Or login with Facebook

German startups aim to challenge Facebook and Google on logins

Digital Sicherheitsschlüssel
Unlocking growth, one login at a time. Source: Getty

Germany is about to get its own login networks to compete with Facebook and Google to help users log in to various websites. NetID will launch its service this week and Verimi, which has been operational since April, will mount its first big ad campaign to recruit users.

NetID’s big gray key will be available on some 60 websites at the launch. Verimi’s campaign will appeal to the “digital me,” with ads along the lines, for instance, of “Who tames the data octopuses — my Verimi does.” (It sounds less odd in German).

At stake is the cornucopia of data to be harvested through a passkey alliance that allows users to log in without remembering a username and password for each individual site. The two US tech giants have pioneered this login facility and their buttons appear on thousands of sites.

NetID has partnered with numerous groups, including media companies RTL Deutschland and Pro Sieben Sat 1 as well as United Internet with its Web.de and GMX brands. Verimi, meanwhile, has enlisted big companies like Daimler, Allianz, Lufthansa, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Telekom and Axel Springer as equity partners.

The enemy of my enemy: still not my friend

Though both services seek to provide a universal login, they have not come to any agreement for an exchange between them. They agree that Facebook and Google are the enemy, but contrary to the old saying, that doesn’t make them friends.

Verimi refused to quantify how many users it’s enlisted so far, commenting only that it is a “satisfactory” number. One drawback for the service is that users have to register there separately first, before they can use it to log in elsewhere.

NetID won’t have this requirement. Instead, the standard will be the 35 million users who have an email account with Web.de or GMX, two German email providers, or alternatively an account with Pro Sieben Sat 1, a media company.

NetID is organized as a foundation, while Verimi is a limited liability company (GmbH in German). NetID says it wants an open, federal standard for login IDs.

2018-10-24 – G S18_Login-01

War on cookies

The data collection from such services will only become more important as cookies are phased out. So far, these little markers planted on devices collect as much information as possible about the user to funnel back to the cookie installer. It has functioned well but the new data protection laws that went into effect in May, as well as further planned privacy measures, make it more difficult to use.

Moreover, ad blockers and other protective devices to eliminate cookies are proliferating. Ironically, it is precisely these devices that are boosting the ad networks of Facebook and Google, since their users have already agreed to collection and sharing of their data. This means they don’t have to rely on cookies but can use their own closed network.

Like many other startups, the new login services are having teething problems. The first chief executive of Verimi, Axel Springer veteran Donata Hopfen, has already jumped ship over “strategic” differences. A new chief is to be named shortly.

Catrin Bialek heads up Handelsblatt’s coverage of IT and media. Darrell Delamaide adapted this story into English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: bialek@handelsblatt.com.

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