Google just announced# that it has dropped the real name restrictions it placed upon users of its Google+ social network. It is confusing to people when policies or rule change without a clear understanding of the impact on what is possible that was not before.
Because we are constantly negotiating sense-making (as in "what does this mean to me"?) with next steps (as in "what I should do"), this change in policy prompts a reflection on the nature of identity on the Internet.
So I went back to my notes from a post written more than three years ago by one of Twitter co-founders:
“I've found useful for thinking about all this. We reckoned there there are five different things people mean in different contexts when talking about identity and the Internet. (There are probably more, but these are key.) Each of these are offered as features of different services. Sometimes they are combined, sometimes they're not. And sometimes companies outsource these features to other services. With these pieces in mind, you can look at different companies, services, and protocols and realize which pieces of the identity puzzle they offer (or perhaps should).” [Ev Williams]
The Five Easy Pieces are:
Question Answered: Do you have permission?
Offline Equivalent: Picture ID or keys, depending on method.
Question Answered: Who are you?
Offline equivalent: Business card. (Also: Clothes, bumper stickers, and everything else one chooses to show people who they are.)
Question Answered: How do I reach you?
Offline Equivalent: Phone number.
Question Answered: What do you prefer?
Offline Equivalent: Your coffee shop starting your drink when you walk in the door.
Question Answered: How do others regard you?
Offline Equivalent: Word of mouth/references, credit agencies.
The fifth component is the least talked about and yet it shows up when we talk about influence, authority, and being perceived as an expert (here are five attributes of being an expert).
In a later post, Williams states that the future of identity belongs to Apple and Google#.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.