Emailtoid: A Tour in Screenshots

OpenID is one of the technologies under active development that will shape the evolution of the web. It offers a single sign-on solution for the web, eliminating the need to sign up for separate accounts at each site.

For example, I use to sign on to sites that support OpenID. Being a geek, I’m comfortable with using my URL to identify myself. However, the general public is accustomed to using their email addresses.

Toward that end, Michael Richardson of Vidoop has launched Emailtoid, a service which will allow people to sign on using email addresses rather than URLs. Chris Messina has the complete rundown.

Because I’m intrigued by the inner-workings of OpenID, I poked around a bit. Here’s what I found…

First of all, its important to realize that Emailtoid will only work when logging on to sites that support it. This means the site has to support OpenID, as well as fallback Emailtoid when and email address is used to sign on. That limits the total number of supporting sites to one, currently:, the example relying party. However, this is just a technology preview at this point, and you have to start somewhere.

Sign On

To sign on, simply enter your email address.

Log In

Now, you will wind up on the Emailtoid service. In order to verify that the email address you entered is actually yours, Emailtoid sends an access key to your email address.

Email Sent

Go to your inbox, where a new message should be waiting. Click the link in the message, or copy the access key into the page.

Confirmation Email

Once your email address has been verified, you will be logged in at the original site.

Logged In

Associate an OpenID

If you already have an OpenID, you can associate that with your account at Emailtoid.


With that association in place, Emailtoid will redirect you to your OpenID provider when you sign on, where can enter your password as usual. This is more convenient that switching over to your inbox in order to get access keys.

Identifier Details

Under the hood, Emailtoid is generating OpenID identifiers for email addresses that do not already have such an identifier associated with them. When I first signed on to the relying party, my identifier was:

Because I’ve associated my OpenID with my Emailtoid account, that link simply redirects to An account with no such association currently gets a boilerplate placeholder.


Final Thoughts

As noted in the release announcement, this is not a final solution, but rather an attempt to start a discussion about best practices. I’ve got some ideas rolling around in my head. As I experiment, I’ll post about my discoveries. Stay tuned.


Lonna Hanson
June 23, 2008 at 6:00 PM

I found this very interesting, Jared. I always use my email address. I wonder how that will work when I retire and am not able to use my teacher email address. I know that is why you helped me set up gmail. Thanks for that help. One of my summer projects is to set up that address book. Not making much progress, I am anxious to read your further posts.

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