[Mix06] Web 2.0 needs InfoCard a lot more than AJAX

I'm watching a Mix06 panel on Digital Identity with Johannes Ernst (NetMesh), Kim Cameron (MS), Stefan Brands (Crendentica), Paul Trevithick (Social Physics), and Hillary Ward (Citigroup). I'm finishing a post I started on Sunday; I've been interested in digital identity for over a year now, when I heard Kim Cameron interviewed on The Gillmor Gang.

Many people equate Web 2.0 with AJAX. If all Web 2.0 has to offer is quicker page updates, it would be a major disappointment. There are generally accepted list of what Web 2.0 means - here's my short list of the most important as I see it:

  1. Responsive user interfaces, using AJAX and similar technologies
  2. Data controlled by users rather than data in silos or walled gardens
  3. Open standards and services to allow external interaction between sites and services (the "mashup")
  4. User driven publishing (blogs, wiki's, etc.)
  5. Harnessing the power of collective intelligence

More comprehensive and official lists are on Wikipedia, Tim O'Reilly's Web 2.0 article, and this popular article on "Upgrading the Internet ".

See, we've had AJAX for years. It's neat, but it's not a revolution. AJAX by itself is good for at best a Web 1.1, and that came out a good 5 years ago. Many of the other key points are paradigm rather than technology issues - companies releasing their data and services is limited by policy alone.

The new development I see here is the collective intelligence bit. To really do this right requires an digital identity. The web has always lacked is a good identity system that's simple, ubiquitous, trusted, and free. A real Web 2.0 that understands identity that can go places Web 1.0 can't.

Passport was really a pretty good idea which failed mostly for reasons that had nothing to do with what Passport did or how it did it. There were problems on Microsoft's side - it was expensive, it wasn't "sold" to users beyond nags to set up a passport account, etc. Most importantly, though, the data was stored on Microsoft servers, and the trust / ownership concerns weren't adquately addressed.

Infocard will look like Passport to the casual user (another single sign-on solution), but the technology and philosophy are radically different. Infocard allows me to own and control my identity information; it just provides the plumbing and standards to allow me to securely relay portions of that identity data to those I trust.

Common frameworks for managing identity and attention will enable the internet to go far beyond searching or subscription (RSS, etc.). They'll allow for systems and agents that can help us manage all this new content in ways we haven't imagined yet.

Now, those who follow this stuff will say that InfoCard isn't the only digital identity system out there, and they'd be right. However, When Windows Vista ships with a client for the standard digital identity formats (InfoCard), we've got some real momentum behind this digital identity thing. A parallel is IE CSS support - a CSS standard that IE doesn't support isn't very useful, since IE dominates the browser market.

Maybe this Identity / Attention stuff will miss this Web 2.0 wave. Web 3.0?

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