Mozilla to shut down Persona on November 30, 2016 - gHacks Tech News

Mozilla to shut down Persona on November 30, 2016

When Mozilla introduced the then-called BrowserID system as a new authentication system for the web in 2011, it had big plans for it.

Designed to be a privacy-focused "one login to rule them all" services, it offered pretty much what similar authentication systems offered by the likes of Facebook or Google offered but without the privacy implications.

Things became complicated quickly when Mozilla decided to rename BrowserID to Persona, and the main reason for that the term Personas was already being used to describe lightweight themes for the Firefox browser.

So, when BrowserID became Persona, Personas became "themes" (which caused confusion as well as Mozilla made a distinction between themes and full themes then).

Persona did not really take off, which can be largely attributed to a lack of dedicated resources on Mozilla's part.

Then in 2014, the organization made Persona a community project and dedicated resources to it to keep it alive.

Persona shut down

mozilla persona gmail integration

Mozilla announced today that it made the decision to shut down Persona in November 2016 citing "low, declining usage" as the main reason for the decision.

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.

The decision has implications for websites that use Persona for authentication as the system cannot be used after November 30, 2016 anymore for that. This means that websites and services will have to remove Persona and replace it with a suitable alternative.

Mozilla plans to support Persona on a maintenance level to the day of the shut down of the system. Security issues will be dealt with "in a timely manner", services will be kept online, and support is offered on a mailing list and an IRC channel.

On November 30, 2016, the following will happen:

  1. Persona.org, and all services hosted on the domain and other domains related to the project will be shut down.
  2. Mozilla will remain the owner of the domain for security reasons.
  3. All user data stored by the authentication service will be destroyed.

Mozilla created a Wiki page that acts as a shutdown guideline for reliers. It explains the reasoning behind the shutdown (low usage), explains what is happening and offers mitigation suggestions.

Interestingly enough, self-hosting Persona is one of the suggestions. Since Persona code is open source, it is possible to do that but Mozilla does not really recommend it to most reliers because of the complexity of the code and lack of significant development in recent years.

Closing Words

Mozilla is making dramatic changes to the products and services it maintains. Products get shut down left and right, or removed from the organization, or changed in significant ways.

It is too early to tell if this is for the better. As far as Persona is concerned, it felt as if the service never had a fair chance and that seems to be mostly Mozilla's fault.

Now You: What's your take on the shutdown?

Summary
Mozilla to shut down Persona on November 30, 2016
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Mozilla to shut down Persona on November 30, 2016
Description
Mozilla announced today that it will shut down its authentication service Persona on November 30, 2016.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Earl said on January 12, 2016 at 11:59 am
    Reply

    I was one of the early users of Personas when Chris Beard first launched the concept from his personal website almost a decade ago. I thought it was a great idea, and I never thought of it as a “theme” at all–not even “lightweight”. It was a great name, too–very “to the point”. TBH I was somewhat offended when Mozilla took the name for its pet project related to “identity” (which has turned out pretty much as I thought it would). I never stopped calling them Personas either.

    So, can we get our name back for the “lightweight themes”? (probably not)

  2. Sören Hentzschel said on January 12, 2016 at 12:10 pm
    Reply

    > it felt as if the service never had a fair chance and that seems to be mostly Mozilla’s fault.

    out of curiosity: why do you think so? I ask because I (as web developer) think the main problem is that most web developers were not interested in Persona. In my opinion Persona was a great service but most websites don’t offer a lot of different logins so if there is a external login service it’s usually Facebook. Everyone knows Facebook and Facebook logins are used on a lot of websites, so most users already know the Facebook login. A as developer of a website you can make use of Facebook’s user data. It’s not possible with Persona, per design. That’s great for privacy, but it makes it more difficult to compete with Facebook or similar solutions.

    Anyway, the shutdown is not surprising. Announced in October 2014:

    > 2. We have until June 30th, 2015 to return to a trajectory of growth,
    > external contribution, sustainability, and independence from the
    > Mozilla-operated fallback IdP.
    >
    > 3. If we are not making meaningful progress or do not have a credible
    > plan on that date, then Mozilla will announce an intent to end-of-life
    > Persona, with a server turnoff date of June 30th, 2016.

