[iDC] Facebook Connect

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Sun May 18 16:42:38 UTC 2008

Grayson Cooke wrote:
> This is more complex. Identity providers? Firstly, we can refer to quote 1 here; if there is such a thing as an identity _provider_ then there's certainly no such thing as a real identity. But secondly, who are these identity providers? 
Technically you are correct of course - each "identity" lives in its own 
"data silo" (that's how IT people call it). The "realness" comes from 
the fact that one is connected to it and since users can connect to 
anything their real identity shifts around with each new connection.

Facebook is in a catch-up game with some established "identity" providers.

The early ones were of course AOL and Compuserve (your identity was 
established when you used their dial-up interface and later their 
broadband connection dialog). Since these are dead now, our AOL identity 
may RIP. Then came Microsoft, which is probably the biggest one still 
today which signed people on via Hotmail and MSN services in the early 
days. Microsoft's "Live" service is probably one of the most "real" ones 
around (if real is equated with the number of connection points 
available) as it integrates now with pretty much anything coming out of 
the corporation (such as XBox, Zune, PCs, Hotmail, etc.). Newcomers to 
the identity world are Google (just consider that Gmail is free, because 
you link your identity when using it) and their game is basically to 
make you use the browser with Google apps 100% of the time so you 
identity can be connected 100% of the time. Other silos of importance 
are Yahoo with its myriad of services (like Flickr), Ebay through its 
rating system and purchase of Skype (to get a value of your identity, 
look at the price they paid for Skype, although I assume eBay's usage of 
usage growth estimate for Skype was a bit on the high side = bad deal), 
Amazon (yes, they own IMDB the movie rating database as well) and of 
course lately MySpace and Facebook as social identity-silos which take 
it one step further because the really generate "linked identities": a 
connected graph of identities is much more valuable that a single 
stand-alone identity.

Will Facebook win the identity collection game? Probably not. Will the 
openness of the API help to gain identity share? Certainly so.

What is interesting to me, is that governments are completely out of 
this "game". It is all left to the private enterprises. And the winner 
there is: credit cards. This is mostly due to the fact that they are 
portable globally (as compared to the non-portable national social 
security number silos) and have establish connection points via 
validation portals. The credit card is as "real" as it gets (globally 
that is). For example to establish your age in Facebook, people will 
soon need to use a credit card number.  (On a sidenote, you can read how 
easy it is to get a Michael Jackson MC here: 

What I also find interesting, is that hardware artifacts play not much 
of a role in the online "identity" game. Anyone still remember the good 
ol' "passport identity device" (oh, now they come with RFID silicone, 
but that doesn't help us netizens shop on eBay). We'd probably all have 
an electronic passport by now, if governments would have designed it to 
be used in establishing net-identity. Interestingly enough, Microsoft's 
identity service was called "Passport" a few years ago, but was 
rebranded to "Live" (connectivity = real). But as of today, there is 
still no internet-enabled passport-like device that is universally 
portable and multi-device readable. Cell-phone companies will not make 
it (too much infighting) so it will probably come via medial-records 
devices which citizens will need to establish "real identities" with 
their health service providers.


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