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Twitter Begins War On passwords

The Smooth Way To Get Someone's Digits

Straight after the invention of the PC, somebody realised that these big, complicated hunks of sand and binary needed a way to block access from unwanted parties. First, they experimented with keyboards that gave fatal electric shocks to people with different fingerprints to the computer's owner (I may have just made this up). Fifteen deaths and seventeen lawsuits later, someone came up with a much simpler solution: to access a computer and its files, people would need to input a user-defined set of keys - much like knowing the combination to a safe.


This system came to be known as a ‘password’, and it’s been in use ever since. For those of us too lazy to keep coming up with new passwords, there are services out there which have us covered. In general, though, people accept that they're a necessary evil. Could the system be improved? Maybe. But if it ain’t broke, why would we possibly bother fixing it?

Today, Twitter announced Digits, a new app which will try and fix it.

Digits will offer us ‘freedom from passwords’; we'll no longer need to remember the ‘complex' set of keys we’ve spent the last few years perfecting, nor will we be required to keep hold of our usernames. With Digits, all we’ll need to remember is the eleven random figures which make up our mobile phone numbers. Much more simple. Apparently.

Digits’ main appeal is that it will circumvent the sign-up process when subscribing to new websites. Instead of manually inputting your email address and choosing a new password when you sign up somewhere (then usually having to visit that email address and click on an activation link), Digits will let us just input our phone number, then sign in with the activation code they send.

The advantages of using this system seem, to me, to be minimal at best - and this isn’t even taking into account that plenty of websites now let us just sign in with our Facebook accounts anyway (and, y’know, our Twitter accounts...).

Digits is an interesting concept, and it’s nice to see Twitter expanding its services for once, instead of just leaving Facebook to do all the work. Aside from one dodgy new idea, Twitter's recent burst of productivity seems to be churning out some interesting concepts. Most importantly, these new features are leaving Twitter's core appeal out of the firing line, leaving them able to ‘experiment’ as much as they like in case they stumble upon anything worth actually running with.

While this article may seem negative towards the concept, it could be because I'm viewing it as an end user instead of an app developer. At the Twitter developer conference in San Fransisco where it was announced, Digits was advertised as giving developers the ability to allow people to make Twitter posts from within their apps, as well as bringing system-level logins on Android.

This feature may well prove fruitful in the future, but don’t go getting too excited just yet.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Twitter Begins War On passwords Reviewed by Emile Cole on Friday, October 24, 2014 Rating: 5
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