Since we rolled out MicroID verification, we’ve seen lots of people using the service. That’s so cool – we’re really thrilled to see it take off. At the same time, we’re also more than willing to admit that our implementation is kind of hard and limited. It’s hard because, well, you have to edit a page to add in your MicroID, and it’s limited because there are lots of pages you can claim that you can’t necessarily edit – like your flickr or del.icio.us page. Naturally, we decided it was time to solve this problem.
Before we delve into particulars, take a second and think about how you trust things on the web. You trust your friend’s sites because at one time or another they said “Hey, go check out my Flickr pictures”, or they sent you an email with their del.icio.us links. That’s how we trust people in real life, too. You meet someone, ask them where they went to school or how many siblings they have – trust has to start somewhere. When you meet someone new, you don’t completely trust them. You learn from them, verify, and renegotiate your trust. This pattern happens cyclically until you decide they are the kind of person you wouldn’t mind having for a roommate, or the kind of person you wouldn’t loan twenty bucks to (my grad student mind state slips though again).
Well, so that’s how we do things on the web, too. But on the web, things are a little different. We’re global, we can’t always look each other in the eye, we need things like https and PGP. We want a level of verification – a way to actually prove that things are part of our production. Using the MicroID, we create a web of trust. When you take your ClaimID and verify your sites with MicroID, you’re creating trust relationships; if someone trusts your Flickr, why should they trust your claimID? Well, if you verify your Flickr to your claimID, you’ve just created bi-directional trust. People can enter the web anywhere, and transverse your trusted web – rather than create a single place of trust, you’ve decentralized – an idea that makes a lot more sense than just asking people to trust you at face value.
When we dropped MicroID into ClaimID, we thought that it was a neat way to give people what they wanted in terms of link verification, and not a lot more. But as we’ve gone to the whiteboard, thought about it, talked to people about it, scratched our heads and gawked at the simplicity of it all – we realized that MicroID could quite literally change the social nature of trust on the web. These are big concepts, and rather than dumping it all here, I’ve written it up on two posts on my blog. The first post covers the why’s of using MicroID to create a system of social trust, and the second post covers the hows for content providers.
So what does all this mean? Well, we’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning on this idea. As MicroID is a standard, we’ve officially contacted both Flickr and del.icio.us to see if they would implement MicroID automatically for your pages – meaning you could claim your sites in these pages, but it means a whole lot more. It means leverage – leverage to get other big names to start adopting MicroID – so you can make verifiable claims of ownership on your content, so you can create webs of trust on the internet.
If you’d like to help us get started, head over to the Flickr ideas forum and add your “me too’s” to the MicroID idea. Now, we’ve contacted Flickr (both officially and back channel) and this ain’t gonna happen overnight – but if you show your support, it just might help Flickr realize the value of MicroID. To show our support for MicroID, we’ve released a standard perl implementation of a MicroID verifier under the GPL. We believe in this technology, and we’re willing to help get people start using this important standard. You can download a tarball or zip file.
So this is a big concept – a little MicroID could change the nature of trust on the web. And I’m sure I didn’t explain it so well (hopefully I’ll draw up some diagrams pretty soon, but my Photoshop skills are…well, you’ve seen em). However, if this notion has caught your interest, you’ll probably want to review my posts, the MicroID FAQ, and the MicroID home page. We’re on to something big here – please consider joining us.