There is a follow up post here on how URL’s are cool.
It is no secret that I happen to like i-names. They are an open standard that I think has a lot of promise to help people have more control of their identifiers on the web. I will start out with a story and go on to a few practical reasons why.
I first ‘got into’ identity it was 2004 and I was helping spread the word about the upcoming Planetwork conference – where we were going to demo a really early clugy version of i-names doing SSO between 3 systems AND talk about the Identity Commons and how it could evolve. I got my first ever VOIP phone call from Owen who was in Greece and he sent me all their documentation to date- so I could write a summary for the brochure and website. (Over the holidays I went through papers and found the folder where I had printed out all that old stuff it was fun to reflect back and realize how much had changed since then. ) I wrote a great one page summary and they liked it a lot – it was the best conscious articulation about what they were doing they had seen. This was a year after that Augmented Social Network White Paper was published – I had read it and absorbed it throughly and wanted to ‘build’ that vision for my community.
I don’t just abstractly care about this stuff. I want people and communities that I care about to have identity services that meet their needs and make them more effective in the world. In 2002 I founded a project to build such networking tools – we actually did do two prototypes in Drupal by 2005. We were early to market and those folks were not ready for what we were offering (I may turn my attention back to serving this community in 2007).
There was no other user-centric identity anything except for the i-names guys and Identity Commons who were working closely together. I got along with everyone and enjoyed their spirit and energy. So I joined – I started working for Owen Davis evangelizing for the ‘first’ Identity Commons. I will admit looking back I was perhaps ‘overly’ enthusiastic and a bit naive about where the technology was. I was having a conversation with a friend in the community saying…”you know thinking about it if I had known what I know now I am not sure I would have done that job”. His response was well “that is why the young kids get things done – they don’t know better.” I think he is right on this. I also must say I have no regrets about the path I have taken the last three years. Indeed I think I have found myself and a place in the world that I really make a difference.
The user-centric identity community has really grown and flourished in the past 2 years. Thanks to the energy and support of Doc, Phil Windley, Phil Becker, Eric Norlin, Kim Cameron, Brett McDowell and many others. It has been exciting to watch it evolve.
Johannes has been particularly instrumental in bringing the ‘web based identifier’ user-centric crowd to convergence. Like all technical communities people come at things from different angles. He is a deep sceptic about anything new. He has been patient and listened to Drummond and the other XRI guys and has come to see some real value in what they are putting forward here are two posts one on XRI resolution and the other on XDI. Phil Windly also a thoughtful voice in the space has written about how he has come to understand their offering. This is a post about attending Andy Dale’s XDI workshop. His post about i-names at IIW starts out “Over the last few years, I’ve been impressed by a new Internet naming convention called XRI, or eXtensible Resource Identifiers”.
The convergence of LID, OpenID and XRI/inames into one thing called Yadis – to reduce end user confusion is a really great thing (of course Sxip joined the party later and this too reduced confusion even more and is also a good thing). I think the choice to not continue with the ‘Yadis brand’ and go back under the OpenID brand is a good thing…it is a much nicer brand. It also means that the people coming to this need to get that OpenID now includes these other ‘threads’ in the ‘web based identifier’ way of doing things for end-users. I think this diversity is good. If you don’t want to use i-names don’t but let the diversity flourish.
On a more practical level why do I like i-names?
I think i-names are easier to get for the marginally internet literate:
It may be news to folks but there are some internet users who don’t know how to scroll. There are not a whole lot of super literate users – we hang out with a lot of them in silicon valley but normal people….they are not like us. I think there are a bunch of bloggers who are going to ‘get’ that the URL they have for their blog is something they can use to login to other blogs to comment etc. That is cool. I think it is going to be the majority of OpenID users in the next year. I also really think that it is going to be a lot easier for regular folks to ‘get’ i-names.
