Surpass is an input component for sensitive data, like passwords, that incorporates several innovations in usability:
- Enables toggling of input between unmasked (showing input verbatim), masked (hiding individual characters, ie. traditional password entry), and hidden (all feedback is completely swallowed)
- Masked input includes an abstract signifier of the masked content, for validation purposes (see the section on "Gross Simplification" below)
- Validating input by re-typing it is both optional and always available
Allows Increased / Decreased Obfuscation
Traditional password obfuscation is frequently unnecessary, and the user should be given the option to disable it. Right now, the only browser that ships with a facility to show an entered password is Microsoft Edge, and even that only applies while the user is holding the button.
Adding absolute-privacy allows users paranoid about the disclosure of Gross Simplification Ideally, this would also enable functionality in user agents to completely hide feedback outside of the password input
Additionally, this configrable sensitivity should be available for any kind of input, not just passwords. Some users may be uncomfortable entering their Social Security Number, PIN, or real name in public,
Details not final. This aspect of surpass is still experimental, and is subject to heavy changes as I gather more data about its operation going forward.
Communicates the input state, a la Lotus's Hieroglyphics or Chroma-Hash, without exposing significant details of the password.
- Doesn't show until the user has gone at least 1/3 second without typing
- Doesn't show for passwords shorter than 6 characters
This technique maps the entered password to one of 144 different possible combinations of shape, color, and position, by taking the 32-bit FNV-1a hash of the string's UTF-8 representation, XOR-folding it to 16 bits (to diffuse biases in the lower bits), then taking the value of that result modulo 144.
That remainder is then translated to a combination of shape, color, and arrangement by mapping the highest-order multiple of 6 to one of six possible combinations of circle, triangle and square, the next multiple of 6 to a permutation of red, green, and blue, and the lowest multiple of 4 to which position the first shape will be in: the top, right, left, or bottom. (This leaves an unavoidable < 1/10000 bias toward some combinations of shapes and colors, but keeps the four positions evenly represented.)
The FNV-1a hash function was selected as the simplest available technique to derive a value from a string (compared to a relatively heavy function like MD5), while still maintaining the properties necessary for this use case (even distribution / diffusion and non-reversibility).
Re-entering something the user can read isn't as sensible, but you may want to recommend they take that extra step: however, there may be other fields where this kind of validation may make more sense for the user.