I’m quite honored. Kim Cameron says that while reading my weekend post about Facebook & identity, he “had a bit of an epiphany…we need a wider suite of standards that make identity useful for building social networking applications, rather than just basic identity assertions (as important as these may be). Otherwise, what can you do once you’ve pushed out the walls of your garden? Not much.”
I honored because I’d never heard of an “identity assertion” before (as important as they may be). I did know, however, that Kim is one of those people I was alluding to in that earlier post when I said I didn’t want to trivialize the serious study very smart people devote to the topic I was discussing.
Kim is Architect of Identity and Access in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft — and he has some positive things to say about Facebook’s initial steps along the journey to the portability of identity and social network I mentioned in my first post.
“Facebook has had to provide access to the userâ€™s information in order to become an application development platform. And I need to underline that they should be congratulated for using email (e.g. universal) addresses as identifiers. As a result, the list of friends I download from Facebook will work with any other system that is based on email identifiers and uses validation of ownership of the accounts. I think that deserves a standing ovation.
I didn’t think about it, but he’s correct: both Facebook and Linkedin allow me to upload my list of e-mail addresses so that I can bounce that network against their network — they then present a list of their registered users who are among my personal contacts. I can also download the list that I build there and synch it with my contacts later. That’s a big deal and it helped me jump-start my network of friends on each site. (It will be an even bigger one when I don’t have to do all that uploading and downloading, but can automatically synch it among all the services I use.)
As I don’t think about this stuff in such a way, I failed to recognize that networks that offer such a service are recognizing a person’s email address as a universal identifier. Linkedin even lets you enter former email addresses into your private profile so that you can allow people to find you who have your out-of-date identifier. And Plaxo is a social network built from the ground up on allowing one to assert their identity in the form of an email address and their social network in the form of a contact list with email addresses being the key identifier.
Geez, I’m having my own epiphany here.
There is another universal identifier (beyond their API and email-address-based identifier) Facebook offers for which I didn’t give them credit. One is RSS. There are many things they allow me to export from their site in the form of an RSS feed. In theory, I guess, that is their recognition that exportability (is that a word?) of content is required in the context of all those things we collectively call Web 2.0.
If you are reading this post on my weblog (and not on a newsreader via my RSS feed), you can see on the right-hand column of this page a whole series of “identity assertions” that I am able to “port” to this page from other places on the web via RSS or an API. Under the heading “rexblog nano,” you’ll see the last three “tweets” I’ve posted on twitter.com, then comes my “reader roll” via Mybloglog.com. Then you’ll see my link blog, which is merely an RSS feed of my del.icio.us posts. Below that is a feed of my most recent photos shared on Flickr.
You may think of those as “badges” or “widgets” or “flare” or whatever, but for me, they are expressions of who I am. And, frankly, I don’t want people to have to go surfing all over the place to discover those expressions. I use those other services to “assert and express my identity,” but, then, I want all those assertions to recollect themselves on one spot — right here.
I’d like to be able to display all the identity assertions I’m managing over at Facebook right here on this page, as well. Videos I post. Networks I create. Statuses I update. It will happen one day.
I’ll leave it up to the pros to figure it out. I’m just a user of this stuff. I have no idea how it works — or what it’s called.