Would I-Names make good Twitter username replacements?

Yesterday I wrote to Twitter:

Can't have a new decentralized Twitter without short usernames! XRI I-Name evangelists should be all over this! #openmicroblogging #xri

Nik Putnam replied through Facebook:

why not? your reader could translate between URIs for contacts and your own nicknames for them, like your mail client does. no?

To which I added:

That's the model we have for Borange, and I think it's ultimately the right one.

I've just been thinking about what makes Twitter Twitter, though, and I think one has to consider how the simple username namespace contributes to the usability of the system.

Basing "world-wide conversation" on personal Address Books, as you suggest, means there's no "objective" unique naming that's short. URLs especially can be confusing. Is some new "http://id.me/masonlee" going to be me?

Getting URIs out of your Address Book based on the person's common name requires some fancy UI-- more than simply typing =masonlee. Twitter success has been due to ease of use and ease of client development.


I-Names certainly aren't "decentralized", though, so they won't make for a decentralized Twitter-- just a more distributed one. They do have the benefit of being controlled by a foundation, aren't based on DNS, and have an interesting layer of indirection that allows the namespace to evolve.

So what’s up with I-Names these days, anyways? Last news I heard was support for them in OpenID 2.0.


4 Responses to “Would I-Names make good Twitter username replacements?”

  1. Sam Johnston Says:


    This is indeed an interesting idea and one that I would like to explore further. The world doesn’t run on a single mail server so I see no reason why it should run on a single microblog server, and managing the namespace is key to solving the problem.

    It’s unfortunate that Twitter’s treading all over business i-names… right now the average person will think “Twitter” rather than “i-name” when they see “@acme” and I’m not sure there’s going to be much we’re going to do about this in the short term.


  2. samj Says:

    Heh, came to comment but seems I already did ;P

  3. Mason Lee Says:

    Hahaha. Yeah, this space is getting interesting with DNS solutions (.tel) and webFinger cropping up. The persistence part of i-names, i-numbers, are still really interesting to me. Non reassignable I-numbers are better for digital identity than email addresses or domain names because they never change hands. One can know, by the policy of the i-numbers registry, that my i-number will always be mine. Last night was talking with some folks about ways to use i-numbers without requiring i-names, so that perhaps all identity schemes can get the benefit.

  4. samj Says:

    I was thinking exactly the same thing only yesterday… we should definitely work together on this.


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