Aug 8 2013

Gmail Bridge for Persona

Since shifting to the Identity team last year, I’ve been working hard on making Persona a true solution to the login problem of the web. As I said then:

If we do our job right, eventually when my friends ask me what I do, I can say: I helped make it so you no longer need to use passwords everywhere. I helped make your online identity more secure. I helped make signing into the Internet awesomer.

We’re getting closer.

What is the Gmail Bridge?

Today, we’re announcing to the world that our Gmail Identity Bridge is online. Excuse me. What? No, I’m fine. It’s alright, it’s actually quite simple.

The way Persona normally works, after checking to see if your email provider natively supports the protocol, is that Persona will fallback to what we call a secondary provider. This is the point where most users end up creating a password for Persona, and then going to their email to verify to us that they really own their email address. If the email provider did support the protocol, they would get sent over to them to authenticate, and we’d step out of the way.

So, we made an Identity Bridge that we host, and uses Google’s OpenID endpoint to verify the user. The experience is pretty much exactly what it should feel like if there was native support from Google.

Why this matters

With both Gmail and Yahoo bridges online, over half of all users are just a couple clicks away from logging in with Persona.

So how does this affect you? If you have a website that has user accounts, you can switch to using Persona as your authentication system. In most cases, it should be a better experience for your users, and easier for you.

If you don’t have a website, you can still help. Find a website you log in to frequently, and ask them to implement Persona. Tell them about this new bridging. Push for the change.

Soon, everyone will notice: we made signing into the Internet awesomer.

Feb 12 2013
Sep 3 2010

Prioritizing My Tiny Inbox

The intertubes all have Gmail’s Priority Inbox in mind. I find people’s reactions to be quite surprising. I don’t get the tidal waves of email as some people do. In fact, I get very little email. Yet, I was excited at the idea of trying to make email better.

Some people were nervous about it. Nervous as in paranoid. I wonder, why? Google isn’t actually “reading” your email. It’s just some algorithms running on your read and reply history. Some Bayesian statistics applied. Anyone worried that their email is now being read should realize that Google could have been reading your email long before now. Really, if anyone is that concerned with privacy, they should consider using their own hosted email server, and an email certificate. Then you can be sure the only people seeing your email are you and your sender/receiver.

Other people don’t want to change their system. They have rules set up to filter a lot of junk already, or they use a speedy Inbox Zero routine to quickly weed out the crap. I can appreciate that. I like to process my email all at once, and leave nothing left in the inbox. I also use a set of filters, mostly to apply labels to certain things so I can have a context when I open them. But I still appreciate what this Priority Inbox can do. Rules can change. You may add a new mailing list, or find a new friend that sends you chain letters, and instead of adding yet another rule manually, why not just let a computer figure that out for you quickly? Or for those processing every single message themselves, I have to wonder why you would want to spend the time and mental energy on so much junk.

As a programmer, I look at everything and think: “Can’t a computer do that for me?”

Now, I just got Priority Inbox enabled, and the excitement died a little. Not because I think it’s useless, but because I don’t get a lot of email. When it turned on, it helped sort 2 emails for me. I can see people getting included in emails by being added to the carbon copy a lot, or if they’re in a position facing the public, like a community manager. But looking at people’s rules, I don’t see how people can accept getting so much junk mail in the first place.

Pretty much all the email I get I would classify as “important”. Almost everything is directed at me. The few mailing lists I subscribe to, I do so because I want to read every single message. I don’t allow applications like Facebook or Twitter1 or whatever to send me useless notification emails. Any time any service sends me email that I don’t want, I scour the footer for the unsubscribe link, and make a liberal use of that spam button. I can’t imagine allowing myself to receive email that I would want a filter to automatically archive for me. What use was that email for me, then? I never look in the archive. I don’t store information in my email for later reference. How some of you people even allow so much junk is beyond me.

  1. Basecamp has no ability inside the app to disable emails, and when posting a new message, the easiest email options is to selected “Everyone” instead of checking everyone but myself. I’ve wanted to hit the spam button for Basecamp so many times, but I always stop myself in case I get message from another Basecamp account that I need to see. Grrrr