Skip to main content

Why AOL Should Go OpenID

I've argued beforethat identity is a building block -- an essential amino acid, if youwill -- for social networks.  It's far from the only thing you need,but without stable, persistent, verifiable identity, it's very hard tobuild relationships.  It's so important that there are specialized subnets in the human brain that recognize voices and human faces to help you remember people.

The digital world doesn't work like that.  Identifying someone onlineis hard.  Even solving the more limited problem of verifying that this person is the sameperson who you were socializing with yesterday online is not trivial. All social software has some mechanism for letting people verify someonline identity -- usually a user name and password.  Of course thatjust means that you have different user names for different services. In the new "Web 2.0" world, though, a primary rule is for services to be open and interoperate and play together. That's difficult if people have to remember that you're leetjedi67 onservice A and urtha52 on service B.  It's fine if you want to do that,but most people want to be themselves most of the time.  And ourinfrastructures don't allow for that.

Well, at least they didn't.  There's a remarkable convergence of usercentric identity systems happening right now.  At the lightweight end,basically everyone has converged on the OpenID standard.  This lets you be everywhereif you want.  Or at least everywhere that supports OpenID.  The first,most practical benefit is that you won't need to fill out anotherregistration screen on most new services.  The more long term benefitis that you get to keep your identity and your reputation with you asyou move between services.

Of course none of this matters if companies don't adopt it, so what'sthe benefit for them?  Well, if their service involves a socialnetwork, it gains immediate access to both a network and an ecosystemof services which work with it.  The value of a social network grows quadraticallywith the number of users; the value increases linearly as thedifficulty in connecting two users drops.  Connecting two OpenID userswith is a lot easier than if you have to convince one or both to acquire a new identity.

This is the big value in promoting and leveraging a common standard. Even Microsoft is adopting open standards for their CardSpace identitysystem (and CardSpace and OpenID are talking cordially to each other,by the way).  So embracing the open network, leveraging the quadraticmultiplier in network value, and competing on value added services isreally the way to go.  Of course this means that you are opening upyour own services to more competition as well as cooperation).  SinceAOL has already committed to open web services, this is a logical nextstep.  Just playing around with ideas:  What would happen if every AIMuser name were OpenID enabled?  What if you didn't need to evenregister to use UnCut Video, AIM Pages, or AOL Journals

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. Okay, great... let's do it. Can AOL be an OpenID provider?

    I just tried out, after reading (via digg). It seems pretty neat. Maybe have an AIM Pages OpenID module or something, or a Journals widget. Or a tie-in to AOL's vanity domain thing. -- Joe


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The problem with creation date metadata in PDF documents

Last night Rachel Maddow talked about an apparently fake NSA document "leaked" to her organization.  There's a lot of info there, I suggest you listen to the whole thing:

There's a lot to unpack there but it looks like somebody tried to fool MSNBC into running with a fake accusation based on faked NSA documents, apparently based on cloning the document the Intercept published back on 6/5/2017, which to all appearances was itself a real NSA document in PDF form.

I think the main thrust of this story is chilling and really important to get straight -- some person or persons unknown is sending forged PDFs to news organization(s), apparently trying to get them to run stories based on forged documents.  And I completely agree with Maddow that she was right to send up a "signal flare" to all the news organizations to look out for forgeries.  Really, really, really import…

Why I'm No Longer On The Facebook

I've had a Facebook account for a few years, largely because other people were on it and were organizing useful communities there.  I stuck with it (not using it for private information) even while I grew increasingly concerned about Facebook's inability to be trustworthy guardians of private information.  The recent slap on the wrist from the FTC for Facebook violating the terms of its prior consent agreement made it clear that there wasn't going to be any penalty for Facebook for continuing to violate court orders.
Mark Zuckerberg claimed he had made a mistake in 2016 by ridiculing the idea of election interference on his platform, apologized, and claimed he was turning over a new leaf:
“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.  This is too important an issue to be dismissive.” It turns out, though, that was just Zuck ly…

Personal Web Discovery (aka Webfinger)

There's a particular discovery problem for open and distributed protocols such as OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams, and OpenSocial.  It seems like a trivial problem, but it's one of the stumbling blocks that slows mass adoption.  We need to fix it.  So first, I'm going to name it:

The Personal Web Discovery Problem:  Given a person, how do I find out what services that person uses?
This does sound trivial, doesn't it?  And it is easy as long as you're service-centric; if you're building on top of social network X, there is no discovery problem, or at least only a trivial one that can be solved with proprietary APIs.  But what if you want to build on top of X,Y, and Z?  Well, you write code to make the user log in to each one so you can call those proprietary APIs... which means the user has to tell you their identity (and probably password) on each one... and the user has already clicked the Back button because this is complicated and annoying.