Can we go all in on Passkey based authentication?

by Animesh - Jan 23, 2024

Passkeys are good - more secure, arguably better UX (only reason I feel it is arguable is that it is still new, and uncommon for users to use it)

Here I am logging some questions and notes as I research the possibility of doing passkey based authentication on CoF.


Can passkeys be the only authentication mechanism for CoF?

Probably not. We are about to launch a web based version. And browser support is not there on some browsers. Linux based desktops / laptops also might not have native support. So a fallback will be needed. Also, passkeys are not yet popular, so less tech savvy users might not be comfortable with it.

What happens if a user has an Android/iOS device and a Windows laptop? How seamless is the experience?

Windows has "Hello", which can do biometric / face ID / PIN based authentication. Current convention seems to be to let users register via a more traditional mechanism, and then let them add passkeys as an additional authentication mechanism.

A community post asking some great questions

Passkeys, multiple devices and having no biometric reader

1password's response is interesting - they are only assuming the scenario where a user has 1password (or some other password manager with passkey support) on all their devices. Also, this makes me further confused about how the UX is in choosing where to store the passkey.

Here's a scenario where on the same device (my mac), things become confusing. I was playing around with this nice demo site -

  • I first opened the site on chrome, and registered using a passkey.
  • Then I opened the site on Safari, but now my passkey is nowhere to be found. Because Google stores passkeys in their Google password manager, and Safari stores passkeys in their iCloud keychain.
  • For a layman user this can be really confusing. How the hell do I login to my account on a different browser now!
  • The video linked below - Passkeys: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - talks about this problem (starting around the 27:30 mark), and how it is being solved by some browsers. But the UX can be confusing nevertheless.


Some useful introductory content on passkeys:

Open source authentication servers that support passkeys

I am considering the following relatively modern ones:

Keycloak seems to be the most popular one, but not considering it as it is quite heavy to run (JVM based) and perhaps quite complex for our simple needs

What should be the way forward for auth on CoF

  • We don't want to deal with passwords. So we can do OAuth2 based authentication with Google, Apple etc.
  • We can have a fallback on Email Magic Link or Email OTP based login.
  • We should prompt after signup or first login for the user to associate their account with a passkey.

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