SAML vs OpenID – What’s the Difference? (Explained / Pros and Cons)

SAML vs OpenID – What’s the Difference? (Explained / Pros and Cons). SAML and OpenID are identity and authentication protocol applications that both perform the same functions, yet they are pretty different. SAML is a security assertion markup language. It provides the authentication protocol between the identity provider and the service provider. OpenID provides the authentication protocol that verifies the end users when they try to connect with a secure server like HTTPS. Authentication protocols can be used for single sign on services.

Let’s start with SAML vs OpenID – What’s the Difference?  by introducing OpenID. 

What is OpenID?

OpenID is the identity layer, an extension of the OAuth. It allows the authorized server to identify and authenticate the end users. OpenID uses JWTs (JSON web tokens), which can be obtained using flows conforming to the OAuth 2.0 specification. OpenID is about user identification. Its sole purpose is to provide a single sign on for multiple applications.

When a user of the OpenID connects or an OIDC user wants to login on to several apps using the OpenID, the website redirects the user to a new window of OIDC, where the user has to log in. Once you get the authentication, you will get the entry into all the connected apps.

OIDC has become the top rated application for SSO and identity provision on the internet. It is the simplest and easiest to integrate with essential apps. Moreover, it has the security options to match the demands of the modern world.

The OIDC is the extension of the OAuth protocols. It verifies the user identities for the clients’ services and shares the information through the RESTful APIs for the authentication process. This application provides the most incredible ease for the developers because it is highly flexible across apps, scalable, and relatively simple to use. Unique user ID workflow is one of the enticing features of OIDC.

Implementing OIDC means putting the old authentication scenarios out of the question. With OIDC, you don’t have to deal with the users’ inability to log in due to user error because the service provider is now responsible for it.

Features of OpenID

  • It provides two layers of security, user authentication and authorization.
  • Built on the JSON is RESTful and it works well on mobile and web application.
  • Allows you to leverage identity providers to authenticate the user to use the specific information with OIDC.
  • Sends authorized users downstream and provided them the SSO services; the unauthenticated users can be eliminated.
  • When the IDP provider authenticates a user on any application, it gives two token ID tokens to let the user in, an access token, to specify the user.
  • Has an endpoint where the client gets the info of all the users. It helps the client to figure out the type of user who has access to his information.
  • Apart from HTTP basic authorization. The client ID is passed via a special authorization header.

Pros of OpenID

  • Security

It is one of the most secure applications for the SSO. The service provider continuously monitors the application and the access, and in case of any breach, the service provider can cancel the authentication.

  • Saves time

Most websites ask for extensive and repetitive information before granting access. OpenID came to remove that frustrating process; it provides single click sign on. OpenID also stores the basic knowledge of the user like name, email address, location and birth date to pre fill the registration form required by the websites. OpenID saves your productive time to spend more time on your work.

  • Gives control over the online identity

OpenID is beneficial for the users and the identity providers. It is a decentralized standard; a single person or a website does not control it. It is the user’s choice to share the information with the websites that accept the OpenID. You can even use the multiple OpenID’s for multiple websites and share personal data according to the requirement.

  • Mobile application

Application in OpenID is designed to provide a good and quick response on mobile and web applications. Unlike many other SSO applications, OpenID has good compatibility with mobile phones. The mobile applications work well and provide the best working experience.

  • One password to remember

Most users choose weak passwords for their accounts because they have to remember so many different passwords, which is the biggest reason hackers get attacked. OpenID allows you to sign on to various applications using one password. You can choose one strong password for this so you might not become the victim of a hacker again.

  • Response request format

OpenID uses JSON as the response request format. The best thing about it is that it is human readable and works very well on data interchange operations.

  • Ease for the identity providers

OpenID provides an ease to both the users and the identity providers. Identity providers don’t need to store the user’s information in the database. As an identity provider, you map the user’s identity on OpenID with all the essential information and you are good to go.

Cons of OpenID

  • OpenID provides users with authentication. There is no system for giving the authorization. That means the users only request that the provider sign in or set and delete the account. There is no authorization as there was in the OAuth.
  • There is no authorization in OpenID. It means the provider is down and the user has to work. Otherwise, there is no chance of the user using the OpenID application because there is no authorization.
  • Secure platform in OpenID is a secure platform, but makes is challenging to locate or block the hacker if the hacker gets into your email and the OpenID credentials.

