The release of Google Buzz has drawn attention to Webfinger, which appears to provide something that I've been looking for for quite some time. Despite its terrible name, my "webfinger ID" could replace my email address as the universally recognised way by which I identify myself on the web, and others out there refer to me.
Webfinger is dead simple. Really. (I think.) All it's about is a way of publishing profile information about you on the web in a way that easily discoverable. To be exact, any application presented with the webinger ID "email@example.com" can query standard pages on http://myuniv.edu (not quite http://myuniv.edu/fred, but almost) and find out stuff about Fred - for example:
- their Jabber ID
- their OpenID - no more typing in URLs
- their Shibboleth IDP - no more WAYF problems
- their photo, bio and any other public profile information they wished to publish.
Webfinger is likely to succeed for three reasons:
- It's a solution that's sorely needed. People currently identify themselves by email address, but might use something different for their chat/Jabber id even on the same domain. That's bad. Secondly publishing profile data is pretty key to collaboration, and if there's a standard way to do it, so much the better.
- It uses an email style ID. Webfinger IDs are just of the form "name@domain". That reads naturally, and is a lot easier to read than an OpenID, that's for sure.
- It's federated. Domains control publishing of profile data themselves. This is not like Facebook or Twitter or Google profile or any other the others.
Ok, so I may be pushing the idea further than it can support currently, but I hope you get the idea that this could be the rosetta stone we've been looking for - allowing federated collaboration systems to talk to each other and exchange people information simply and openly. I wonder how long it will be before I give out my first webfinger address?