Mozilla stops work on Persona sign-on to shift resources to Firefox OS services

Will continue to host the single sign-on service that debuted in 2011 with patches, but has handed project to volunteers

Mozilla last week announced it was abandoning in-house development of the single sign-on "Persona," a failed alternative to website passwords, and would hand the project to volunteers.

The open-source company will continue to support Persona with security updates and will also continue to host the log-on service, but new features won't be coming.

"For a variety of reasons, Persona has received less adoption than we were hoping for by this point," Mozilla said in a Friday blog. "Reducing the scope of Persona and stabilizing its core APIs over the last quarter has shown us that adding more features was not the way forward."

Instead, Mozilla will turn over Persona to volunteer developers.

Persona, which harks back to 2011 -- when it was called "Browser ID" -- was designed to be used by website and Web application developers as an alternative to their own log-on solutions or those they borrowed from larger companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. With a single email address and password, the former verified by Mozilla, the open-source Persona was touted as secure, cross-platform, and easy to implement by developers.

The idea was that users would able to use that one email address and password to access multiple websites and apps.

Mozilla has already re-assigned the paid engineers who worked on Persona to other projects, including Firefox Sync and Firefox Accounts, the infrastructure used to access that service and others. Sync and Accounts are crucial services to Mozilla's success with Firefox OS, its low-end mobile device operating system, and important to Firefox on the desktop, and on Android and Windows 8.1 devices.

A Firefox account will be similar to the authentication services created by Apple, Google and Microsoft for their customers, who can use an email address and password to access each company's services, such as iCloud, Gmail and Windows 8.1.

Persona wasn't the only casualty of Firefox OS: Mozilla cited its development costs as one of the reasons why the nonprofit company was searching for new revenue sources that included plans to add advertising to the Firefox browser.

Nor was Persona the first Mozilla project to get the hook.

Six years ago, Mozilla cut loose its Thunderbird email client, spinning off the program and its team to a separate firm, Mozilla Messaging. That didn't work out, and in 2011 Thunderbird rejoined Mozilla proper. Then in July 2012, Mozilla announced it had stopped all paid development of the emailer and that the "community" -- read volunteers -- were now responsible for new features.

"Much of Mozilla's leadership -- including that of the Thunderbird team - has come to the conclusion that on-going stability is the most important thing, and that continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla's product efforts," said Mitchell Baker, the chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation.

Since then, Mozilla has continued to ship security fixes for Thunderbird but has not introduced new features or major enhancements.

This article, Mozilla stops work on Persona sign-on to shift resources to Firefox OS services, was originally published at

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is

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