Original by starpause kid and shared under a Creative Commons License.
When it comes to mousetraps, it’s fairly common knowledge that an effective cheese alternative for trapping mice is peanut butter.
However, we already know that Yahoo isn’t too fond of peanut butter. At least the smooth kind spread thin.
So it’s interesting to note that, perhaps as part of the strategy to outlaw renegade peanut butter within the organization, the formerly independent outpost known as Flickr will be forcing users to either merge or create a new Yahoo account to login after March 15:
On March 15th, 2007 we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.
We’re making this change now to simplify the sign in process in advance of several large projects launching this year, but some Flickr features and tools already require Yahoo! IDs for sign in — like the mobile site at m.flickr.com or the new Yahoo! Go program for mobiles, available at http://go.yahoo.com.
If you still sign in using the email-based Flickr system (here), you can make the switch at any time in the next few months, from today till the 15th. (After that day, you’ll be required to merge before you continue using your account.) To switch, start at this page: http://flickr.com/account/associate/
Complete details and answers to most common questions are available here: http://flickr.com/help/signin/
If you have questions or comments about signing in with a Yahoo! ID, speak up!
Now, I’m not interested in opening old wounds. The Flickr folks have given plenty of notice about the coming changes (figure at least a month and a half if not the full 18 months since they were acquired) and of course are available for consolation, hand-holding and so forth.
And that’s it: there’s no secret agenda here, no desire to come to your homes and steal your TV. Over time, it just gets more expensive to maintain independent means of authentication and we could “spend” those efforts on other things which make Flickr more useful, more fun, more versatile, etc. And the smaller the ratio of old skool to Y!ID-based gets, the harder it is to justify not spending that effort on improvements.
I will, however, take this opportunity to rise up on my soapbox again and point out something worth reflecting on…
Look, Google’s already done the same thing with Dodgeball; it’s a sure bet that they’re going to do the same thing with their YouTube acquisition. We know that Yahoo logins are going to show up on MyBlogLog and eventually, probably Upcoming too — and, for that matter, any other user-centered acquisition that comes down the pipe. Microsoft is no different. Let’s face it: the future of the web is in identity-based services. And this is a good thing, if you’re ready for it.
My buddies Brian Oberkirch and Aldo Castañeda talked about the potential for this new economy recently. It’s coming and it’s scary (for some) and it’s unclear what it looks like. But the more that this happens under authoritarian login regimes, the more concern I feel for the effect these consolidation efforts will have on true democratic choice in where and how you spend your attention.
Realistically, it’s not terribly surprising that Yahoo! and the rest are going this direction. Hell, from a systems perspective, you’re just two entries in a grand database in the sky whereas you could be one. From a service perspective, unifying “you” across systems allows convenience and synergies to emerge. The problem is that these actions belie the sophisticated relationships that some people have with their online accounts and how their personas are represented. Though not everyone cares a whole lot about their screennames, others absolutely do. And beyond that, for whatever reasons they have, some people simply do not want to go near Yahoo! — something they never thought would be a concern of theirs when they originally joined Flickr.
But there’s a curious reality to look at here.
While I call Flickr home (NIPSA’d and all), just as there is a vehicle to vent my individual frustrations to Flickr, those same vehicles and mechanisms are available to me to splinter off and build my own peanut-butter-rich outpost anew. The missing piece of the puzzle, however, is my identity. I can’t just pack up my digital self and move on… whichever login system Flickr uses — Yahoo’s, Google’s, their own — I can’t “take it with me”. Even with their API, which is one of the most generous in the biz, it still doesn’t give me the ability to fully reincarnate myself somewhere else.
Now, I could and would like to turn this into a pitch for OpenID, but I won’t, at least directly. The Yahoo! folks have already expressed their distaste for creating Just Another Identity Silo and I keep waiting for them to prove it. I don’t mind waiting a bit longer. The wheels of the OpenID community are already in motion and I don’t have to plead for acknowledgment from the powers that be. The truth is, there are only a few more sites that will fall. The truth is, we are only now beginning to realize the degree to which we are all exposed and what the reality of our transparent society looks like. And the truth is, we are only just beginning to wake up to the idea that we should and can have dominion over our online lives, just as we believe is our right offline.