Am I the only person who has noticed that more and more companies are using the user management facilities in phpBB to manage identity across their entire Web sites? The ability to create, update, and otherwise manage user accounts is functionality that has to be built for most Web sites, and it seems like a lot of people are just opting to use the features already built into phpBB rather than building something new. At first I associated this trend mostly with Web sites associated with games, like Curse Gaming and Warcraft Realms, but it’s popping up elsewhere as well. For example, the folks who sell MyEclipse use the forum login for handling all account issues, including keeping track of who’s allowed to download their products.
I suspect that this trend arises from the fact that if you want to provide forums as part of your site and you don’t want to write them yourself, the easiest approach is to just extend the account management facilities of the forum rather than writing your own system and hacking the forum software to interact with it. It kind of makes you wonder whether there isn’t room for a generic open source PHP login system or perhaps even just a simple standard that Web applications could use to provide even more opportunities for integration. Forums are just one type of software that requires logins, there’s also blogging software like WordPress, wikis like Mediawiki, and plenty of other account-based software as well. Using your forum’s user tables works fine if you only want to use one off the shelf application, but when more enter the picture, you’re as stuck as you ever were. It seems like this is an area where some standardization effort would pay off.