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I have been evangelizing about user-centric identity on the web 5 years. I talk about the ideas with people constantly explaining and re-explaining different developments in the field, forward looking projects and visionary ideas community members talk about. I watch what I say carefully and I notice when I start thinking and explaining something differently.
The new term that has emerged for me this week is “anchor on the web”... as in Where is your anchor on the web? or People have an anchor on the web – this is there “identity” – the question is do they control (owning a domain name) it or is it controlled by the company that does.
I link this metaphor because it evokes the image of a boat that is you and an anchor that is linking you to somewhere – do you want this to land in a stable place that you have control over? Likely yes – if you anchor to someone else’s ship (have your name in their domain space) you are literally tied to them. Rather then being able to visit them on your own terms and leave if you like.
In my last post I talked about facebook URLs and people getting their own domain name along with the contrast of usability with each. Chris Messina also wrote about facebook URLs and correctly points out that this is a battle over your digital identity.
You are absolutely right. It’s a common problem of domain registrars / hosting providers. They’re too focused on up-selling other services and the secondary market instead of serving the actual internet user. We’re watching the identity community closely with iWantMyName and will definitely provide identity management features in the future. For now, we already made the domain registration process easy and are helping users setting up apps like Gmail, Tumblr, Posterous etc.
Coincidently – today at SemTech the CEO of Nombray presented as part of Chris Saad’s talk about DataPortability. They let you very easily create a website under your own domain name that aggregates your information from around the web. I haven’t paid the $10 yet but I was very impressed with the usability of the sign up process and you can see my the 1/2 working site here.
There is of course Chi.mp too – but some how it feels a bit more like being tied to somewhere then actually owning your own domain (paying for it) and setting up the services under it.
The next level of interoperability and user-empowerment will be the way these systems map/document your online life and how they give you the data in a standard way when you leave their service to go to a different one.
UpDate: Wow and that was Post: 1000 for this blog!
Last week it was announced that on on Friday Night at 9pm Pacific Facebook had a name space land rush. Everyone was free to pick for themselves their username that would appear in their URL. facebook.com/username
I actually found this a bit surprising – remember the big debate on the Social Web TV I had with Josh Elman about “real names.” He was against handles completely and felt that the big value facebook brought was “real names”. I argued for handles and the freedom to choose one’s “identity” on the web. I made the point that free society – having the ability freedom to have the option to have and use handles on the web NOT linked to our given/ in real life names. Another thing is that handles help us navigate namespace clash from regular names. Max from MySpace is 8bitkid not some other Max in a sea of Max’s.
I ran into Josh Elman at the Building43 party and we agreed I kinda won the debate with this latest development. It seems that having peoples pages rank higher in google is helped by having readable URL’s.
They of course “strongly encouraged” people to just pick a URL with one’s real name and did so by “suggesting” names that were derivatives of one’s name. You could override this and type in your own name choice (however defaults matter so most people will end up with names similar to their real name – rather then being asked to think up one). They give users an addressable identity.
Max Engel of MySpace became /8BitKid – his handle “everywhere”
David Recordon surprisingly didn’t go with DaveMan692 – his handle most places – he is /DavidRecordon
My friend Jennifer became /dangerangel as she had originally signed up for in Facebook but they disallowed her to have it.
I just became /Kaliya (I am hoping I can get enough fans to claim /identitywoman for that persona)
What is particularly interesting is the layers of identity in Facebook.
With a Facebook URLFacebook has the one’s username is not one’s e-mail address as it is with Google profiles and one also has a common name (or as they say “real name”) that is presented to throughout the system.
Google ironically enough they ask if you want a “contact” me button on your page that does not give away your e-mail address when the profile URL gives away your e-mail address.
Twitter has /usernames AND another display name of your choosing that is changeable (the /usernames are not). However most twitter clients display one or the other. If you are used to seeing the display name and then are on your phone that is only showing @handle /username then you don’t know who is talking.
Facebook usernames is another example Twitter feature adoption by Facebook others being activity streams becoming much more like twitter streams.
I said when I first “got” twitter about 18 months ago – a big part of the value it provided was its namespace. It gave me a cool anchor on the web that allowed communication between me and others via the web.
So how is it going so far? Inside facebook reports that over the weekend 6 million folks – 3% of their userbase gut URLs. 500,000 in the first 15 min, 1,000,000 in the first hour and 3 million in the first 14 hours.
There were several examples of FaceSquating. Mike Pence took Obiefernadez’s name.
Anil Dash has the funniest post ever about the whole thing. Highlight the point that users don’t need facebook URL’s they can just get their own domain name. He repeats this throughout the post about what these services are not telling you:
None of these posts mention that you can also register a real domain name that you can own, instead of just having another URL on Facebook.
