Thinking of today’s post, listening to The Who’s Who are you with the chorus running through my head,
Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Talk about reinforcing a brand with that song. Anyway, the topic for today is about your identity as it relates to individuals, their social networks and the organizations trying to connect with them. In my post about the Social Web, I discussed how our identities and networks are contained within each social network (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) and how in time these silos of information will merge to give us a richer experience. In fact, there are two methods to take your identity with you across the web albeit with a very limited reach.
Facebook Connect was launched in December 2008 with the intent of giving Facebook users the opportunity to take your Facebook information to other Internet sites that have the Facebook Connect prompt (refer to the blog posting for more details and to this Facebook Developers wiki that provides a list of sites supporting Facebook Connect. There are not many sites that currently have this Facebook integration but a notable one is the Washington Post. I read an article yesterday about the Washington Post integrating this feature into their registration process, which I tried today. All you need to do is to click on an article, which will present you with a registration prompt that has the Facebook Connect logo that you select and you can now access content on the Washington Post site. Very easy and straightforward. The one potential downside to using Facebook Connect is that your Facebook account becomes very important (with all that it implies) as you register on more sites.
The basic description of OpenID at Wikipedia is that it is “an open, decentralized standard for user authentication and access control, allowing users to log onto many services with the same digital identity.” (more information can be also be found at OpenID Foundation).
As the definition implies, you would go to a third party provider to register and maintain your profile. When you want to register on a site that has OpenID logo, select the OpenID logo as your registration option. The target site will contact your OpenID provider to verify who you are and to ask you how much information to share. Again, lots of stuff happening in the background but simple for the end user. More importantly, a third party is holding your information not any one site.
What does this mean for you?
Going back to the chorus of “Who are you”, there are people and organizations that really want to know who are you, who your friends are, your interests, passions and so on. With portable identification technologies like OpenID, you will have control over what you share with friends and the wider social web. This will require more active management of a single identity which is better than trying to maintain multiple profiles scattered across multiple social networks. Your portable ID will change how organizations interact with you in terms of marketing, services and support. At some point in the future the more information you provide to a commerce site (for example, shoes) will give you more targeted results (recommend styles and color based upon a recent clothes purchase at a different vendor).
For organizations, greater personal control of one’s identity means they will have to spend more time getting to know you and your networks and less time on mass advertising. You rely upon peer recommendations to make a purchase so companies will have to figure out how to target and influence peer recommendations with limited access to personal information.
One final note. There are not many well known sites today that are using either technology. Don’t be discouraged from creating your own OpenID. Look for the OpenID logo when signing up at a new site. If no logo is present then ask the site why not. Start taking control of you personal identity today.