Next in this article blog about SAML vs OpenID – What’s the Difference? is to introduce SAML.

What is SAML?

SAML, or the security assertion markup language, is one of the most popular applications for single sign on. The application’s primary purpose is to provide you with SSO on for multiple applications. It also provides the authentication between two parties; the identity provider and the web application.

It is an open standard application based on the extensible markup language (XML) format. SAML is the invention of the modern world. In SAML, you transfer the user’s data between two parties, the identity provider and the service provider.

Identity and Service Provider

Identity provider: Performs the initial authentication and passes the user’s data and authorization status or level to the service provider.

Then the Service provider sees the identity provider’s request and grants access according to the resources.

We used the word authorization status in the above identity provider line. It is the unique feature of SAML that it provides the authorization according to the designation, department and employee experience. Identity providers decide the authorization level of the employee and the employee gets the approval according to the given status.

The principal requests the service provider to get the service and the service provider, in turn, requests the identity provider. The identity provider sends the SAML assertion to the service provider in XML format. Then the service provider sends the response to the principal.

One important thing worth mentioning is that SAML provides authentication like the OpenID, not the authorization, where there is separate access and management area. SAML is continuously evolving; 2.0 is the most common version. It has the features of all the previous versions.

SAML 2.0 is also compatible with active directory domain

Features of SAML

  • It provides security and relative ease of sorting the credentials. Users don’t need to remember hundreds of passwords.
  • The assertion procedure uses the XML communication format, which is safest. It is understood by qualified persons only.
  • SAML work between the IDP and SP. There is no need to store the password on remote servers or send it through the wires.
  • User friendly multi factor authentication made this platform the most secure SSO platform.
  • It allows the SP to pass on the authentication to the external and internal users, but SP doesn’t need authentication.
  • It enables cross domain communication between the SAML users and the public cloud.
  • Maintain the enterprise’s security and safety by providing the two primary security functions; authorization and authentication.

Pros of SAML

  • Ease of use

The sole purpose of the SAML is to save the employee’s time. It is an easy solution for multiple logins. It provides a single login to various applications. The authentication process is super fast.

  • Open and standardized

The best thing about the SAML is that it is open source, which means it is free. A paid version is also available, but that is for complex operations. The initial operations are free for all. It allows the user to experience the free resources of SAML and then move to the paid version if they feel the need.

  • Security

SAML is one of the most secure platforms, and the identity provider is the single and certain authentication point. The identity provider sent the selected credentials to the service provider. This kind of authentication ensures that the data remains in the hand of the secure dip.

  • Central control of the identity provider

The identity provider has excellent control over the user’s account. First, the identity provider decides the rank of the user’s account, and according to that rank, the service provider grants access to the user. Secondly, the identity provider can delete the user’s authentication anytime or upgrade it when required. This centralized control helps in better management and reduces data stealing chances.

  • Report

SAML provides the report to the administration or the identity providers about the login activities of the users. It also points out the unusual login and activities. The identity provider can get the report on request to check if everything is going smoothly or if there is any breach.

  • Reduce IT personal costs and increase productive time

Time is money, and nobody can deny the importance of time in large enterprises. SAML reduces the company’s overall cost by saving time, and with the help of SSO, the company doesn’t need to remember multiple passwords, so it’s easier to manage and sort things.

SAML has the configuration with an  active directory in the cloud.

Cons of SAML

  • Employee offboarding needed to be done by the administration. It is a bit of a time consuming process.
  • SAML uses the XML format for the data exchange, XML is a bit complex language, and over the oat’s years, it has been proved that XML is not the best language.
  • The web application of SAML is quite efficient and provides the best value for your time, but the mobile application sometimes lacks. However, the company is working to improve the user’s experience on the mobile application.

SAML vs OpenID - Key Differences

Security with SAML vs OpenID

SAML vs OpenID Security

Security is the primary concern of enterprises when it comes to SSO applications. So far, people trust SAML security more. The SAML has been available in the market for 17 years and now the security is quite reliable. However, OpenID came in 2015, and its security is reliable but needs several amendments. OpenID needs several adaptations for different sectors like banking and enterprises.

