Putting people into the protocol

I really don’t like the phrase “user-centric identity” and as I struggled to name this post, I came upon Pete Rowley’s 2006 phrase the people are in the protocol.

This isn’t much different from what I used to call “people in the browser” when I was at Flock, so I’ll use it.

Anyway, as part of another post I’m working on, it seemed useful to call out what I see as the benefits to services that “put people into the protocol” or, more aptly, those services that are designed around people who tend to use more than one web service and a single identifier (like an OpenID) to represent themselves across services.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • I am me, wherever I go. I may have multiple personas, facets or identities that I use online, but fundamentally, I can manage them more effectively because services are oriented around me and not around the services that I use (it would be like logging into a new user account every time you want to switch applications!).
  • I have access to my stuff, wherever I am. Even though I use lots of different web services, just like I use lots of desktop applications, I can always access my data, no matter where I created it or where it’s stored. And if I want to get all of my data out of a service into another one, I should be able to do so.
  • My friends come with me, but continue to use only the services that they chose to. If I can send email from any domain to any domain, why can’t I join one network and then add friends from any other network?
  • I am the master of my domain. Both literally and figuratively, I should be able to choose any identity provider to manage all my external connections to the world, including running my own, from my own domain. While remote service providers can certainly set the standards for who they allow access to their APIs, this should be done in a clear and transparent way, so that even people who host their own identity can have fair access.

There may of course be other benefits that I’m forgetting or omitting, but I think I’ve covered some of the primary ones, at least so that I continue with my other post!

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

6 thoughts on “Putting people into the protocol”

  1. Do you think the 1.0 version of Flock that previewed at TechCrunch will go a ways towards helping this sort of thing? The way they talked about being able to share media between certain services was compelling. I would be interested to hear your thought on this in light of this post.

    Looking forward to that next post.

  2. Thinking about VRM … is there a 5th principle around:

    ‘I will advertise myself to merchants on my terms, if and when I see fit, and they will speak to me on my terms and if and when asked by me’

  3. Fascinating analysis. I’m an “old” guy who plans to bring open source to bear on agile development testing. Your model explains observed behavior wonderfully and gives excellent hints. Thank you.

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