Have you ever heard of the frequency illusion, where once you notice something once, you seem to suddenly notice it everywhere? It’s also called the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon, and it’s been ruling my life since joining NuID.
I’m seeing content & having off the cuff conversations about the woes of logins and credentials more so than I ever would have anticipated. Well Carlyle, you think, that must be because you changed industries – of course you’re going to see and hear about the thing you do for work. That’s a good observation, and a correct one. Naturally the media and conversations I consume will closely align with my area of work. However that doesn’t account for, say, Spotify locking me out of my account moments before a 3 hour flight, or a close college friend spontaneously complaining about the inconvenience of MFA at work.
The truth is, issues with authentication are everywhere, all the time, and people’s complaints are constant (and valid). I’m just recently internalizing and processing these events because they pertain to me and my efforts within NuID. This phenomenon is called the frequency illusion for a reason: the newly perceived frequency has always been there, just lying unnoticed on the periphery of consciousness.
What seemed like one-off annoyances in managing my accounts in the past are actually a systemic issue with threads connecting to every facet of our online identities: forgetting passwords, resetting passwords, being locked out of accounts, maintaining an endless password list, platforms’ customer support being utterly unhelpful; I could go on. If you start to observe, you’ll notice the same thing if you haven’t already. It’s not just you whose Netflix password you swear you typed in correctly but it only works on the third try. It’s not just you who watches warily when another of your Instagram followers gets hacked and starts shilling Bitcoin.
We use the internet constantly. It governs huge portions of our work, our socialization, and our education. Some platforms aim for us to have quasi-lives in it. How is it, then, for something so seemingly sophisticated, so omnipresent in our lives, that it can be so dang hard to access and manage?
Passionate communities and companies want to tackle these issues, which is fantastic, but it can be hard to cut through the noise and the “hype” of what’s being promised. When people start talking about a “decentralized internet” or “web3” it can be easy to lose the thread of what the community is trying to achieve and how it will actually benefit people. Those concepts can get a bit nebulous. What NuID is working toward is Identity Utility on the internet. Let’s unpack that a bit.
For most of us, our utilities provide a crucial function in our daily lives, but we don’t give too much thought to how exactly they work. I have a rudimentary understanding of how power enters my home, but I’m certainly not thinking about it when I flip the lights on in the morning. I flip a switch, they come on as expected, and I proceed about my day. Same goes for the gas that heats my shower, or the water that washes my dishes. My utilities make my life easy, I expect them to work efficiently, and I don’t have to spend too much time thinking about them; even my bills are on autopay.
Identity on the internet should be the same: usable, useful, reliable, portable, and convenient (not to mention secure). If you show up at a bar, you should be able to quickly and easily verify you’re 21+ without also sharing a physical ID with your full name, home address, and full birthday as we do now.
A decentralized web is one in which individuals are the owners of their digital selves; they don’t have to trust platforms with their sensitive data like passwords, and they control who accesses what information. In order to make that a reality, it has to be built for everyone to use. And based on the frequency of complaints about the current model of identity on the internet, everyone should want to use it.
I would love to to never see another “reset password” email in my inbox again. When I move I would love to update my address once and have it propagate across platforms I care about. I would love to never receive a message like the one below that Locke received from Microsoft (how can you not reset a password to your own account when you’re the admin?!).
We have a ways to go before true Identity Utility is implemented, but we have to start somewhere. Fortunately, NuID has been grinding away, head down, building the foundation for such a thing. It started with our trustless authentication protocol, and it’s continuing with the development of the Nu Identity Ecosystem & KiiChain. We aim to be the utility company for identity.
Identity Utility on the internet is not just possible, it’s happening, and we’re building it. We hope you’ll join us on the journey to bringing it to fruition. I’m energized and honored to play some small part of this effort, not just for my own benefit, but for the benefit of us all. If you start noticing your own woes with authentication and account management, drop me a line, and we can commiserate together (but rest assured- we’re working to fix it).