generate on our behalf. For example, if my Ning ID is portable and I’m a member of ten or fifteen Ning networks, could a search engine help deliver more relevant results based on my interests?

Be conscious of the identity crisis and look for potential fixes

Diversified Distribution Portfolio for Social Media
Online Distribution Portfolio

As you experiment on new channels that ask for authentication through any online channel, whether it’s OpenID, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter or something new, make sure you think about the ramifications and the long term relationship you’re building between these identities. We see the potential for this kind of channel integration as a wonderful opportunity to extend your reach and integrate your content creation, distribution and promotion opportunities. Just remember, with each opportunity comes a new liability. I’m just not exactly sure what the liabilities are yet.

About The New Media Life Cycle Analysis

The New Media Life Cycle Analysis is the brainchild of the Tippingpoint Labs strategy team. Each week, our team takes a look at a new media channel and presents its findings here, to help chief marketing officers, directors of marketing and social media experts add some context to their social media and content marketing strategies. If there is a new platform or channel you’d like to see us evaluate, please let us know. We’re more than eager to take a look!

7 Responses to “Twitter, Facebook vs. OpenID: Identity Management Made Easy”

  1. Bill Shander

    I would say that the advantage Twitter has in this space over Facebook, Google and LinkedIn is that it is the central place where people are creating their personal brands for business. Many are using Facebook only for personal connections, not necessarily for business. LinkedIn is a closed network and Google has many places where people are expressing their public personas, but in some ways it may be too broad a platform for someone to hone their message. So it is logical that people will use their Twitter ID when commenting on things for business because then the traffic those comments generate will feed back to their Twitter identity, thereby helping solidify their personal brand. Likewise, Facebook Connect works for engagement as a non-business-oriented user (for those not using Facebook as a business platform, which certainly many are doing.) What will be interesting to see is where this evolves over time – whether people are comfortable being beholden to companies for their identity management, as opposed to an open standard, which on paper makes more sense but in reality, you’re right, just doesn’t work!

    • Andrew Davis

      Thanks for weighing in. I did not take into account this disparity between open personal and business use. One of the biggest challenges today is keeping those identities separate. In fact, I am having trouble doing that on Facebook. Somehow my professional life is overlapping there and it’s disconcerting. It’s as if my parents are ‘friending’ me.

      We’ll have to see, as you said, how this plays out.

      Thanks a ton for reading and participating. By the way, can I get and RSS feed of your blog? I couldn’t find the RSS button. :)


  2. Bill Shander

    Yes, we’ll be adding RSS to the blog soon – we were rushing to get the site up and had a few things on a Phase II list!

  3. Michael Graves

    Interesting chart(s), hadn’t seen those before. OpenID indeed has “gone mainstream”, and you’re right, building mass adoption for it has been a slow, arduous process. I think what is happening now is that OpenID is operating in two modes: 1) as OpenID for the nerdy types among us, and as OpenID-enabled accounts from a major provider like Yahoo or Google. That is, increasing, the large scale use of OpenID happens “under the radar” as a Google account for a user who is using OpenID, but thinks of it as just using her Google Account to sign-in somewhere.

    That said, you are right, the Facebook and Twitter APIs have been effective both in their structure for developers and, of course, in the ready pool of active users behind it. One service that coalesces all of these APIs is RPX from JanRain (, which provides a consolidated API and user experience for signing in with not only Facebook and Twitter but mySpaceIDs, LiveID as well as OpenIDs. It’s a very lightweight abstraction for all the current sign-in protocols and APIs, and with the effort you may put into just one of the above, RPX will give you flexible access to all. Disclaimer: I work at JanRain, so I am NOT an unbiased reporter, here, but I recommend a look, even so!

    • Andrew Davis

      Great response! I had never heard of RPX or JanRain. Thanks so much for the lead. Really, really interesting concept. This is a clever approach to enabling identity sharing and managing multiple logins.

      I only wonder who’s looking at the way consumers need to manage their identity. Like Bill says above, do you use different ID’s for different purposes? It’s a vexing concept.

      Thanks for the disclosure… I’ll check out JanRain and really appreciate you being honest about your comment. What do you do at JanRain? Also, would you be interested in doing a podcast interview about online identity management?

      Here’s a sample of our last podcast: includes some good stuff (or we think so.)

      Shoot me an email if you’re interested: adavis (at)


  4. Michael Graves


    Thanks for the feedback on that. You’re onto an interesting problem here concerning how users manage their various accounts and identities. Obviously, different people will find different configurations suit them best, but I think a good analog for this is credit cards. It’s true that some people have just one “does everything and everything” credit card, but typically, you’ll find that people have several cards, perhaps each dedicated to different kinds of purchasing; I have a Visa I use for business and T&E purchase, another I use for personal stuff, and yet another for big purchases, and as a kind of “backup” device.

    I think our online identities may be managed in a similar form. People with have a handful, each with it’s own “place” in their online activities. Not so many that it’s a pain to manage, but enough to provide some compartmentalization in terms of what gets disclosed, what’s correlatable/brandable, and what “image” each projects.

    I’ll email you about a possible podcast interview, thanks for the opportunity.


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