URL Addressable Identity

In a previous post I talked about how hard it was to reach me while traveling on the Washington Coast, which is a cellular service dead zone. Yes I could eventually pick up a voice mail or email message once cellular service or internet access was available. But something more fundamental in this situation seems broken.

Companies, organizations and proxies for humans [blogs, personal web sites...] have unique IDs on the internet. Domain name services and internet protocol routing and other networking magic make this possible. With this magic http://wordpress.com/, for example, is a unique address that resolves to one location on the internet; i.e. you can reach wordpress.com no matter what you use to get on the internet, what you use to request a URL.

Why can’t humans have a unique address on the internet? Each human could use a unique address to share their ‘internet homepage’ with anyone because it would be easier to hand out – and easier to remember – than a long URL derived from a blog or custom domain or whatever they use to create web presence. Humans could also use a unique address to aggregate their online data and manage access to it. A precedence for a unique address exists today with mobile phone numbers, which facilitate the relationship between a unique person and how to reach this person via cellular networks, routing mechanisms and other networking magic. I want to reach frank; I call his mobile phone number. Why can’t we do this on the internet?

Well, there are several reasons why a unique address for all humans can’t be implemented on the internet today; starting with how to disambiguate common names, for example ‘John Smith’. There’s no single registry or list of all humans on the planet that I know of. Lacking this, what would the internet use to lookup two or many John Smiths to determine which one was the one you intended to ‘call’?

And even if there were a way to create a single registry of all humans; who’s the best or right organization to manage it? The ideal organization would be non-commercial; similar to the W3C or IETF. This organization would be tasked with creating standards that would have to be agreed upon by existing and new internet traffic stakeholders for the unique address system to gain adoption. Standards would include [but not be limited to] consumer privacy, security; naming conventions, name resolution; performance, relationships to existing laws and policies.

The organization would also be tasked with creating fair, well documented opportunities for commercial interests to leverage a unique ID system.

In the absence of a single registry of all humans we have commercial interests – see Facebook adoption worldwide – building their equivalent registry.

What could help move us toward an open system is to design contextual IQ into the architecture for how humans are looked up on the internet. Back to the ‘John Smith’ example, the unique address registry needs to query signals for who I am in relation to where I am in relation to who I’m trying to find. If I’m trying to ‘call’ my friend John Smith and we both have associations to a common city and we have have social graph intersections and other signals then the unique address registry should narrow the connection to my friend John Smith.

More on this later with some graph intersection sketches…

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