Identity has been something that, as a society, we’ve been trying to get right for a long time. And it’s a difficult problem to crack, as the rise of identity theft goes to show. I’m not interested in a nitty gritty discussion of authorization models, although in light of the government’s recent blunder, one would certainly be prescient. Nor am I interested in the layers of ‘user’ that exist in modern computer system. I’m interested in my identity on-line.
Until recently, your email was most likely the proxy for your on-line identity but; with the sigmoidal growth of Facebook; for many people that is changing. Facebook is now the defacto standard identity for students. Google & pals are hot on their heels, but why?
The huge amount of demographic information in Facebook is like crack to advertisers and since Google is the world’s largest advertising company their interest is guaranteed. But the real reason is: Facebook have a better data model. Google’s complimentary services have ‘Chinese walls’ that block interaction. EBay have 21 different logins across their empire. These partitions are artificial but were once necessary to instill trust.
But now people trust the web with their personal information. In fact they don’t even care if their information is shared with gusto. This trust, in some cases, may be misplaced; but as more people do it, more mainstream companies move in; making the web a safer place (Dell won’t steal you identity, for example).
Unified identity is critical to the future of the web. And it’s interesting that something that was previously provided by governments is now a commercial entity.