TypeKey: The Patriot Act of Weblogging

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Six Apart has posted a page describing their TypeKey installation, and it is a centralized authentication system. Only one word can describe this design idea: bad.

With a centralized authentication system for comments, a person can be tracked by their comments wherever they go, even if they don’t want to be so tracked. Six Apart says they would never share this information with anyone. I don’t care – the potential for abuse is there.

Now, just imagine someone cracking into the TypeKey system – what kind of information about you can be found? What kind of havoc can occur when comments are managed in such a centralized way? Especially when this system transcends weblogging tools?

From a performance standpoint, how many times do you get a failure when you ping or or even Blogspot or TypePad users, have any problems accessing your service? Have you all tried to ping two Trackback-enabled TypePad weblog posts with the same entry, and found it has failed? How about you folks that link to Amazon or Google or Sitemeter or on your pages – ever notice how slow your page loads?

All of these are dependent on centralized systems, and as we have found in every single instance of centralization and weblogs, they don’t scale. Every single instance.

Now imagine trying to comment at someone’s page, and you can’t because TypeKey is currently overloaded. What is the reason for having your own weblog installation if you clutter it up with all these centralized bits?

And who asked for authentication? We asked for better management of comment spam, and a better method to delete comment spam. We were willing to tolerate a comment registration system for this, but no one asked for a centralized authentication system.

No one.

Authentication is not a solution for comment spam – it’s a way of cutting out those individuals who might be more comfortable commenting anonymously, or without attaching a URL or email address. And sometimes it is these people who provide the most honest feedback, even though the feedback may be ‘negative’, disagreeing with what we say.

The page at TypeKey says that the identity can be protected, but what happens if someone complains about a person and their comments – is Ben and Mena going to set up behavior standards for every one to follow with what they write? This is a private service: they can set up any standard they want, and once you’re tied into the service, you’re stuck. What if they define you as an ‘abuser’?

Yo! All you Howard Stern fans! Ding, ding, ding! Ring any bells?

If we’re so afraid of openness, why have comments? Why not just turn comments off? Better yet, put your weblog behind a firewall and only give the key to entry to those friends who have sworn a blood oath with you.

And less we think only Movable Type weblogs or TypePad weblogs will be tied into this vendor controlled solution, think again: Six Apart will be kind enough to provide this for everyone to use with their weblogs, regardless of software. Though the service is free, it does tie the weblogging community tightly into dependency on Six Apart, and this is not a good thing. Want me to enumerate other problems that have occurred because of dependency on a single entity?

Well, I have a hint for you: I will never register with a centralized authentication system. So if you want comments from me, forget it. Know something else? There’s going to be a whole lot of people right there with me.

I’ve been told that, supposedly, civilized people only use positive means to criticize each other. And after all, TypeKey is from Ben and Mena – we all know Ben and Mena. They’re part of us.

Well, sorry, this doesn’t wash anymore. Six Apart is no longer the baby squirrels; it’s a growing VC-funded company that just opened offices in Japan. And there is no ‘positive’ way to say this – TypeKey is a bad idea.

And when I published this, Movable Type gave me the following error:

Ping ‘′ failed: Ping error: Can’t accept the ping because the weblog hasn’t changed.


A second essay on TypeKey can be read here based on newer information. My response to the release of the TypeKey FAQ can be read here.

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