Dick Hardt has a blog post critical of Yahoo's recently announced BBAuth entitled Yahoo’s Identity Silo where he writes

Yahoo has joined Google’s silo building by releasing BBAuth, a mechanism for other sites to access services and data within the world of Yahoo.

Unlike Google’s Account Authentication, Yahoo is allowing their service to be used for SSO and registration.

BBAuth is clearly targeted at Web 2.0 site developers, encouraging them to build apps on the Yahoo platform so that they get access to all those Yahoo users.. While I understand how this helps Yahoo strengthen their relationship with their users, it would seem Yahoo did not learn what Microsoft learned with Passport, as Yahoo is deepening their identity silo, rather then participating in the emerging identity infrastructure.

Given that I've been crusading for Microsoft to build solutions similar to BBAuth and Google's Account Authentication for Windows Live I'm interested in whatever criticisms of these approaches exist. The first thing I should note is that I don't like the term "identity silo". On the one hand it could be considered accurate but on the other it automatically potrays the party being described in a negative light. It's like using the term "baby killer" to describe people who consider themselves pro-choice. Any website which authenticates its users (i.e. has a username/password requirement to utilize aspects of the site) is an "identity silo" because the identity I've created on that site is only usable on that site and cannot be utilized elsewhere.

Lots of really smart people from big companies (e.g. Kim Cameron of Microsoft) and startups (e.g. Dick Hardt of SXIP Identity) with products to sell have now told us that "identity silos are bad m...kay". Since I drink the company Kool Aid, I agree with this premise. From reading Kim Cameron's The Laws of Identity and Microsoft's Vision for an Identity Metasystem it seems the solution to the problem of identity silos is federated identity where I can use credentials from one site to sign-in to another site as long as the sites trust each other. This sounds cool, it's like the promise of Single Sign On without one company trying to be your Passport to using the Internet. :)

So let's say I'm a website that wants to allow users to access their data from other sources besides my wbesite thus liberating their data and enabling new applications, visualizations and mashups. I need some way to figure out whose data to give out to these mashups when they come calling...I know, I'll use the unique username to figure out whose data I'm to give out and I can verify that its really the user asking because I'll require their password. Except, according to Dick Hardt and Eric Norlin this is bad because I'm deepening my "identity silo". Since I'm a practical guy I have only two questions

  1. Are there shipping technologies today that allow me to do what I want in an "Identity 2.0" way?
  2. Are they as easy to implement as telling mashup developers to include a link to my website in their UI and then process the data they get back when the user is redirected back to their site after signing in?
From my reading, the answer to question #1 is No (but we're really close) and the answer to question #2 is Hell No. If you were Yahoo! or Google, would you wait a few years for a technology that is more difficult for the developers you are targeting to adopt than what you can roll on your own today to meet your needs? If the answer is no, does that make you a "baby killer"?

Let me know what you think.