Ever have something you can’t get out of your head? How about two things?
The first thing stuck in my head is the idea that Google is moving wholesale into the content business. They aren’t creating their own content, but they aggregate external content into a “walled garden” and encourage users to host content on Google properties, both actions ensuring that value remains solely exploitable by Google. For product and service folks this won’t matter much, but for people reliant on web content for their income the contraction of the web into mega-portals is definitely a business threat to be aware of. I personally worry that this business tactic may affect the vitality of the web in the long run. Case-in-point, with the recent launch of the real estate layer in Google Maps, realtors are incented to funnel their listings through Google Base rather than posting them openly on the web as GeoRSS or KML. This echoes the aggregation that is occurring in Google’s “Place Pages“, and is a worrisome trend.
If you’re anything like me, you probably use the password reset function on websites more often than the login function. This is a huge problem, both for security and for user experience.
The City of Nanaimo recognized that as useful as the city’s web applications are, requiring citizens to remember yet another password is not reasonable. Early this year the city did an initial analysis of OpenID, and Jeff Jacob–one of my colleagues–took on the task of developing the infrastructure to support OpenID and one of the first applications to take advantage of it. You can read the everyman’s description of Nanaimo’s OpenID initiative along with links to the OpenID-enabled services.
While the majority of users probably have an OpenID account already, it would not be responsible to require citizens to sign up for an external login service. A mix of forms-based and OpenID login capabilities may have been easier, but it just made more sense for Jeff to implement a city-specific OpenID provider using the DotNetOpenID open source library. This allows Nanaimo’s application login class to be more streamlined while presenting a consistent user experience, but more importantly it allows the city to act as a provider for third party / COTS web applications as these start supporting OpenID. Eventually Nanaimo citizens will be able to log into all city services using a single ID of their choice.
It is gratifying to see that during the City’s implementation phase many other organisations, such as the US Federal Government, have been embracing OpenID. Allowing citizens to access services using their own credentials is a key part of Nanaimo’s longstanding policy of providing easy access to the information residents and businesses need to live and do business here.
If you work for a local government and are interested in sharing information and/or code, please get in touch with Nanaimo’s IT department!
P.S. As always, I am writing from a personal perspective. Opinions here are my own, and are not necessarily shared by my employer.