Account Chooser working group charter submission

Note: In the summer of 2011 this note was sent to start the discussion of the AC working group

At the last few Internet Identity Workshops there have been discussions about building a “cloud based” identity selector.  The idea has been to mix the user experience advantages of Information Cards, the popularity of consumer identity providers, and still support large numbers of identity providers as InCommon has done.  The end result is a user experience that is being called an “Account Chooser.”

A charter for a new account chooser working group was submitted Aug 29th, 2011 for review by the specs council.  We plan to discuss it in more detail at the upcoming September 12/13 OpenID Summit hosted by Microsoft in Mountain View, CA.

The end goal of this account chooser technique is to make the sign-in process as simple as a user clicking their picture from a list of accounts they frequently use on a website.

For example, Bonnie is on her mobile phone and wants to login to a website.  She is shown a list of accounts including her personal account, her work account, and an entry for her husband who sometimes borrows her phone.  She simply clicks the account she wants to use.

If she had a new phone, or computer, she would need to add those accounts to the device, so she would see a screen like the one below where she could click her identity provider if it was listed.  If not, she can simply type her email address.  If there is a known identity provider for that email address, she will be redirected to it, otherwise she will be asked for her password on this site.

In preparation for the upcoming OpenID Summit we have started to build the website with an overview of this user experience, as well as an initial implementor’s guide.  A new mailing list will be created by this working group for further discussion once the spec council gives their approval.

There are a few websites where you can currently experiment with an account chooser:
  • Google now provides the option to opt-in to using an account chooser instead of Google’s traditional email/password based login box
  • There is also a test site which lets you manually reconfigure your account after you login
  • A sample e-commerce site is also available that uses an account chooser (though it is under construction this week, so it may be unstable)
There are multiple ways to deploy an account chooser. The quickest option is generally to use a SaaS vendor who provides an account chooser as well as integration with popular identity providers. Current SaaS vendors in this category include the Google Identity Toolkit and Janrain Login Helper.  Another option is to use a JavaScript widget that implements an account chooser, but then operate your own server side logic to integrate with identity providers. It is possible to use the Google Identity Toolkit in this mode, and other vendors may provide similar widgets in the future. The last option is to build your own account chooser. Please refer to the “account chooser design” pages for detailed descriptions of the user experience and user interface including HTML and CSS that you can use.