UpdraftPlus (the backup plugin with 1 million installs) has just announced the launch of Keyy, the 2-factor authentication plugin that enables users to log into websites just by pointing their smartphone at the computer screen, eliminating the need for typed-in passwords.
If the idea sounds familiar, that’s because it probably is: as its developers openly admit, Keyy is inspired by and based on another WordPress plugin called Clef.
Clef’s distinctive and innovative approach to integrated 2 factor-authentication heralded unprecedented login speed and usability. Created by a small San Francisco-based start-up, Clef worked by sending an encrypted key from users’ smartphone to their computer via the camera, creating a digital signature using an RSA algorithm that websites would recognize. A review in the New York Times declared that with Clef, “the often painful process of logging into a site feels, admittedly, a little bit magical.” The plugin received excellent user ratings and steadily built up a strong customer base, which rose to over a million.
Which is why the announcement by the Clef team back in March that they were joining another company, winding down the business and sunsetting the product came as a shock. Clef’s co-founder and CEO Brennen Bryre wrote:
“We’ve explored every option to keep the Clef product alive and are deeply sorry for any inconvenience this transition will cause.” The news that Clef was shutting down was a huge disappointment to Clef’s inventor, Dave Ross: “It’s too bad, because I hoped Clef would open the door to a blossoming of the identity ecosystem we dreamed of years ago.”
That the news also grieved many of Clef’s users is clear from scrolling through its Twitter feed. User Mark Cutting comment praising the product’s uniqueness and ease of use: “Such a pity. A real passion for authentication and technology, and you will be sorely missed. No other product like #clef.”
Alongside a sense of sadness, some users also expressed their frustration and annoyance at Clef being suddenly pulled, leaving them to wonder where they’ll ever find a replacement 2-factor authentication that doesn’t require usernames and passwords.
Head Developer of UpdraftPlus, David Anderson, couldn’t see any other well-established comparable options out there and wanted to fill the gap opened up by Clef’s withdrawal. Anderson had always been a passionate advocate for online security, regarding it as an obvious and important complement to backups: “there’s no point in having insurance if you don’t lock your doors.” He contacted the Clef team in a bid to take the product on, but his offer was declined.
He contacted the Clef team in a bid to take the product on, but his offer was declined. He, therefore, took the decision for UpdraftPlus to engineer its own version of the plugin, called Keyy, which would use the same basic RSA cryptography and offer the same kind of user experience.
UpdraftPlus’ announcement of its intention raised a positive and enthusiastic response from its customers, many of whom expressed their relief at having such an option available before the looming deadline for transferring over from Clef. Initially planned for release in April, the delays in Keyy’s completion causing mounting anxiety for Clef customers who’d been told that after July 7 (a month later than originally stated), Clef’s mobile app would stop working altogether.
Finally, after frantic development and extensive testing, Keyy was released last week. Available for download as both iOS and Android apps, Keyy is free for use on up to 5 websites (with up to 5 users per site). However, unlike Clef, it then charges users, deliberately implementing a pricing structure that UpdraftPlus believes will make it strong and sustainable in the long term. As Anderson commented to one new user, “It’s true, of course, that Clef basically offered everything for free. But, they couldn’t sustain their model, and are (shortly) gone.”
Similar to Clef in both design and function, Keyy offers the same quick and easy 2-factor authentication. Although Keyy lacks some of Clef’s features, its development is ongoing and UpdraftPlus will continue to make changes in the coming weeks, including the current QR code turning into a moving ‘Keyy Wave’. It is also working on developing a central directory system for Keyy to provide users with single-login access to multiple websites.
A senior source at UpdraftPlus said “For now, the essentials are all in place. Feedback is good, sales have been strong and UpdraftPlus is proud to be carrying on the baton of the “no passwords” revolution.”