JanRain Offers Universal Logins, Puts Portland at Center of Internet Identity Movement

Are you tired of trying to remember 20 different passwords for all your online accounts? If so, Larry Drebes has a proposition for you. His Portland, OR-based company, JanRain, makes software that gives customers and employees secure, universal logins for the Web, and it enables companies’ websites to accept these logins.

The software works via OpenID, an open-source effort in online identity and authentication that originated in Portland. OpenID is already accepted by some 30,000 websites—mostly smaller sites focused on user-generated content, blogs, and wikis, but it’s also supported by some big players like AOL, Yahoo, MySpace, Google Blogger, and Microsoft. “The whole idea of OpenID is to whittle away at the pain point of having 100 million logins on the Internet,” says Drebes. “This is something that’s going to change every website in the world.”

It’s certainly a big idea (though not unique), and Drebes’s company is at the forefront of the movement, which in recent months has seen Facebook and Google roll out portable and proprietary Web logins. JanRain is also part of a maturing crop of software startups in the Portland area—including AboutUs, Elemental Technologies, Jive Software, Kryptiq, and SplashCast, to name a few—that are having an increasing impact in diverse markets like Internet video, social networks, and healthcare. Not bad for a self-funded startup with 13 employees that is in the process of raising money.

Drebes founded JanRain in 2005, and he has some serious startup chops. He previously spent 12 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he co-founded Desktop.com and Four11, the latter of which was acquired by Yahoo in 1997. (Four11’s Web-based e-mail product became Yahoo Mail.) Now Drebes leads JanRain’s software development as the company’s vice president of engineering, working with CEO Brian Kissel.

How did Drebes get into the field of Internet identity? “We were convinced that this was a huge market,” he says. “We saw the trend of social networking. Not only do you have your identity, but you … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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