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Mozilla Shuts Down Persona

| by James Chesters Follow 1 Followers on Jan 20, 2016. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Mozilla has announced they are shutting down Persona, the cross-browser login system for the Web.

Ryan Kelly, software engineer for Mozilla, announced the move on Mozilla's Google Group in the post Shutting down persona.org in November 2016.

He said:

When the Mozilla Identity team transitioned Persona to community ownership, we committed resources to operational and security support throughout 2014, and renewed that commitment for 2015. Due to low, declining usage, we are reallocating the project’s dedicated, ongoing resources and will shut down the persona.org services that we run.

Despite a low usage, the reaction from the community has been large, and vocal.

On his blog Stavros Korokithakis, founder of Stochastic Technologies, penned an Open letter to Mozilla: Bring back Persona. Korokithakis says "Persona was (and still is) a great idea all around, and I would like to officially (that’s right, it’s official) urge Mozilla to reconsider its stance on shuttering Persona."

In the discussion OAuth Has Ruined Everything on Hacker News -- linking to the Telerik blog post of the same title -- the conversation also turned quickly to Persona's fate.

Alex Cabal, lead on the Standard Ebooks project, commented:

I'm really sad Persona got abandoned so quickly. Mozilla made some strange decisions in how it marketed and supported it, too...and after just a year it got unceremoniously dumped.

Everyone I talked to said it was a great solution, and they were really interested to see where it would go. Why did Mozilla make so many weird decisions on what could have been a revolutionary technology? Is there any way to breathe life back in to it?

When it came out I personally considered implementing it for Scribophile, but decided not to because I didn't want to invest a lot of time in an unproven technology. If I had seen it active and lively a few years down the road, I would have been more than happy to bite the bullet. Maybe my attitude was a common one, and doomed Persona to a chicken-and-egg situation?

Former Persona engineer (and current Mozilla software engineer) Dan Callahan replied to Cabal that "the bulk of the [Persona] team" had close to two years working on the project, rather than just one, and that Cabal's experience considering it "unproven" was a common one.

"That was a big reason we didn't go further than we did. People loved the idea, but relatively few folks were willing to actually back up that belief with action," Callahan said.

Callahan also feels the Persona team shared "some of the blame", saying they thought there would be more time "to experiment with the core protocol and product design," but had been "unexpectedly asked to demonstrate traction and commercial adoption that simply wasn't there."

The shutting down of persona.org does not necessarily mark the end for Persona, however.

In the Mozilla wiki post Identity/Persona Shutdown Guidelines for Reliers the question "What about [Persona's] code?" is answered "All of Persona's code -- core, bridges, shims, and more -- is open source and remains available on github. Though this marks the end of Mozilla's direct involvement in Persona, we encourage others to continue learning from, and building upon, our work."

This may already be happening. Korokithakis notes in the Hacker News discussion Shutting down Persona.org in November 2016, "A few people and I have been talking about Persona and possibly developing a next version, we're chatting on https://gitter.im/letsauth/LetsAuth, or #letsauth on Freenode. Feel free to join either, we'd love to brainstorm together."

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