OIDC vs SAML: A Comparative Overview for Modern Single Sign-On (SSO) Authentication

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oidc vs saml

In our technology-driven world, data security and user authentication have become paramount. In the realm of single sign-on (SSO) methods, two well-known technologies have emerged at the forefront – OpenID Connect (OIDC) and Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML). Though both are utilized to authenticate and authorize users, they embody somewhat different approaches. This blog will delve into a concise comparison to illustrate why OIDC comes off as being more modern.

What is SAML?

SAML refers to the Security Assertion Markup Language that was developed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) as an XML-based standard for communicating identity information between organizations and allowing SSO for web applications. SAML is often used for enterprise or business-to-business (B2B) interactions.

What is OIDC?

OpenID Connect, or OIDC, is a simple identity layer built on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol. It allows clients to authenticate users and obtain basic profile information in an interoperable and REST-like way. OIDC is often used for consumer, or web and mobile, applications or business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions.

The Differences between OIDC and SAML

Here are key differences between OIDC and SAML:

  1. Protocol Basis and Language: SAML, being an older solution, is based on the SOAP protocol and uses XML for its messages. On the other hand, OIDC operates over OAuth 2.0 and utilizes JSON. JSON generally offers a simpler, more flexible, and readable format than XML, allowing for faster parsing times and better performance.
  2. Usage: As earlier mentioned, SAML is more of a business-oriented solution, primarily used for web-based SSO in enterprise applications. OIDC, with its versatile schema, can effectively cater to web, desktop, mobile, and JavaScript clients. It is especially optimal for mobile and single-page applications (SPAs) due to its relative simplicity and improved performance.
  3. Information Transfer: SAML communicates user information via XML-based SAML assertions, while OIDC employs JSON-based ID tokens. Herein, the tokens hold the user information. These tokens are also lighter and easier to work with, especially for developers.
  4. Security Tools: OIDC benefits from OAuth’s explicit consent features, providing an extra layer of user control over what data is shared and with whom, ultimately honing data privacy.

Why OIDC might be considered more modern?

It’s worth noting that ‘modern’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better in every case’ – each use case will determine which standard is the optimal choice. However, here’s why OIDC often is labelled as ‘more modern’:

  1. User Consent and Privacy: As privacy becomes increasingly relevant, user consent features are paramount. OIDC’s built-in features for user-consented data sharing make it better equipped to handle modern privacy concerns.
  2. Mobile and API-friendliness: OIDC’s JSON-based nature and REST-like approach make it easier to integrate with mobile and web applications and allows for efficient interactions with APIs.
  3. Simplicity and Developer Experience: OIDC’s JSON-based ID tokens are less burdensome, easier to handle and enhance developer experience.

Final Thoughts

While SAML has been a stalwart in the enterprise SSO world, OIDC has emerged as a lightweight, mobile-friendly, and more privacy-oriented alternative. As organizations continue to adapt to progressive technology requirements, OIDC’s ease of use, developer-friendly design, and agile privacy features match perfectly with the modern application landscape. However, the importance of choosing the right standard isn’t about OIDC vs SAML but understanding your organization’s unique requirements and selecting the solution that best fits your needs.

How Datawiza Helps?

Datawiza’s no-code platform can assist your engineering teams in integrating both OIDC and SAML effortlessly, offering the flexibility to match your specific needs. Our platform eliminates any need for you to grapple with the underlying complexities of these protocols, allowing you to focus on what truly matters – securing your applications and delivering a seamless user experience. Contact us to learn more!