Domain names system usabilty sucks:
I think that the domain name system and the tools for normal people to work in it are atrocious. I can hardly get things to work right and I am reasonably tech literate. I don’t know how to do domain mapping so that identitywoman.net is the URL that you see when you look at the top of my blog – rather then the http://www.kaliyasblogs.net that you see cause I can only figure out how to forward it. I can’t figure out for the life of my how to transfer domains from one registrar to another or merge the 4 accounts I have on one registrar into one. IT IS TOTALLY NOT USER FRIENDLY. Maybe by some miracle the UI and architecture can be changed – you know I am not betting on it.
i-names are less confusing then URL’s:
So lets go back to the community that I got started with trying to serve. They are very social people they come together at groovy conferences and go on retreats at spiritual places. They are web mail and Yahoo group users. They need systems and tools that are truly empowering and meet them where they are at with web-literacy. I think i-names have a better chance of doing this then URL’s. For starters they will have to ‘get a URL’ then use it a bunch of different places – each of those places will have URL’s for their profile in that system. People have multiple URL’s and clearly not all of them are OpenID enabled. I would rather just give them all community i-names then they clearly understand this new ‘thing’ (it is not a URL and not an e-mail address) is what they use to login different places and manage identity services from (like profile management when that happens).
I can upgrade and not loose my name:
I like the fact that I could start out with a community name like @integrativeactivism*morningglory and use that on several sites around the web and then….decide you know i want a top level name just for me … so I go and get =morningglory and all the logins that I have under that other community name don’t break. The i-number under @integrativeactivism*monrningglory is mine and can be resolved to =morningglory.
Group membership and micro-app ecology:
I also like i-names because from my understanding there is a way to assert group membership by the issuance of an identifier that one has control over. This gives you the potential weave together networks of applications for different communities that you are in. For example the solstice planning group could all have i-names @integrativeactivism*solsticeplanning*morningglory Then the wiki they went to to organize could be not on the same platform but work non-the-less for the people in that group. I really want to see an ecology of mico-apps that can be woven together and manage access control in ways that work for “simple people.”
Simple workable tools for personal link management:
The example from Phil’s blog explains a lot about how it is simple and I think it will work for the spiritual woman over 45 who are part of those communities that I care that these systems work for.
Lately I’ve started to feel like i-names and XRIs are coming into their own. Not long ago, for example, my i-name registry, 2idi, started offering XRI forwarding services. That means that I can create XRIs from my i-name that resolve to other things on the Net. For example:
http://xri.net/=windley/(+index) forwards to my “index” page on the Web.
http://xri.net/=windley/(+contact) is my contact page
http://xri.net/=windley/(+blog) resolves to my blog
http://xri.net/=windley/(+call) points to me on Skype (i.e. Firefox will launch a call to me through Skype if you click on this.)
http://xri.net/=windley/(+feed) forwards to my RSS feed
http://xri.net/=windley/(+photos) points to my online photo collection
What’s the point? Easy: I own =windley, my i-name, for the next 50 years and I control the resolution. If my blog URL or my Skype handle changes, I can change how those XRIs resolve and you can still find me and all the service related to me. Plus, the XRIs above are (mostly) based on a standard semantics, so if I know your i-name, I can easily find your blog.
XRIs are more complicated than URLs, but I remember everyone screwing up their face when URLs were new too and somehow we got used to them. XRIs make up for their additional complexity in semantic mappings and flexibility.
I must also chime in and say that I agree with Marc Canter
I’m also getting tired of waiting for ‘attribute sharing’ working.
I hope we can get this next layer of tools working relatively quickly now that we have the authentication layer stuff figured out. I am hopeful that the open standards for Datasharing that are getting traction now in the nonprofit community. I spent most of the last two weeks working organizing and writing up note cards of quotes from the vast repository of papers I have on the Open Social Network. I have an outline of a paper that I hope to have a working draft released in the next few months. As for my ‘enthusiasm’ I really want this vision to materialize and I am more committed then ever to reality based thinking and action so it can happen.