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Passkeys were never just Apple words, but the confusion is understandable

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When Apple introduced Passkey, an implementation of the FIDO Alliance’s password-less secure authentication technology, the company did it the most Apple way. It created an icon and the Apple brand-looking “passkey” next to it, complete in San Francisco font. And if you’ve seen only part of the WWDC presentation on Apple’s passkeys, it’s possible to assume that passkeys are a special feature of Apple’s iCloud Keychain. Just a reminder: it is not.

The term “passkey” will also be used by major players Microsoft and Google. It is used as a common noun and can be plural or singular, for example: “You should set up a passkey for your banking app.” In other words, treat the word “passkey” the same way you would treat the word “password.” Passkey allows you to log into an app or website with just your username and your pre-authenticated device – which uses cryptographic tokens instead of passwords and text message codes that could be phished or otherwise compromised can go.

Apple’s software engineering manager Ricky Mondello started a twitter thread yesterday To promote new technology and clarify its meaning. Microsoft’s VP of Identity Alex Simmons said in the thread and confirmed that Microsoft will also adopt the name. All parties involved are committed to spreading awareness about Passkey, and so far no one is trying to claim it as theirs.

“Passkey” is certainly an easier to digest name than “FIDO Authentication”, which can be really confusing when used verbally – like this is where I want enter my first pet name, But seriously, if you ever had to explain to the lay person what two-factor authentication was, and it took more than five minutes, imagine teaching them what FIDO authentication is.

For technology to succeed, it needs that marketing push, and what better way to get the word out there than to take Apple to the top. If Apple was really trying to trick people into thinking that Passkey is an Apple-only technology, it probably would have been branded Apple PassKeys.

If you’re on the developer beta for macOS or iOS, you can start using Passkey where it’s available. Google plans to open up the developer tools needed to implement Passkey on Android “in late 2022.” And Microsoft currently supports passkeys on the web using Windows Hello, and “in the near future” will support logging into an MS account using the passkey from an iOS or Android device.

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