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After downloading Skype 4.2, I realized that I could now invite all of my Facebook friends who had Skype accounts to my Skype contact list. So I did. Unfortunately the Skype UI for this sucks so I had to go through about 1,000 entries a screen of five at a time unchecking the Facebook friends I didn’t want on Skype. I ended up inviting about 280 – fortunately I was on a conference call for the thirty minutes it took me to grind through this.
The data field used for the match was email address. Shocking, I know. It’s the same data field used to log in to Facebook and Twitter. Google sort of uses email (at least the gmail) account for their authentication, although now that I have both my gmail account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and my email account (email@example.com) in Google’s system, I am constantly having to fight with the “reauthorize me to access that thing via firstname.lastname@example.org) game” since Google hasn’t solved for multiple email addresses yet.
More and more sites are integrating Facebook Connect, Twitter “Connect”, or both. Yahoo has such a golden opportunity to do this and own it but they blew it. Google seems to have also missed this and ceded it to Facebook and Twitter for some reason. Microsoft has been trying for a decade first with Passport and now Live ID. And then there is Skype with their 20m simultaneous users. Or Amazon with their gazillion users authenticating via email. And then there’s Barnes & Noble – if I want to create an account I get to use my email address. And the list goes on and on.
Facebook and Twitter are in a perfect position to own single sign on. I just don’t understand why Yahoo and Google blew this although I don’t really care. What I do care about is that there seems to be a natural convergence on email as the user id and authentication via widely pervasive services like Facebook and Twitter rather than entertainingly complex approaches like Oath.
I predict email is going to become even more important in the next few years. There’s no reason for me to have a phone number any more – you should just be able to contact me via email@example.com. And that should authenticate me anywhere. And – as a messaging protocol – I should be able to use my “inbox” (wherever or whatever it is) as my central notification point.
It’s remarkable that 15 years after commercial Internet email started to proliferate, it is still at the root of all the commercial Internet activity. Very very cool.