October 4, 2010
transferrable identity

Web 3.0: It Should Be About Transferrable Identity

A well-established research firm recently asked for my thoughts on Web 3.0.

My answer was a bit of a surprise to the researchers seeing as I choose “D – None of the Above”.

Whereas in the telecom space, there is consensus with the definitions of 2G, 3G, 3G+ and 4G networks, I’m not entirely certain if Web 3.0 has mass acceptance as a ‘standard’, so to say, in the technology space. Opinions of an actual Web 3.0 definition can range from referring to it as the ‘semantic web’, to the ‘intelligent web’, to ‘time and space improvements’, to ‘content relevance’.

The most overused and overshared graphic is found below. It provides some context, and it’s helpful, but I believe we’re missing the point on what we need before a semantic, intelligent content relevant Web 3.0 definition can be solidified.

I’m certain I’m out on a limb on this one, but I believe it needs to first start with what I call ‘transferrable identity’.

Let’s imagine a typical organization for a moment. In order to fully participate in the daily, weekly, and quarterly objectives driven pulse of that organization, one requires his/her identity to move from application to application … from opportunity to opportunity.

This is the reason somebody developed single sign on capabilities.

No one employee wants to have to log into various and disparate applications to perform their work, connect with colleagues, share knowledge, etc. In fact, the harder it is, the less likely employees are engaged, share, collaborate, and so on. What companies are moving towards are ways in which the DNA of employees are captured (skills, talents, projects, colleagues, etc.) and levered throughout other federated applications.


In a nutshell, it’s time consuming to have employees working in multiple ERP or Talent Management System-like applications. Having it single-sourced, with single sign on throughout the network creates not only efficiencies, but more manageable ways in which to connect, share, collaborate, learn, etc. In essence, organizations have or are moving to ‘transferrable identity’ because it makes sense from an ‘economies of scale’ perspective as well. Why would I ‘type’ my details into multiple applications? It’s as silly as Liverpool ever winning the English Premiership again (the Toronto Maple Leafs the Stanley Cup for my Canadian friends), but I digress.

Shift over to the consumer side of Web 2.0 for a moment.

Do we have ‘transferrable identity’?

No, we do not.

We do not have a centrally stored place in which I can store my details, and have those follow me from application to application. I have to, sadly, provide my details into various Ning sites, iTunes/Ping, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, MSN, YouTube, Air Canada, British Airways, and just about every other Web 2.0 application I’m a part of.

What if, hypothetically stating, the 20-30 largest consumer based Web 2.0 providers actually got together and developed a standard that allowed me to have my ‘transferrable identity’ established in a single repository, and when I needed it for any application, I could tap into it.

Now, with my head squarely fixed on the angles of Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0 and Learning 2.0, I see humongous benefit to the education sector as well. K-12 and Higher Education could tap into this ‘transferrable identify’ as we shift the education continuum to become more in line with the 21st century, and my marks, my DNA, my skills, my experience, my personal traits, and so on can follow me wherever I go. (even if I switch schools, switch cities, switch to home schooling, whatever)

Pipe dream? Maybe.

Microsoft, I believe, tried to start this with Passport, but as usual, their myopic thinking into a system that benefits only Microsoft based applications is and was their undoing.

If the top 20-30 firms got together and agreed on a) what ‘transferrable identity’ is and b) agreed on a way in which to make it happen, not only would they make me and millions of other people happy, they would be saving the planet trillions of hours of lost time typing in the exact same information for multiple entities.

And that’s about when the research firm stated “why did we ask you?”

7 Replies to “Web 3.0: It Should Be About Transferrable Identity”

  1. Am I missing something? What about the security of the data you talk about (the DNA)? We see lots of stories about identity theft and fraud and so on. I love the idea but what about the security? Where will it reside? Who has access and how do those of us who have not grown up with technology get access when we forget how to get access? Could one share this info or “give access” to another (sort of like a Power of Attorney)?

    Finally, what gets put in place to verify stuff or is it just accumulated through your online life?

    I suspect cloud computing is going to have lots to say in this field. I am with you, we need the top 20 or 30 folks to answer these questions and get this on the road. I have way too many userid’s and passwords and the like to have to remember!!!!!

  2. Fair enough Brian. I’m the futurist not the Chief Security Officer. 😉

    My presumption is that Patriot Act, etc. is not an issue and that security too has been figured out … somehow.

    No answer for dementia though. Maybe we assign POA as you suggest. Seems to make sense.

    The verification piece is also an interesting observation. My hunch is that we could address the opportunity in an informal or in a formal way.

    Informal? Scouts honour type of system. Think of it as a system like LinkedIn … only better. (anyone can lie in LinkedIn, for example, making it an informal CV system)

    Formal? Tied into credentialling systems, services, etc. that actually do the verification of skills, degrees, etc. Work in progress, obviously.

  3. A buddy of mine from EO, Dick Hardt, is working on this at Microsoft right now. Originally he founded sxip.com to build a transferable identity (side note: I can’t wait until this is available and ties into an RSA type device on my keychain matched w a password), and while into the countless road blocks along the way (security, protocols, ownership, privacy, etc.), the nice folks from Redmond came knocking.

    I’ll save my MS versus Apple versus Google versus Facebook rant on this topic for another time…

  4. PS .tel has the potential to become this singularity provider except right now it’s simply a DNS connected vcard. Whomever manages to figure this out has the potential of being a dominate player on the web – one identity, to login anywhere, any site, with an RSA type level of added security. I’m making a space on my keychain now…

  5. Fascinating topic, and one I’m particularly interested in from a K12 educational perspective. I’m currently participating on the N. Van’s Community Learning Program Committee, an advisory group comprised of both mainstream and alternative education leaders, parents and students.

    In the various roles I’ve held w/in the GLD (gifted and learning ‘differenced’) community, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of designated non-mainstream learners having to ‘tell their story’ again and again and again as they move from one educational facility to another, trying to have their educational and emotional needs met. The archaic system of record keeping often loses important pieces of information, and another child ‘slips through the cracks’ of a system that actually has gaping holes within it.

    My own son went through this almost a decade ago, as we moved from one district to another and important paperwork was lost, potentially blocking his participation w/in key programs offered in the new district.

  6. Reminds me of the push for electronic healtcare records, which allows a patient’s medical history to follow her/him from doctor to hospital etc. One issue they struggle with is determining what makes up a patient’s clinical summary. It seems the same issues would arise with T.I. Which aspects,(i.e. my marks, my DNA, my skills, my experience, my personal traitswould constitute one’s T.I.?
    Do we need to create digital resumes?

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