The conference industry has an “in” crowd. For years, that in-crowd was at PC Forum – Esther Dyson's high class, high bandwidth, high priced summit for the digerati. The first time I attended a PC Forum, I was a little star struck. The sheer power of people walking around was – well, a little initimidating (that all faded quickly, by the way).
Beyond PC Forum, you have some of the O'Reilly events (Foo Camp comes to mind) that cater to the in-crowd. And, exclusivity aside, a lot of these events do generate a tremendous amount of heat.
Web 2.0 is the new hot kid on the block. It takes place this week in San Francisco, but don't think about registering late – its “sold out.”
Phil and I have been speaking about the Web 2.0 meme for a while now, and we recently decided to attend this show (so, i'm leaving for it tomorrow). The funny thing is — not a lot of people see the connection between Web 2.0 and digital identity. So, I thought i'd ramble on a bit…
First things first: What exactly is this Web 2.0 meme?
If you'd like the long answer, Tim O'Reilly (one of the organizers) has attempted to give you one.
If, on the other hand, you'd like the Cliff Notes version – you're in luck.
Simply put, “Web 2.0” is the idea that the web is now the platform. In the development of computing we always think in “platforms” — Microsoft achieved its dominant position because it recognized the desktop as a platform, blew out the marketshare for that (the Windows Operating System), and proceeded to own the applications that sat on top of that platform (Office, Word, Excel, even Internet Explorer).
The organizers of Web 2.0 are theorizing that the web (not the desktop) is the new platform – on top of which applications are built. I tend to agree.
The Web as Platform
How much of your computing experience is now done on top of the web as platform? When I purchased a laptop for home use several months ago, my only considerations were the machine's ability to get online efficienty.
The web as platform is happening at the edges — chipping away at the desktop via things like Gmail or Yahoo mail. But its also happening at the center — Google provides the most widely used web-as-platform application on the planet.
From eBay to Amazon to Yahoo to Microsoft to Google to Salesforce.com to Oracle, all of the “big guys” are launching offerings into the “Web 2.0” space. Move past the big guys, and the universe explodes. Start-ups in this space are simply the hottest thing going. As has been pointed out in several sarcastic Venture Capitalist weblogs, selling *software* is sooooooo nineties. Selling a service on the web as a platform (via the Salesforce.com model) — now *that's* a company worth funding.
Why Digital ID World
Right about now you're saying, “interesting eric – but I don't really see why Digital ID World is going.”
Put aside the fact that one of the companies in the identity space is a sponsor there (Sxip), and what you'll find is a bunch of companies that are building applications (and sub-platforms) on the Web 2.0 meme — and they *all* are either touching digital identity or going to need digital identity.
You see, the simple answer really is simple: Just as the web services world has quickly discovered that they need identity to secure their services, so too will the Web 2.0 world quickly (i hope) discover that identity is at the core of what they're working on.
And when they discover that — really interesting things will happen and Digital ID World will be there to see them.
The Inevitability of Identity
The web, in any form, will not go forward simply as a network of anonymity. Digital Identity is here in many forms and coming faster every day.
For much of our history, Digital ID World has tried to convince the enterprise how it is that they need to view and use identity as a construct. However, any of you that were at our first conference know that we didn't start that way.
Back then in the foggy mists of time, Digital ID World spent a great deal of time talking about the dynamics of end-user identity (or Web 2.0 identity, or Identity 2.0 – take your pick). We never really abandoned that conversation – it has been present in every show since then; represented valiantly by folks like Doc Searls and Drummond Reed. But, as the identity marketplace has expanded, so too did we.
Finally, we are coming to a place where we can begin to connect all of those dots again. Finally, we see the “web 2.0” meme propagating in such a way that little working groups of identity are popping up — from the Berkman center to the Identity gang to Phil Windley's Internet Identity Workshop.
I'm proud to say that nearly all of these people are people that we've known over here at Digital ID World for (in most cases) years. And I'm pleased to report that a truly significant thing is occurring — the identity architects in the enterprise are beginning to mingle with the identity folks out in end-user land. This may not seem momentous, but it really is. Its momentous because we're finally seeing people struggling with how to present unified metaphors, experiences and technologies that do not chop the digital identity problem up into two primary slices: enterprise and end-user. Granted, this has been tried before (Novell's DigitalMe comes to mind), but for some reason, the winds seem to be blowing correctly this time.
So, why am I going to Web 2.0? Because I believe the technology stars are beginning to align; that the marketplace is beginning (beginning, I say) to catch up with the conversation; that maybe – just maybe – we're about to be able to pull together the strands of conversation from the very first Digital ID World with the strands of conversation from the last Digital ID World — and in doing so, we'll find our conversations to be bigger, more productive, and learning at a faster pace.
The web as platform is the next great movement for digital identity. While digital identity has started the long hard slog into the enterprise (a journey that will take the next several years), we've barely opened the door to identity's involvement in the web as platform. It can be seen in our problems (spam, phishing, id fraud). It can be seen in our past identity technology failures. And it can be seen in the excitement around the web as platform.