Google announced last night that it will become a single sign-on provider using OpenID solutions. This will allow Google users to login with their Google account information when signing up for new accounts on other sites.
Microsoft and Yahoo have both adopted the same strategy, using OpenID, and now Google has jumped on the bandwagon in a bid to offer its users a better "value" for their accounts. Google's API is based on the OpenID 2.0 protocol and is designed to be embedded by third party web services.
So What's OpenID?
OpenID is a free framework that eliminates the need for multiple usernames across different websites. If you have a Microsoft Live Mail account, a Yahoo account, or a Google account, you can log in with those same credentials on other websites like AOL, MySpace, Plaxo, Zoho or Buxfer, without having to create a new account on any of these sites.
Not Really That Open
Yahoo and Microsoft, and now Google, are only using OpenID for login information, which means that accounts with these services are not transferable. You won't be able to use your Windows Live account to access services on Yahoo's site or vice-versa, same as you won't be able to use your Yahoo ID to start using Picasa without opening a separate Google account. The full OpenID solution will be only used for third-party sites.
Brand Before Simplicity
You also shouldn't expect to see the OpenID logo anytime soon when you sign in to your Gmail, Hotmail of Yahoo Mail account. Even though major web service providers are adopting this technology, Yahoo and Google went for the option of promoting their own brand, bypassing the OpenID title. Users will be given the option to "Sign in with a Google Account" or to "Sign in with a Yahoo! ID" on other websites such as Plaxo or Zoho (pictured above).
Future Looks Good, Though
With support from the web's big names, like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and MySpace, OpenID is poised to see a large-scale adoption. However, this is only the first step toward a truly unified and portable web. Contacts are the the next big thing that I'd love to see transcend various service providers. Maybe one day we'll be able to transfer our e-mail accounts the same way we do our phone numbers when we change networks.