Friday, 27 March 2009

My name is not number

Dear readers! Choose, pleassssse, your name :)

Did you choose? Now enjoy reading! :)
You have two options how to deal with my huge post 1)read from the end 2)read from the start till the very end... or don't read anything LOL :)

Dear Chris! That day, 2009/03/21 to be more precise, you probably were drunk, being in a hurry, not in a good mood, irritated or annoyed by something or someone, tired - all-in-one and hence you forgot to set up the right publishing time on your WordPress: instead of 1st of April you published April Fools joke at the wrong time. What a confuse. But mistake of professionals usually end up with a death…
The first reaction after I’ve read Chris Messina’s My name is not a URL (current OpenID Foundation community board member) was “it’s not his post! Someone hacked his blog!” But alas! To my deepest regret and disappointment it is actually his “masterpiece”. But being one of his supporters, fans if not to say… Ah! Doesn’t matter, really! LOL it took almost 3 days to make a decision and start writing this post. The last but not the least reasons to write the post were serious and quite important questions and problems “raised” by Chris Messina, regarding important and crucial subjects related to the future of the Internet and to user’s pillar rights were touched upon. Touched and… spoiled! Yes. He has managed to write magnificently stupid, badly structured and irrational post, revealing to me his shocking degree of incompetence!
“We believed in him, but he deceived us” is so true in my case. But the most terrible though was “what if this is the official OpenID Foundation policy/recommendation/view?!” If it wasn’t why didn’t he made some sort of disclaimer (didn’t find it, sorry! or that it is only his personal point of view? The question still remains.

Obviously I feel obliged to provide some explanation after making such strong statements. For this purpose alone let us go through each and every statement and argument of his article to see what he really means. And please, dear readers forgive me for being a bit too personal as I used to like this guy.

My name is not a URL

Really? Well, so far so good but let us read a bit further.
Arrington has a post that claims that "Facealtbook is getting wise to something MySpace has known from the start - users love vanity URLs."
I don’t buy it. I’m pretty sure that the omission of vanity URLs on Facebook is an intentional design decision from the beginning, and one that I’ve learned to appreciate over time.

Inasmuch as I liked the title I felt that starting a serious article with public “F@ck off, Arrington!” is a bit harsh. I don’t really think he was trying to sell you anything. But more to the point: you believe they on FB did it on purpose? They really meant it? But if that decision was intentional why don’t they stick with that till the bitter end? LOL

… the omission of vanity URLs on Facebook is an intentional design decision from the beginning…

I beg your pardon? When we talk about vanity URLs we have to consider two distinct aspects: SEs friendliness and user friendliness. First of all, we have to recall that by that time FB was a completely closed system that required users to log in to see any pages apart from rather dull homepage and hence FB was not indexed by any SEs. That was their policy in this period.

In all likelihood the decision to stick with CGI calls was driven by two different reasons: firstly, they couldn’t be bothered with anything else as it would require doing something, and secondly, they didn’t see any point in implementing SEs friendliness because they perceived no benefit in being indexed by SEs. So as a result they decided to use rather old fashioned looking technologies.

Now forget about SEs friendliness, it’s out of the question for FB at that date, let’s talk about user friendliness. Those URLs they were using, those CGI calls, were not definitely designed in terms of user friendliness. The problem is that those ugly CGI calls are not user friendly by definition. It is much more convenient for a user to see not a strange combination of numbers and letters but something that does make sense and can be easily remembered and recognized afterwards. Things in URL look much more familiar when expressed in human language and it comes particularly handy when making bookmarks. If you have something descriptive in URL there is no need to put an actual description for that URL because a URL is already descriptive enough on its own. But if you see garbage in that URL you would have definitely to put some description in your bookmark where that garbage URL actually leaves. So this is your user friendliness.

Admit it at that point they (FB) were not concerned with user friendliness at all. Implementing something other than numeric IDs would require some knowledge of rewrite and can be at times confusing, besides it might cost you performance and speed especially when weak servers are combined with high traffic and workload. So, of two reasons (SE friendliness and user friendliness) FB developers were not concerned about the former and decided not to be bothered with the latter.

In all fairness I must admit that FB’s approach to user names and login policy had some positive aspects predominantly in the area of security. On FB you are forced to log in with your email, not with your ID and unless you are stupid enough to publish your email address side-by-side with your real name on FB profile your email/login is not automatically displayed on your pages like it happens in most other social networks. This gives you an illusion of security and superficially it should be twice as secure compare to commonly used approach since a malicious hacker has to guess now not only your password but your login as well in order to hack into your FB account.

