Consumers are growing increasingly keen on the use of social identity to fast-track access to online products and services. Exploiting the existing logins associated with Facebook or Twitter, for example, enables consumers to directly access new websites without requiring time consuming registration or adding to that hard to remember password list.
But why are UK consumers still totally dependent on global, typically US, organisations for that identity provider role? Why is the choice, in the UK at least, limited to Facebook, Twitter, Google or LinkedIn? Where is the local alternative?
Of course there are other identity provider options – but why would a UK consumer opt to use Russia’s vkontakte (VK) or Germany’s Xing? What value is there in creating a social identity with Holland’s Hives? UK brands are extremely unlikely to support these identity providers. Yet with growing numbers of countries around the world now able to offer consumers a local social identity provider option, why are UK consumers left with no choice?
There is now a growing realisation that most consumers will want to use more than one social identity; typically one social, one business, one global and one local. So which organisation is going to fulfil that local role in the UK?
The most obvious candidate to act as a UK identity provider is the BBC. Not only is the BBC a trusted brand – nicknamed Auntie for a reason! – but the organisation has also led the evolution of digital services, not least with its five year old iPlayer offering. Today an estimated 40% of UK adults use iPlayer and the service received 2.32 billion requests for TV and radio programmes in 2012, with 36.5 billion minutes of BBC programmes viewed across all platforms via the service.
Could the BBC extend that trust and digital model to act as an identity provider? Asking individuals to log in to use iPlayer, for example, could form the basis for the BBC’s identity provision: whatever username and password used to access iPlayer could then be used elsewhere, both locally and globally, to access other sites.
In addition to providing a local UK identity provider service, this step would also lead the social media model in a very different direction. Not only would the BBC be the only social identity provider across the world not motivated by profit; but it would also be the one least likely to experience the trends in fashion and popularity that typify social networks.
The UK needs a local identity provider. And the BBC is one obvious choice. The demand is in place; the model would be a simple extension of the existing trusted role as a provider of digital services and content; and it would further reinforce the organisation’s strong consumer relationship. And, if not the BBC, then who? There are a number of other trusted national service providers who could also fit the bill: BT, DVLA, Post Office, TfL, or indeed the National Lottery (why not). Which organisation will be the first to fill the gap as the UK’s local identity provider?