Why Web 2.0 needs Identity

Web 2.0 functionalities are being built without addressing the big elephant in the corner -- identity.

Amidst all of the hullabaloo around Web 2.0, Dion Hinchcliffe is posting a series of pieces about Web 2.0 in the enterprise (what he calls "Enterprise 2.0"). Dion begins by stating that the heartbeat of Web 2.0 is "people, information and software" (in that order), and then proceeds to address blogs, wikis, SaaS and business process management.

The interesting thing is how absent identity (as a concept) is in Dion's explicit statements. Sure, it appears in a graphic here or there, and it hides in the wings of statements about "self-service IT" and "tacit interactions," but identity is never addressed head on. Now, I certainly don't think this is anything that Dion has done purposefully. Rather, for reasons I don't quite understand yet, "identity" - while being absolutely essential for the proper functioning of Web 2.0 - seems to be something that people take for granted.

The statement that "identity is essential for the proper functioning of Web 2.0" might raise some eyebrows. After all, sites like TechCrunch are constantly highlighting the functioning work of "Web 2.0" companies. In reality though, Web 2.0 needs "Identity 2.0." It needs it for the very simple reason that Dion began with: Web 2.0 is all about people.

"Identity 2.0" is a term made popular by Dick Hardt, CEO of Sxip Identity (via his widely viewed "Identity 2.0" conference keynote). It propagates the idea that identity is a key enabler of Web 2.0. For Sxip in particular this is via their blog reputation and comment mechanism - sxore (pronounced "score"). What sxore illustrates is why identity is needed in Web 2.0.

At the end of the day nearly all Web 2.0 applications (be they blogs or business process managment) begin and end with people interacting at the application level. By definition, those applications are creating data stores of identity information and attributes. And, by default, those applications are not interoperable with other Web 2.0 applications. Thus, we are "silo'ing" even more identity data as we build out Web 2.0. And that is the problem.

Web 2.0 requires that identity be part of the application architecture, but in so doing, it is still locking up identity data -- in essence, keeping that section of its architecture "web 1.0." If Web 2.0 is to truly unleash the power of interactivity (and the accompanying qualities of self-service and the read-write web), then it must first deal with the problems of interoperability at an application level.

And interoperability at the application level demands identity.

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