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Identity/Firefox Accounts

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Last updated: 2014/03/25

Contents

What Is Firefox Accounts?

Firefox Accounts is a consumer account system which provides access to services run by Mozilla, such as Firefox Marketplace and the next version of Firefox Sync. A user can sign in with a Firefox Account to all her "Foxes": Firefox on Desktop, Firefox for Android, and Firefox OS. Signing into a Firefox browser or device gives the user access to integrated Mozilla Services on that browser or device that requires authentication (e.g., Firefox Sync). Longer term we envision that non-Mozilla services and applications will be able to delegate authentication to Firefox Accounts.

Firefox Accounts currently only a few things, e.g.,

  • It allows users to create a Firefox Account.
  • It allows existing account holders to authenticate themselves, and perform related operations (reset password, change password, etc.)
  • It provides a delegated authentication API to relying Mozilla services (possibly third services in the future). Just like how Google Drive delegates authentication to Google Accounts, Firefox Marketplace will delegate authentication to Firefox Accounts.

Firefox Accounts itself doesn't store much about users, and we intend to keep it that way:

  • Email address
  • Password verifier
  • User id
  • Sync encryption keys
  • A log of security events about the user (from where and when logins, passwords resets, etc. happen), and from what devices the user is currently logged in.

Firefox Accounts is only as interesting and valuable as the services attached to it, like Firefox Marketplace, Where's My Fox, and Firefox Sync. These services will manage their own data, but rely on Firefox Accounts for authentication services.

FAQ

Will I be required to create a Firefox Account to use Firefox?

No, of course not! Firefox Accounts will only be required for Mozilla Services that require authentication, such as Firefox Sync and Firefox Marketplace.

How does a user create and sign in to a Firefox Account?

Firefox Accounts will work much like authentication works just about everywhere else. You create a Firefox Account with a verified email and password. You sign in to Firefox Accounts with your email and password. We are currently evaluating creating and logging in to a Firefox Account with a mobile number.

Why does Firefox Accounts require me to choose a password?

The first relying service we're targeting with Firefox Accounts is Firefox Sync. Current Firefox Sync encrypts all your data in our servers, and we will continue to do so in the Firefox Accounts backed version of Sync. However, in the FxA backed version of Firefox Sync, we will encrypt your Sync data with a key derived from your Firefox Account password, instead a random key managed by the J-PAKE pairing protocol. This technique of using a password derived sync key is similar to how data protection in Chrome Sync works.

How do relying Mozilla services authenticate an FxA user?

Two ways:

How does a user reset her Firefox Account password?

Password reset works by responding to an email challenge.

What's the difference between Persona and Firefox Accounts?

Persona is not intended to provide you with a new account, and it's not a new account system. Persona is a federated login protocol. You use Persona to log in to relying sites, and it's not intended that you need to "sign up" for Persona before you can use it. If you would need to sign up for anything, you would need to create an account at an IdP that supports Persona.

One confusing point about Persona today is a service called the "Persona Fallback", which serves as a proxy IdP if your actual IdP doesn't support Persona (or isn't bridged), which just about every IdP except for Google and Yahoo. In this case, you currently have to sign up for a "Persona Fallback Account" (i.e. choose a password and verify your email) to use Persona.

But a Persona Fallback Account is not a Persona Account, it's not the long term vision of Persona, and that's not supposed to be the happy path of the Persona login experience.

More importantly, for the purposes of this question, a Persona Fallback Account is definitely not a Firefox Account.

So why Firefox Accounts and what will one do?

Mozilla needs an account database to deliver a fantastic, integrated experience across all its products. Unfortunately, delivering awesome services involves some less exciting, but still important aspects, like making sure users have had a chance to inspect our terms of service and privacy policies. We must also comply with local laws and regulations, e.g., COPPA. It would be inconvenient for users to have to verify a terms of service, a privacy policy, and COPPA at each individual Mozilla service. We believe that users should only have to inspect our terms of service, privacy policy, and go through COPPA verification once for all our services. Firefox Accounts enables us to do that. One we get the basics down and enable single sign-on for relying Mozilla Services with your Firefox Account, we hope integrate Firefox Accounts with Persona on the Web and Firefox user agents to make logging in everywhere as painless as it should be.

What information does Firefox Accounts store about the user? Can I use it to store user data for my application or service?

Firefox Accounts stores limited user information, and only stores information that will deliver significant user value across applications or is tightly related to the user's identity. It will not store user data for relying services. Relying Mozilla services can use Firefox Accounts for authentication, but application data storage is the responsibility of the individual applications.

Currently, Firefox Accounts stores the user's email address, a unique identifier, sync encryption key material, and whether they have read and accepted the terms of service, privacy policy, etc. The existence of a Firefox Account also indicates the user has passed COPPA verification.

Possible future plans:

  • "screen name"
  • avatar
  • mobile number

Can I use Persona to log in to my Firefox Account?

Not initially, but it's something we're investigating to add in the future.

Can I use my Firefox Account to log in to non-Mozilla services?

Not initially, but it's something we're investigating to support in the future.

Does Firefox Accounts provide email?

No.

What services will use Firefox Accounts?

