Back in February, when Facebook joined the OpenID Foundation, we had to wonder if the move was a presage of things to come. And apparently it was. According to CNET, yesterday Facebook announced that they will become a relying party—a participating site—for OpenID.
If you’ve forgotten/never learned what OpenID is, it’s like a universal login for participating sites. While this is quite cool for Facebook, one has to wonder what’s up: in 2008, Facebook launched Facebook Connect, which has always seemed like a bit of an OpenID competitor.
Facebook Connect allowed FB members to use their FB profiles to comment and participate in different sites across the web. TechCrunch, for example, was one of the first to sign on in December. Now in the TC comments section, you can login to Facebook (or if you’re already logged in, just use your profile) to comment, tying your comment to your profile.
This is slightly different from OpenID, which has always used the word “decentralized” to tout itself. This means that it’s specifically designed not to become a centralized information repository—a place where you leave your data or create a profile. Facebook is obviously the opposite in this respect—a centralized repository of information, sometimes so much so that it’s accused of being a walled garden.
Also interesting here: in light of an agreement between OpenID and Gmail last October, Gmail logins also work as OpenID logins, as do Yahoo Mail and Windows Live Mail (née Hotmail) logins. (However, Gmail is not a relying party to OpenID, as Facebook is, so it doesn’t work both ways.)
With this step, you can officially link your Gmail and Facebook logins—if you dare.
What do you think? Is this decision a death knell for Facebook Connect, or is its appeal already well enough established that it can run concurrently with OpenID? Will you be linking your OpenID/Gmail and Facebook accounts?