Cross-posted from the Online Community Report blog:
One of the topics of most interest to me is the concept of a universal online identity, and the supporting set of preferences that would follow me throughout my digital day, tailoring my content and experiences. With compelling new sites popping up every week, and a lack of a widely adopted identity standard, most of us are left with millions of little digital pieces of ourselves scattered all over the web, and as many disparate experiences.
As an individual, the value of having a more complete digital picture of our online activities would be the improvement of content selection and presentation (amazon, google, tivo). There is also some value in the convenience of centrally managing a login and profile for multiple sites. Site owners would benefit from easier information collection and more robust reputation management. Site owners and marketers would benefit from a more complete and accurate picture of members and their preferences (which is also a little scary).
There are some seriously large issues with a centralized identity and profile system, most notably privacy. There are tremendous technical challenges as well, not to mention the fact that there is little financial incentive for most online communities and profile-driven sites to adopt a common identity standard.
Still, interesting things are happening as some sites start to provide APIs to their services and content. Frank Gruber’s blog has a decent overview of some of the leading profile aggregation services:
And AOL is experimenting with OpenID:
And Microsoft has weighed in (Thanks Kurt):