I completely agree with him – he also misses a key point the usability of facebook is vastly higher then the usability of domain name registration, cpanel management and other things involved in getting ones own personal web presence going. DiSo isn’t hear yet so we can’t link to our friends without linking capability that a facebook provides. I suppose Chi.mp was trying to
He links to a post of his from December 2002 called privacy and identity control.
I own my name. I am the first, and definitive, source of information on me.
One of the biggest benefits of that reality is that I now have control. The information I choose to reveal on my site sets the biggest boundaries for my privacy on the web. Granted, I’ll never have total control. But look at most people, especially novice Internet users, who are concerned with privacy. They’re fighting a losing battle, trying to prevent their personal information from being available on the web at all. If you recognize that it’s going to happen, your best bet is to choose how, when, and where it shows up.
That’s the future. Own your name. Buy the domain name, get yourself linked to, and put up a page. Make it a blank page, if you want. Fill it with disinformation or gibberish. Plug in other random people’s names into Googlism and paste their realities into your own. Or, just reveal the parts of your life that you feel represent you most effectively on the web. Publish things that advance your career or your love life or that document your travels around the world. But if you care about your privacy, and you care about your identity, take the steps to control it now.
In a few years, it won’t be as critical. There will be a reasonably trustworthy system of identity and authorship verification. Finding a person’s words and thoughts across different media and time periods will be relatively easy.
What people don’t quite get is that if they anchor their whole online life around someone else’s domain they are locked in. When I first started paying attention to user-centric identity online this was one of the meta-long term issues that the first identity commons folks (Drummond Reed, Fen Lebalm, Owen Davis, Andrew Nelson, Eugene Kim, Jim Fournier, Marc Le Maitre, Bill Barnhill, Nikolaj Nyholm, etc).
A few of them wrote a paper about it all – THE SOCIAL WEB – Creating an Open Social Network with XDI.
They liked the XRI/i-names architecture because it addressed the URL recycling problem with a layer of abstraction. All i-names also have linked to them a conical identifier – an i-number. This number is never reassigned in the global registry. However one could “sell” one’s i-name (mine is =kaliya) and that new person could use it but it would have a different i-number assigned to it for that person.
This past week at the Online Community Unconference we were talking about the issue of conversation tracking around blog conversations. How an one watch/track the conversation about one’s work if it is cross posted on 10 different sites OR if it is just posted in one place and one is distributing a link through 10 different channels? We never did get to an answer – I chimed in that the web was missing an abstraction layer – that if one could have a canonical identifier for a post that was up in 10 different places this would make it easier to track/see conversations about that post. What we do have now that we didn’t have 3 years ago for helping track conversations across multiple contexts is OpenID at least so you can see if someone commenting in one place is the same as someone commenting in another.
There is an additional layer of abstraction in the XRI architecture that supports several things are key to helping people integrate themselves and information about themselves on thew web.
One is cross referencing – so I could have have two different (URI) addresses for the same information (in the identifier – not just mapped over one another leaving me with one address OR the other) and also have one version of my profile be the one I controlled and a different be a version that appeared in a certain social context.
There is also a concept of much finer grained data addressability and control – so I could have my home address in one place and instead of entering this into each website/services/company portal that I want to have this information – just hand them a link to the canonical copy I manage and then I don’t have to change it everywhere. This is of course where the VRM folks are going with their architectures and services.
We shall see how it all evolves. That is what we do at the Internet Identity Workshop is keeping on working on figuring this all out.
Basically this post is to say I am “back” – I have a bit more time on my hands this summer to pay attention to Cyberspace and want to give attention to expressing my thoughts and ideas in text online again. I am inspired by this mention by Scoble around the launch of Building 43 that is happening today. I thought it was an actual physical space when I got the invitation. Turns out it is a website that Robert Scoble is leading. It is focused on what he calls the 2010 web and others call Web 3.0.
Here’s another way to put it. When you look at Techmeme and see all the tech bloggers yammering on about the latest cool things, the way they were this week about Facebook’s new URLs that are coming out tomorrow, or Apple’s new iPhone, do they look backward and think about the average businessperson? Not in my experience. We don’t have an industry conversation about how to actually use all this cool stuff to improve lives, make businesses stronger and closer to their customers, and have some fun.
A few people here and there are trying. I watch what Chris Messina, David Recordon, Marc Canter, Joseph Smarr, Kaliya Hamlin, and a group of others are trying to do by pushing a more open web. Those are the kinds of efforts that inspire me and are inspiring Building43. Can we build on what they are trying to do and take it to main street?
This actually impresses me cause I thought Scoble had just become an internet micro-celebrety for its own sake. I look forward to contributing to the conversation about the future of what is becoming a very social web where peoples identity online matters deeply.
Here is where I have been since my last post.
Immediately following I attended the “identity day” at RSA on Monday April 20th – talks were given from the front of the room for a day. Liberty Alliance put the day together along with the Information Card Foundation- The Kantara Initiative was “launched”. I am not clear that the format of the day actually provided greater understanding by those outside our community that are confused by all the activity.
