Microsoft’s Passport was envisioned as a central place for your personal information, safeguarded by Microsoft, which would then be accessed during your online shopping so you wouldn’t have to type in your name and address and credit card information at each web site.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Here’s an article about the current status of the Passport service – currently only being used by Microsoft and a handful of its close partners, and giving every sign that it will continue to disappear from sight.

The article mentions a combination of customer apathy, high-profile Microsoft glitches and credible competition from the industry-backed Liberty Alliance. I’ll add a couple more. I tried to use the Passport service many times for online shopping and never once successfully completed a transaction. In some cases it was simply incredibly slow to retrieve my information – so slow that I bailed out and typed the information in to speed things up. In other cases, I was caught in infuriating loops trying to convince the Passport service of my identity.

Most people only encounter the Passport service when they use one of Microsoft’s instant messaging programs. And in that context, it’s simply confusing – so much so that I avoided Windows Messenger for years because I didn’t want to figure out the Passport connection.

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