The First Company to Build Your Identity Into Your Phone Wins the Next Decade
It’s important to understand what identity isn’t: Identity is not a password, it’s not root access, it’s not your calendar, it’s not your email, it’s not a technical achievement, it’s not your location, it’s not a user account in a system, it’s not your contacts and it’s not a feature.
So, what is identity? I think in its most basic form, your identity is the product of how you manage your attention and others’ access to that attention. Those areas where your attention is focused assemble to form a set of experiences that shape and influence where you’ll direct future attention. But that attention is interrupted all the time by people, events, things, desires, boredom, weather, etc. and that process of interruption is, largely, contained to physical space because that is a natural gate on access.
Then there’s the phone. The “phone” part of the mobile phone is important not because of the voice communication it enables, but rather from the habit and etiquette that the ringing bell created in society and the direct access it grants to the caller. It’s the promise of instant communication at the cost of having attention interrupted and redirected. The key to unlocking that attention is a semi-random sequence of digits which you can give to someone else to indicate that the person now has permission to interrupt you and to access your attention directly.
Email works so well because it is another opportunity for access and people have formed a collective habit of actively directing attention toward their inboxes at regular intervals. We have all agreed to walk to our computers and check the new mail indicator and are generally addressable through a combination of a username and domain. It’s not as insistent as the phone, though, and provides just enough lag to enable some measure of control over granting access. Twitter and Facebook have feeds which abstract away both the To: and Subject: fields of email and represent two very different networks but are nonetheless an evolution of the habits email created. Facebook further improves the method of connection through friendship and the use of real names with the network itself providing necessary disambiguation.