In practice, however, benefits of such approach are less obvious as it is enough for a hacker to provoke you to reply to his or her phishing email to solve this part of the puzzle. In addition it does not save you from more sophisticated attacks (and perhaps makes them even easier) by placing what looks like a DB ID out in the open.

Put all that together and it will become far too obvious that at that stage guys at Facebook were thinking rather in terms of saving on development costs than caring about their users. And once again, all that was discussed just above has nothing to do with the policy of “real name accounts” enforced by FB. Admit it – “vanity URLs” and “real name accounts” are to different and completely unrelated issues both in terms of service policy and in terms of system design!

… it was co-founder Dustin Moskovitz’s stubbornness that kept Facebook from allowing the use of pseudonymic usernames

Didn’t he allow? Really? Or is this statement just a product of your imagination? What I can clearly see from that passage is that this time not only him but you are thinking not in terms of SERVICING USER, but in terms of what to let them or what not to let them do. That is arrogance combined with megalomania, my dear! You are not concerned about SERVICING USER here at all.

Now, to the most important belief that drives all undercurrent logic of the article in question.

…Mark Zuckerberg’s plan is to build an online version of the relationships we have in real life…

The idea of building
an online version of relationships we have in real life is not original, not new, and it’s kind of common place obvious! But in the same way as it is common place obvious it is in the same way stupid in my opinion.

And why FB seems so popular that compared to any other single given online community it tends to outweigh almost everyone in the number of registered users? Because FB is the only, due to their policy of real names, web service that implemented this stupid idea! It is the unique selling point of FB. It occupied this niche almost entirely, becoming the only place on the Net where it is assumed that everybody uses their legal names in their profiles. Good! And now you can’t, as a result, compare FB with any single social network because ultimately, FB is in the class of its own. Nobody else is as stupid as FB. So to be precise you have to compare FB as “real name enforced” social network to all other social networks that don’t have such a policy.

Only then you will get the real picture, you will get the real importance and significance of FB! Compare how many people decided to join “real name network” with the amount of people joining all other social networks. This would be more accurate simply because FB is in fact is a niche service, and it has no competition as such in that given niche. Nobody wants to compete in this genre and the genre is clearly stated as
an online version of the relationships we have in real life. This is the only thing that makes FB different from the rest of the world.

We have vast varieties of different social networks and no one is competing with FB in this niche. Why is that so? Because all the others tend to understand that there is no division between real life and online life, you silly! Online is as real as offline! So logically you need to compare FB with the whole bunch of social networks building some kind of Internet reality, Internet part of life, serving the Internet part of life. Which is no less a part of real human life than any other. And we have only one network looking at this as “building an online version of real life”. Do you see the point?

We have real life and in that real life Internet is an integral PART of that real life and in that real life plenty of different networks serving this part of real life, the Internet part of real life, the online part of real life. And there is only one network that makes this stupid distinction, which decides to mirror real life online.

To be consistent in this logic one would have to ask to mirror FB on FB just as well, and a mirror of FB on a mirror of FB etc, etc, etc thus creating an infinite loop, unless FB agrees that they are not part of real life and all that time were just a figment of our imagination. LOL Or do they picture “real life” as happening somewhere there where there are no computers at all, there are no mobile phones, no screens, no electricity for that matter, and somewhere in a different dimension there is “non-real” life that is happening in front of computer screens. Do you really believe that everything that’s happening in front of those screens is NOT real? That is their statement (as well as yours by the way). That is their credo.

And the fact that they are alone in this niche is just because nobody else wants to commit to that statement, wants to compete with them in this field.

Now let us look at pros of “vanity URLs” as you call them, you managed to put forward.

  1. Uniqueness and remembering

  2. Search engine optimization

  3. Facilitating member-to-member communication (as in the case of Twitter’s @replies)

Uniqueness? Oh! Talking specifically about vanity URLs (as you do) one can’t fail noticing that names in URLs simply must be unique in the same way as any other identifier which a particular system might use in URL to distinguish their users – be it FB IDs or anything else you can imagine.

Whatever your specific policy about vanity and real names is - you have to put in a URL a unique identifier. So, as far as it concerns names, handles and pseudonyms - uniqueness is not their distinctive feature. Uniqueness is the feature which should be present in URL one way or another. If you decide not to use unique numbers or usernames you have to put some kind of unique ID in the URL. Either way it should be there. It’s not the feature of this or any other particular approach to the issue of vanity URLs because having numbers instead of words in FB URLs or ICQ IDs serves the same purpose as handles or pseudonyms in others. In order to work those systems must have unique user identifier, no matter if it is the same as your display name or not.

To let you have one-to-one session as in ICQ user software has to address clients using these unique numeric identifiers to avoid potential conflicts between the same display names when you have several different users with the same display name.

