Monday, February 20, 2012
The actual definition of online identity can vary based on who you are asking. In my opinion online identity surrounds everything you do, say, approve, and share on the social web. It varies based on what social services you are using (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc) and whether you are actually being authentic.
I stumbled across an Ev Williams' blog post about online identity in which he describes the five pieces of online identity - authentication, representation, personalization, communication, and reputation. Simply put, you have to authenticate the "representation" of your personality in the online environment.
The problem? There are multiple social networks in which we place our "identity." And as Fred Wilson states in his post, Identity, Authentication, and Provisioning Them Online:
"These authentication services provide some notion of identity as well. But only your identity in their service. Not your entire identity."
Fred goes on to explain the appeal of OpenID which has yet to make a "real" impact. I do believe in the concept of a universal authentication layer but OpenID has yet to fulfill my expectations.
The truth? We are fragmented as a society. The more services we join, the more our information is stretched, pulled, and spread. I can sync my account with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, Foursquare. I am pulling data from every point on the web. We want more web services to ease our desire for more content, more check-ins, and more benefit to our social media lives. On top of that, we want more personalized content delivered via search engines and more social networks.
Personalization! Integration! Authentication!
The more we join, the more we fragment our identity. Should all the social networks work together to create a universal authentication layer? Probably but I doubt it will happen. I believe that Google+ is going that route. The only problem? Almost seven years of my life has been built directly into Facebook. My identity is fragmented but also valuable as different sites consume, prioritize and build data sets on my online persona.
It is up to marketers to efficiently understand the online identities of their consumers. The one thing that ties them all together?
What do you think?