One World (Wide Web). One Identity?

How many times have you had people sending you invitational eMails saying, “Try this cool site I found!” or “This is an amazing site!” or “You’ll absolutely love this one!” or lines to that effect?

Too many, I suspect.

Web 2.0 and the concept of User Generated Content has had the world in a tizzy for quite a while now. Innovative ideas and domain name registrations seem to go hand in hand. The people riding the waves of the Internet never had it so good. New services are introduced every day and competition is building up before you can say, “Watch out!”

As the Internet grows, as the flood of ideas increases, so will the number of identities. The number of services we use though, will continue to remain the same, maybe a few additions here and there.

Why? Because we are all loyalists to the core. We all have a list of our favorite sites that we visit regularly and we rarely visit the competition. There are innumerable excuses for this loyalty ranging from the old ‘comfort zone’, to the very latest ‘swanky look’, and the geeky ‘amazing feature-set.’

Truth is, we cannot handle multiple identities.

Having multiple identities is similar to owning two or more cell-phones. The greater the number of phones, the greater the interruption. Each cell-phone contributes an identity (in the vaguest sense of the word). Each eMail address is an identity that we have created for ourself on the WWW. Each profile on a social network is an identity that we maintain.

The number of eMails in your inbox is a fair indicator of the number of identities you have on the Web. And those of us, who are actively tracking the development of the collaborative Web, must have emails running into hundreds.

One idea would be to have a single secure identity that will cater to logins all across the internet. If such an idea were ever to gather support, it would have some interesting implications:

Naturally, this would imply a unique database to cater to all our identities across the web. But who should get the right to create and maintain such a database? The huge set of meta-data that would result would be a statistician’s dream come true! The flip-side of this is obviously the large ‘corporations’ that would give a few arms and legs (or even take a few) to get a crack at this data. (Ok, so I am a li’l partial to scientific research…)

What could be better than acquiring this data?

Having the data on your own servers! MyOpenID, Windows LiveID, Google Account Authentication, are a few names in this context. This probably explains why there is an intense competition between the Big Three and a few other key players.

If this sounds fairly Orwellian and reminds you of “1984” and Big Brother, you are probably right. :o)

The virtual world we live in, closely resembles the Orwellian 1984. Recent cases (Digg v/s Netscape, for instance) indicate as much. Search Engines indexing our content have the power to convey them to the faceless ‘Thought police.’ We have rich-sounding names like User Generated Content and Long Tail. And we have a faceless Big Brother who ‘purportedly’ keeps everything in check.

Makes you wonder: was Orwell right all along?

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