BrowserID and me

A few weeks ago, I became Tech Lead on Identity and User Data at Mozilla. This is an awesome and challenging responsibility, and I’ve been busy. When I took on this new responsibility, BrowserID was already well under way, so we were able to launch it in my second week on the project (early July). It’s been a very fun ride.

Here’s the BrowserID demo at the Mozilla All-Hands last week:

Given my prior work on email-based authentication (EmID, Lightweight Email Signatures, BeamAuth), you might think BrowserID was my brainchild. In fact, it really wasn’t. And, in a testament to the shrinking impact of academic publication venues, none of the BrowserID team had ever heard of my work on email-based authentication before I arrived at Mozila, even though Mozilla folks are quite well versed in the state of the art. But who cares: when I found out about the ongoing work and how we agreed on just about every design principle, I was incredibly excited. And when I realized the fantastic work the team had already done on defining a scaffolding and adoption path for the technology, I was super impressed.

BrowserID started with the Verified Email Protocol, designed by Mike Hanson and Dan Mills, who came up with the approach after extensive exploration of web-based identity approaches over the last two years. It’s a simple idea: users can prove to web sites that they own a particular email address. That’s how they register, and that’s how they log back in the next time they visit the site. BrowserID, the code and site, was initially bootstrapped by Lloyd Hilaiel and Mike Hanson. Shane Tomlinson and I joined the team in June. We now also have an awesome UX design team (Bryan and Andy) and the team continues to grow (yay Austin!)

So, that’s what I’m working on these days: BrowserID and other Identity+UserData efforts at Mozilla. I’m excited to be leading this technical effort. The team is amazing, and we’ve got big aggressive plans to help you control your identity and data on the Web.