Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Social Identity. Which site did I leave it on, again?

Well, as the Google Buzz debacle is slowly blowing over (though some may argue exactly when the entire thing will end), there are still concerns about where the social networking market is going, and how some people who are still learning how to use computers are going to find their way around numerous different sites when setting up their online identity. Furthermore, with identity theft still a risk, and Chinese hackers (from a University and Vocational school, nonetheless) attacking Google, the Internet search giant itself, it is a cruel and unforgiving world out there. Local schools are even spying on their students through laptop webcams! Furthermore, people should especially be concerned with Facebook's latest purchase of Octazen Solutions, a shady company in the first place before being put in the hands of the largest social networking site out there.

Michael Arrington's post on Tech Crunch last year used comScore data to estimate what the average social network is today. The numbers put Facebook at the top, followed by Myspace, Bebo, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The one thing I found missing, was the connection. So I have a Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Twitter, and LinkedIn what? What nobody seems to be able to find is a middle ground service that can connect everything together. A post on Layered Byte lists a couple of solutions that have popped up, such as Hi I'm,, ClaimID, etc. But with things the way they are, there still seems to be a lack of central authority that you can place your identity in, and let it be the center of your online social network.

I think the worst part of the situation is that the solutions that are out there are, well, crap. Sure, Gravatar would be a great idea, if every other service I used was compatible, and I could change my Google Profile picture, Facebook profile picture, Twitter profile picture, all with one upload. But that support just isn't there. With that stated, the problem become obvious: services are trying to make new standards, rather than adapt the old ones. Take OpenID for instance. All of a sudden everybody is a provider, but nobody allows you to use an existing OpenID. Yep, I have a Google, Facebook, MyOpenId, ClaimID, heck even this blog is an OpenID, but only ClaimID accepts any other site's id, so what is any of it useful for?

So whoever might be reading this blog post, and is all of a sudden inspired to fix these problems, please listen. We need a service that accepts other services, rather than hoping Facebook is going to change for every website that comes around the corner. We need a place like my Gmail inbox, where I can access Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, and more from just one place (not to mention Reader, Calendar, and Docs are just a link away). We need a place that can verify our identity, such as Google Knol's Identity Verification program. We need a place that can let others verify our identity, as I am very sad to see that GPG is not being used to its full potential. And finally, but most importantly and most difficult of all, we need something simple yet functional.

I know I am just another one of those hopers or dreamers looking for the perfect service, but the fact is nobody is even trying to reach any of these goals, albeit Google has come pretty close. I look around and all I see are services like Facebook and Google, at odds since neither accepts the other's OpenID, and then all the spaces being filled in with useless blowouts over meaningless issues, such as the recent comScore debacle or Google Buzz. My proposal: if the big sites won't get out of the way for progress, working around them is the only way to social identity nirvana.

If anybody has found that perfect social networking site that accepts OpenID, verifies your identity, uploads your GPG certificate, and integrates all the popular social networking services, please contact me ASAP. (On a side note, Knol for some reason is not verifying my profile, which irks me even further.)


  1. You are right, "it is a cruel and unforgiving world out there", and people shouldn't lightly put everything out there.

    But ultimately, there should be tools that put ownership and control in the hands of the users, and not a commercial 3rd party in search of a new business model.

    The best solutions I've seen, though still in development, are based on information cards and OpenID within a framework like Kim Cameron proposes:

  2. and every social network can decide to lock. you out, then your name (identity) can't ne used any more. happened to me with twitter, they only have 17 employees tho. A suspect seems to be sufficient.

  3. So & give a try.
    Sure, we have to improve but be sure we are working hard.


  4. Unfortunately the problem comes from the fact that many of these top services are fighting to be that one service that gets used to update all other services, since there is a lot of value in being the universal identity across the social web. Thus, until sites are willing to admit that they're not going to be the one and only place that people go to update their identity, we'll have to keep updating them individually and wait for a universal standard to either barge its way in, or get used by enough second tier sites that it gets too big to ignore.

  5. Good questions and suggestions.. Impressed that a 16 year old thinks of these things. The future looks great if more think like you about these things. Keep it up.


    I wrote about our digital identity crisis in 2007 in "Identity Crisis"
    We're still not much better off 3 years later

  6. Thanks Paisano, and just to get back to some of your comments, I actually am using, and it is pretty good, not perfect, but something to look at. I really think Google has a great idea with Google Wave, in that they are not controlling the service so they can be superior to everybody else, rather they made a Federation protocol so anybody can make their own Wave server.

    That is the type of service I would like to see: all these sites with different services (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but each one has a built in federation protocol, so the user can choose which one to make their primary identity, and they can all communicate with each other.