I will try to answer a question that popped up in the comments to a previous post:
what are the next steps in taking the real world on the web?
[thanks to Roberto Carraro for asking]
Most of the discussions I have followed regarding the future of the medium are in the form of "what will the web 3.0 be?" and I think that consensus is gathering around the idea of machine-readable content or "the semantic web". I beg to differ, and I’m not for the "3D web" vision either. But labels are not that much important, so be it "web 3.0 = semantic web" for the sake of this post – I’ll simply say that the oncoming revolution in experiencing the internet is not necessarily coming from that direction.
My guess for the next one is that we might found ourselves to call it "the authenticated web" or something slightly less unattractive as "the ID web".
The need to simplify the overwhelming amount of user accounts we must take care of is not a new issue, but there are several signals that are making me think that we might find ourselves to use a set of tools (maybe not just one, let’s be realistic…) which will enable us to switch back and forth between anonimity and an "identified" status at our will – but without the need to provide our credential again and again, by delegating the verification of our identity to a trusted third party.
Big corporations have been struggling for years with multiple accounts for different systems and services (one for network access, one for email, one for the ERP and so on…) – and all their efforts towards Single Sign On solutions are slowly showing some success. While the boundaries separating intranets and the public web are becoming less and less important, with employees using tools as Skype to support their job (and it’s just one of a thousand examples), flexible solutions such as OpenID are gaining ground as viable options, even for business use.
IT giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Google and Yahoo! are taking a fresh approach and moving away from walled gardens. Even virtual worlds are playing an important role in this, promoting interoperability efforts (as in a joint effort by IBM and Linden Labs) and enabling avatars to move their identity (and maybe part of their virtual possessions) from one world to another.
Summing it up, almost every online account we have is anchored to an email
account, which can be seen as the root of our online identities. I cannot say whether it will be a "master password", a set of biometric data or a magnetic badge attached to a device – but I think that the next important thing that will move from real life to the web will be a widely recognized virtual ID card.