Social login + social history

Estimated reading time: just a minute! More and more sites are using third party authentication to set up an account or sign in to their services. Typically, I've experienced this as "login with Facebook", but some offer many different login options: Google, Twitter, Open ID, Windows Live…

Only last week, Spotify came under fire for its announcement that from now on you will need a Facebook account to be able to sign up to their service.

Janrain offers social logins as a service, and claims to "hide the complexities of implementing website authentication", although their own login screen couldn't be more overwhelming with different logos. Expecting everyday users to understand the paradigm of authenticating with a third party is challenging enough, but adding a smorgasbord of different brands to the screen just adds complexity and confusion.

Janrain login options

So that got me thinking… using something like socialhistory.js in this context (for which it was not intended), to display only the logos of sites that the user's browser has previously visited may reduce this complexity. It's a technique that's sometimes frowned upon as it can be misused to maliciously capture browsing history, but in this instance it's entirely justifiable as it's simply used to make people's lives easier.

I'd be interested in your thoughts, although I'm not involved in the 'identity' community. Has somebody already thought of this and dismissed it? Or is it too much of a short-term fix to a bigger problem which needs to be addressed? socialhistory.js isn't new, so I'm surprised I haven't seen this anywhere… or maybe I have, but it's so effective that I haven't noticed!

(and do I get extra points for using 'paradigm' and 'smorgasbord' in one sentence? ;-) )