Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Identity Wars

Companies have been trying to control online identity for a long time. Remember Hailstorm? Well, Facebook cracked the code of a single identity system (1) without seeming to worry about privacy, and other companies have been trying to get-in on the act as well. Google's trying with Google+, to limited success, and Apple has actually succeeded with AppleID by building up iOS (to those who remember the old Mobile Me service will note how remarkable this is). Electronic Arts is trying with Origin, OpenFeint tried to do it on mobile, Twitter kind of has it working with Twitter ID etc.

Now Amazon is hoping to get in on the action as well with "Login with Amazon".

I think Microsoft failed largely because multiple logins are irritating, but not that bad a problem since everyone just solves it by using the same username/password combination on every site. This is not a good solution, but it works and it's simple.

Facebook solved it by making it useful to have your Facebook account connected to your other accounts, and using Facebook to identify yourself made that simple.

Apple solved it by just being convenient -- if you're on the iOS platform, might as well use the same thing you you use for every other Apple service.

Amazon is using the same language Microsoft did years ago with Hailstorm: "reduce sign-in friction", "good for developers", "better customer engagement and order conversion" etc. Their success points to date are Woot and Zappo's -- both Amazon subsidiaries incidentally, which would be like Microsoft claiming Hotmail (which I think they own) or MSN usage being evidence of Hailstorm adoption.

I think Amazon's key benefit is actually payment and checkout. I don't know how Amazon does at payment compared to Paypal, but making that easy for customers and developers may work. It's why Amazon's iPhone Kindle app can get away with the purchase being made on -- the customer already has a login and it saves Amazon from having to pay Apple 30% on the transaction. Most other companies would not be able to get customers to re-enter login information, and then enter credit card information on a phone.


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