hasAccount

Satisfaction, some new web service or other, has a neat wrinkle; on the sign-up page, you can specify your ID in one of a number of other services (flickr, technorati, last.fm, twitter, others) and it’ll retrieve your (publically available) information from there so you don’t have to fill it all in again. A good idea, I think. (It’s all done through the Magic Of Microformats.) Something that would make it more useful, though, is if it highlighted which services it thinks you’re a member of. It’d be possible to do that if these online services provided a way to say “does the current user have an account here?” Imagine that Flickr, say, made available a URL http://flickr.com/services/hasAccount. When you call it as http://flickr.com/services/hasAccount?callback=myFunction, it looks to see if you, the user requesting the URL, are logged into Flickr. If you are, it returns this JavaScript: myFunction(1); otherwise (i.e., you don’t have a Flickr account, or you do and you’re not logged into it, or possibly you do and you are logged into it and you’ve ticked “hide my online status from other websites” in the Flickr account page) it returns myFunction(0); This would usefully let the Satisfaction signup page (and other services that want to offer the same sort of function) display which services it thinks you’re a member of: so for me, it would leave Upcoming and Flickr in the list and disable or grey-out or otherwise de-emphasise Cork’d and Twitter because I don’t have accounts there. This would be relatively trivial to do: Flickr just write somewhere “our hasAccount URL is http://flickr.com/services/hasAccount?callback=” and your code just calls that URL (by creating a <script> element with it in the src) and drops a callback-function name on the end of it so it can read the results. A nice usability enhancement, and it doesn’t particularly invade privacy (it’s a slight violation that site A can know that you’ve got an account at site B, but not a major one since they don’t get any details, and you allow people to opt-out if they choose). For extra ease-of-use bonuses, although a quantum leap of privacy violation above that, have a hasAccount URL return myFunction({“username”:”sil”}); instead, and then use hCard as above to automatically fetch the public information from that site. Obviously this is a lot less appealing from the point of view of keeping your information secret, though. Apart from that it requires all the services to bother doing this, any reason why it shouldn’t happen?

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