The exciting thing that happened leading up to this day was the launch of the new Information Card Foundation Website – I gave some feedback that was included in the core language and messaging. It has great Flash animation explaining the cards along with featured projects including the GSA Demo.
RSA was fun – I didn’t spend to much time in sessions mostly talking to people in the community. I led a peer-to-peer session on Business Models for Claims Based Identity. A good group attended however the room layout was cold and stale. (I will be writing about it on my unconference blog shortly).
Penguin Day followed on April 25th. This is a super fun day facilitated by Allen Gunn focused on Non-Profits and Open Source. I learned more about TikiWiki as a content management system (I am considering it as the platform for She’s Geeky). I also was impressed by how much CiviCRM had improved. I also talked to a college registrar very interested in how information card technology might play a roll in getting them out of paper based management of student records and certification.
The Nonprofit Technology Conference followed – they had a large exhibit hall and I talked to many of the vendors there about OpenID and Information Cards – about 1/2 had heard about OpenID and almost none about Information Cards. It was great to talk to my friends in the industry (I have been attending this conference since 2004). Social Actions is progressing and is creating a way to aggregate action information for social good.
I flew to NYC to facilitate the Creative Unconference on May 7-8 put on by the One Club for Art and Copy collaborating with the Society for Digital Agencies. This was during Creative Week. The One Club gives out bronze, sliver and gold pencil’s – some of the most prestigious awards in the advertising business. They attended their interactive awards on Friday night – I brought Robert Tolmach along as a guest and he told me about his new project – Class Wish.
I went to DC and spent the day at the Sex 2.0 conference at the intersection of social media, feminism and sexuality. I was particularly interested in how this community was thinking thinking about and dealing identity online and off. Many people had names they went by within the community that were different from their “every day” names. Several presenters talked about having two facebook profiles (one for their sex life and one for regular life) I pointed out that this against facebook policy and they were surprised – it seemed very natural to have two persona’s. Other presenters talked about being fully “out” completely linking their sex life.
I attended the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology Women of Vision Awards. It was a very inspiring evening. Padmashree Warrior the CTO of Cisco was the key note speaker – she was super inspiring and gave ideas about how to connect to the community 2.0 audience.
I spoke at Community 2.0 about identity technologies. I covered OpenID, OAuth and Information Cards and at the end mentioned project VRM for those who were very forward looking. It was a relatively small conference and I spent a lot of time preparing for the talk with my speech coach. My issue has been having to much to say – I can talk about identity for hours and in great detail. Lura helped me figure out what to say. I did a good job clearly communicating and had several people say they enjoyed my talk and it gave them some practical information not just social media guru hype.
I went to the first day of the VRM workshop and was totally impressed by the quality of projects and companies working in the space. Several attendees didn’t know about IIW and a few signed up to attend.
The Internet Identity Workshop was AMAZING. We had the same number of attendees as we usually do. I am going to write some more posts about the event soon. The next IIW is November 3-5 in Mountain View.
I went to the Maker Faire on Sunday the 31st of May – it was fun to see all the stuff people are making. I also got a LiveScribe Pen. I will be using it for diagrams on this blog in the coming months.
June 1 was CommunityOne where i saw Jono Bacon talk about Community there were 10 people to see him speak in an auditorium that held 1000.
I flew to Boston and met with Fabio Carara of the Venice Project Center and Venice 2.0 – they are considering how to leverage 20 years worth of geo-data. We are discussing building a community including a few unconferences.
I had dinner with Mary Ruddy and we continued progress on Identity Commons infrastructure – particularly our new blog/website.
I facilitated the Mass Technology Leadership Council Spring Meeting that asked the question “What is the future of Software and the Internet” I lead a session on identity – they asked good questions and were impressed by all the activity in the space.
I flew to San Francisco – to make it back for the 2nd Scala Lift Off. Scala is a programming language – some describe as Java++, Lift is a web framework. This is a great programming language community with an healthy online community life. I work supporting them in community building when the meet face-to-face.
Yesterday I was working with Forum One facilitating the 4th Online Community Unconference. This is a great community of online community managers (the folks who moderate online community), platform providers (software providers) and hosts (companies that have online communities). I presented a session about OpenID, OAuth and Information Cards – I even got a bottle of wine during the closing from one of the attendees thanking me for the quality of information that I shared.
Today it is the Building 43 party at Tech Crunch and next week is SemWeb in San Jose – I will likely make it to the Personal Democracy Forum. The next “identity” event is Burton Group Catalyst at the end of July in San Diego.
I look forward engaging in this medium again with a post every few days.
Yesterday morning I put up an early version of a model I have been thinking about since 2004 about linking face to face communities of different kinds and online social tools.
It is an EARLY version – like 80% done. The diagrams will be improved – I threw in what was on the white board yesturday after our conversation. I am hoping with some feedback to complete it by the end of this month.