Facebook or OpenID? Or Both?

Lately social networks and identity are discussed more intensely in the blogosphere with high profile bloggers like Robert Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang spearheading the discussion. Especially the latter has caught my attention as he is focusing on Facebook as the platform to manage most of people’s social networking and identity needs. He writes:

-Facebook will launch an Identity widget that I can embed on my blog. This allows only those who have registered to Facebook to leave a comment, many high profile blogs will do this, to avoid nasty anonymous comments, thus reducing the incident of Kathy Sierra type events. Dave Winer is right.

-The data collected from these widgets ables Facebook to erode the small marketshare that Attention trackers and MyBlogLog are creating.

-Facebook will have faster adoption that Open ID, as the consumer users will drive it. (Remember the mantra of consider joining before creating communities)

All those points made probably sound familiar to those who have read Simon Willison’s excellent article Six cool things you can build with OpenID back in February: social whitelists, pre-approved accounts, and also decentralised social networks.

Funnily the proposed identity widget could have been there already, even with OpenID support; think of MyBlogLog and Ex.plode.us. The former is thinking about implementation while the latter already supports it. It’s just that both companies either haven’t thought about developing their products in that direction or haven’t rolled out that feature yet.

Jeremiah thinks Facebook will have a faster adoption rate than OpenID. Well, it is certainly more user centric being a social network and even a platform but will adoption really be faster? How many old school users know about the new possibilities of Facebook’s platform now? Users have to be educated about them. So the same applied for an identity widget, I think. Also I am sure Facebook developers had to introduce some kind of authentication system which goes beyond a simple login at the service. Why not introducing OpenID then? It made sense.

Spock People Search

Recently I have got an invitation (thanks to Ben Metcalfe) for people search engine Spock which is still in private beta. There are not many people search engines around at the moment; so I was curious how Spock works. The other ones I am aware of are ZoomInfo and Wink. There are more companies but those seem to focus more on profile aggregation than on search. If you know any other real people search engine leave a comment, please.


Users can search for people either by names – email addresses work as well – or by tags. There is an advanced search available (see screenshot) which provides even more options.

advanced search

Unlike known search engines like Google Spock is displaying just one search result for each person which makes searching rather comfortable because you don’t have to look through several result pages just to come across the same person time and again. One entry = one person. Search results also feature tags, a short biography from Wikipedia, LinkedIn or other sites and – if available – a photo, related people (=family, colleagues,…), and websites. So ideally you will get a good summary of a person which should be sufficient for a first impression.

Here is the entry for Siemens CEO Klaus Kleinfeld:

search result

Registered users can add more tags and websites to each search result and they can even vote on existing tags and photos which will hopefully improve forthcoming searches.


Spock is trying to scan the web for information on people which will probably take some more weeks or even months before it will be finished. At the moment I don’t find any of my close friends on Spock; I don’t even find myself there although I have a Spock account and I am registered with various Web 2.0 services. One problem seems to be location – most of my friends are in Germany -, the other one might be the umlaut in my last name which is not supported by Spock. I have tried Carsten Pötter, Carsten Poetter and also Carsten Potter: no results.

Although the search result for Klaus Kleinfeld is providing a good summary it doesn’t offer more information than the Wikipedia entry for Mr Kleinfeld. The summary is from Wikipedia anyway, also Wikipedia is included in the list of relevant websites. What’s worse, two of the five links are leading to a site where I have to sign up. That’s really unnecessary. Wouldn’t it be easier to go to Wikipedia straight away if I was searching for celebrities?


Nevertheless Spock is an interesting approach to people search and it will certainly improve when the web will be scanned completely and more people use the service, tag people, and add relevant websites to search results. Spock just has to iron out some rough edges and should pay attention to the possibility of gaming the search results.

I have 101 invitations for Spock, so go and test it for yourself. Just leave a comment with a valid email address.

The usual disclosure: I did some beta testing for the Wink widget. Spock and Wink are competitors

Wink Roundup: Microformats, Life Streams, and More

Wink is adding new features to its service more quickly since adjusting the focus to people search it seems. Here’s a roundup of new features.

Recent Changes

  1. Microformats: The Wink developers have started formatting user profiles and search results as hCards. Well done, though maybe also add XFN values to the Friends page? Would be grand! Anyway, after Wink started supporting MicroID about a month ago it is encouraging to see support for Microformats as well. Simple but powerful technologies rule. 🙂
  2. Yahoo 360° and Twitter: Both networks have been added to the list of networks which can be searched when looking for family and friends.
  3. Favourites: Search results – that’s the people you were looking for – can be added to your Favourites and also be tagged. Good idea as I certainly don’t want to search the same people time and again.

Life Streams

Life streams have been added to Wink last night and make its focus on people more complete now. Though Wink isn’t just displaying your own activities on the web but also those of your friends and contacts. The stream consists of all the feeds your friends have added to their Wink profile.


Though if you don’t want to follow all of your friends’ activities you can simply click the Don’t follow link. So if you want to be informed about your friends’ bookmarks on Ma.gnolia but not about their blurbs on Twitter you can just do that.

Your own activities look similar; you can see them on your profile page. However there is something wrong with my Google Link Blog. The RIA story is attributed to Niall Kennedy, though it has been published by Alex Iskold on Read/Write Web. Maybe it’s Google’s problem, maybe Wink’s. I don’t know.

my activities

The profile page has been re-designed a little bit as well, e.g. you can see all visitors to your profile page; looks similar to the MyBlogLog widget, I think.

Also Wink is a finalist in the Webware 100 (Data category). Nice one. 🙂

Disclosure: I did a little bit of beta testing for Wink’s widget (hey, and I even have a tee now). Not much more connection to them; I just like Wink, I guess.

OpenID for all Estonians

When thinking about OpenID and its use cases I usually have registering accounts with web services and commenting on blogs in mind; I am probably not the only one thinking in that direction although there are countless other possibilities, Sun’s OpenID server being one of them (Sun OpenID=Sun employee).

Estonian eID

Today I have come across an example which goes way beyond Sun’s example (see Ma.gnolia bookmark). Estonia started issuing electronic Identity Cards (eID) in 2002 to its citizens. Those eID’s will be OpenID’s soon! Beta tests are running at the moment.

Although Estonia is a small country with just 1.37 million inhabitants more than one million Estonians and foreigners residing in the country will have an OpenID. Open.id.ee=Estonian eID. Those OpenID’s are very secure because smart cards are required which make phishing and identity theft impossible.

Besides being identity cards and OpenID’s those eID’s have a lot more functions. They contain two certificates for authentication and signing and a permanent email address which is forwarding emails to people’s real email provider; it is also used as a health card so there is no need for an extra card.
Other applications can be developed by using core components of the eID software. Estonians can use their eID for tax declaration, public transport, WiFi access, and even internet voting. Quite impressive actually.


While the eID seems to be a very comfortable authentication tool privacy issues occur, of course. It could be the wet dream of some politicians. However the Estonian Data Protection Act allows just 12 people access to personal data; police and tax officials have only access after a court order. More information on security and privacy can be obtained here.

Information on eID:

eID in action: Estonia
National profile for eGovernment IDM initiatives in Estonia