Mark Dixon continues his thinking about how user-centric identity will work in the real world by asking if credit bureaus will be identity providers? He has some questions formed in order to explore that:

But now the questions:

  1. Will online vendors be willing to pay a fee for each identity verification?
  2. Will consumers be willing to pay a fee for these transactions?
  3. Will consumers trust credit bureaus to deliver reliable information?
  4. Will credit bureaus offer the service out of the goodness of their hearts?
  5. Does anyone really care?

I’ll take a stab:

  1. Are they now?
  2. Are they now?
  3. Do they now?
  4. Do they now?
  5. Do they now?

Certainly credit bureaus are a likely supplier of identity information, and for the same reasons they supply that information now they will continue to supply that information. With user-centric identity the money still flows, it is just that the data got routed a different way. I don’t think it can be stressed enough that business adapts to the environment and not the other way around.

So who will be the identity providers? Well there is a long list of potential there, including:

  • Credit bureaus
  • Banks
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • National Governments
  • Local Governments
  • Professional Associations
  • Clubs
  • Online Vendors
  • Online Service Providers
  • Employers
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Everyone else

Pretty much anyone who provides identity information on your behalf now. I don’t worry about credit bureaus, they know how to extract cash for services rendered. And maybe, just maybe it doesn’t make sense for them to provide your credit score directly to or through you, but then maybe, just maybe, they see an opportunity to extract cash directly from consumers in a way that reduces their costs in providing the service. Who knows?

I worry more about creating a trust framework that can scale to that level. It isn’t federation. It isn’t all PKI. I think it is somewhere in between. And servers in the sky that respond to every request for every little detail in real time don’t seem like a good answer. For anybody.

All joking aside - I believe the business relationships that do and will exist between consumers, vendors and identity providers are every bit as important as the underlying technology. But I hear people talking more about competitive protocol stacks than business plans.

I agree completely. If user-centric identity were federated identity or enterprise identity then I would be expecting a nice cost benefit analysis from the business folks who plan on selling the stuff into the enterprise. However, that just isn’t the direction this thing is coming from. This is credit cards, not backend infrastructure designed to reduce operating costs. If every customer you get in your store has a credit card and a good percentage won’t touch cash, you either get the POS hardware required to take credit cards or you lose the business. Today, every vendor site is designed around how many clicks it takes to establish a relationship with a new customer. They are counting clicks and yet the biggest barrier is filling out the web form. Let’s make that one click. Credit cards.

User-centric identity is that big dog, putting the power in the hands of the people, and hey you, enterprise, start cooking up the scoobie snacks.