Social networks, identity management, and the evolution of the web

The past few years have fostered a huge amount of growth in social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, (the list goes on), as well as their continued battle to own you and your data. In parallel, there are evolutionary steps toward identity management appearing, like OpenID, and CardSpace.

Guess what?

I’m a single person. An identity, not a plethora of them.

But the domain is still young and these companies/solution providers are going to fight over your data, mainly for profit. Well, to the user, that’s a poor experience. While competition is always good to push innovation, in the perspective of the user these various services are confusing (due to poor usability.), a hassle to deal with, or a pain to maintain and keep in sync. (Queue the entrance of tools like Power.com).

In a future state of the web (or maybe just an ideal world?), you would own your data and it would be standardized and interoperable between the services you chose to use, following the mission of dataportability.org.

Think of the benefits: general info/interests you share when connecting with friends (social networks), electronic voting, health care records, bookmarks, finances/taxes, and on and on – all in your hands.

There are serious infrastructure, protocol and standards issues to work through, but what can’t we accomplish? Maybe it’s something as simple as social networks based on blogs like WordPress.

Obviously this also has impacts to the overall sense of anonymity on the internet, but I think it would be well worth the sacrifice. As solutions, there could be potential for abstracting your identity – similar to how some providers allow you to use virtual credit card numbers when shopping online.

We can only wait and hope the companies will take a user perspective, or maybe the new US CTO helps drive this, or people like you get out and fight for this change.

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