The Internet Identity Workshop kicked off today with a lot of anticipation from the participants of what will come of the next few days. By design, the first day is a standard conference-style agenda with speakers to help orient newbies. The next two days will be unconference-style. One of the things I'm looking forward to is the interoperability demonstrations.
Even if they want to, vendors can't break their own silos, any more than any company could build an Internet. They build silo'd customer relationship systems for the same reason they used to build silo'd networks: because there is nothing yet outside that system to obsolete it by providing something everybody will adopt because it works better for everybody and not just for one party.
Markets are human places. In their natural state they value independence and choice. Do our new user-centric identity technologies provide real independence and choice --- including the choice to remain anonymous, at our discretion? Do they give us ways of expressing our intentions in the marketplace? Do they provide new mechanisms for genuinely relating to vendors (or anybody else)? Or do they just give us new and more secure key-rings for entering vendor silos?
And do they allow us to remain anonymous, if that's what we want? That's the test of whether or not they support real autonomous, independent and choice-ful market relationships.
Doc makes a very interesting point that lost in many discussions of identity: we're usually more interested in relationships that we are in identity--at least the users are. And, as usual, Doc hits the nail on the head: do these new user-centric identity technologies really change things or are they just better ways of getting into the silos.
There's reason to believe that this is really different. For one thing, these identity systems have been designed with the user at the center. There's also real benefit for Web sites in federated identities. This bodes well for an economics that favors intersilo identifiers.