Internet Identity

When I started my first website, back in the day, it was static. If someone wanted to tell me something I’d get an email.

Then: forums. Forums were the shiznit. Every small to medium sized website had a phpBB forum for a while. I had one. I had more than one.

About the same time, I started using Drupal for The Gods of Reed. The first few years, I built the site from text files and templates, stringing it together with Perl and uploading three static pages to the server on every update. If I wanted to change the header template, I used the script to rebuild the entire site. And then I switched to Drupal. Not only did this make the site easier to manage, it added the ability to comment on the stories.

I’m a fan of Drupal; I still use it. Both Drupal and phpBB gave me the ability to hear from the people reading my story and to respond. I liked my small community, even if it never quite got past being a small community. It was a separate little island, away from the rest of the internet.

“Little” is quite accurate. I didn’t connect to anything. Link farms were well out of date, and webrings were fading from popularity at this point. Web comics had Keenspot and the like to create communities and cross-pollination, and other communities did the same. And I’ll admit, I stayed off in my own little world.

Livejournal was big, but I wasn’t keen on LJ, or any of the other big social sites. Others came and went. I signed up for some, and at one point I had about a dozen logins to social sites and communities and general places to keep up with friends. At least, in theory.  In practice I had no real patience for them. It’s tiresome to have all these logins, and to enter your basic info at every site you sign up for. LJ, Orkut, OKCupid, Friendster, so on ad naseum.

This may be where my interest in connecting to any sort of social medium via internet was at an all time low. I will admit, it’s not my thing at the best of times, but signing up for fads took a toll on me. I still get emails from Friendster reminding me about birthdays, though recently it stopped showing me who’s birthday for some crazy reason.

And now there’s Facebook, which doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. (I’m predicting an LJ lifecycle on this one, as opposed to a Friendster lifecycle.) Facebook is gaining momentum, and somewhere in there it added one of those fabulous features that makes the future so much better than the past.

I know it’s not specifically a Facebook feature, or even something developed by Facebook. It’s just one of the more popular sites for it. I’ve given Facebook some amount of my basic information. The same info I’ve given out to dozens of sites now.

But, and this is the great thing, now sites don’t have to ask me for that info anymore. All they need is a button that says “Hey, let me grab your info from Facebook, ok?”.

That’s great for me, the lost boat on the internet traveling from one island to another. It means I can carry my identity with me, to some degree. (Theoretically this would allow me to have a central place at which I can enter personal info, or not, as I choose.)

It’s not too bad for my sites, either. I don’t have to be quite the island off in the middle of nowhere. I don’t have to wonder if anyone’s going to bother to sign up and comment or participate; there’s no signing up to do. It’s a hurdle people don’t have to go through. And it makes the programmer’s job easier (which, in this case, I am not). Echo Bazaar is a case in point; they didn’t implement any login logic at all. They used Twitter (and now Facebook).

It makes the social web a lot more social than it used to be. I like thinking back to the mid-90’s when the internet was young and consider the ways we tried to have these connections.

One of the things I’ve been having trouble with the last few days are the comments on this blog (which is premature, I know, but I ponder such-like). I, for one, dislike the idea of people having to log in to leave comments. But the alternative is entering the same information for every comment. It’s tedious fast. It was round-a-bout, but I discovered the connections to Facebook and Twitter.

This pleases me in a way the internet rarely does. Which is why, after adding these login options for the comments, I felt the need to relate why I am so pleased.

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