One of the most important topics in online community is the Identity Management problem. Users have, in recent years, been swamped by identities -- a typical heavy online user is juggling dozens of different logins to different sites, causing endless confusion and a lot of fracturing of their online "persona".
There have been a lot of experiments happening over the past four years to try to deal with this, and two major technology approaches have been making real inroads in the past year: Facebook's proprietary Connect system, and the "Open Stack" (OpenID plus a bunch of less-well-known related standards).
Yesterday was a milestone day in pulling this all together and starting to make sense of it. Facebook (which has recently started to get serious about getting involved with the OpenID project) invited all the movers and shakers in the space to a small summit meeting, to hash out the details, discuss their experiments, and figure out what really works.
I really can't overstate how important this was: the results presented were beyond encouraging, and everyone seems to be quickly converging on answers to the all-important question of, "How do we do this without confusing the heck out of users?"
John McCrea posted a liveblog account of the day -- if you have any interest in this space, go read it. Now. In particular, note that all of the slide decks presented during the open session are embedded, and all of them are well worth looking through. This isn't the usual tech brainstorming: these are the accounts of principled real-world experiments with ordinary users, and the lessons learned.
There are moments when you suddenly realize that Steam Engine Time has hit a technology: the problems and confusion are starting to look old and foolish, everyone wakes up to the fact that this tech is needed, right now, and they start pulling together to work out the details to make it hum. Yesterday was Steam Engine Time for online identity -- the transition from "we should probably do something" to "this is going to happen". Expect things to move fast from here...