Uniqueness is utter rubbish in terms of freedom of letting people call themselves the way they choose since uniqueness is not a feature of user “whatever-you-let-users-to-do” it is the feature of the system. You have to have some unique identifier (UID) in order for the system to work. If it’s not a human-readable user name you have in URL, you will have to have some other sorts of UID there simply because there is no other way to pass this information to the server.

Item two – search engine optimization. Well, here we go! Dealing with this stuff for over 10 years now I just can’t miss the opportunity… Get a grasp of reality! I understand that SEO isn’t your specialty but could you at least bother reading something more contemporary than that Google SEO Magic. Guaranteed top 10 rankings in just one day with no effort whatsoever ebook you purchased off that SEO Guru website in mid 90-ies? Hello my dear! Wake up! It is not 1995! Whatever you put in your URLs is not relevant anymore. Let me remind you something. In 1990s CGI calls prevented pages from being indexed at all.

People started inventing things like URL rewrite just to get pages indexed. They quickly noticed the improvement. Picking up on this trend in late 1990s SEs started looking at domain names and words in URL in order to improve SERP relevance. For as long as it was not a common place and of all your competitors only you had something meaningful in URL it worked. It did not work magic as some other techniques did but ceteris paribus it noticeably improved your rankings for those words in URL. But it did not last for long as you couldn’t hide such an obvious feature.

This was too blatant, too in-your-face trick to remain the property of the SEO elite and quickly enough it turned in to what it is now – a common place. Now when everybody doing this the significance of whatever you put in URL is minuscule. I might even suggest that having too much of keywords in URL may actually decrease your rankings, as being no stupid SEs implemented their own tools to deal with inURL spamming. Get real! It’s flopping irrelevant these days! Now all spiders go though CGI requests, they all effectively disregard URLs structure. They are not that stupid anymore.

Item three – my dear, would you care to explain this “logical leap” you’ve just made? How on earth you managed to melt so-called “vanity URLs”, user names and interface handles together in one big messy mud ball? Isn’t it obvious enough that these three things are NOT related?

You can have anything in URL as long as it is uniquely identifies each of your users. User names (I assume you mean logins) must be unique, but may or may not be present in URL and similarly may or may not be derived from real names depending on service policy. “Interface handles” or better “display names” may or may not be the same as login, may or may not correspond to real names etc. The problem here is how to combine all those things into a useful working model to provide users with more convenient environment and only secondly, avoid a performance hit while doing this.

If you thought it through you would probably come up with an idea that just crossed my mind right now – why not only to provide users with a chance to specify non-unique display names (this way you would satisfy the presumed demand for real names without any naming collision in your system) but also to create a feature that would enable users to add comments/amend display names of other users when they are viewing them in their accounts, i.e. instead of just “John Smith” (display name chosen by John Smith himself) to have “John Smith I met at Starbucks on Friday” visible only to me when I am logged into my account.

Not a new idea as such since something like this had been implemented in IM clients since times immemorial, but might improve usability of web-based online communities to a certain degree.

All in all it seems that you either don’t understand the difference between what you call “vanity URLs” and UIDs, login names and display names, and have much too vague understanding of how web servers work or you deliberately substitute notions in order to confuse your readers.

The former is bad enough as for someone in your current position I would expect the level of competence at least slightly above the one an average user has, but if the latter is true – it makes me really-really suspicious of your true intentions.

For my own sake, I’ve lately begun decreasing the distance between my real identity and my online persona, switching from @factoryjoe to @chrismessina on Twitter. While there are plenty of folks who know me by my digital moniker, there are far more who don’t and shouldn’t need to in order to interact with me.

After listing three good reasons for letting people do what they want to do rather than letting them do what you want them to do, you make once again this completely inexplicable jump from one logic to another talking about how you freaking cleverly changed your alias to your “real name” on Twitter.

Well, hello Chris Messina! What you have changed on Twitter is two part word composed from “factory” and “joe“ to another two part word consisted “Chris” and “Messina” squished into one word. Is this your name?! Is this? Can I call you ChrisMessina with no capitalisation and no spaces in between? Can I always call you “
chrismessina-in-one-word”? Is this your name?

Google has already picked up on the correlation.

Hallooooo! Dear! You just now disproved your previous statement about SEO! This only shows that Google doesn’t give a dime about your URLs. It is irrelevant!

