Using email addresses as OpenID identities (almost)
On the OpenID specs mailing list, there was another discussion about using email addresses as OpenID identifiers. So far it has mostly covered existing ground, but there was one comment that interested me: a report that you can log in to many OpenID RPs by entering a Yahoo email address.
Now there certainly isn’t any Yahoo-specific code in the standard OpenID libraries, so you might wonder what is going on here. We can get some idea by using the python-openid library:
>>> from openid.consumer.discover import discover >>> claimed_id, services = discover('email@example.com') >>> claimed_id 'http://www.yahoo.com/' >>> services.type_uris ['http://specs.openid.net/auth/2.0/server', 'http://specs.openid.net/extensions/pape/1.0'] >>> services.server_url 'https://open.login.yahooapis.com/openid/op/auth' >>> services.isOPIdentifier() True
So we can see that running the discovery algorithm on the email address has resulted in Yahoo’s standard identifier select endpoint. What we’ve actually seen here is the effect of Section 7.2 at work:
3. Otherwise, the input SHOULD be treated as an http URL; if it does not include a “http” or “https” scheme, the Identifier MUST be prefixed with the string “http://”.
So the email address is normalised to the URL http://firstname.lastname@example.org (which is treated the same as http://yahoo.com/), which is then used for discovery. As shown above, this results in an identifier select request so works for all Yahoo users.
I wonder if the Yahoo developers realised that this would happen and set things up accordingly? If not, then this is a happy accident. It isn’t quite the same as having support for email addresses in OpenID since the user may end up having to enter their email address a second time in the OP if they don’t already have a session cookie.
It is certainly better than the RP presenting an error if the user accidentally enters an email address into the identity field. It seems like something that any OP offering email addresses to its users should implement.