Monday, April 7, 2008

Fractured Users

Every user of the web complains about it. Sign-ons for every web site we use. We have dozens of logins and passwords, with many of them being different. And we store valuable information on many of these sites – like our credit card numbers (how many web sites have your credit card number?).

Social networks are taking this to the next level because of how much personal information we put into them. Of course the cost of these free services is that we give up the right to transfer our profile with the help of software to another service in a permanent way. Neither MySpace or Facebook allow any software to take all of a person’s profile data and transfer it to another web site and store it there in a permanent fashion.

"you may not continue to use, and must immediately remove... any Data Repository in your possession or under your control... within 24 hours..." - Facebook Developer Terms of Use

So while a user "owns" their data, there is no automated way they can take that data out and transfer it to another service.

There are emerging standards and services like OAuth and OpenID where there is the hope that every web site will support them and we will get down to only one username and password. Both of these are a long way from a tipping point. Years of old usernames and passwords won’t change overnight. And many of the big web players are not incented to make this easy and open. MySpace, Facebook and the other social networks are counting on the value of their social graphs and will keep the terms of use as stated above.

At Ringside, we have developed a method called Identity Mapping that we will be talking about more as we roll out our first customers of this technology in the coming weeks. Jason Kinner is leading our efforts here, along with several customers and use-cases and a ton of experience and bright ideas. Stay tuned.

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