Will Microsoft and Xbox rule online identities in the future?

A really interesting Microsoft internal team video has appeared on the web, showing the ambition of the Windows Gaming Experience team for your Xbox avatar to become your identity and persona in the digital world.

It’s really interesting in light of some of my previous thoughts regarding Xbox Live Avatars, when I claimed back in 2008 that introducing avatars was a big mistake. And more rcently on both gamification, virtual worlds, and the idea of any company providing a single digital identity for us.

I’m a big Xbox gamer and fan, and I don’t think that Microsoft would be any worse than trusting a single identity to Facebook or Google. I also don’t think they’d be any better, despite the fact that avatars are slowly becoming better implemented and utilised in ways that are actually interesting and useful. My thoughts are probably summed up by the fact every article I see on single identities is tagged in Google Reader with ‘oneidisaf*****gstupididea’ – I’ll let you fill in the blanks. But so much of the momentum for a single ID seems to come from educated white male digital professionals who are comfortable with teir online personas and indeed often build businesse around them.

People are human, fallible, and occasionally secretive for good reasons as well as bad ones. Or will Microsoft introduce a ‘private browser’ setting that puts your avatar in a hat, shades and a long coat if you want to isit somewhere digitally that might be adults only, for example?

There is one other possibility which I’m starting to think about – the sanitised proprietary web experience of being locked into Microsoft or Facebook worlds with an ID which is tied to you for life, and a seedy underworld open web, where you can be who you want, do what you want (within reason), and actually learn, grow and evolve by mistakes as well as successes. I know which one immediately seems more fun and interesting to me.