Single Sign-On: Determining a Single Sign-On Solution for Your Website

Written by Tom FronczakMarch 31, 2011

Supply and demand! The Internet’s proven to be a social juggernaut in the past few years, with countless places for users to discuss and share ideas. An emerging business dilemma is that there are so many new sites each week that some people are getting tired of creating new accounts for them all. The demand for a single sign-on future is huge, and many competitors are scrambling to offer the desired supply of tools to meet users’ needs.

Since single sign-on (SSO) is still a somewhat new technology, and both users and web site owners need to be cautious. According to PayPal, password fatigue and identity fraud is a major issue as:

  • The average person has 25 online accounts and 6.5 passwords
  • 66% of people use 1-2 passwords across all sites
  • The average user logs in 8 times each day

Businesses are affected as well.  Forgotten passwords are the #1 source of online customer service issues, and customer service is one of the largest costs for online businesses, so reducing the number of inquiries here will have a real impact on the bottom line.

Given these concerns, what solutions exist for managing user identities and streamlining the login process?

Evaluating User Identity Preferences

As with any business, your goal should be to have as many customers and visitors as possible, so the simplest answer is to accept all SSO identities and turn away no one. To understand the lay of the online land, let’s look at the figures released by Gigya last year:

These stats clearly show that Facebook is the leading social network ID, but with others receiving substantial use as well. It’s a little surprising how vastly popular Twitter is on the Web as a social platform, yet it ranks only decent in the overall SSO chart. However, it’s always wise to have a target audience in mind when studying your current or potential user base, so let’s look at more focused figures from the same study.

Suddenly it becomes more clear why Twitter’s overall statistics are lower than expected: people prefer to use it for certain online social aspects more than on others. It’s still hard to tell if it’s because Twitter has a stronger news outlet campaign and Facebook has the best social media campaign, or if it’s just that the online populace likes to wear different jackets in different online environments. The next section shows this might be the true case, and that many people don’t want a single blanket account, but instead prefer to use their casual Twitter account for casual sites and a more professional account for more serious sites.

It’s never wise to only gather data from one study though. Plus, a year is a long time on the Internet, so let’s take a look at a newer batch of Gigya user information.

Identifying Trends in SSO Usage

Linked In is the dominant social network for the businesses, yet the charts above show that their overall reach hasn’t been that large in the past. Some Websites are already choosing to discard the smaller pie chart slices and stick to the biggest ones, but LinkedIn is a great example of why this can be dangerous:

If you’re the last one to arrive when a new social trend emerges it means the window of opportunity will be much more limited. This chart also summarizes how valuable it can be to know your target user audience, with B2B (business-to-business) sites benefiting from not focusing as much on overall statistics and instead embracing the communities that most align with the services and products they offer.

Choosing the SSO Solution that Best Matches Your Needs

It’s necessary to figure out which provider best fits your budget, but if their SSO support lists aren’t relevant to your target audience(s) then your time and resources are better spent elsewhere. Gigya and most others have full support for Facebook, but might have limited access to the identity provider you need, so it’s important to check out the full list.

One great thing about Gigya and other platforms for social Websites is that your company’s developers can work with just its API to access the safely transferred SSO user account data without needing to use the SSO’s origin API syntax. This “destination agnostic” API perk can save coders countless hours of time over a year of site development and updates.

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