I first met Brian Oberkirch at the Syndicate conference in San Francisco in December of 2005. At the time, I'm quite sure that he didn't know of my connection to Digital ID World, or identity in general. But, as so often happens in this small world we call "technology", I'm running into Brian again -- this time around identity.
Brian's "day job" is social media. So, it was with great interest that I read a recent entry on his blog entitled, "OpenID, Portable Social Networks and the Darwoski Problem." In the post, Brian steps us through the logical progression of the great identity opportunity being missed by social networks (and I would add, "web 2.0" at large).
Brian's logical steps (why I should care about OpenID, social networks, etc) culminate in a crucial point: social media companies (his example is LinkedIn, but this applies across other companies as well) are so busy creating closed systems that they intend to "lock in" and "monetize," that they're missing the grand opportunity to become an open identity platform.While I take Brian's statement to be a significant one, I actually take the timing of the statement to be more significant. The "identirati" (those of us obsessed with all things identity) have been arguing for Brian's point for quite some time. In Brian's statement, we see someone from the other side of the aisle reaching the *exact* same conceptual solution. The challenge, of course, is that many of the "next-generation" web 2.0 companies are still living in business models that are so 1.0.
The push of identity into the web 2.0 world is driven by the essential realization that identity *must* be abstracted from the silos of applications for the end-user to achieve the true benefits that identity contains. Not doing so results in more lock-in, more silos, more data breaches, and more dissatisfaction. The opportunity lies in a web 2.0 company that is willing to open up its identity stores to portability and a sense of user-centrism. Unfortunately, doing so would jeopardize the "aggregation of community" that so many web 2.0 companies are seeking. To date, no major web 2.0 company has truly opened up its identities (providing an API to allow us to access your silos of applications is *not* opening up). Suddenly though, it seems that pressure is growing for systems like OpenID to succeed.
If they do, we may be standing on the verge of a major victory in the identity world -- a victory that hinges on Brian's realizations.
If they don't, we're just building a web 2.0 world of walled gardens. And that's not even web 1.0 - that's web 0.5.