Google has brought back a re-incarnation of the old finger protocol, in the form of WebFinger. It strikes me as a simple to implement solution to identity+discovery on the web. OAuth, OpenID and other systems tackle authentication, but suffer from being less than user friendly (from a UI standpoint) in that the average person does not equate a URL with a person (identity). WebFinger on the other hand utilizes the all to familiar email address format, something that is easily understood by even the most basic internet user. It does not rely on a new transport protocol, but just plain old HTTP and delivers the information in an XML file. It is decentralized in nature, and is found by a 'well-known' file located at a domain. Other services like FaceBook, etc. can link people to my various other profiles, pages contact info and such - but only if one specifically looks at FaceBook and has an account there. I can post this information on my website, but that is not easily machine parseable.
A simple command line (python) implementation (for those who remember the original finger) is available at:
After you install python-xrd and iso8601, go to the directory for python-webfinger and simply execute:
and you should see something like:
Avatar: http://datalinkcontrol.net/misc/UBCBY.jpg HCard: None OpenID: None Profile: http://www.google.com/profiles/mcdavis42 XFN: None