Mozilla Opens Persona For Beta Testing

The password-slaying authentication platform is now available to the public

Mozilla’s Persona website authentication service has entered the public Beta testing stage, offering a third-party system for registering on websites for those which feel that using Twitter or Facebook to authenticate users is a compromise to privacy.

The project, previously known as BrowserID, has set itself an ambitious goal to “eliminate passwords on the Web”. The Beta version offers developers an improved API, while the users will benefit from simplified sign-up process and clear privacy policy. It supports all major browsers for mobile devices and desktop computers.

Freedom from passwords

Persona is a secure website authentication mechanism prototyped by Mozilla, which uses email addresses as identifiers and focuses on privacy and browser integration. Once a user has a Persona account, they can use it to log in into any website that supports the platform, without sharing any additional details with individual sites.

The platform was designed to co-exist with the current login systems, not replace them. It saves security-conscious users the trouble of remembering dozens of passwords, removes the need to create new accounts and mitigates the risk of account theft.

What makes it different from Disqus, Facebook Connect, Sign in with Twitter and other similar services? In the past, Facebook has been accused of tracking the websites user visits trough its comment system and “like” buttons, in order to serve personalised advertising. Same is true with Google. In contrast, Mozilla adheres to a strict code of moral values, outlined in its manifesto.

“When you deploy Persona on your web site (in an afternoon or, sometimes, only 15 minutes), you’re showing respect for your users and their data. You’re only asking for the data needed to log them in, and users know they’re only sharing exactly what’s shown on the screen,” explained Ben Adida, Mozilla’s tech lead on Identity and User Data, on the organisation’s blog.

One of the things that Persona team was concerned with was the time it takes to open an account. After all, every second that the user is forced to spend while trying to login will have a negative effect on completion rates. The open Beta offers simplified sign-up process, which in some cases doesn’t even require confirmation by email.

The platform has also started asking users to consent to site-specific Terms of Service and Privacy Policies as a native part of the login flow, and added the option of a global log out from any device.

According to Endgadget, websites already offering Persona login include The Times‘ online crossword section, OpenPhoto and Voost. You can find complete instructions on how to add the platform to your site here.

Another promising development from Mozilla is its HTML5-based Firefox OS, which is expected to launch in Latin America sometime in 2013.

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