    And the user base is declining, not growing…

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 12, 2016 at 12:19 pm
      Reply

      I don’t know what went on behind closed doors but Mozilla could have done a lot better if an advertising budget would have been assigned to the project that would have been used to get some core services on the Internet to implement it, and core webmaster resources to talk about it.

      Getting the New York Times crossword puzzle to use it was probably not the best example service available for that, and using a different system for Firefox Accounts neither.

      I’m just saying, it never felt (to me) that Mozilla was pushing the service out there.

      1. Sören Hentzschel said on January 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm
        Reply

        Thanks for the explanation. ;)

        I am not sure if more advertising budget would make a big difference. Sure, more marketing means more people know Persona. But to implement a new login mechanism also means costs for the website operators, they have to pay the developers to implement it (in many cases the website owner is not the developer!). It may not be enough to have an e-mail address of a user and store nothing so that the Persona flow has to be more integrated with the website. If websites should implement something it’s almost always a question of costs / benefit. ;)

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 12, 2016 at 12:44 pm
        Reply

        Sören, I would have tried to cooperate with WordPress, or another major publishing platform, or at least create a plugin for the system that website owners could implement effortlessly.

      3. Sören Hentzschel said on January 12, 2016 at 1:10 pm
        Reply

        There is a Persona plugin in the official WordPress plugin repository, developed by a Mozilla engineer. ;)

      4. Martin Brinkmann said on January 12, 2016 at 1:13 pm
        Reply

        Did not know that, but I don’t have any use for it either so never looked.

      5. XenoSilvano said on January 12, 2016 at 11:15 pm
        Reply

        They built it but the users who could have implement the feature never came.

  3. Joker said on January 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm
    Reply

    “Due to low, declining usage …”
    A common phrase found in recent announcements of service-shutdowns released by Mozilla.
    One could deduct a lack of leadership and clear vision regarding project-creation and project-management from these announcements…

    PS: Was it even used outside the myriad of Mozilla-services and platforms?
    Was it just another solution looking for a problem?

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on January 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm
      Reply

      > A common phrase found in recent announcements

      Not that recent, it was already announced in October 2014 that Persona will be closed in 2016 if there is no growth, see my other comment. June 2016 was announced as shut down date, now it’s November 2016, later as expected.

  4. city_zen said on January 12, 2016 at 3:49 pm
    Reply

    Paraphrasing the famous statement by Martin Niemöller:

    “First they came for Thunderbird, and few complained because not many were using it
    Then they came for Firefox OS, and few complained because the mobile OS never really took off
    Then they came for Persona.org, and few complained because it had “declining usage”

    Then they came for Firefox”

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on January 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm
      Reply

      I don’t understand what do you want to say.

      Thunderbird is a community project with more users than ever.
      Firefox OS is still a Mozilla project with very active development.
      Persona is a community project but have and end of life date (and it was already announced in 2014 that the end of life (probably) will be in 2016).
      Firefox is still a Mozilla project with very active development.

      So it does not make a lot of sense to compare the situation of Persona with Thunderbird, Firefox OS or Firefox, it’s totally different. Maybe you can explain your comment.

      1. city_zen said on January 12, 2016 at 4:32 pm
        Reply

        Sören,

        My comment was partially “tongue in cheek”, but I really do agree with articles like this one:
        Mozilla jettisons everything but the browser

        Let me also add that Firefox is my main browser and Thunderbird is my only mail client (on my desktop PC, at least), and I really hope that both programs continue to be developed in the foreseeable future.

        But it’s hard to deny that Thunderbird’s development has slowed considerably ever since Mozilla decided to scale back the resources devoted to it. Take a look at this article, and its comments, for a brutally honest description of Thunderbird’s resources by 2014: https://blog.mozilla.org/thunderbird/2014/11/thunderbird-reorganizes-at-2014-toronto-summit/

        Firefox OS is still a Mozilla project, but I’m not so sure about the “very active development” part. The main target for Boot2Gecko/Firefox OS was always smartphones, and now Mozilla says that it “will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels”. I seriously doubt that “connected devices” and the “internet of things” will be able to generate any significant market for Firefox OS.

