The Different Levels of Online Identity

Online Identity is an interesting topic. One way of looking at present day online identity is to think of it as being structured in a three level hierarchy. The most basic and top most level is email. It’s been around the longest and it’s the one constant required user input to register and use various web sites. With the advent of Web 2.0 and social networking, Facebook and Twitter became the two heavy-weights that comprise the second level of online identity. Many new web sites and mobile applications have moved to a model where the user may login or sign-up for the site or mobile application using their Level 2 (Facebook/Twitter) account. In other words, the user has the option of not even using an email address to login or sign-up. 

Let’s see how these different levels of online identity interact. First we’ll start with email and we’ll take a look at two popular email services: Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Here’s what the respective registration flows look like: 

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Moving on to the Level 2 online identities, Facebook and Twitter, the registration process looks like:

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As can be seen, a user is required to have an email account (a Level 1 identity) before they can register for Facebook and Twitter. 

Moving on to the Level 3 services/sites. Let’s consider the four following sites: Quora, Pintrest, Digg, Bitly.

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So even though users can typically register for these Level 3 sites using an email address, they also have the option to login or sign-up using one of their Level 2 online identities. This is done for a couple of reasons. For one reason, the user acquisition flow is quicker. The user doesn’t have to fill out a form with their personal information in order to start using the site. They can start using the site right away. More importantly, having the user login or sign-up using a Level 2 identity gives the Level 3 site or mobile application a hook into the user’s Facebook or Twitter world. This is advantageous because it can make the overall user experience on the Level 3 site more pleasant for the end user. 

Finally, here’s a diagram I created that is a good way to visualize how these different levels interact: 

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Pintrest – HUGE Amount of Likes & Repins: Accurate, Bug, or Deception?

I was browsing Pintrest this morning on my iPhone and noticed something strange. Most of the pictures that were being shared had a ridiculously large amount of “likes” and “repins”. Here are some examples:

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So to review, we have the following stats:

#1: Likes = 211,211 , Repins = 11,831,183
#2: Likes = 6,060 , Repins = 398,398
#3: Likes = 5,858 , Repins = 333,333

Wow! 11 million repins?!? Could this be real?? Then I looked at the numbers more closely. All of the numbers share one interesting characteristic, they are all a sequence of digits that is repeated TWICE. Take 211,211 – this is simply 211 repeated twice. Same with 11,831,183 and 1183. You get the picture.

So what’s going on here? There are 3 possibilities:
1. These numbers are accurate – very unlikely!
2. These numbers are due to a deliberate deception by Pintrest to make their site look more popular that it actually is – unlikely…
3. These numbers are due to a bug – most likely!

Magic Button to Scroll to the Top

Noticed something cool on the Pintrest home page. Pintrest, like many other sites, has a view where the user can almost indefinitely continue to scroll down the page. As long as the user keeps on scrolling, the site asynchronously fetches more content. I’ve seen this in Facebook (news feed), Google+ (stream), and many other iOS web pages. 

What’s cool about such an interaction is that the user is not required to click on a button to go to the next page to view more content. They can just keep going. What’s not cool is that most of the time, when you get to the bottom — especially for many iOS pages, there’s no easy way to get to the top. 

Pintrest solves that problem by placing a button on the page, that when clicked, will take the user gracefully to the top of the page — and will also cleverly animate that the page was scrolled up. 

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As an example of what happens in the case without such a button, you can take this blog itself. By going to my main landing page, azadzahoory.com, you have the ability to scroll down, and down, and down, until you reach my first ever post on Google Finance and Google +1. At this point, you will notice the block in the scroll bar has gotten very tiny and there’s no easy way to go to the top unless you click and drag the block all the way up. 

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