I think that some next-generation Internet services are going to end up using that Visa/Mastercard model, because the information is so critical, and it shouldn’t belong to one player. And there are already large databases of people who’ve signed up for one identity system or another.
Everyone on the Net has at least one unique email address. Microsoft’s own customers use Passport. AOL’s customers have their AIM identities. Amazon has a large population of customers who have given approval to charge their credit card via 1-click. So does PayPal.
All these things are going to co-evolve, and gradually increase their level of interoperability. It’s going to end up going much the same way as the various networks of Automated Teller Machines. Who knows any more what exactly is the difference between Cirrus and New York Cash Exchange? These networks originally didn’t talk to each other; after a while they basically threw in the towel and they all said, “We’ve got to interoperate.” And at some point it becomes relatively transparent to the customer. Occasionally, a cash machine says, “Sorry, your bank doesn’t belong to our network,” but increasingly, everybody belongs to the same network and they’ve agreed to share.