Via @radar O’Reilly, news that Netflix is going to deeply integrate Facebook into its authentication system, at least. Specifically, they’re going to use Facebook accounts to identify individuals in households. This makes sense: when Netflix was mailing DVDs, the relevant unit was mailing address or household. But since they’re fulfilling the promise of their name (they weren’t called Mailflix before), the relevant unit for streaming is, arguably, the individual.
So they’re going to identify people in households. But how do you do that?
As I’ve noted before (well, it was Dick Hardt’s idea), Facebook is unique in the business of authentication because Facebook users are real people. That is, Facebook uses the ‘social graph’ to make sure that accounts are associated with real and, importantly, unique individuals. (Some people might have multiple Facebook accounts, but that is a pretty sketchy set of people.)
When you register for an account on another system, the distinguishing measure is email address; for most of the web, email is identity. But this isn’t enough for what Netflix is looking for, and for lots of other applications. Federating identity, also in the news recently, doesn’t cleanly solve this problem. And there is plenty of talk about how OpenID, specifically, is failing in its promise; the architecture may be right but the implementation is flawed.