Passkeys were never an Apple-only word, but the confusion is understandable

When Apple introduced security keys, its implementation of FIDO Alliance Secure Passwordless Authentication Technology, the company did it in the most Apple-like way possible. This created an icon and printed an Apple-branded “Passkeys” next to it, complete in San Francisco font. And if you only watched part of the WWDC presentation on Apple’s keys, it’s safe to assume that security keys are an exclusive feature of Apple’s iCloud Keychain. Just a reminder: it is 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 need to set a password for your banking application”. In other words, treat the word “passkey” as you would treat the word “password”. Access keys work by allowing you to sign in to an app or website with just your username and pre-authenticated device – which uses a cryptographic token instead of a password and password. a text message code that could be hacked or otherwise compromised.

Ricky Mondello, Director of Software Engineering at Apple started a Twitter thread yesterday promote new technology and clarify what it means. Microsoft VP of Identity Alex Simons chimed in on the thread and confirmed that Microsoft would be adopting the name as well. All parties involved seem to be committed to publicizing the access keys, and so far none have tried to claim it as their own.

“Passkey” is definitely an easier-to-digest name compared to “FIDO Authentication”, which can be really confusing when used verbally – which is where I want to enter the name of my first pet? But seriously, if you’ve ever had to explain two-factor authentication to a regular person and it took more than five minutes, imagine teaching them about FIDO authentication.

For the technology to succeed, it needs this marketing push, and what better way to spread the word than to let Apple take the helm. If Apple was really trying to trick people into believing that security keys are Apple-exclusive technology, it probably would have been branded Apple PassKeys.

If you’re on the developer betas for macOS or iOS, you can start using access keys now where available. Google plans to open the necessary development tools to implement passkeys on Android “in late 2022”. And Microsoft currently supports passkeys on the web using Windows Hello, and will support sign in to an MS account using access keys from an iOS or Android device “in the near future”.


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