Ironically, in Dustin’s case (intentionally or not) he is not an authority for his own name on Google (despite the uniqueness of his name). Instead, semi-nefarious sites like Spock use SEO to get prominent placement for Dustin’s name (whether he likes it or not)

And now, again you jump on this poor guy, poor Dustin, who, is seemingly unaware at all that he is been chosen as a show case to illustrate chrismessina-in-on-word’s ingenious ideas. But let’s forgive you the frivolity of using Dustin Moskovitz as a scape goat. The choice of wording is again very touching here particularly because the screenshot you so carefully provided is utterly misleading.

Being a SEO and a compulsory clicker LOL I clicked on the link you provided along with that carefully taken snapshot of Google search result and to my infinite surprise I discovered that poor Spok wasn’t the main culprit. The first position of the search was occupied, according to your terminology, by semi-nefarious
Wikipedia, followed by presumably equally semi-nefarious, Gawker, CrunchBase,,,,, … and only on the second page I’ve manage to find the poor Spock… Just curios: why that the unfortunate Spok was singled out from all possible culprits and presented as semi-nefarious? Is it something personal? Or does it have something to do with competition? I can’t see any other reason :D

And yet again let’s talk about semi-nefarious Spock. I was quite intrigued by your wording - calling some internet service semi-nefarious. That obviously triggers my curiosity and after googling for Spock for some time I couldn’t find anything incriminating on this rather unpopular and insignificant network apart from sending annoying user invite emails. The thing of which your beloved FB is equally guilty of!

To my knowledge Spock was several times accused of basically sending invitations via email to all contacts of a new user. That is not the reason to call them semi-nefarious. They might have an interface that is likely to be made deliberately confusing, a user might be tricked into sending those invitations but that is common practice, unfortunately. Is it not exactly what FB does? In fact it is. In the same discussion threads about wrong doings of the likes of Spock FB is mentioned much more often as a serious offender of user privacy.

That everyone on Facebook has to use their real name (and Facebook will root out and disable accounts with pseudonyms), there’s a higher degree of accountability because legitimate users are forced to reveal who they are offline. No more “funnybunny345″ or “daveman692″ creeping around and leaving harassing wall posts on your profile; you know exactly who left the comment because their name is attached to their account.”

I like this one sooooo much! Not least because here you most unequivocally reveal what you are up to. Just look at the wording of that: root out, disable, slash’n burn, kill’em all! LOL And all because your wall on Facebook got spammed couple of times? Save this, Chris! You might need it later. And now, of course let’s hold someone accountable!!!!! But strangely not Facebook which provoked numerous user revolts against it’s policies over a rather short period, but users! And may I ask you how knowing the real name of someone who left a comment you didn’t like on your wall will help you to get him/her accountable? Planning to report them to FBI? What if the offender is in different jurisdiction? Travel to France, India, or China to kick his arse? Stop making fool of yourself, Chris!

Pseudonymity is the essential right in real world! So why do you need to take it away online? Chris, dear! Have you been on the net just for two weeks? Haven’t you realize that the Internet is not your real world in terms of communication. Your real world.

There are slightly different rules in this part of life. People quite often tend to say to each other on the Net things that they would never possibly tell each other in face-to-face communication. And you may like it or not but in my opinion that is what makes the Internet so attractive: something different from the ordinary, something different from offline, the ability to say to someone those things straight regardless of social standing - and you, boarding school girl, get offended by that? Common! Get use to it! This mode of behavior had been around for about 20 years already.

It grew, it evolved and it is already at the point of maturity. Or you’ve never heard the word Netiquette at all? The truth of the matter is that online communities can self-organise and can effectively police themselves without any external intervention and only rarely recalling the power of system administrators or law enforcement agencies.

So why is that only you are complaining about it whilst for most it is a non-issue? Everyone knows about it and everybody developed certain ways to deal with this. Everyone learned how to disregard offensive remarks or counter them. All in all it would be entirely wrong to judge Internet communication by offline standards. There is no opposition between your real world and Internet.

Internet is real as your real world and it is a part of your real world, but it is a specific part of your real world. Your problem is that you oppose Internet and real world and you just see Internet as just an image of the real world where all the rules of real world should be, in your opinion, equally applied to that online world. But it isn’t so! It works according to different rules and it has different mode of behavior, code of ethics and etc, etc, etc. You learn it or get out of there. Get a grasp of this. It’s not that one equals to the other. It isn’t!

From being kind of completely mute baby you learn the language. You learn how to address to your boss, you learn social situations in your life, you learn how to speak properly to your superiors, you learn how to please your girlfriend, you learn how to behave in whatever army unit or football team and you speak differently to a policeman. You behave differently as you learn code of behavior in different circumstances, in different environments. Learn, learn the rules that are already there and don’t be surprised, don’t complain if you came into a wrong district and you get bitten up there for not knowing the ways of the locals. That’s part of life.

