One password for the Web? Internet giants Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM and VeriSign back idea

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Some of the Internet's biggest players — Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM and VeriSign — are working on a new "single sign-on" that would take some of the hassle out of surfing the Web. The five companies on Thursday became the first corporate board members of the OpenID Foundation, which is behind an industry-wide initiative aimed at creating the system.

OpenID Foundation Chairman Scott Kveton called the addition of the Internet behemoths a huge boost. "Having these companies really lends weight to the adoption," Kveton said. "This will help us move the technology to the forefront."

Under OpenID, companies would share sign-on information for any Web user who agrees to participate. They would also share users' personal information, such credit card data, billing addresses and personal preferences. All that information would be stored in a central repository, and would be doled out to participating Web sites only if and when you authorize it.

By setting up a single OpenID sign-on, you could access your Google calendar or your Microsoft Hotmail e-mail account or visit Yahoo's music download store, all without changing sign-in names or remembering different passwords. No major retailers have signed on to OpenID yet. But ultimately, organizers say, you may be able to also use a single sign-on at different online shopping sites.

Some critics worry that having personal information in a single repository shared by many companies could create security problems. But supporters say OpenID, which would be free for users, could actually help prevent identity theft and other security issues.


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