Mozilla Expands Persona For Online Authentication

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWeek and contributor to TechWeek

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Mozilla expands its password-slaying website authentication service, dubbed ‘Persona’

Open source browser maker Mozilla has released a new version of its open authentication system, dubbed Persona, which allows people to use the same email address and password for different websites.

Mozilla launched its BrowserID effort in 2011 and renamed the consumer-facing technology bits Persona in 2012. Somewhat confusingly, the core specification behind Persona is still known as BrowserID.

User Authentication

The basic idea behind BrowserID/Persona is that a person’s email address, as stored and authenticated inside their Firefox browser, is their identity.

badge-personaSo whenever a person visits a site that has Persona support, the user gets a log-in window pop-up, and all they need to do is click OK. It is much like the Facebook/Twitter/Google-based authentication now too, the difference is that Persona is browser-based.

Now, Mozilla is expanding Persona with what they refer to as an Identity Bridge for Gmail. With an Identity Bridge, user email authenticity can be confirmed via an OpenID or OAuth gateway. Both OpenID and OAuth are existing open protocol specifications for user identification. The news here is that now Gmail users can leverage their existing Gmail credentials to log-in to Persona-powered Websites.

According to Mozilla, Persona now can potentially support some 700 million email users.

No Tracking

While OpenID/OAuth-based authentication from Google/Facebook/Twitter is already commonplace across the Web, the question remains as to why people would bother with Persona? Well there could be one very good reason, especially in these privacy-sensitive times.

“Persona remains committed to privacy: Gmail users can sign into sites with Persona, but Google can’t track which sites they sign into,” Mozilla states.

That no tracking feature could be a big plus to some users. However, time will tell whether Persona/BrowserID will actually become popular in terms of widespread usage (as opposed to just being supported).

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Originally published on eWeek.

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