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OpenID comes to Facebook, at last

The universal log-in standard hadn't come to Facebook sooner because of security and user experience concerns, a post on the social network's blog explained.

For the past few years, Facebook has been flirting with the possibility of supporting the OpenID log-in standard, which calls itself "an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity" without actually building support for it.

Now, the massive social network--once famous for its ultra-walled-garden approach to data and user experience--announced Monday that it has become an OpenID "relying party," which basically means that it's started, at last, to deploy support for the standard. Facebook joined the OpenID Foundation in February, even though many considered its Facebook Connect log-in standard to be a proprietary competitor.

But, Monday's announcement indicated, Facebook believes the two can work in tandem.

"We've always let our users express their real world connections," a post on the Facebook blog read. "From the beginning, Facebook users could use their college and workplace identities to establish real world networks. Now, they can use open standards to establish their identities on Facebook."

Most notably, you can now register for a Facebook account with your Gmail account, or can link an existing Facebook account with Gmail or other OpenID-participating services if they support automatic log-in.

"We've always believed that making the user experience as secure, lightweight, and intuitive as possible, which 200 million people can comfortably enjoy and understand, is one of our top priorities," the blog post read. That could be a subtle nod to the fact that OpenID, founded in 2005, has historically been a bit difficult for the non-tech-savvy to comprehend.

Facebook's blog post also said that security concerns have been an issue. In working with the OpenID community, "we shared our experience developing Facebook Connect, where we eventually came up with a design that ensures that users would know that they were providing their login credentials to Facebook, and not some unscrupulous site."

The plus side? Facebook's tests have indicated that if new users can register with an existing Web service account, like Gmail, that they are more likely to stick around.