Yahoo appears close to implementing OpenID, a Web authentication standard that relieves people of the need to remember multiple passwords to log into different websites.

Yahoo controls the domain me.yahoo.com, which shows a short message indicating the company will act as an identity provider for OpenID.

Code on pages at Flickr.com, owned by Yahoo, could also let a person use their Flickr login and profile for logging into other OpenID-compatible sites. The code can be seen by viewing the source of Flickr photostream pages, and points to https://open.login.yahooapis.com/openid/op/auth.

OpenID, an open-source project, has gained support from two other major Internet players, Microsoft and Google. However, those companies are not widely providing support on their sites for OpenID yet.

But an early implementation of OpenID by Yahoo could provide a spark for broader support, some say.

"I expect Yahoo's implementation to be a major influence in encouraging OpenID 2 adoption," wrote Simon Willison, a freelance Web consultant and developer who used to work for Flickr. In January last year, Willison launched idproxy.net, a website that links Yahoo IDs and OpenIDs.

OpenID is referred to as a decentralised system since no one company or entity controls all of the identity information. It gives users more power to determine who they want to share their identity with and avoids the potential security problems of having a massive amount of data locked up in a single database. The system is also free.

Websites acting as an identity provider for OpenID give users a unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator). When a person encounters another website supporting OpenID, they can enter that URL along with the password they have registered with the identity provider, which is then verified in order to login at the new site.

The person is then allowed to carry their profile or other information into the new website, a concept known as single sign-on. It means that people may need fewer passwords but would be able to securely share their data and login on more websites.

A variety of companies and websites are supporting OpenID, such as AOL, LiveJournal, Technorati and mobile operator Orange, which is owned by France Telecom, according to the OpenID website. Hundreds of other websites are also using OpenID.

Yahoo could not be reached for comment.