Yahoo floats a no-password option

Yahoo is taking the first step toward eliminating passwords.

On Thursday, the company announced that it would allow smartphone owners to use what it called a Yahoo Account Key instead of a password for logging into their accounts. When users want to access their account from a computer, they'll have the option of confirming via their phone's Yahoo application that it's really them and bypass entry of their password.

"Passwords are usually simple to hack and easy to forget. Account Key streamlines the sign-in process with a secure, elegant and easy-to-use interface that makes access as easy as tapping a button," said Dylan Casey, Yahoo's VP of product management, in a statement about the feature. He also said it was more secure than a traditional password "because once you activate Account Key — even if someone gets access to your account info — they can't sign in."

The feature may not be quite as secure as multi-factor authentication, which requires a user to enter his password and have access to his phone. If a phone is stolen, a thief could use that to access a user's account. However, the feature will still be capable of deterring a large amount of traditional fraudulent activity such as phishing schemes.

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Additionally, Casey said the feature would be rolled out to more of the company's applications this year. Those include the photo service Flickr and the blogging site Tumblr, as well as Yahoo-branded services like "Maps" and "Messenger."

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