When going to France you better speak French or have a good interpreter, when you go on the Net you better understand how people live and behave there. It’s been already there for nearly 20 years, my dear. There is an established sub-culture on the Net of which Facebook is the only exception. And it’s kind of silly for person in this position (sitting on board of the OpenID Foundation) not to appreciate the rules of engagement in Internet communication!

By shunning vanity URLs for its members, Facebook has achieved three things:

  1. Establishes a new baseline for transparent online identity

  2. Avoids the naming collision problem by scoping relationships within a person’s [reciprocal] social graph

  3. Upgrades expectations for human interaction on social websites

Item one - I don’t see any explanation for this one. Am I supposed to read “real name”? Is it what you really mean by “transparent”? If you meant that unique numbers given by FB are going to become universal identifiers for the rest of the Internet – Booooo! I don’t want to be a number. My FB ID is not going to become my universal ID or I am off the Net altogether!

Item two - WHAT?! How?! Please, explain how having ugly CGI calls in URL you are going to avoid naming collision problem by scoping relationships within a person reciprocal social graph? WHAT?! What? It again comes from complete misunderstanding of how web servers work. It seems you don’t understand that whatever you put in URL, if that particular URL refers to that particular user it must have something unique associated with that user.

Simply, you can’t grasp idea that one URL can not lead to two different places because it is
unique resource identifier! That is your problem.

The two points listed above would probably make at least some sense if they’d been referring to FB’s policy of real name enforcement on their service but instead of saying thing straight you once again shy away from this inconvenient truth pretending that you are talking about “vanity URLs”. Or do you really confuse the two?

Points 1 and 2 can only work out if everybody else accepts FB user IDs as universal account identifier… Get lost with that, my dear! This will never happen. LOL

Item three - Khe-khe! If bringing human interaction on social web site equals for you to making it exactly the same as it is in your “real world” then the use of the term “upgrade” might be up to the point. But let me disagree on this. There is nothing of an upgrade here.

You degrade the human interaction from what it achieved over the years by being quasi anonymous or pseudonymous on the Internet to the level that is around us in your so-called real world, commonly known as offline. It doesn’t upgrade anything. It degrades. At least to the point that instead of having something different we will have it all the same again. It may look like an upgrade – people will become less outspoken but they will become the same as offline which immediately castrates the whole business of the Internet since it reduces variety. It reduces possible variety of human interaction, that’s what it does! It is not an upgrade. Degradation! That what it is!

Let me explain why. You are only able to see one use for anonymity/pseudonimity on the net, namely a convenient shelter for those jerks who er… soil your Facebook wall with annoying spammy messages. That is as far as your fantasy goes. You fail to grasp the idea that anonymity/pseudonimity on the Net provided all of us with a gift of freedom!

Freedom to express your ideas without fear of possible reprisal, freedom to mix up with each other regardless of those dividing factors we have in offline communication. We learned to listen to what is being said regardless of who is saying it. It is that equality of ideas and opinions we treasure most in our online communication. How can you be so blind not to see this? Or, perhaps you are not so blind as you pretend to be...

Suppose you managed to force the idea of “real name” accounts onto the whole Internet. Not only it will silence all non-mainstream voices as people will become quite reluctant to voice anything that might even in the slightest way embarrass them in the eyes of their offline superiors but much worse, it will immediately recreate the structure of offline authorities as once again the emphasis will shift from what is being said to who is saying it. Anonymity/pseudonimity allows everyone to see who is who regardless of their offline position, status or wealth for that matter. Isn’t it what you are really afraid of?

Go through the comments on TechCrunch and compare those left by Facebook users with those left by everyone else. In my brief analysis, Facebook commenters tend to take their commenting more seriously. It’s not a guarantee, but there is definitely a correlation between durable identity and higher quality participation.

Your whining about comments on TechCrunch made by more self-conscious FB users – to me they are not too interesting, they are slightly boring. You want to paint it all grey. You want to make our life boring? Thanks a lot! But more to the point – you are probably right about “a correlation between durable identity and higher quality participation” but durable identity has nothing to do with legal identity per se.

Let me make a logical leap here and point out here that this is the new namespace — the human-friendly namespace — that Tim O’Reilly observed emerging when he defined Web 2.0, pointing out that a future source of lock-in would be “owning a namespace”. This is why location-based services are so hot.

This time a self-conscious logical leap LOL I mean if before there were true logical leaps now you start talking completely unrelated things without even trying to pretend that somehow they are logically connected ROFL
Tim O’Reilly… Tim O’Reilly. Tim O’Reilly? … TIM O’REILLY?!?! WHY DID YOU MENTION HIM?
My brain is almost dead after several unsuccessful attempts to find ANY logic/nonlogic/fictional/whatever reason why you mentioned him in your post… Sorry, dear readers! I failed this task.

