Mozilla Persona

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Not to be confused with Personas (Firefox). ‹See Tfd›
Mozilla Persona
Mozilla Persona.png
Developer(s) Mozilla Foundation
Initial release July 2011
Written in JavaScript
Operating system Cross-platform
Available in 51 languages
Type Authorization
License MPL
Website developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Persona

Mozilla Persona is a decentralized authentication system for the web based on the open BrowserID protocol[1] prototyped by Mozilla.[2]

History and motivations[edit]

Persona was launched in July 2011[3] and shares some of its goals with some similar authentication systems like OpenID or Facebook Connect, but it is different in several ways:

  1. it uses email addresses as identifiers
  2. it is more focused on privacy
  3. is intended to be fully integrated in the browser (currently relies heavily on Javascript).

The privacy goal is motivated by the fact that the identity provider does not know which website the user is identifying on.[4] It was first released in July 2011 and fully deployed by Mozilla on its own websites in January 2012.[5]

As of March 2014, Mozilla indicated it was dropping full-time developers from Persona and moving the project to community ownership. Mozilla indicated, however, that it had no plans to decommission Persona and would maintain some level of involvement such as in maintenance and reviewing pull requests.[6]

Principles and implementation[edit]

Persona was inspired by the VerifiedEmailProtocol.[7][8] which is now known as the BrowserID protocol.[9] It uses any user email address to identify its owner. This protocol involves the browser, an identity provider, and any compliant website.

The browser, the provider and the website[edit]

The browser stores a list of user verified email addresses (certificates issued by the identity providers), and demonstrates the user's ownership of the addresses to the website using cryptographic proof.

The certificates must be renewed every 24 hours by logging-in to the identity provider (which will usually mean entering the email and a password in a Web form on the identify provider's site). Once done, they will be usable for authenticating to web sites with the same browser for the rest of the day, without entering passwords again (Single Sign-On).

The decentralization aspects of the protocol reside in the theoretical support of any identity provider service, while in practice it seems to rely mainly on Mozilla's servers currently (which may in turn delegate email address verification, see identity bridging below). However, even if the protocol heavily relies on a central identity provider, this central actor only knows when browsers renew certificates, and cannot in principle monitor where the certificates will be used.

Identity Bridging[edit]

Mozilla announced "Identity Bridging" support for Persona in July, 2013: As they describe on their blog: "Traditionally...Mozilla would send you an email and ask you to click on the confirmation link it contained. With Identity Bridging, Persona learned a new trick; instead of sending confirmation emails, Persona can ask you to verify your identity via your email provider’s existing OpenID or OAuth gateway."[10] This announcement included support for existing users of the Yahoo Mail service. In August 2013, Mozilla announced support for Identity Bridging with all Gmail accounts. They wrote in this additional announcement that "combined with our Identity Bridge for Yahoo, Persona now natively supports more than 700,000,000 active email users. That covers roughly 60-80% of people on most North American websites." [11]

Deployment[edit]

Persona relies heavily on the Javascript client-side program running in the user's browser, making it widely usable.

Support of authentication to Web applications via Persona can be implemented by CMSs such as Drupal,[12] Serendipity,[13] WordPress,[14] Tiki[15] or SPIP. There is also support for Persona in the Phonegap[16] platform (used for compiling HTML5 apps into mobile apps). Mozilla provides its own Persona server at persona.org. It is also possible to set up your own Persona identity provider,[17] providing federated identity.

Notable sites implementing Persona include Ting,[18] The Times Crossword, Trovebox and Voost.[19]

See also[edit]

  • Learning materials related to Mozilla Persona at Wikiversity (JavaScript login)
  • OpenID
  • WebID, a set of proposed standards for identity, identification, and authentication on HTTP based networks.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Persona", Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) (Mozilla), retrieved 2013-02-10 
  2. ^ Persona: Connect with Mozilla Persona, the safest & easiest way to sign in., Mozilla, retrieved 2013-02-10 
  3. ^ "Introducing BrowserID: A better way to sign in", Mozilla Identity team (Mozilla), 2011-07-14, retrieved 2013-02-10 
  4. ^ Ben Adida <benadida> (2011-07-15), "How BrowserID differs from OpenID", Mozilla Identity team (Mozilla), retrieved 2013-02-10 
  5. ^ Leyden, John (2012-01-20), Mozilla pushes browser-based alternative to passwords, The Register, retrieved 2013-02-10, "Give us your keys to look after, we're lovely" 
  6. ^ http://identity.mozilla.com/post/78873831485/transitioning-persona-to-community-ownership
  7. ^ "Verified Email Protocol: Overview and Introduction", Mozilla Wiki (Mozilla), retrieved 2013-02-10 
  8. ^ How BrowserID Works, lloyd's blog, 2011-07-01, retrieved 2013-02-10 
  9. ^ "Glossary - "Persona" vs. "BrowserID"". Mozilla Developer Network. [Mozilla]. 2012-11-26. Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  10. ^ "What is an Identity Bridge?" July 26, 2013
  11. ^ "Mozilla Makes Signing in Easy for Gmail Users," August 8th, 2013
  12. ^ Mozilla Persona, Drupal, 2012-09-28, retrieved 2014-03-27, "Enables users to sign into a Drupal website using Mozilla Persona." 
  13. ^ "Serendipity: Backend: Usermanagement plugins". Serendipity Weblog System (a PHP based CMS). Serendipity. Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  14. ^ https://wordpress.org/support/plugin/browserid
  15. ^ http://dev.tiki.org/Mozilla+Persona
  16. ^ couchbaselabs / cordova-browserid, retrieved 2013-03-13, " Mozilla Persona (aka BrowserID) and PhoneGap / Cordova, together at last." 
  17. ^ "Implementing a Persona IdP". Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  18. ^ Ting implements Mozilla Persona, Ting.com, retrieved 2013-03-13 
  19. ^ Mozilla Persona: About, Mozilla, retrieved 2013-03-13