28 Nov 2014

The future of digital identity should not be determined by one company

The future of digital identity should not be determined by one company

In a pretty long post my friend Chris Messina shares his disapointment with Google+. I’ve always had these weird feelings about Google+, and I think Chris words reflect all of these.

I am very vocal when it comes to the open web and open protocols. I am also still convinced that there is room for federation around identity and anything social on the web. Yet, I’m also convinced that building more closed gardens (and G+ is arguably one) will only make the web worse.

I have always been fairly active on Facebook, because that’s where a lot of my friends and family are. I wanted to leave many times, mostly because I don’t like the house, but who care about the walls when the people under the roof are yours? Of course, some other friends are on G+, but as Chris showed it’s just too close to what Facebook is and like everyone else, I don’t use 2 tools to do the same thing.

In my dream world there would be indeed many social networks on the Facebook model. They would federate, which means that if my friends and I don’t use the same network, we should still be able to talk, in the same way that if we use 2 different carrier, we’re still able to call each other. For some reason, this world is still far from being realized.

But if we can’t have federation, then, it’s worthless to have “split” networks. I’d even say that it’s a worse world. Once there us a split, people will always get disconnected: it’s just too cumbersome to keep interracting on all networks, hoping people will listen to you everywhere.

If my Verizon friends were not able to call me on my TMobile phone, I would certainly not have 2 cellphones (or 3 if my ATT friends were also on their own island), I would probably simply have no phone at all. If the web required a different browser for half the websites we use, the web would probably not have grown popular as quickly as it did… etc. Convenience trumps competition.

If Google is not able to build anything that does not split the social graph, then, it’s probably better for the web if Google sticks to its search mission.