Mobile vs Web Application with SAML and OpenID

SAML vs OpenID

The web application of both applications works efficiently. However, the mobile application is lacking somewhat because these applications are heavy. OpenID mobile application has been working efficiently till now because the app still has several features.

Several integrated features of SAML and with developers who are adding new features continuously. The more features added to the application, the heavier the application becomes. That is why the mobile application does not work well. However, the developers are continuously working to improve the efficiency of the mobile application.

Authentication Method SAML vs OpenID

SAML vs OpenID Authentication Method

Developers or the service provider codes the unique codes of the user for the SAML authentication protocols. For the authentication protocols, SAML relies on the IDPs for the data transferee. If they don’t pass data, no information can be transformed.

OpenID is the extension of the OAuth. It provides additional security and requires the user to consent before granting access. This inbuilt service strengthens the authentication process and lessens the chances of hacking.

Both the applications provide reliable authentication.

User Experience with SAML and OpenID

SAML vs OpenID User Experience

Both applications provide an excellent user experience on the web. However, OIDC offers the best user experience on the mobile application. The best user experience is delivered by OIDC by mobile and the web. Use the OIDC if you want to build applications built on user friendliness.

Ease of Use SAML vs OpenID

SAML vs OpenID Ease of Use

OpenID is simpler to use and implement because there is no XML language. SAML uses the XML format for data processing. However, the data processing in the SAML is complex because it uses the XML format.

Data with OIDC is transmitted in the JSON format that is easier to understand and process.

Authentication Level with SAML and OpenID

SAML vs OpenID Authentication Level

Authentication level is an essential feature of the SSO because you can grant equal authentication to all the employees. SAML has introduced the authentication level, and now the indemnity providers can decide how much authentication is needed for a specific employee. OIDC hasn’t raised the authentication level feature yet. However, the application is continuously improving, so the developer might introduce the feature soon.

Offboarding Users SAML vs OpenID

SAML vs OpenID

Offboarding and upgrading the users is super easy with the SAML. Suppose an employee leaves the enterprise or the identity provider observes any breach in the security. In that case, he can immediately fire or cancel the sources of the suspected employees to avoid the data-stealing.

In OIDC, offboarding needed to be done by the administration, and it is a bit complex process.

Is it okay to use SAML and OIDC together?

These applications are not mutually exclusive. Each has its advantages, and both provide reliable SSO services. Use the SAML for secure SSO of the enterprises and OIDC for the high stability and scalability of the mobile apps.

Acive Directory Reporting Tool InfraSOS

InfraSOS Benefits

  • Real time and in depth reporting and auditing on full AD – from AD DC down to objects like user policies, groups and profiles.
  • Azure AD and Office 365 Health check and reporting.
  • Office 365 Reporting Tool (find Unlicensed Users and Office 365 shared mailbox reports).
  • DNS monitoring.
  • Encrypted communication at all times ensures security.
  • It is a central place for administrators to control almost everything that involves user access and network permission.
  • Get Office 365 Logon Reports, User Reports, Password Reports and Group Reports.
  • Deploy Active Directory Computer Reports, OU and Active Directory Replication Status Reports.
  • With InfraSOS use customized and compliant Reports.
  • Identify Vulnerable AD accounts (locked out user reports, password never expires report and password expired reports).
  • Filter your Active Directory Attributes (Filter and customize any report based on your AD attributes).
  • Use seamless access to the users after setting up the AD infrastructure.

Thank you for reading SAML vs OpenID – What’s the Difference? until the very end. Let’s conclude.

SAML vs OpenID - What's the Difference Conclusion

The apps we have explained have pros and cons; both provide excellent SSO services. The authentication protocols and the features of both apps differ, but it would be wrong to prefer one over the other. The choice of one SSO application depends on personal preferences. Partnering with the right platform will provide you with the best security solution for your enterprise and save time.

Currently, SAML is used by the government sector and large enterprises, but people have started to use the OIDC because of its user-friendliness and modern features. The most significant advantage of the OIDC is; that it uses the JSON token for the data transfer in place of the XML format.

Avatar for Farhan Yousuf
Farhan Yousuf

I am a content writer with more than five years of experience in the field. I have written for a variety of industries, and I am highly interested in learning new things. I have a knack for writing engaging copy that captures the reader's attention. In my spare time, I like to read and travel.

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