2012 – the year in which user-centric ID began kicking!

The year ending today was a major milestone for digital identity. In May, I outlined a few major developments that brought digital identity to the tech mainstream. However, in retrospect there has been another important trend that will help this market take shape in 2013. That trend is related to a fundamental pre-requisite for the digital identity ecosystem, and one of the most important problems it is trying to solve: the convenience of creating and using your identity online.

In this space massive steps have been taken by the internet giants this year, namely Facebook, Google and Amazon. Facebook connect is now being deployed in 10,000 websites every day, which brings it to more than 10 million sites in total. Industry experts estimate that the average Facebook user is logging into 5-15 other services with their Facebook ID. Sites like Spotify even mandate logging in with Facebook, therefore enabling social functions automatically while outsourcing credentials management completely. Google has made a similar step in its own domain: Google users can now log-in with the same ID to more than 20 Google services, on any device, and enjoy the advantages of sharing data between those services. Amazon is taking the combined approach: you can now check-out with your Amazon ID at other retail websites that offer the service, but you can also log into multiple Amazon services with one ID, including Lovefilm for example.

These steps are fundamental in changing customer behaviour and evolving the need for user-centric identity. Users are beginning to realise the benefits of a federated, user-centric identity, and will want more. It is great not having to remember my youtube or tripadvisor passwords, so why should I keep on remembering those of my gas provider, camera retailer and tax website?  It will also become a necessity for all those online services that are competing with the giants – they will have to provide a similar user experience in order to continue and attract users and shoppers.  Although Google and Facebook are important in advancing the ecosystem, they are not necessarily the ones to solve the problem when it comes to retail, financial services and government. But the need is increasingly out there.

The opportunity for future identity providers is to take this a step further and create a truly user-centric identity, independent of any company’s own services. I believe we are about to see a few of those next year, which will be another crucial year for digital identity – we will start seeing other organizations, such as telcos and financial service providers (did anyone say PayPal?) coming into this space, and together with the internet players turning it into a mass market service. An important step towards this was made with the launch of the mIdentity program at the GSMA, which signals that mobile operators are beginning to understand the importance of this market to their future. 2013 will therefore be a seeding year for identity services, with initial launches in several countries is Europe (more details on those in following posts). With a good start next year, 2014-2015 will hopefully be the mass adoption years.

Happy new year!