When I was San Diego a couple weeks back, it dawned on me that if I searched for “Joe’s Crab Shack”, no search engine on earth would be able to give me a satisfying result… unless it knew where I was. Or where I had been. Or, where my friends had been. This is where social search and computer-augmented social search becomes powerful (see Aardvark). Not just that, but this is where owning a database of given names tied to real things becomes hugely powerful (see Foursquare). This is where social objects with human-given names become the spimatic web.

How location is related to the rest (name, URL, etc)? It’s out of context. You assume for whatever reason that a user is stupid enough not to specify that “Joe’s Crab Shack” somehow is related to San Diego. Your example only demonstrates that somehow you are seemingly unable to figure out the easiest way to get the address of “Joe’s Crab Shack” in San Diego on Google.

Let me help you on this one: I may draw to your attention that one word search phrases may not always provide you with required information when using search engines. Sometimes two word searches or better three word searches work better. Try and you might be surprised.

In addition to that you seem to be completely unaware of the existence of Google maps where you can omit the word “address” and get visual information in addition to plain text. Somehow it supposes that you were unaware that “Joe’s Crab Shack” have a web site where their addresses are listed in an appropriate and convenient manner OR you actually know all that but you suppose that an average user is not aware of those HACKS and hacking tricks.

It is equally bad as either are you as dump as (choose an appropriate) or this is your concept of USER behaviour. Excuse me! If this kind of person somehow is called a specialist of the Internet and think so LOW of people around on the Net, he shouldn’t be allowed near any place where his decisions might matter. It’s incompetent and wrong. It’s patronising and arrogant. Foolish and stupid. Sad after all. You made an issue of a non issue ones again.

So, that is how deep your analysis goes of location based services. But in fact location based services are more related to location aware devices like, excuse me, mobile phones, GPS-enabled cameras and PDAs and so on. Not to someone completely unaware of the way you need to search the Internet. It’s not for them, you, stupid! It’s not for those, who can’t grasp an idea of finding “Joe’s Crab Shack” in San Diego typing “Joe’s Crab Shack”+“San Diego”! Location services are not for them!

For those people there are specially designated institutions. They should be placed there! That is basically without being patronising the point. If you can’t put two things together, I’m sorry; these people shouldn’t be issued a driving licence and they should be kept aside from the rest of the society as they present an immediate danger to all in their vicinity.

Now, I don’t really believe that you are so incompetent in the area of location-based services, but why did you need to vulgarise the subject to this extend? What do you think of your readers?

Let me sum up the most important points of the article as I see it:

  • Vision of the internet (or at least social networks) as a mere representation of offline world online

  • General admiration of Facebook and their policy of enforcing real names at their accounts in particular

  • A call for the use of real (legal) names to be enforced all over the Internet

Whaooo! Do you really believe that it is the nature and the purpose of the web to replicate the world offline online? This is the most schizophrenic idea ever been applied to the Web in general and Web 2.0 in particular. Because, first of all, why on Earth would we need a virtual world which is the exact copy of the real world? We don’t need it! There is no need to multiply or mirror reality.

I have one world and that is enough for me! I live in that world. I don’t need a second one if it is exactly the same. I don’t need more of the same! I need something different.

You failed to grasp the idea that people are spending part of their real life on the Net and this part of their life as real as any other, so if it is real and should be included in real and it should be replicated offline online real, non real and then at the end we would come to an infinite loop where Internet replicates itself as being part of the real world in this virtual world etc, etc, etc. Is it your idea, dear, winding yourself up in an infinite loop?

To save you from this schizophrenic paroxysm I need to remind you that there is only one reality (not many) and in this reality the Web is an integral part of it and not a parallel reality!

Now let’s talk about your too obvious general FB admiration. It seems to be based on FB policy of enforcing real names for their user accounts. But does this really work? Can Facebook be called the ultimate real-life identity social network? Yes, but only statistically. Most likely the majority of Facebook accounts correspond directly to existing real name/surname combinations and of those accounts the majority is likely to be owned by individuals to whom these names rightly belong.

This is more than enough for statistical purposes and will definitely satisfy the needs of all those marketers, pollsters and spammers who are so much after the Facebook dataset. But will this be sufficient for us, users? You somehow believe that FB not just enforces real names but successfully enforces real names.

Shall I explain the difference? FB is not equipped with any verification mechanisms to ensure that names users supply to FB are actually their given names not to say about legal names. And there is no mechanism to verify that the address you provided is your legal address or at least you place of residence.

