Since last week’s Kynetx Impact Conference I have gained an entirely new vision for the open web. I now foresee a web which the user completely controls, lives in the browser, syncs with the cloud, and has no boundaries. This new web completely makes the entire Social and Real-time paradigms miniscule in terms of significance. What I see is an internet that, regardless of what website you visit, you will never have to enter your login credentials again. I see the end of the log in button.
It all centers around identity. The idea comes with a technology called Information Cards, and a term called the “Selector”. With these technologies, websites will rely on the client to automatically provide the experience you want without need for you to log in ever again. It relies on OpenID, doesn’t really need oAuth (since all the authorization ought to happen on the client), but the best part is you, the user, don’t ever have to know what those technologies are. It “just works”.
Let’s start with what you might already be familiar with. You’ve probably heard about OpenID before. If not, you might notice a little vertical orange line with a little gray arrow going from the line in a circle on some sites you visit. Google just announced today that their profiles are now OpenIDs. That basic concept is that you can specify on any website on the web a “provider”. When you log in via Open ID, all you have to enter is your preferred website that specifies this “provider”. The website you’re logging in to then redirects you to that provider, you provide your password, and it takes you back to the authenticating site. It’s a simple authentication mechanism that enables sites to know who you are, just via a simple URL. StayNAlive.com is a identifying URL for me, and points to my provider, myopenid.com.
In addition, utilizing technologies such as “FOAF” (Friend of a Friend), and the Google Social Graph APIs and other technologies, you can do cool things with identity. Since I know your provider ID is being linked by your website, I know both your website and that provider are the same person. You can link sites together, and now you know which profiles around the web are truly you – it becomes much harder to spoof identity in this manner, especially as more and more sites begin to adopt this methodology. The problem with OpenID is its still a little confusing (even for me), and not everyone is familiar with entering in a URL into a log in space to identify themselves.
Enter Information Cards. This is a new space for me, but a fascinating one. An information card is a local identity, stored in your browser or on your operating system, which you can “plug in” to any website, and it tells that website about you. Theoretically, they could even sync off of a local server somewhere, but Information Cards (so I understand) are controlled on the client.
The cool thing about Information Cards is that you can store lots of different types of information on them (again, if I understand correctly). At a very minimum, information cards allow you to store an identity about an individual. In an ideal environment, you would be able to download an information card program like Azigo, visit a site like Yahoo.com, select your Yahoo information card, and just by clicking the information card it would immediately log you
into Yahoo. The cool thing is that ideally, this completely avoids the phishing problem because Yahoo is the only one that can read your information card for Yahoo.com.
Here’s the kicker though – you can store more than just the log in for an individual in an information card. Imagine storing privacy preferences. What if I don’t want Yahoo to have access to my birth date, for instance? Or what if I wanted to go even further and completely customize my experience? What if I wanted Microsoft to provide updates for me right on top of Yahoo.com? What if I wanted to get a completely customized experience based on the websites I really like around the web? This is where the next part comes in.
The End of the Cookie and Birth of “the Selector”
Imagine a web where you, the viewer or user or consumer, are able to browse and get a completely customized experience that you control. What if you are a Ford user and want to see comparable Ford cars on Chevy’s website? (I talked about this earlier) Or here’s one I’ve even seen in production: I’m a big Twitter user. What if I want to learn what others are saying about the websites I visit on Twitter without ever having to leave those websites? Or say I’m a AAA member and want to know what hotels I’m searching for are AAA-supported? What if I don’t like the way a website I visit is rendering content and I want to customize it the way I want to? All this stuff is possible with the Selector.
In the past you usually were at the mercy of these websites unless they provided some way for you to create your own context. This is because these sites are all reliant on “cookies”, pieces of information stored on the browser that are reliant on IP that are only readable by the websites that generated them. With a cookie there is no identity. There is only IP. With a cookie the website controls the experience – each website is in its own silo. The user is at the mercy of each silo.
Kim Cameron and Craig Burton have been big proponents of a new identity technology intended to replace the cookie. It’s called “the Selector”. The idea of the Selector is that you, the user, use Information cards in a manner allowing you to fully control the experience you have as you peruse the web. The idea uses an extension to information cards, called “action cards“, which enable users and consumers to specify their own preferences as to who shows them data and when around the web. The cool thing is that businesses have a part in this as well that the users can opt into.
For instance, Ford could provide an action card (or “Selector”) using technologies like Kynetx to display comparisons of Ford products right next to Chevy’s right on the Chevy.com website. Chevy.com can do nothing about it (other than provide their own selector) – it is 100% user-controlled, and the user’s choice to enable such. Or, let’s say I’m a big Mac user and I want to see what Dell products are compatible with my Macbook – I could simply go to Dell.com and find out because hopefully Apple has created a Selector for Dell.com. Not only that, but these sites, Dell.com, Apple.com, Ford.com, Chevy.com can all track my interest based on preferences I set and customize the experience even further so I am truly gaining a “purpose-based” experience around the web.
All of the sudden I’m now visiting “the web” instead of individual sites on the internet, and the entire web becomes the experience instead of a few websites. The possibilities are endless, and now imagine what happens when you add a social graph full of truly contextual identities on top of all this. Now I can feed my friends into this contextual experience, building an experience also based on the things they like and adding it onto the things I like. There are some really cool possibilities when the web itself is a platform and not individual websites.
The future of the web is Ubiquity, the state or capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time. Users will be ubiquitous. Businesses will be ubiquitous. There are no boundaries in the web of the future. I’ve talked about the building block web frequently but that just touches the surface. In the future these building blocks will be built, and controlled by the users themselves. Businesses will provide the blocks and the users will stack them on top of each other to create their own web experience.
Businesses will have more sales because the consumers will be getting what they want, and consumers over all will be more productive. This new approach to the web will be win-win for both sides, and we’re just getting started.
Where We Are At
Here’s the crazy thing that blew me away last week – we’re so close to this type of web! We see Google building an operating system entirely out of a browser. We have Information card and Action card/selector platforms such as Azigo, which enable users to seamlessly integrate these experiences into the browser. We have developer platforms like Kynetx which enable the creation of such an experience.
Imagine if Google were to integrate information and action cards right into ChromeOS. What if Kim Cameron were to get Microsoft to integrate this into IE and Windows? (hint – they will) What if Apple integrated Information Cards into the Keychain so you actually had context with your log on credentials? All this is coming.
Where We Still Need to Go
We’re not there yet, but we’re so close! I want to see more focus on this stuff and less on the Social web and real-time technologies. For those technologies to fully succeed we need to stop, take a deep breath, step back, and get identity right. We’re not quite there yet.
I want to see technologies such as Mozilla Weave integrate Information Cards for their browser (rather than reinvent the wheel, which is what they appear to be doing). We need more brands and more companies to be writing contextual experiences on the Kynetx platform (which is all Open Source, btw). We need more people pushing companies like Google and Microsoft and Apple to be integrating these technologies so the user can have a standardized, open, fully contextual experience that they control. I want to see Facebook create an experience on these platforms using Facebook Connect. I want Twitter to build action cards.
For this to happen we need more involvement from all. Maybe I’m crazy, but this future is as clear as day for me. I see a future where I go do what I want to do, when I want to, and I get the exact experience I asked for. This is entirely possible. Why aren’t we all focusing on this?
Sign in Graphic Courtesy Chris Messina