Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expedia reverses single sign-on, doesn't say why

Single sign-on services are all the rage, and are very helpful to people like me who have accounts everywhere. For example, I had never bothered to join Digg because that would require me to set up yet another account. But once I discovered that I could log in to Digg via Facebook Connect, I set up an account and started Digging stuff.

But back before single sign-on was really really cool, companies like Microsoft were doing it. Today the service is called Windows Live ID, but back in the last millennium it was called Microsoft Wallet:

Microsoft Wallet can be used to store address and payment information for online shopping. It is included with typical and full installations of Internet Explorer 4.x, the full installation of Internet Explorer 5, and it is also included in Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition. Address and payment information can be managed from the Content tab in Internet Options. To view the Content tab, click Internet Options on the View menu in Internet Explorer 4.x, or click Internet Options on the Tools menu in Internet Explorer 5 and Windows 98 Second Edition.

Internet Explorer 5.01 no longer includes Microsoft Wallet, and the management options formerly on the Content tab will no longer be present after Internet Explorer 5.01 or Windows 2000 is installed. You can still add addresses and credit card information to Microsoft Wallet from any Web site that uses the Wallet control.

Well, the service went through several names, most notably Microsoft Passport, and is now known as Windows Live ID.

How does it work? For example, if you wanted to book a flight via Expedia, you'd use the same password that you would use for your Microsoft account (Hotmail, MSN, whatever). I actually booked travel through Expedia because of this, since it was easy to manage.

Well, today I wanted to check flight availability for a personal trip, so I automatically went to Expedia. But when I went to log in, I got this message:

After reading the statement "Sorry, Passport/Windows Live ID is no longer supported," I clicked on the "Why?" button. The explanation really didn't explain:

As we work to continuously improve the service we provide you, it's sometimes necessary to make changes. Unfortunately, recent upgrades required we end our support of Passport/Windows Live ID service.

Yeah, right. Everyone else is moving toward single sign-on, with OpenID here and Facebook Connect there, and Expedia is moving away? Would this have to do with Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Farecast? Or perhaps that when you go to Farecast's old website, you're redirected to Bing Travel, which allows you to compare prices for Expedia AND its competitors?

Regardless of the real reason for the change, Jamie Thomson wasn't pleased:

Taking away Live ID sign-in? Congratulations Expedia, you just lost took away the one thing that makes me use your site so now you’ve lost a customer!

Also see the reaction from Many pies.

But it could have been worse...you could have had an existing reservation on file when Expedia made the change. Look at what those people had to do:

Sign in as you would normally with your Passport account. A page opens indicating you need to change the password for your Expedia account.

Enter the email address Expedia uses to contact you.

Select Reset Expedia Password. Expedia will send you an email titled "Reset your Expedia Password."

Within 24 hours, click the link in the email.

Reset your password on Expedia. Your Expedia account is now active.

Uh...you have to wait 24 hours to change your password? What if you need to make a reservation now? There's some crap for that:

You don't have to lose the travel you've already selected. When you signed in with Passport, a page opened called "Passport/Windows Live ID no longer supported." Do the following:

On this page, select Return to Sign-in page.

On the Sign-in page, select Continue as a guest.

Accept the terms and conditions.

Select Continue. You are now able to continue booking your travel.

Hmm...maybe it's easier to just not have an Expedia account at all.

Travelocity et al must be eating this up.
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