|Initial release||July 2011|
|Available in||51 languages|
Mozilla Persona was a decentralized authentication system for the web based on the open BrowserID protocol prototyped by Mozilla and standardized by IETF. It was launched in July 2011, but after failing to achieve traction, Mozilla announced in January 2016 plans to decommission the service by the end of the year.
History and motivations
- It used email addresses as identifiers
- It was more focused on privacy
The privacy goal was motivated by the fact that the identity provider does not know which website the user is identifying on. It was first released in July 2011 and fully deployed by Mozilla on its own websites in January 2012.
In 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.
Principles and implementation
Persona was inspired by the VerifiedEmailProtocol which is now known as the BrowserID protocol. 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
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 identity 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.
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."
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."
Support of authentication to Web applications via Persona can be implemented by CMSs such as Drupal, Serendipity, WordPress, Tiki or SPIP. There is also support for Persona in the Phonegap 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, providing federated identity.
- WebID, a set of proposed standards for identity, identification, and authentication on HTTP based networks.
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- 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
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- "Glossary - "Persona" vs. "BrowserID"". Mozilla Developer Network. [Mozilla]. 2012-11-26. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- "What is an Identity Bridge?" July 26, 2013
- "Mozilla Makes Signing in Easy for Gmail Users," August 8th, 2013
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Enables users to sign into a Drupal website using Mozilla Persona.
- "Serendipity: Backend: Usermanagement plugins". Serendipity Weblog System (a PHP based CMS). Serendipity. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
- couchbaselabs / cordova-browserid, retrieved 2013-03-13,
Mozilla Persona (aka BrowserID) and PhoneGap / Cordova, together at last.
- "Implementing a Persona IdP". Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- Ting implements Mozilla Persona, Ting.com, retrieved 2013-03-13
- Mozilla Persona: About, Mozilla, retrieved 2013-03-13