The Internet is on its way to settling down. Don’t misunderstand me, as far as the interwebs are concerned, 401 still means unauthorized access and has nothing to do with retirement (yes, that’s a geek joke). Instead, it means that the Internet is giving up on the chaos of its youth and settling into a respectable and tactful adulthood. At the root of the issue lies the concept of online identity.
For the past decade, our collective online experiences have been modeled after a Matrix-esque experience. We select usernames, which become our residual self-image. Behind these fairly anonymous handles humanity as a whole has been able to momentarily devolve into caustic, self-righteous, judgmental twelve-year-olds (not me, of course). Not that this was necessarily a bad thing, it just was. But the status quo is changing. So what’s the agent of change? Facebook Connect (FBC).
As more and more sites add FBC as a login option, it’s amazing to watch the metamorphosis this has on blog comments. The users that use FBC to login tend to have much more productive and constructive contributions to the discussion than the other users. Now, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are many reasons this might be, but I know in my own experiences I’ve held back in leaving a sardonic comment using FBC where I would not have with an anonymous username.
Online reputation is as important as ever, and as the lab highlighted in our 2009 Trends, management of that reputation is becoming commonplace for individuals as well as companies. Anonymity is going to stick around for a long time, since it is of extreme importance in certain situations (as Wikileaks or the current Iran election situation demonstrates). But in the day-to-day use of the Web, we’re moving toward a more evolved, more transparent interaction. This is going to be a good thing for brands.
In the places where FBC becomes the only login option, a small ecosystem will be created where feedback is genuine, informational, and civil. There will always be boorish people in the world, so don’t expect Internet trolls to go away, but hopefully with a transparent identity scheme they will become the exception rather than the rule. Reputation management techniques and brand monitoring will become more rewarding experiences in these ecosystems, which will bode well for both marketers and consumers.