What FB does in reality? They judge the truthfulness of names and addresses provided to them in an admirably intuitive manner which makes people with surnames like Batman, Yoda, Christmas, Beer, Pancake or Kisser (Offbeat Name? Then Facebook's No Friend) among many others to endure quite a lot of suffering and gives an unfair advantage to Smiths, Johnsons, Williamses, Browns and Joneses instead.

In fact all you need to pass the FB verification procedure smoothly is to be John Smith or pretend to be John Smith. So, what are the consequences of these policies and their implementation by FB to its users? It gives them false impression that all names you can see on FB are real and users become acting based on this assumption.

The assumption itself is such that in case of any potential troubles the offending user account can be traced to a real-life individual who can be made responsible for whatever actions online. It makes ordinary user particularly exposed providing them with false feeling of security.

Those ordinary users feel they have nothing to fear and as they don’t have any reasons to lie about their real names and real addresses and they are foolishly and straightforwardly put their real names and addresses out there as requested by Facebook.

At the same time those who joined Facebook with malicious intent present real danger and they will definitely make sure that there is no way to trace them to their real name. They would use pseudonyms which look like real names to pass lousy Facebook verification, they would use existing addresses belonging to somebody else etc, etc, etc. There are real things in this world apart from rather innocent spam on your FB wall that are much much more serious and dangerous like fraud, identity theft etc, etc, etc for which FB provides very convenient environment, much more convenient for all those really criminal activities than the Internet in general.

It is much easier to trick FB users who are being under wrong assumption that everybody on FB is traceable are more exposed than an average Internet user who happens to be always on alert. FB “real” identity is in the fact only perceived real identity.

I assume the environment you are dreaming of is a completely different environment from what Facebook really is today. You are dreaming about total surveillance, you are dreaming about universal ID that is permanently attached to every living individual that is in use in all possible public and private communication happening on the web and elsewhere and also can be used as legal identity.

But unfortunately for you FB isn’t such. FB simply doesn’t have the authority to perform those checks, doesn’t have the authority to issue those IDs, It’s the matter of states so far. I can hardly imagine society where all those authorities are delegated to privately owned corporation. This might happen but not soon. Not right now anyway! :D

On the issue of real names however one has to understand one simple thing: real (legal) names can not provide sufficient basis for your Internet identity simply because any name/surname combination is not unique. There are more people living and even more if you count the dead ones than name/surname combinations currently in use.

If you are so much concerned about real names, please, consider dot name failure which is in my opinion is a still-born idea right from the beginning. The essential problem is that there are far too many people legally sharing the same name/surname combination.

Dear, don’t you confuse unique identifier handle with your real name because don’t you, please, be under the illusion that there is only one Chris Messina in this world. You might be much more fortunate than your average Smith, Johnson or Williams for that matter and therefore feel rather more secure about the subject as surname MESSINA only ranks # 2631 in terms of the most common surnames and had just 12,626 occurrences in the 2000 Census, according the U.S. government records but this is not for long.

It is much too easy to disprove just by going and changing my own legal name to Chris Messina which can be done absolutely legally. And there will be another Chris Messina in this world being able to challenge your dot name registration and so on and so forth.

So, my dear, real names can’t be used as handles as long as those handles are unique identifiers in the system., Handles, pseudoniymic user names or other unique identifiers will be creating an appropriate namespace one way or another, unless you legally oblige every citizen of the world to provide their children with a unique name and surname combination.

Sort of
World Wide Directory of Names. Imagine registering your own baby and getting something like: Sorry! This combination is taken! Please, come up with something else! And each of all those 5 billion people leaving and perhaps equal amount people that are already dead will have to be given unique name/surname combination. OK! Let’s rename our dead just for that purpose if it’s fine with you. I am personally not prepared for such drastic measures. And we didn’t even start considering questions of middle and married names!

So there will be handles and unique identifiers different from your real name and surname. Don’t confuse these two problems. Real names are not meant to be unique and will always need some third-party unique identifier attached to them. Or perhaps it will suffice for your idea to have something like 1234567.chris.messina for your handle?

This way it will be unique but will never become nicely looking, attractive or workable. Besides, if we decide to go along this path and issue numbers in addition to names, why don’t we abolish names altogether and leave just numbers? It’s much more convenient both, for software developers as well as for states aspiring to implement total surveillance model. Is this the world you want to live in?

Citizen #28798765235? I shall not stretch this any further as this mode of living had been explored in various anti-utopian writings perhaps too many times, but I hope you see the point already.

