Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cringe-inducing conversation UPDATE

In a story in Ars Technica Six Apart's Anil Dash is quoted as saying "...democratized identity management systems like Six Apart's own OpenID..."

What the heck is that??? Do all the 'citizens' get to vote on your identity, or on their own identity, or ???????

And who in their right mind could call OpenID an "identity management system"? It's, at best, an authentication system or, even better, a signon system. But there's little management of the identities involved.

And what's with the proprietorial phrase "Six Apart's own OpenID"?

It's possible (but not bloody likely) that Ars Technica got it wrong. Still, I'm waiting for Six Apart to issue a correction/clarification.

UPDATE: Anil is saying that Ars Technica got it wrong. That what he said was "decentralized" identity management. I'd still quibble about OpenID being called an ID Mgmt System, but at least that other wierdness appears to be cleared up.

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I'm pretty sure I said "decentralized", not democratized. I was on a cell phone, and I mumble sometimes, so there's that. I agree that OpenID is an authentication system, however I don't think an average layperson hears something having to do with ID and authentication and thinks that's radically different than "identity". I do understand there are distinctions here in the technical realm, but those are much more blurry for most normal web users.

Finally, I think Ars was trying to concisely represent the fact that OpenID was invented at Six Apart. As you, I'm sure, well know, we've worked very hard to make that invention as open and broadly adopted as possible, and like all our work it's not encumbered by any intellectual property or patent claims, all of our implementations are completely open source, and we're proud to point out that many other organizations and individual contributors are the sole reason OpenID has been a success.

The bottom line here is, this is a fairly mainstream press story covering a very technical topic as a minor side note to a larger product announcement, and glossing over some details and losing some accuracy in order to do so. It's lamentable, but it's also damned frequent, and I've accepted it as part of the cost of trying to get the message out.

The good news is, it raises awareness that the issues around authentication and signon and, yes, identity are being addressed and considered in new platforms being used for publishing or for creating social networks. That's a win for everybody.
I should also point out, you referred to me being quoted -- the text you've excerpted is not a quote of mine, nor is it presented as such.
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