A week of open thoughts: OpenID, open authentication, and open internet-based society

And yes, I’m fishing tomorrow – rain, shine, or Class 5 wading conditions

It’s been a great week for being open…

Dare Obasanjo started things off with A Proposal for Social Network Interoperability via OpenID, but expresses skepticism as to whether business interests will ever allow it to get off the ground (h/t to Kim Cameron – and Mr. Cameron digs a bit into the business issues here). My guess is someone is going to do it whether others like it or not.

But, while OpenID can be spread ubiquitously – and under the control of many versus a few – it’s bewildering from a consumer standpoint (h/t to Simon Willison). I too think this is a major hurdle. When the first truly whizbang app hits the market, everyone is going to rave – but I say grandma still won’t be able to figure it out. In addition, there’s fact that while there may be a lot of OpenID available for serving, there’s still not a lot of consuming. More OpenID consumers (i.e. sites that accept it) will be the leading force in education and understanding of its benefits. Some are doing their part towards that end, including a bit with the WordPress plug-in (and I’ll have more for you on that in the weeks to come), but more effort is still needed.

Next, Kevin Fox of JanRain discussed interoperability and whitelisting (including but not limited to AOL’s practice of it). Whitelisting is a necessary evil in a world where technology is so easily deployed. The cheaper it is to get up, the more people are going to use it for “alternative” means. AOL, by the way, is no stranger to exacting tolls for access to their network, but in this case I don’t think they’ll try it – there’s just not enough at AOL worth paying for right now, and it’s just too easy to switch OpenID authentication providers without giving up one’s “identity.”

Brad Fitzgerald and David Recordon wound up the week publishing their thoughts on the application of open identity systems to social networks, with a view towards portability of profiles, including friends data. Again, larger social networks (say “big business”) are probably not going to be agreeable to this, but a lot of smaller networks, including those being built on OpenID Code Bounty winner Drupal, will jump on it. Pete Cashmore agrees, and added that he and his crew will be following the efforts closely.

All that, just this week. I don’t think saying these concepts are “picking up steam” is doing them justice anymore.


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