I wrote a post recently about what billFLO is doing for small, Mom and Pop owner of Do it Best stores. This, along with some pretty exciting discussions I’d had both as part of The Small Business Web and privately with some other people, got me thinking about the reality on the ground for SMBs.

The discussion soon got on to federation and OAuth as a great example of what openness can do. Further discussions got on to looking at WebFinger as a continuation of that openness and as a tool that is immensely empowering for SMBs. You see WebFinger is a way to attach meta data to an email address such that authentication, provisioning, billing, integration and a whole host of high value, and high drag, operations can be automated.

From the WebFinger project page:

WebFinger is about making email addresses more valuable, by letting people attach public metadata to them. That metadata might include:

  • public profile data
  • pointer to identity provider (e.g. OpenID server)
  • a public key
  • other services used by that email address (e.g. Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, Twitter, Facebook, and usernames for each)
  • a URL to an avatar
  • profile data (nickname, full name, etc)
  • whether the email address is also a JID, or explicitly declare that it’s NOT an email, and ONLY a JID, or any combination to disambiguate all the addresses that look like something@somewhere.com
  • or even a public declaration that the email address doesn’t have public metadata, but has a pointer to an endpoint that, provided authentication, will tell you some protected metadata, depending on who you authenticate as.

WebFinger could, and should be the holy grail that industry groups like The Small Business Web leverage in order to finally provide a simple, accessible, low drag software platform for small businesses. SaaS vendors in all functional areas should be looking at the WebFinger initiative, thinking about what billFLO is enabling for invoicing, and parsing the two in light of the space they’re in.

Believe me, the software world will be a magic place when this stuff finally happens.


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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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