Here's a (probably incomplete) list of services we anticipate you'll be able to log into with your Firefox Account:

  • Firefox Sync
  • Firefox Marketplace
  • Where's My Fox?
  • future ideas

What do these terms mean?

  • FTU, FTE: First Time Experience on Firefox OS
  • FxA : Firefox Accounts. It may also refer to a user's particular Firefox Account.
  • Jelly: A confusing term that refers to a hosted web page that is injected into more native-looking browser UI. An example of this is about:healthreport.
  • Doughnut: The browser code that wraps the "Jelly" and enables it to interact with chrome code in the browser.
  • RP : Relying Party. Services that use Firefox Accounts for authentication and identity. Currently these are limited to services run by Mozilla.
  • PiCL : Profile in the Cloud. This is a deprecated term that was used to refer to Firefox Accounts + attached services (i.e., relying parties).

Where is the schedule for FxA?

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Identity/Roadmap

Where is the FxA for Web addition to the Arch section below?

What are the similarities/differences between FxA for Web and the Dev work already being done for desktop and android?

Have a question not covered here? Add it in this section and we'll answer it!

Is it possible to host your own Firefox accounts, like with Firefox Sync?

Architecture

Firefox Accounts Architecture.png

Firefox Accounts and Sync Architecture.png

https://mana.mozilla.org/wiki/display/services/Firefox+Accounts+Architecture


Cloud Services

Firefox Accounts Cloud Services is composed of several sub-services, including an auth server and a content server.

Auth Server

The Auth Server provides an HTTP API that:

  • authenticates the user
  • enables the user to authenticate to other services via BrowserID assertions
  • enables change and reset password operations

Links:

Content Server

The Content Server hosts static assets (HTML, Javascript, CSS, etc.) that support user interactions with the Firefox Accounts. The responsibilities of the Content Server include:

  • hosting a Javascript library that supports interactions with the Auth Server
  • hosting login and create account pages
  • hosting password reset pages
  • hosting landing pages for email verification links

Links:

JS Client Library

Firefox Accounts provides a Javascript client library for the Web that supports operations with Firefox Accounts. In addition to communicating with the Auth Server, it also performs local key stretching (PBKDF2 and scrypt) on the user's password before it's used in the API. It is hosted by the Content Server. This library was at one time called "Gherkin".

Links:

Verifier

FxA enables clients to generate BrowserID assertions on behalf of the user. FxA provides a hosted verifier for verifying these assertions.

Desktop

Firefox Accounts integration is available on Desktop Firefox as of Firefox 29.

Android

Firefox Accounts integration is available on Firefox for Android as of Firefox 29.

Firefox OS

Implementation of Firefox Accounts in FirefoxOS is committed for b2g v1.5.

Tracking bug:

Firefox Accounts user story spreadsheet - the canonical source of truth:

Committed user stories for 1.5:

ID Summary Priority Status
949049 [User Story] FxA - Sign up for Firefox Accounts on First Run -- NEW
949053 [User Story] FxA - Provide Single Sign On for Services using Firefox Accounts -- NEW
949055 [User Story] FxA - Verification via email -- NEW
949051 [User Story] FxA - Sign up for Firefox Accounts in Settings -- RESOLVED
897604 [User Story] Skip Sign In To Firefox on First Run -- RESOLVED
949052 [User Story] FxA - Sign in to Firefox Accounts from Settings -- RESOLVED

Open; Resolved; Total (50% complete)


Targeted user stories for 1.5:

ID Summary Priority Status
949065 [User Story] FxA - Terms and Conditions -- NEW
949093 [User Story] FxA - Forced Authentication -- NEW
949095 [User Story] FxA - Refresh Authentication -- NEW
949100 [User Story] FxA - Logout -- NEW
965492 [User Story] FxA - Cancel Account Verification -- NEW
965494 [User Story] FxA - Reset Password -- NEW
974999 [User Story] Resend Verification Email -- NEW
949069 [User Story] FxA - Support COPPA Regulations -- RESOLVED
949063 [User Story] FxA - Sign in to Firefox Accounts during First Run -- RESOLVED
949097 [User Story] FxA - Automatic Sign out after Forced Authentication Failure -- RESOLVED
949098 [User Story] FxA - UX for Forced Authentication -- RESOLVED
949102 [User Story] FxA - Welcome Message with Listing of Key Apps -- RESOLVED

Open; Resolved; Total (41.67% complete)


Operations

For now, here are some useful links about Firefox Accounts Operations:

Deployments

Metrics

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Identity/Firefox_Accounts/Minimum_Viable_Metrics

Fraud and Abuse

https://id.etherpad.mozilla.org/fxacct-metrics-fraud-detection

Resources

Mailing Lists

Team

  • Leads: Chris Karlof, Sam Penrose
  • IRC: #fxa (general FxA, and FxA on Desktop and Android), #native_identity (for FxA on FxOS)
  • List: dev-fxacct@mozilla.org
  • Engineering: Brian Warner, Danny Coates, Ryan Kelly, Zach Carter, Nick Alexander, Sam Penrose, Shane Tomlinson, Andrew Chilton, Nick Chapman
  • UX: John Gruen, Ryan Feeley
  • QA: Edwin Wong, James Bonacci, Peter Dehaan
  • DevOps: Gene Wood, Benson Wong

Related

Demos