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Social Networks: open, secure personal IDs

In a way, I’ve been building towards this, by way of smaller discussions, comments and even my own articles. As topics go, Social Networking is vast, and because of its size, I’m going to be pulling you in different directions. Some directions in the present, some in a future of possibilities that hinge upon suppositions and guesswork. So you, the reader may either suspend your disbelief, or carve out words of disgust, incredulity and indignation in the comments. But in a very real sense, that would be you playing your part in the future of things…

In a sense, some of what I’m going to discuss has been said previously here on Blah, Blah! Technology. But there’s been some recent developments that require a mention, because they impact on those ideas of mine.

And because Social Networks are developing so rapidly, I’d like to take a snapshot of what we have now so we can compare my ideas now to how things work out in the future.

When Social Networks attack!

Quite recently, Plaxo announced that they’re entering the Social Network space. Is this a case of too little too late? Who knows for sure.

What we do know is, yet another Social Network means more burden on you & I, when what we really need is an open, mobile and secure standard for Social Networks:

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we need some open identity system so these guys don’t know or own anything of ours.

We need an open database where we store our stuff that we then grant access to, either limited or full that’s on our terms.

Do this, have these guys support it and we can move freely between networks and we then need to only concern ourselves with finding people and not re-entering all of our stuff over and over again…”

When did I say this before? When I discussed the idea of OpenID opening themselves up as a possible provider of an open identity standard-come-service that’s relevant in today’s world of Social Networks:

“In it’s present form, OpenID is quite limited in terms of features. But the potential is there.

And in the current climate, OpenID is just aching to get all Web 2.0 and friendly, and personable, and utilitarian .. and by gum, useful too!

Here’s where the guys behind OpenID ought to allow for people to add in their bulging list of social network profiles, which would identify them as who they are no matter how or where they travel on the Interweb.”

Our data is exactly that – our data. And like fine wine, our data tends not to travel too well.

It’s the kind of stuff that needs to be centralized, whereby we get the final say on not just what data we share, but when, for how long, in what context, format and amount.

This concept is not in any way either unreasonable to ask, or difficult to implement.

Here’s an opportunity to allow Social Networks to differentiate themselves based on the features they offer you & I.

An opportunity to allow Social Networks to delegate profile management to someone else and help mitigate the principle cause of sign-up abandonment.

And a respite for you & I from Social Network Fatigue; that tiredness you feel when signing up to yet another Social Network…

To be continued

In the second installment of my examination of Social Networks, I’ll be looking at how being mobile needn’t be a barrier to Social Networking.

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.