I have a lot of online identities. Who doesn’t these days? I’ve got a gmail account, which means I also have a gchat account and that account can also double as an OpenID. Because I got on the bandwagon before Google did, I have a different OpenID. I’ve got an AIM account (well, one active and a few that’ve atrophied over the years). I’ve got a Twitter account and an account at Hacker News and one over on the GURPS fora and an OtherInbox account and… a ton of other sites. Sometimes, it’s all a lot to keep track of.
However, sometimes they get conflated in ways that annoy me. For instance, especially since getting hooked into OtherInbox, I’ve protected my gmail account a lot. I route to it from several @benhamill.com addresses, for instance. And, really, it’s harder for other people to remember my picked-it-because-of-a-crowded-namespace-username at gmail.com than it is to remember my-first-name at my-full-name.com.
However, the circle of people I give my (or an) email address to is different from the circle of people I want to chat with over AIM (and is certainly different from the circle of sites I’d want to sign into with an OpenID). So I have warring desires: I like having an XMPP chat account now that I’ve used gchat and I wouldn’t have tried it if it hadn’t been handed to me, but now I wish it were a different account (so I could disclose my chat id, but not my email address). Problem is, now that I’ve got people used to that identity in that format, the overhead for switching is somewhat high. Also, there’s the convenient merging of contact lists that Google does for me (probably possible with different identities, but certainly not as easy).
So, if I didn’t have an OtherInbox account and I didn’t have a separate OpenID: just my gmail account… I’d be (tacitly) giving my email address to people I wanted to chat with and websites I signed into with OpenID, I’d be giving my OpenID and email address to people I chatted with, etc. That seems… bad to me. Am I being paranoid? There’s a balance, here, between lowering the bar of entry (“Want to try out New Thing X? Easily done: you already have an account.”) and separation of concerns. What’re your thoughts on the topic of identity management and separation thereof?
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