Applications: I am not a number; I am a tag : implementation



 Verified tags

As we have seen before, conferred identity (for example, a driving licence) can be used instead of the primary identity. For example, conferred identity can be used to buy a range of services in the physical world (for instance you can show your driving license to buy services). In the digital world, tags / avatars etc are all a form of identity. However, they are not verified.

To achieve the concept of ‘I am not a number..’ you need a verified tag.

How can we verify the tag? You could use something like the Liberty alliance or similar mechanism. But that’s too ‘top down’, complex and expensive. But let us put this in perspective first; as indicated before,  A phone call is not a transaction!. The stakes are a lot less lower. In this case, rather than a full fledged approach (such as liberty alliance), which is expensive, a simpler more organic approach could suffice. This approach is based on the concept of ‘Identity = reputation’. Reputation is what others say about me on the Web. That’s an organic way to ‘verify’ me i.e. my tag. A verified tag allows me to be identified and verified, but not because who I say I am, but because others can validate what I say. This makes the mechanism a ‘closed loop’ system. In contrast, the Internet allows me to set up an ID called ‘John Smith’, without proof. I can then take someone’s verified ID and can communicate to another channel. As this is open; it can be abused.

The next logical question is: how to capture that ‘reputation’? And here, lets introduce another word ‘Pingerati . Trackbacks [3] are decentralised. In the sense, that when we trackback something, a link is created between the blog we are tracking back from and ‘my’ blog.  Supposing, every time you tracked back, there was a ‘ping’ (hence Pingerati!) to another site; that site would then hold all your trackbacks ever.
Why is this useful?

Imagine there is a place on the Web where I could store all my trackbacks, then that place becomes an implicit profile. Maybe it could even be my own blog. Thus, my blog would contain all my blog entries, all the comments on my blogs but also all the comments I have made on other people’s blogs in a separate section. An algorithm (PeopleRank) could then process all that information to create a ranking/probability indicating who I am.


So, thus far we have seen how we could identify a tag based reputation. Our goal is to make a ‘Internet originated phone call’ to that tag now that we have reliably identified the tag. The question arises, how to ‘place’ this call from the Web? If this is a mobile phone, how can we bridge the ‘fixed to mobile’ gap? From a telecoms perspective, to place an IP call to someone on a mobile IP network, you need their IP address. That address may be mapped to any identifier (tag, avatar etc), but an IP address is required. We also need to know presence information: Is the ‘tag’ available to accept phone calls. On first impressions, the requirement of knowing the IP address in advance sounds very daunting. In fact, it may not be so as we show below.

 We can think of two ways you can ‘call’ a phone.

a) SkypeOut and

 b) Naked SIP


The first and the simplest is to use an enhanced version of a mechanism like ‘SkypeOut’[4]. SkypeOut  has a profile and can already call any phone including a mobile phone. So, we need the Identity and presence features which are missing at the moment. Presence can also be provided by the user manually or through rules (Between 7 to 9 in the evening, call me on my home number).

 Naked SIP: “Naked SIP” is SIP without IMS. Please refer to the section on ‘Naked SIP’ for an explanation of it’s significance. Naked SIP provides plus third party applications an addressing mechanism to a phone which is independent of a Telecoms network provider.

 Conclusions and Observations

From the above discussion, we see that:

a) I am not a number; I am a tag  can be implemented at multiple levels; either as a simple ‘SkypeOut’ call or through naked SIP in the future.

b) Identity can be implemented organically through ‘Pingerati’.

 c) To some extent, we already use the Web to check identity manually. How many times have you ‘Googled’ someone to ‘check out’ who they are? That’s an ID check!

 d) To recap, it's more about convenience. When Amazon was first launched, many people thought it was about cheaper books. Today, we don’t expect cheap books from Amazon – but we get ‘something more’ i.e. the choice. Similarly, with this concept – you get all the numbers in one place, you get presence information and you can call the numbers from the Web.

 References: Marc Canter : Breaking the web wide open [5]The disruptive potential of Wi-Fi and WiMAX