Yet another reason why we need a single, trusted, and protected identity system

Identity to compound as a problem as more tools launch
Identity is becoming increasingly important as more social networks as more tools launch. Here’s a few examples:

1) Chris Pirillo’s identity was kidnapped on Pownce, individuals may have not realize it was really Chris, perhaps spilling personal information to this imposter. This is a bad situation for Chris and everyone else, as now he may be compelled to register to every single application to confirm and own his identity.

2) Kathy Sierra was bombarded by unknown trolls, if there was a pre-registered login system, much of the nasty commenters could have been filtered out by a universal system.

3) Everyone has to sign up for dozens of social networks, and adding, and re-adding, and re-re-adding, and re-re-re-adding friends, family and folks to their networks.

Identity a frequent topic
As an industry we need a single identity and network systems, in fact this was discussed many times last night at the Techcrunch party. I know there are some tools and technologies out there, Tantek suggested Microformats could help, others have suggested identiyy widgets, or existing networks like LinkedIn, well, I suggested Facebook (I’m not the only one).

Market confusion
Many of the folks at the party last night talked to me about this, I asked them why don’t they adopt Open ID? A common response? “Like everyone else, we’re waiting for someone else to do it”

What’s needed?
We need a system that we can all trust where we own and can confirm our data and profile information, can control different privacy permissions within our network (friends, family, work, other) and give us the ability to remove, export or delete it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no pinko, I realize the importance of trust and why Microsoft’s Passport didn’t work.

Open ID slow to adopt
I realize that Open ID is one solution, but let’s get realistic, it’s not being adopted because it’s too geeky, maybe they need a marketing evangelist, or a mass consumer tool will need to be birthed. Please note, I’m not opposed to the tool, I’m just looking at the market around me.

What would success compose of?
1) Sound technology 2) Market trust 3) Evangelism 4) Adoption by key players

Chris, Kathy and all our problems will continue to exist, in fact compound, as more and more tools get released.

  • I think evangelism and marketing are the keys here. I’ll explain why:

    The average person is not worried about their Pownce identity being corrupted, or with being inundated with trolls.

    On the other hand, A-listers like Chris Pirillo and Jason Calcanis (who yesterday wrote that he’s turning off his blog comments) do have to worry about these things.

    I think the slow adoption of OpenID proves that this just isn’t a priority for the average person.

    Now let’s say you’re a developer. Do you allocate your scarce time and resources towards creating something that a relatively small group of A-list bloggers will appreciate? Or do you take a shot at creating a Facebook app that can have millions of users in a matter of weeks? The answer is obvious.

    Fortunately, A-list bloggers do carry a lot of weight. If they would voluntarily get together and agree on a standard like OpenID and then market the heck out it, perhaps it would catch fire with everyone else.

    The incentives will then be there for developers to create these much needed tools.

  • I agree, the influence of bloggers can make this adopt.

    A tool that first helps bloggers fixing their problems will gain adoption.

  • Agreed on this post.

    Everytime I hear of a new service I sign up for it even though I have no plans to use it whatsoever, just so no one else can use my username. Probably not a problem for someone with a name like John Smith, but I imagine it being an issue for someone with a unique name.

  • Jeremiah, thanks for writing this. I am beginning to think that the problem may be more difficult to solve than some people think. It’s not just a question of being able to prove who you are so that a commercial entity will trust your purchase transaction, it’s about proving who you are in the context of the relationships you have with other people. Social networks differentiate themselves via the types of communications and transactions they manage through different types of trusted relationships within their groups. Facebook “friends” are not the same as Linkedin “connections,” etc. etc. To think that it would be possible to come up with a standardized — and portable — definition of friendships and personal and business relationships, that could be linked to an accepted personal identity program, is going to be a very tough sell, both to the networks that are trying to differentiate themselves, and to the individuals who may want to keep different aspects of their relationships separate.

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  • Thanks for the link Jeremiah.

    I agree, that OpenID just isn’t sexy and easy enough to use. It’s still very geeky and even I struggle to get to grips with it sometimes.

    I would however like an open (or, more open) platform to keep my identity, as opposed to Facebook having that. Also because Facebook is only big in a few countries, which means your “identity” would just be behind another walled garden

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  • The potential use of a standardized identity management solution is enormous, which I believe is why it remains unsolved.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum from A-List bloggers is a real-world problem I’ve noodled on modestly for a couple years, following those occasions where the issue vexes me.

    I’m a father of three, and as a result, I fill out numerous forms related to identity and identity related information, typically in response to varying trigger events – school enrollment, camp enrollment, change of jobs, change in insurance, etc. An indentity management platform that provided a standard for linking my information to my trusted social (and professional and institutional and economic) network would be so enormously helpful. I could update in a central place, and push to trusted network connections, or allow them to pull when polling for updates.

    Solving a problem for A-List bloggers might be fun and even rewarding; solving a PITA for parents and people EVERYWHERE… now, there’s a market opportunity.

  • Oh, well we agree, but let us not forget we need both.

    As early adopter influencers are the ones that help spur along growth for the rest of the world/bell curve.

  • FYI, there is a start-up who is trying to tackle this problem : The Todeka Project

    This is their pitch :
    “The Todeka Project is a secure place where you can certify your real life identity, manage all your Digital Identity services without the need to remember all your personal information and from any device, and you’ll be able to decide which kind of information and to whom you want to provide it.”

    I think they will have great uplift if they manage to do it right.

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