So as mentioned in my last post, I recently stopped by BarCamp SF (which was great!) and talked about “microchunking identity.” I figured it would be a good way to explain part of the motivation behind the startup I’m working on, PrefPass. This was also the first public demo of PrefPass, so it was pretty exciting for me.
Here’s what I talked about. The concept of “digital identity” has been around for a long time, and usually includes all kinds of complicated functionalities. For example, an identity can:
– Prove you are the same person you were last time you visited
– Prove that you are a specific person or have certain attributes
– Prove that you have authorization or a reputation verified by a third party
– Grant permission for one site to pass your data on to another
But what does “identity” mean in reality for most consumer web apps? Well, basically, it usually means a registration form, an email validation, and then another username and password to remember.
This is kind of a pain for users, which makes it worth asking: what’s the *real* reason sites require registration? For most apps, it’s to do one or more of the following:
– Ensure the user is a human and not a bot
– Associate the user with site data (e.g. settings)
– Associate the user with preference data (e.g. interests)
– Contact the user (e.g. to email a forgotten password)
– Target ads to the user (to make more money)
– Associate the user with a specific person (e.g. a blogger)
Looking at this list, the interesting thing is that only the last item really requires an “identity” as most of us think of it. You’d think that the rest could be done without the oftentimes complex machinery of most identity solutions.
Well, it can, and from a certain perspective, that’s what PrefPass is all about! Instead of the same old [form -> email -> response -> password] sequence, why not just [click]? And why not make it completely anonymous? After all, only the last item above requires you to “prove” that you’re someone in particular. With anonymity, there’s no ID to remember, no privacy issues, no namespace to worry about — just [click]!
Microchunking identity means reducing it to its smallest usable parts. For example, there are some cool solutions that focus on proving that you own a blog URL — that’s a microchunk. With PrefPass, we’re focusing on letting you tell a site that you’re the same person as last time, and that you’re associated with some anonymous metadata representing your interests or preferences. That’s it. By keeping it simple, we hope to be able to solve some real problems for both sites and users, while making a big change in how much users can control their own data.
We’re just about to launch a limited beta, so if this sounds interesting to you, please help us out! You can request a beta invite by clicking on the PrefPass button in my sidebar or by going to PrefPass.com. We’re also looking for additional sites who want to try out PrefPass during the beta. If 1-click registration, instant personalization, or user-targeted ads that pay more sound interesting to you, please give me a shout at adam at prefpass dot com.