Google Helps With the Password Juggle

Google today made available a technology aimed at allowing users to securely register at Web sites without having to go through a lengthy sign-up process.

The technology, called hybrid onboarding, was first employed by Plaxo and is already used by Facebook and Yahoo, said Eric Sachs, product manager at Google’s security unit in a blog post.

Under the hybrid onboarding model, users can register for sites with a click or two, rather than going through a longer sign-in process that can involve up to 10 steps, according to Sachs, who credited Facebook and the online address service Plaxo for pioneering the method.

In addition to improving the overall completed registration rate for users at Web sites, Sachs also said that the technology offers stronger security for password protection.

“The hybrid onboarding model improves authentication security because Web sites like Plaxo that use this technique never see a password from you at all. Since you don’t have to enter your password on additional sites, your password remains closer to you and is less likely to be misused. We’d like to applaud Plaxo and Facebook’s work in designing the user experience needed for this technique as well as pushing us to create the optimizations needed to carry out their design,” said Sachs.

Starting today, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is making the technology available to any Web site developer that wants to use hybrid onboarding. The building blocks for the technology are based on industry standards that both Google and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) already support, with Sachs saying more should follow soon.

Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors are also employing the technology, but Google, Yahoo and the enterprise aren’t the only big names signing up.

“In addition, after a thorough evaluation of the security and privacy of these technologies,” said Sachs, “the same techniques are being piloted by President Obama’s open identity initiative to enable citizens to sign in more easily to government-operated Web sites.”

News of the password technology comes a year after Google, Facebook and Plaxo joined forces to support the DataPortability Workgoup, aimed at easing the exchange of data across the social Web.

More technical details are available at Google’s Code Blog and Enterprise blog.

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