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Apple helps password managers work with difficult websites

apple iphone passcode entry
(Image credit: Hadrian / Shutterstock.com)

Apple has released new open-source tools that should let developers of password managers create stronger passwords for many popular websites.

According to the tech giant, Password Manager Resources -- available on Github -- will allow developers to integrate website-specific requirements used by the iCloud Keychain password manager to generate strong, unique passwords. 

While the best password managers can be used to generate strong and unique passwords, there may be instances when those generated passwords will not be compatible with certain websites and platforms. 

As a result, users may abandon generated passwords and instead revert to manually creating less safe passwords. 

For example, many sites require that passwords have a minimum number of characters. Some also won't let you use passwords that are too long. Others require that a password include punctuation marks. 

You can often tweak the settings of password generators so that their outputs match a website's requirements, but Apple wants to make this process automatic.

These resources are aimed at helping password manager developers “collaborate on resources to make password management better for users”, as explained by Apple in the project’s readme file.

According to the document, password minimum requirements are just one of several website "quirks" addressed by this project. Another "quirk" is that two or more websites may share the same login-credential backend, and as a result, different passwords created for each of those sites would conflict with each other. 

The project also wants to make it easier for password managers to take users directly to the password-change page on each website.

High-level benefits

 Apple claims that these resources have three high-level benefits, including:

  1. By sharing resources, all password managers can improve their quality with less work than it'd take for any individual password manager to achieve the same effect.
  2. By publicly documenting website-specific behaviors, password managers can offer an incentive for websites to use standards or emerging standards to improve their compatibility with password managers; it's no fun to be called out on a list!
  3. By improving the quality of password managers, we improve user trust in them as a concept, which benefits everyone.

Apple is also asking developers to contribute so that all users of participating password managers can benefit from any discoveries and testing.

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