There are countless rants about every web site out there requiring you to create an account. Who isn’t turned off with creating logins, logging in, requesting lost passwords and the like? Yeah, I know… most places I could click the “remember me” button, but I’m a developer, I’m constantly clearing my cache and cookies. Hey, I’m easily forgettable… and I think only once in my professional career have I ever written down a password. It’s a big mess.
Ok, so what about other things that I’m constantly doing out over and over and over again like my address? What if I had a system that had all the data I wanted to put in there, then when I went to any form, on any site, I just clicked a button and my info is there, submitted, and I’m moving on. Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted… so I thought about it for a few days and then developed for about 2 weeks, calling the project danielID, or dID for short.
dID consisted of three major parts:
- There was the dID web site, where you would ::gulp:: log in and create your profile. It was broken down into various areas such as personal, business, etc. Also, here you could find logs where you’ve sent your data, who is requesting your data, etc.
- The dID Firefox extension. My first attempt at writing an extension, and while I didn’t get far (just enough to get it to work) it was very interesting stuff. Basically, the extension runs in your tool bar and anytime you are on a page with a form, clicking it would analyze the form and fit as much as your info into it that it could.
- The third piece was just a pretty interface, launched by a bookmarklet, which would give you greater control over the forms on a page. It was geared towards volunteers wanting to help the project by aligning data at dID to data at a site. For instance, dID may have you first name mapped to fname and firstname, the site you are on has a form with a first name field, but its named first_name. With this control panel, a volunteer could map that field name to our field for first names.
So, that last bullet also tells you a bit about how the system worked. At the dID site, you fill in as much information about yourself as you like. Each field, like above, fname, is mapped to various possibilities of what that field is called (at other sites). When you are at some other site, on a form page, the form DOM is collected and sent to dID, which is parsed, associated with dID fields, and the real data is sent back, into the proper form fields. Here’s an example:
|Above is a mock up web site, with two form fields in it. Also in the shot is the Firefox extension. Currently, it displays two options; Button to fill in the form, or a drop down to select which form you want to focus on. If you don’t focus, dID will try to fill in both.|
|We drop down and mouse over a form on the page with the name of “search”.|
|The search form highlights to show us which one it is.|
|Ok, that wasn’t the form we wanted to fill out, so we select the contact form.|
|The contact form highlights|
|Now we click on the button to fill in the form. The extension sends the form object back to us, we analyze it, and return associated data.|
|Data that we have mapped populates itself into the form.|
|Fields that are not mapped are highlighted to the user so that they can fill them out. If the form fills out 100%, it is automatically submitted.|
When I was building this, and I saw it work for the first time, I was completely blown away. Don’t you love those moments?
The bookmarklet opened a small version of the dID site. With the popup, you could monitor your information, fill out forms, or contribute to the dID mapping system. For instance, here are a few screenshots:
|Here we see the control panel that is looking at a page that has a form we recognize (noted by the green checkmark). We get a bit of info about the site and form. We also have tabs here so we can easily update our data, prefs, etc.|
|Now we have surfed to a page were dID is not familiar with the form. Maybe there is no form; maybe the form is in flash… In any case, if there is a form here that we are not seeing, the user has the option to report it to us.|
|Now we are back on a page with a form we “kind of” know about, but someone has reported it as broken.|
One other big plan for dID was having a user PIN number, called an idSN, that you can give sites that they would use to get your information from us. They could do away with their forms and request data about you (that you specify is ok for such uses) whenever they needed it. With that, the following ideas were on the drawing board.
- If you want to unregistered from a service: We can’t guarantee a service will remove you from there system, we can block further requests of your data from them.
- If you wanted a site to have access to a block of your information for a limited period of time, you could set up an idSN that would expire – you choose data you wish to give and expire time, idSN is generated…
- Allow site owners to pull info about users that are members of their site. Nothing that is identifiable to a single person, but trends and demographics to make their support of dID worthwhile.
- Users can report abuses from services accessing their data…
There was a ton of other ideas, all very interesting stuff, but eventually I dropped the project. Once I saw that I COULD do (that’s the fun part to me), I decided the security issues involved with it would be over my head. And yeah, cookies, and browser auto-fills do ‘some’ of this, but that wasn’t the point. The point was it sounded like an interest idea and a cool challenge, and I like those! 🙂