Mark Carges – Stay N Alive

Ebay Suggests Identity API – Can They Do it Alone?

Paypal X Innovate 2009Ebay’s CTO, Mark Carges, today announced at Paypal X Innovate plans by Ebay, Inc. to begin incorporating the Paypal login process as an identity platform for consumers to eventually open up to developers.  The platform, Carges said, aims to use the existing Paypal login ID which includes address and phone number verification, bank account attachment, and more to identify individuals as real people.  He stated Paypal already goes through great lengths to protect these users’ identity, suggesting this was a natural move towards identity in the cloud.

The move makes sense, but searching Twitter during the Keynote revealed a different story.  Audience members are skeptical, stating things like “scary morning talk by the Paypal CTO. all your ID belonging to us. a closed OpenID?” and “wonder if this is what @timOreilly is afraid of – platforms becoming the OS?”.  In many ways these audience members have a point – is it possible for Paypal to go alone in this identity space when they could either be leading or joining existing identity efforts such as OpenID?  I may be wrong but I do not recall any mention of the word “open” in his proposal.  And when he mentions things like “they are working with Government” it gets a little scary that a single company may control all this along with government.

At the same time, maybe this is the solution.  Will the solution to identity be a closed platform that has devoted ways of verifying identity like Paypal and Ebay can provide?  Does the web need a “more secure” closed platform to finally solve the identity problem?

I’m very interested to see how Paypal progresses on this.  My hope is that they either lead or join existing open standards in this effort, and rather than taking this alone they approach others.  A platform is always a good thing, but a platform is not “open” until it is based on open technologies and the technologies themselves are built by the community.  This is especially applicable in the identity space.

Paypal’s CEO yesterday reiterated that through the years payment itself was controlled by a few big entities.  Paypal’s vision is “Into the hands of many” , intending to pass that control to the developers.  He even compared it to Linux and how the future is in the community and no one company having control.  My hope is that Paypal maintains this standard in the identity arena.  Based on their vision so far it looks hopeful – let’s hope they don’t feel the need to take the Identity platform alone.

When it’s uploaded you can listen to the whole Keynote in my Cinch folder.