Passkeys: What the Heck and Why?

Neal Fennimore
Neal Fennimore


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These things called passkeys sure are making the rounds these days. They were a main attraction at W3C TPAC 2022, gained support in Safari 16, are finding their way into macOS and iOS, and are slated to be the future for password managers like 1Password. They are already supported in Android, and will soon find their way into Chrome OS and Windows in future releases.

Geeky OS security enhancements don’t exactly make big headlines in the front-end community, but it stands to reason that passkeys are going to be a “thing”. And considering how passwords and password apps affect the user experience of things like authentication and form processing, we might want to at least wrap our minds around them, so we know what’s coming.

That’s the point of this article. I’ve been studying and experimenting with passkeys — and the WebAuthn API they are built on top of — for some time now. Let me share what I’ve learned.
Table of contents

What are passkeys?
How do passkeys replace passwords?
More about cryptography
How do we access passkeys?
The difference between passkeys and WebAuthn
The process… in a nutshell
The meat and potatoes
Some downsides
Where are things going?

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