I seem to keep having the "i'm getting overloaded with [take your pick: email, RSS, social networks, logins, etc etc]" conversation over & over with knowledgeable people in and around the valley... however, i get the distinct impression that people around here don't have the same kind of problems the rest of the mainstream world does. Altho i'm a geek and i live in northern california and i work with startups all day long, i also have family back in West Virginia that lead very non-techie lives. I also used to work at PayPal / eBay, where much of the userbase is people who are very middle america. those folks appear to have similar problems to us geeks... but if you listen closely, they don't really use the same words to describe them. and because of that, the solutions tend to look and sound a lot different as well.
In particular, i've seen a bunch of blog posts recently about social networks and OpenID and related topics, and i think people are missing the point. while i and many other geeks who represent perhaps 1% of society suffer from "social network fatigue" and the desire for single sign-on, i don't think these are the same problems the rest of humanity is dealing with... or at least, they don't manifest in quite the same ways or drive to the same type of solutions.
People in tech / silicon valley say things like:
* crap, i wish i didn't get so many invites to social networks
* crap, i wish i could bring my social network on site A over to site B
* crap, i wish i could import (some, but not all of) my email addresses into service X
* crap, i wish there was a simple, single signon service i could use everywhere
* boy, i'm really looking forward to when OpenId will catch on & solve all of the above
However, people in the rest of the world say things like:
* crap, i forgot my password
* crap, i forgot my password
* crap, i forgot my password
* crap, why won't this site let me use my normal [5-letter, insecure, kid's first name] password
* crap, i forgot that other password i occasionally use
forgive me if i remain a bit disillusioned that OpenID is a panacea to all of the problems noted above, or if i'm skeptical the average user suffers from "social networking fatigue". i think we're trying to solve the problems for the current 1% of the world who we THINK represent the future of the rest of the 99%. however, i don't think our problems are their problems... or at least they don't talk about them in the same way. altho it's possible the solutions have similar foundations, the implementations i've seen lately aren't anywhere near as simple as they have to be for mainstream america to find them useful for THEIR problems.
do i have a solution? nope, not yet. i use Roboform on the PC, and 1Passwd on the Mac, and they still don't quite solve all of my problems... they just help me remember ~500 combinations of usernames & passwords on all the sites i visit. they're probably not simple enough for the average user. however, they don't depend on the rest of the websites out there adopting any new standards, and they do work pretty well for me. but i'm not kidding myself these are a good enough solution for the other 99%. they're just a decent hack for me & other geeks.
will OpenID work someday? maybe. i think if the major platform sites out there (YHOO, MSFT, GOOG, others) decide to fully support the standard (possible, but unlikely) then maybe it's got some legs. that would be nice, but i won't hold my breath. failing that, it will still be a good solution that's probably too complex and too subject to phishing for the average mainstream user to adopt... at least in its current form. i could be wrong about that, however after working at PayPal for many years and seeing a relatively simple "single sign-on" solution work ok but not perfect for many users, i'd have to say it will probably take a long time to get there.
will one of the major platforms adopt some form of single signon developed outside their system? doubtful, altho Yahoo seems to be trying out openid. [UPDATE: AOL also seems to be trying out OpenID support... waiting to see how that goes]. more likely, they all hope their own existing acct services get adopted as standards. microsoft's hailstorm got rained out years ago before it even got off the ground, altho the new Windows Live Id (nee Passport) might see more use with Vista. google's account service (same guy, different decade) is starting to be required as a foundation service for all core Google features. same for Yahoo, altho they appear to have a little bit less of an world domination agenda and are at least dabbling other alternatives. Amazon, eBay, MySpace, AOL, and others are also large silos of users / passwords, but probably none of them big enough on their own to monopolize account management... but neither are they motivated or likely to join some open standard when they have tens or hundreds of millions of users already on their own systems. most likely, i think Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft (maybe Amazon a few others) will do their best to enable their own platforms and acct login services as standards that other smaller startups adopt. i think that's a lot more likely than OpenId catching on... dunno if it's better or not. probably i'd be ok with remembering 4 passwords tho.
and so, we have the problem we're in today. 3-7 big gorillas with absolutely no motivation to move to an open standard. thousands of other popular websites that will continue to implement their own account systems, with limited portability to other systems. millions of users who a) can't remember their password, b) keep using insecure versions of the same password that's easily hackable, and c) aren't going to change their behavior OR adopt a new single sign-on standard that's even modestly complex.
inevitably, you're just going to have to open another useless account. keep practicing.