TypeKey: Six Apart’s answer to comment spam. A centralized ID system for weblog commenting.

This should help to resolve comment spam. Will it be widely adopted? There are reasons to wonder.

Google/Blogger, for example, may already have some sort of commenting system under development that is resistant to comment spam. Furthermore, if TypeKey is wholly proprietary (and given the sound, business-oriented development decisions that have come out of Six Apart lately, I can’t think of why it would be open) Bloogle may actually have a reason to design against TypeKey.

You see, TypeKey has the potential to dramatically increase the market value of the company Six Apart. That value increase would rest upon two facts, inherent in any system such as TypeKey.

One: as in TypePad, the user-base for the application necessarily provides valuable personally identifiable information to Six Apart. That information, plus the direct relationship to the user it represents, is marketing gold, and translates directly into a higher valuation for the company.

Two: I believe that the long-term solution to the knot of regulatory and business problems surrounding ‘legitimate’ spam – commercial and marketing emails that you actually have given permission to receive – is to centralize the consumer information, and for the advertising entities to provide incentives to the user to create ever-more elaborate profiles. The user could then, in theory, set, edit, and change levels of permission to receive the spam in exchange for incentives – free magazine subscriptions, downloadable sotware (sic!), DVDs, that sort of thing. The system should also provide auditability of marketing campaigns directed at the user – a record of the user’s legitimate spam.

Managed correctly, the system would be deeply attractive to users. By this, I mean managed for the benefit of the user base rather than for the advertisers, something which will be no mean feat. A primary requirement will be keeping the UI free of advertising clutter; communicating that idea to the geniuses who came up with the flashing, blinking ad banner and the audio-enabled java display ad will cost some sad sack their sanity. Interestingly, both Glogger and Six Apart have clearly demonstrated that user focus is a core component of their business practice and software development discipline.

Because weblog commenters are likely to be a highly desirable slice of the online audience – ‘influencers’ in marketing parlance – TypeKey represents a nearly-ideal deployment environment for such a system.

I have no idea, of course, if that’s what’s being considered. But the pieces are in place. I think this development and the simple possibility that it could lead to places beyond the proximate driver of weblog commenting and comments spam is very intriguing.

So why do I say that Bloggle might wish to design against TypeKey? Well, since user-base numbers are a crucial metric in determining the relative success of an application, and because this extends Six Apart’s potential registered-user base beyond both TypePad and MT’s user base into a population that both includes and exceeds the total set of blog-using people in the world, Googer will be under pressure to respond. The typical American software company business response would be to circle the wagons and make life hard for the competitor. By now, though, I think we all know that Google is not a typical American software company.

The real question is, will they become one after the IPO?