Google Steps Up Its Push to Kill the Password

Less than six months ago, Google announced that it was launching support for the password replacement known as “passkeys” for all personal accounts across its billions of users. Today, the company said it is going a step further and will make passkeys the default login setting for users.

When you log in to your Google account, you’ll get a prompt to create a passkey and start using it for login instead of relying on your Gmail address and password. Google will be turning on the “skip password when possible” option in account settings, which is essentially the passkey green light. Users who don’t want to kill their password just yet will still be able to turn that setting off so they don’t receive the prompts.

Password-based authentication is so ubiquitous in digital systems that it isn’t easy to replace. But passwords have inherent security problems because they can be guessed and stolen. And since it’s so difficult to keep track of dozens or hundreds of passwords, users often reuse the same passwords on multiple accounts, making it easier for attackers to unlock all of those accounts in one fell swoop. Passkeys are specifically designed to address these issues and dramatically reduce the risk of phishing attacks by instead relying on a scheme that manages cryptographic keys stored on your devices for account authentication.

Google didn’t share statistics on passkey adoption so far, saying instead in a blog post that “people have used passkeys on their favorite apps like YouTube, Search and Maps, and we’re encouraged by the results.” The company points out that passkey support is expanding across other apps and services. Apple and Microsoft both support passkeys. And companies like Uber and eBay recently launched passkeys, and they’re coming to WhatsApp soon.

“Passwordless is something we set out to achieve 10-plus years ago, and we’re thrilled to not only see us already on the next step of the journey with passkeys by offering them by default, but also to see the great feedback from users who have made the switch,” Christiaan Brand, identity and security group product manager at Google, tells WIRED.

There’s so much inertia on passwords around the world that even a player as big and influential as Google can’t force the issue overnight. But the company is clearly using its influence to steer users with gentle pressure that seems likely to continue mounting as passkeys gain broader momentum.

“We’ll keep you updated on where else you can start using passkeys across other online accounts,” the company wrote today. “In the meantime, we’ll continue encouraging the industry to make the pivot to passkeys—making passwords a rarity, and eventually obsolete.”