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OAuth and JWT are both standards for authorization and authentication. OAuth is suitable for delegating user authorization, accessing third-party applications, and session management. JWT is suitable for stateless applications, API authentication, and server-to-server authorization. Learn more about the key differences below.
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Here are some differences between OAuth and JWT:
OAuth and JWT can be used together. For example, when the authentication server verifies a user’s credentials, it can use OAuth to transmit the user details to the client application.
Both protocols are widely used and supported, but they have different purposes and use cases.
JWT is a compact and self-contained way to transmit information between parties as a JSON object. It is often used to securely transmit information between parties, such as an API and a client application, or a server and a client application. JWTs are typically used to authenticate users and provide authorized access to resources, such as user data and files. JWT is suitable for stateless applications, as it allows the application to authenticate users and authorize access to resources without maintaining a session state on the server.
OAuth, on the other hand, maintains a session state on the server and uses a unique token to grant access to the user’s resources. It enables a user to grant a third-party application access to their resources on another site without giving away their username and password. OAuth is often used to allow a user to log in to a third-party application using their account on a different site, such as logging in to a music streaming service using your Google account. OAuth provides a secure way for the user to give permission for the third-party application to access their resources without exposing their login credentials.
Related content: Read our guide to OAuth flow
Although JWT and OAuth2 serve different purposes, they are compatible and can be used together. Because the OAuth2 protocol does not specify a token format, JWT can be incorporated into OAuth2 usage.
For example, the access_token returned by the OAuth2 authorization server could be a JWT carrying additional information in the payload. This can improve performance by reducing the round trips required between the resource server and the authentication server.
Another common way to use JWT with OAuth2 is to issue two tokens as access_token: a reference token and a JWT containing identity information in addition to the access token. However, for use cases that require this implementation, consider using OpenID Connect, an extension of OAuth2 that provides additional normalization by including access_token and id_token fields.
A common misconception is that using JWT with OAuth2 increases application security, but this is not necessarily true. Like any other standard, JWT is not an impenetrable mechanism. OAuth2 security is maintained by defining the actors involved in the authorization process and the specific steps to be taken for this process in various use cases. Security issues with OAuth2 are best addressed by choosing the right OAuth2 authorization flow for your application based on your use case, and not by token type.
The advantage of using JWT over OAuth2 is improved performance and reduced process complexity for some processes. However, it can also complicate development. A good starting point when deciding whether to use JWT with OAuth2 is to consider whether the increased performance is worth the extra development effort for your application.
Frontegg’s end-to-end and self-served authentication infrastructure is based on JSON Web Tokens. Our JWTs have been designed to adhere to the highest security standards. Therefore, our user management solution is also fully compliant with the OAuth protocol, along with OpenID Connect 1.0 (OIDC) as well. We cover all important bases that are required in the modern SaaS space.
Furthermore, Frontegg’s advanced authentication capabilities allow an easy and smooth integration between your SaaS app and other third-party solutions. You can do this by using the JSON Web Key Set (JWKS) endpoints on offer, along with the refresh tokens and public certificate that come with the JWT mechanism. This has made Frontegg a proven and tested development accelerator for better TTM.
That’s not all. With Frontegg’s user-friendly and intuitive offering, it takes just a few minutes along with some lines of code to make your SaaS app fully JWT protected. So what are you waiting for? Get onboard today.
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