Monday, October 23, 2006

Hey You! Don't you know who I am?

I said the other night that I had some good post ideas and some ranting to do and I'm afraid the time has come to rant. Today I will be ranting about the internet and it's contribution to personal identity crisis.

You see, I have been kicking around the internet for a number of years. I probably arrived on the scene in 1995 or 1996 as I was finishing up high-school and since then I have signed up to no end of internet based services.

These services include;

  • email newsletters,
  • forums and bulletin boards,
  • webmail accounts,
  • free web spaces,
  • internet service providers,
  • online learning tools,
  • and several special purpose online applications.

This would be fine except for one small problem. They all require me to identify myself in some way. Ordinarily even this wouldn't be a problem but because of privacy concerns and security considerations they don't share any information.

I only really decided that this was a problem a couple of weeks ago when I decided to join
Flickr and GMail (among others) all at the same time. I found myself entering the same username and password (when the system rules allowed me to do so but I'll get to that issue in a minute) and the same profile information. Why do I need to create a profile each time? Why do I even need profile information to be stored on flickr anyway? Isn't flickr about sharing photos?

I understand that people are concerned about security and identity theft. What I would like to see is a centralized service containing just profile information. This service could be accessed by other applications when they need personal information via a user key of some description. I'm not a security guru so I don't understand the logistics of such a thing but it would be great to sign up to or some such and then be given a user key which you use when signing up to flickr, gmail and so on.

Maybe people could just fill up the Online Identity account with everything about them and then decide on a site by site basis which of that information they want to display.

I mentioned above as well that I have a tendency to re-use the same username and password for everything that I sign up to. This is probably a bad idea but so is having so many usernames and passwords that you can't remember half of them. The problem with this is that the rules are different for many applications. Some apps require a username to be between 6 and 10 characters, some require between 8 and 12. Some are unlimited. Some require a valid email address. Some systems require complex password containing non-alphanumeric characters. Some don't allow non-alphanumeric characters. Sometimes my usual username has been taken by someone else. At least once in the past, it had been
taken by me and I couldn't remember the password.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel (even if it is on the front of a train). It seems that as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft sweep through the internet purchasing services they are trying
to centralize user profile information. The problem is that each one wants to be the center so we are having a scenario with three large companies standardizing in their own special ways. Is it just me or do they not remember the browser wars. It is up to us as internet users to stand up and say:

Hey. There is only one of me but you don't need to fight. Talk to each other that you might someday understand me, and my needs.

Well that about wraps it up. I promise I won't be so long-winded in the future. Ranting online is fun even if I do get the desire to close with "I'm Alan Jones".

If you have an opinion on centralized identity management or even if you've experienced an issue involving online identity/profile management please leave a comment.

OK I'm really going to go now.


thunderstruck said...

I think that would be a good idea, it sucks having to sign up to everything seperately!

ScarletManuka said...

Plus, I almost always have my nickname of choice taken. I've lost how many different 'me's there are. I completely agree that it's just too damned hard to remember all the passowrds too. I had serious trouble when I went travelling abroad and lost all my cookies!