Passwords have never been an Apple-only buzzword, but the confusion is understandable
When Apple introduced Passcodes, the password-less implementation of the FIDO Alliance’s secure authentication technology, the company did it in the most Apple way possible. The made an icon and printed next to it a “Passkeys” that looked like Apple, with the San Francisco font. And if you’ve only watched part of it the WWDC presentation on Apple passwords, it’s safe to assume that passwords are an exclusive feature of Apple’s iCloud Keychain. Just a reminder: it’s not.
The term “passkey” will also be used by the big players Microsoft and Google. It is used as a common noun and can be plural or singular, for example: “you should set a password for your banking app.” In other words, treat the word “passkey” as you would the word “password”. Passwords work by allowing you to sign in to an app or website with just your pre-authenticated username and device — which uses a cryptographic token instead of a password and a text message code that could be phished or be otherwise violated.
Apple’s director of software engineering, Ricky Mondello opened a thread on Twitter yesterday promote the new technology and clarify what it means. Microsoft’s vice president of identity, Alex Simons, chimed in on the thread and confirmed that Microsoft will also adopt the name. All parties involved seem committed to spreading password awareness, and so far no one is trying to claim it as their own.
We will certainly use the term “passkey” in our products and services. It will take some time to build awareness/understanding, but we are all committed to making the necessary investments.
— Alex Simons (@Alex_A_Simons) August 4, 2022
“Passkey” is definitely a more digestible name compared to “FIDO authentication”, which could be confusing when used verbally — as here I want to enter the name of my first pet? But seriously, if you’ve ever had to explain to the layman what two-factor authentication was and it took more than five minutes, imagine teaching them what FIDO authentication is.
For the technology to succeed, it needs that push in marketing, and what better way to get the word out there than to let Apple take the wheel. If Apple was really trying to trick people into thinking that passcodes are Apple-only technology, it would probably be called Apple PassKeys.
If you’re using the developer betas for macOS or iOS, you can start using passwords now, where available. Google plans to open source the necessary developer tools to implement passkeys on Android “by the end of 2022”. And Microsoft currently supports web passwords using Windows Hello and will login to MS account using passwords from an iOS or Android device “in the near future”.