The Mozilla Foundation has unveiled a new Identity Bridge that links its Persona single sign-on technology with Gmail, allowing all Gmail users to log in to Persona-enabled sites without entering a username or password.
Persona works by having users register their email addresses with a server called a Persona Identity Provider (IdP), which will then authenticate their identities for other websites using a system based on public-key cryptography, rather than traditional usernames and passwords.
Because most internet users haven't registered with a Persona IdP, however – and many don't even know such things exist – Mozilla has developed Identity Bridging as a stopgap measure until Persona is more widely supported.
A Persona Identity Bridge authenticates users using either the OpenID or OAuth protocols – most major email providers offer one or the other – and then translates the results into the Persona protocol for use with Persona-enabled websites.
Mozilla introduced its Identity Bridging system with Persona Beta 2 in April, which included an Identity Bridge for Yahoo! Mail. With the addition of the Identity Bridge for Gmail, Mozilla says some 700 million email users now have built-in support for Persona – they don't have to sign up for any new services or create any new accounts.
They don't need to send any additional information to Google or Yahoo!, either. As Mozilla's Dan Callahan wrote in a blog post on Thursday, "Persona remains committed to privacy: Gmail users can sign into sites with Persona, but Google can't track which sites they sign into."
Mozilla has previously said that it is working to bring Persona support to more large email providers, and that its eventual goal is to provide support for "over half of the worldwide internet population." Between the Gmail and Yahoo! Identity Bridges, Callahan says roughly 60 to 80 per cent of North American web users are already covered.
Note, however, that in El Reg's tests, the Gmail Identity Bridge only worked with addresses from the actual Gmail domain. Addresses from private domains that offer Gmail via Google Apps confused it.
If you have a Gmail address, Mozilla suggests you try out Persona by signing in to any Persona-enabled website, such as Mozilla's Webmaker. Website owners who are interested in adding Persona to their own sites can find more information here. ®