Declining OpenID Usage

By tony | 14 Comments

Does anyone use OpenID anymore?

OpenID is a standard that lets people use one account to login to lots of sites. For example, when they join CrowdVine they can use their OpenID instead of creating yet another password. We added OpenID support to CrowdVine when we launched and then began supporting the second version of the standard last December. It’s part of our philosophy for CrowdVine to augment existing social networks, not replace them. So we need to play well with the rest of your web identities. My personal experience is that OpenID is a big convenience that’s resulted in me spending much less time clicking on “forgot password” links. I would recommend it to any user (see for getting started).

Despite the benefits and increasing support from major sites, I’ve also heard from friends that they’ve seen OpenID usage drop on their own sites. Our stats are bleak. Usage dropped in our tech conferences and isn’t used at all (as in ever) in our mainstream conferences.

Across all of our networks usage hovers between 1-2%, down from 3-5% in the first half of 2008:

It’s hard to generalize that data because the demographics of CrowdVine users shifted toward the mainstream during that same period. So I broke it down for some conferences where we’ve done multiple events over the course of about 12-18 months.

We did a series of four events for a conference in the tech/marketing sector. This audience tends toward the cutting edge. Here was the adoption over four events:

Tech/Marketing #1: 8%
Tech/Marketing #2: 3%
Tech/Marketing #3: 1%
Tech/Marketing #4: 3%

We did another series of events for the open source conferences. These were software developers who share a philosophy with the people behind OpenID. They’re the only group I could find where the adoption picked up (although the sample size is small):

Open Source #1: 5%
Open Source #2: 2%
Open Source #3: 9%

The above two conference series were the ones I expected to have early adopters. I also looked at a series of events for online marketers. I thought they’d be in the second wave of adopters but they turned out to have almost no OpenID users.

Online Marketing #1: 0.5%
Online Marketing #2: 0.5%
Online Marketing #3: 0%
Online Marketing #4: 0%

Adoption for our doctor, lawyer, scientist and business communities are all under 0.5% and in almost all cases adoption is zero.

So what’s going on? Jay and I were just at a conference session yesterday where we got a long lecture on how opinions are worthless and data is everything. The data here doesn’t look good even though my anecdotal evidence is that OpenID is extremely useful. As I read the data, OpenID is was not very sticky with the early adopters and didn’t make any progress at all with our mainstream networks.

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14 Responses to Declining OpenID Usage

  1. Gavin Bell says:

    Changing how people use the web takes a long time, RSS adoption took 6-7 years from 1999, when it was hot and exciting to 2006/7 when it started to get browser support and become embedded in widgets etc.
    I see no reason why OpenID and OAuth for that matter will be much quicker. Ask at one of those doctor or lawyer events about RSS and you might get 40% recognition, probably higher for webfeeds. Hiding the technology helps, eg use your flickr account or yahoo / aol / sixapart etc account to login, each of these can act as an OpenID.
    Changing human behaviour is hard work.

  2. tony says:

    Thanks Gavin. I’d love to get some actual data. For example, if we were to switch to one of those OpenID service widgets (AOL, Gmail, etc.), what sort of uptake would we expect.

  3. Brian Kissel says:

    It looks like you’re using the default OpenID URL type in box, so its not surprising that adoption is low, especially with a non-technical community. You might want to try a more friendly user experience, like RPX (, that let’s users login with a graphical user interface, and single click login on return visits. You can see how it works at

  4. Thanks for sharing these stats, obviously the more that we know about how OpenID is being used the more that we can do to help fix problems. I think that Brian is correct that you’ll see very different usage of OpenID if you implement it with a user experience that focuses less on typing in a URL and more on having users recognize brands such as Google, MySpace or Yahoo! to sign in. User experience is a huge focus within the OpenID community this year where we’re working on projects to use pop-ups like Facebook Connect instead of browser redirects, combining OpenID and OAuth to accomplish specific tasks (like Plaxo and Gmail did and rethink the sign in interfaces themselves (

    (Also, since Brian seemed to forget to mention it, he’s the CEO of JanRain which is the company that sells RPX.)

  5. Brian, David, you’re two of the people most in position to have hard data on this. Where’s that? What boost do people get when they switch to service or GUI. Also, what does it mean that usage is dropping? I heard similar reports at the last Data Portability Summit. Is data sharing turning out to be a much more important problem than multiple logins? Let’s measure!

  6. I use JanRain’s product for my personal OpenID, btw. Brian, thanks for that.

  7. Santrajan says:

    In the last one week i have made three posts on this subject on my blog.
    1) The mess called openid
    2) The death of openid.
    3) My two cents to the Openid Foundation.
    I thought it was appropriate that I must make this post here.
    Thank You

  8. Hey Tony,
    Unfortunately I’m not aware of before and after data directly related to OpenID usage and user experience. I think CrowdVine would be a great place to get it since you’ve taken the step of keeping track of usage and are willing to share your statistics. I’d love to work with you guys to see if switching to RPX (or another implementations) makes a significant difference in usage of OpenID within these conference networks.

    I don’t think the benefit of having fewer passwords is going to be enough of a driver to really make OpenID ubiquitous. Rather it will be the new functionality that is possible because of OpenID in the social web space such as being able to bring aspects of your profile, people you know and content you’ve created with you to new sites and then pushing your activity back into other networks.

  9. American Yak says:

    @Santrajan (and others?) It’s amazing how the naysayers are so hellbent on declaring OpenID as dead. This is a ridiculous notion. We’re at just the tip of the iceberg with regards to distributed social networking (a name which I find to be inadequate for what I believe is to come).

    The reason it will succeed has nothing to do with a lack of innovation and usability (UI/UX), for which there is definite room for growth and improvement, or data portability, or accepted standards, etc.


    It’s because the Internet *is* the Gutenberg press of our day, and every person _can be_ _that_ publisher, and there is no more well-thought-through flagship vanguard (how’s that for verbosity) for ownership and identity principle than DiSo/OpenStack.

    Email is ubiquitous and generous as a messaging product, accepted at all endpoints, ported freely. Social networking (which needs a better name) will also port this freely, once the standards are cemented in place, which is exactly where they are headed.

  10. Brian Kissel says:

    Hi Tony,

    As David said, I don’t think there is any systematic data yet, but Stackoverflow converted from the basic URL type in box to a GUI with buttons for the major providers ( and saw registrations increase from 10,000 to 50,000 over a few months. Not sure how much of that growth is directly attributable to the change in the UX, but I’m sure it helped.

    Cheers, Brian

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