        The Persona project will be shut down in a few months.

        Actually, I agree with Mozilla’s leadership on two out of the three decisions: I would have kept Thunderbird, but the other two projects never really had a chance, in my opinion.

        As for the “They came for Firefox”, it’s not that I really think that Mozilla will commit “suicide” by ditching its most successful project and product, but the latest moves regarding the future of Firefox (for example, WebExtensions) are not completely reassuring to me.

      2. Sören Hentzschel said on January 13, 2016 at 11:15 pm
        Reply

        > Firefox OS is still a Mozilla project, but I’m not so sure about the “very active development” part.

        But I am sure because I see the development progresses every day (yes, I read the commit histories of Firefox, Firefox OS and a few other Mozilla applications. It’s part of my researches for my blog). ;)

        > The main target for Boot2Gecko/Firefox OS was always smartphones, and now Mozilla says that it “will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels”.

        Not only smartphones. Pansonic launched 19 (!) TVs (six TV series) with Firefox OS in 2015. There were also other devices like the VIA Rock, VIA Paper or KDDI Web Board. Panasonic already announced two new TVs (TX-58DXW904/TX-65DXW904) in 2016, we already know that there will be devices like the MozOpenHard CHIRIMEN and the Streamy (“the world’s first UPnP and DLNA stream router” according to the website). All these device are no smartphones.

        > I seriously doubt that “connected devices” and the “internet of things” will be able to generate any significant market for Firefox OS.

        Why not? There were no market for Mozilla with smartphones, but the connected device and IoT area is not controlled by Google or Apple, there is a real chance for Mozilla. Mozilla tried to compete in the smartphone market but really, it’s not possible. Unfortunately.

  5. Ken Saunders said on January 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm
    Reply

    I was excited about the project when it started but I’m not sad about it ending since it was slow and I personally had issues with signing into Air Mozilla and a few other sites with it. I believe that I did file a bug for one of them, maybe the badges/backpack site? I don’t remember the name.
    It did work with Bugzilla and Firefox Affiliates but hit or miss access was frustrating.

    @Earl
    “I was one of the early users of Personas”
    That’s cool!
    “I never stopped calling them Personas either”
    Me either.
    I remember when Chris announced it on Spread Firefox. I created a few of the very first ones.
    http://www.accessfirefox.org/KS_Cell/misc/1st-Personas-By-KenSaunders.png

  6. D. said on January 12, 2016 at 6:01 pm
    Reply

    I used Personas back years ago then I started using them again. I hate to see them go but…

    http://www.accessfirefox.org/KS_Cell/misc/1st-Personas-By-KenSaunders.png

    I remember that California Sunset wallpaper.

  7. gh said on January 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm
    Reply

    “it never felt (to me) that Mozilla was pushing the service out there.”

    I haven’t researched the origin of this specific feature (a GSOC project?) but, yeah, seems to me that many frilly features have wound up in the codebase solely to pad the resume of some aspiring intern. Mozilla “humors” the inclusion of these features then (predictably, I think) does not overly promote them. Isn’t the “great or dead” campaign essentially an admission of this?

  8. Dave said on January 12, 2016 at 9:40 pm
    Reply

    I just used this for the first time last week. Ironically the sign-in page isn’t compatible with Firefox’s password manager.

  9. smaragdus said on January 12, 2016 at 11:10 pm
    Reply

    Mozilla first and last announcement in 2017:
    “Due to low, declining usage, Mozilla Firefox will shut down. Thank you for using Firefox. It was fun but we broke it. We recommend Google Chrome. Sincerely, the Mozilla team.”

  10. nwillc said on January 14, 2016 at 9:49 pm
    Reply

    I integrated it with some small projects and thought it was a great solution for light authentication of trivial stuff. Will miss it. Not sure what I will swap over to. Didn’t see an obvious quick replacement.

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