So what you are calling for? It’s a call for action, it is not just a paper, it’s something. Let’s see. At the moment whenever I register, whatever I do on the Net, I’m free to provide any combination of letters & numbers for my account: either my legal name or any other name I’m also have known as which is rather convenient because I’m known under one name to my close friends and under completely different name I sign my papers when I open bank account, or I can invent something that reflects my personality - so I’m free to choose.

And, please, remember there are plenty of people who in real life have a lots of names under which they known (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin) and not all of them are the same or are similar to their given name and/or to their legal name even better.

At the moment there is certain degree of freedom between mentioning and not mentioning my real name in my user account. And looking at the current situation you will probably find that there is smaller number of people who decided to satisfy demands of FB compare to those who opted out.

Let’s take the normal world and having no statistic at hand I still assume that there will be at least equal amount of people who prefer not to mention their legal names for whatever reason. They do it and this is their right for pseudonymity and this is normal. No changes are necessary.

Everywhere on the Net except on Facebook people have freedom of choice at the moment. They choose whatever name they feel suits them better and this is fine. Quite many of them choose to use pseudonyms instead of legal names or otherwise not to mention their real names. Others do differently. The only change that might appear in general user behaviour is that they might prefer to use legal names, but no changes to the Internet structure is necessary to provide them with that possibility – they already have it.

They already can put their real or legal names wherever they seem fit. You may somehow convince them to cooperate; you may encourage them but no changes in the Internet infrastructure is required for this.

But what do you do? You actually call towards abolishing of pseudonyms. Well, let’s see how pseudonyms annoyed you. They may function as a way to conceal your legal identity. Fine with that. Because we all know it! There is nothing new in it and for 20 years we learn how to live with this.

What a surprise: people may not be what they present themselves on the Net! Hello! I’ve learned that 20 years ago with my first computer and connection to whatever AOL or Compuserve that was! And there are bad people on the Net! I know it. But thanks once again for reminding me anyway!

If a crime had been committed there are all technical means to trace and legally prove that a particular crime had been committed by that particular individual. It’s in the infrastructure of the Internet: IP connections, IP addresses, IP logs of those connections – it is all traceable. If you are talking about that… But that is none of our business! I’m sorry! It is none of your business as a private individual; it is none of your business as OpenID Foundation board member. You don’t belong to any law enforcement body. You are not FBI, CIA or KGB for that matter. That is their business, not yours.

Basically you are talking about naughty behaviour, behaviour that is not always socially acceptable but doesn’t legally constitute crime. You don’t like it. I understand. You want us all to be grey. You want us to behave! LOL Do you? You want to take away most of the fun of the Internet, you want not to let us to be naughty online? ROFL

Once again it is a disgrace that you can see only this side of anonymity and pseudonyms. You must be blind not to realise that pseudonyms an as much as they council identity they PTOTECT your identity. Yes! Pseudonyms protect your identity from all those evil doers who might sneak in FB, get your real name, your real address and steal your identity, steal you money, rob your house… Abolishing pseudonyms will utterly destroy people’s journalism that only started to form over the past few years.

How could you forget about those people leaving in those countries where just expressing their political opinion slightly different from the mainstream might constitute a capital crime! You don’t think about them! You want them to put their real names straight forward for their secret service authorities, do you? And don’t tell me it never happens! Can you be a bit humane, my dear?

Whom you are working for Chris Messina? Imagine who will profit the most if we all put all our real names? Marketers, Spammers, Corporations and petty criminals and fraudsters. The amount of rubbish letters in our mail boxes will increase dramatically and these secret services of those oppressing regimes would just pray on this! Thank you, Chris!


djpaisley said...

dayum girl... tell 'em

umm.. next time you write something that long can you space out the paragrqphs a bit tho..


in 1994 when had applied to the FBI and CIA and was working for AOL hunting down 65 year old childmolesters in the teen chat rooms.. i kinda couldn't and didn't want to use my real name..

and it stuck... 15 years later.. i'm slowly deleting it... all that stuff i did on the internet 15 years ago and in between isn't exactly safe for minors..

then we had IRC.. where if someone pissed you off, you hacked the server, looked up their real name and called the phone company on their behalf to cancel the phone service because you were moving.. or the electricity of the water... etc..

so i'm talking to this reporter from the unnamed TV network.. and he says.. "what's your twitter name?" I asked "are you posting this under my picture during the interview?"

she said yes...

while i've been able to "hide" under another name.. i never used it to avoid anything other than having the foresight to not have ex girlfriends who are now pornstars online conversations under my real name.. which as we move into online transparency..

(sorry hun, we are)

i'm glad none of the "fun" will come up under google 10 years from now under my real name.

djpaisley said...

and actually my name is my url..

Indian Girls Club said...

I still didn't complete even 20% .. I have to come back again to read. Bookmarking this !