There’s been a large movement online towards consolidating identity. Single sign-on (SSO) online has been a goal for a long time, starting with Microsoft’s Passport and then the OpenID and Open Stack movement. Facebook Connect, in its short life, has probably done a lot more to enhance the progress. It’s not yet ubiquitous, but many sites support Facebook Connect to not only provide identity and authentication, but to let users interact with their friends through the site. Google has a product as well, Friend Connect, which is a more open version (supports OpenID) though less popular flavor of the same thing.
What’s fascinating is how this movement is happening with the telephone as well, in a seemingly parallel track. Convergence will happen sooner than we think. I’m terrible at remembering numbers – but pretty soon we won’t need to. That’s what makes Google owning GrandCentral (now Google Voice) fascinating – at some point, the phone number (at least the way we think of it today) will be superfluous. The Palm Pre already connects to Facebook, Android phones to Google. The phone number will essentially become the device ID.
This why owning the digital identity of the individual is so important to Facebook and Google. At some point, reaching individuals via phone will be based entirely on a digital identifier, i.e. SSO will apply to phones, and our digital identity will be the conduit for communication. It may be our email address (like it is with online payment), or our Facebook identity. There are pros and cons of both, and clearly both companies want to be in the middle. By being the broker of communication, they will become the telecom companies of the next generation. A lot of this is obvious, but my hope is that it’s done in an open fashion. I’m just looking forward to the day where all I will need is an online ID and that’s it.