Gradual Epiphany


So, I got a 50-year registration of an i-name as a DIDW attendee. Now I wonder what exactly it’s useful for. According to the Identity Commons it’s supposed to be the “ultimate SPAM filter” and some day (in the far future, I suppose) enable SSO across web-sites and be repository of personal information protected by an “i-broker”.

The immediate problem, of course, is that if I give my i-name to someone outside of the digitial identity space, they’re not going to know what to do with it. Socially, there is no context for this identifier, and even worse, there aren’t any obvious tools available to the average user which would allow them “use” my i-name to contact me. Now, I’m willing to concede that this may just be due to the fact that i-names are not yet popular, and like any new identifier, will just require some time to get fixed in the social awareness. However, that’s not going to happen if the i-name people (XRI/XDI, as I understand it) don’t come up with some useful, or at least well publicized tools. If they exist, I would gladly accept pointers.

On a less practical note, it bugs me that i-names are essentially attempting to create a global address space for the whole Internet. What I mean by this, is that by default i-names are global, so there can only be one “=dizzyd” for the whole Internet. From an identifier standpoint, i-names are regressing us back to the days of “bob394” and “alice2zz”. Imagine how life would be if we only had first names — how would we distinguish between this Bob and that Bob? The reality is that the Internet is a big place and it needs an addressing scheme that reflects at least some understanding of the scale involved. Email addresses may not be the perfect answer, but at least they add an intermediate partioning of the address space that more closely reflects how big the ‘Net is.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know a whole lot about i-names. I do welcome instruction on them, as they may be an important piece of future identity infrastructure. However, until someone can provide some pragmatic use for my i-name, I will continue to consider them an interesting academic exercise.