Let me start with the quote here (courtesy of Read/Write Web)...
The OpenID Foundation is announcing this morning that Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign and Yahoo! have taken seats as the organization's first corporate board members.
OpenID is a protocol for authenticating your identity through a single chosen provider instead of creating unique accounts at every website you use.
The Foundation, which was formed 18 months ago, says it "will not dictate the technical direction of OpenID; instead it will help enable and protect whatever is created by the community." That often means legal paperwork (to keep a single company from patenting important open standards, for example), and that means money is needed. Cash will also help with some much needed marketing and communications efforts.
OK...this has begun to bother me.
This has become a trend now where companies join essentially useless organizations so they can claim to support open standards that they have no intention of actually supporting. First there was DataPortability.org and now we have The OpenID Foundation, both organizations that have no real purpose other than to "discuss" and hence are easy for big companies to use as Public Relations tools.
These companies aren't even wiling to assign vaporware status to OpenID. They could easily say "we plan to implement OpenID at some time in the future" only to forget about it down the line (they've all done it before). But then they'd have to stop pushing their own proprietary solutions so they won't even do that.
Instead this will just become an appointment for some lower level employee. He/She will attend a pointless meeting every month and that will be the extent of it because the real goal is to quiet the community who is clamoring for change not actually make a change.
Once the noise dies down OpenID can just fall by the wayside and be forgotten.
The saddest part about all this is that it works. OpenID supporters will pat themselves on the back confident that they've beaten the big companies and then go on their way. The big companies will continue to attend meetings that go no where until OpenID has fallen so far behind proprietary technology that its pointless to discuss and then it will be forgotten. Its all just a trick and not even a clever tricky at that.
Yet people continue to fall for it. Please, if you support OpenID, don't stop until you get a timetable for full implementation. Because unless you have that you really don't have anything at all.
Addendum: In the comments I'm taken to task for saying The OpenID Foundation is "essentially useless". Just so we're all on the same page here I'll quote from their web site on what the Foundation's purpose is...
The OpenID Foundation (OIDF) was formed in June 2007 to help promote, protect and enable the OpenID technologies and community. This entails managing intellectual property, brand marks as well as fostering viral growth and global participation in the proliferation of OpenID. The OIDF does not dictate the technical direction of OpenID; instead it will help enable and protect whatever is created by the community.
I'm not sure I meant "completely useless" when I said what I did so if that seemed implied I certainly take it back. Both the OpenID Foundation and Dataportability.org have some uses beyond being a corporate tool. I think my issue with them still stands though in that they are benign to me. They don't push things forward they just sit by the sidelines (as opposed to say a standards group which is actively working on the standard). That makes them ripe for manipulation by big companies.
Anyway, my criticism really isn't of the organizations themselves. I'm sure each was started by well meaning peole and that well meaning people are still in each of them. I just wonder if, by the nature of the organization, they don't invite big companies to use them in the way described above.