Options for Managing Many Online Identities

social-network-iconsAs social networks have proliferated, it’s sometimes hard to remember where one’s online identities may be found. And if you have a common name, as I do, people sometimes can’t tell which Charles Hamilton I am. (No, I’m not a rap artist!)

Thus, there are a number of sites that are intended to help put all of your online presences in one place. I’ve tried a few of these aggregators. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, so check them out, and see which options might work for you.

DandyID

DandyID-logoOf the services I discuss here, DandyID is the easiesDandyID-Facebook-Appt to set up, because it doesn’t try to do too much. This is a simple service that creates an online profile showing your name, bio, contact information, web links, and your online identities. You can specify your online identity for over 330 social networks, including sites from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and Poland. Plus, you can add sites not on its list.

When you first sign up, DandyID has an option for importing contacts from services like Gmail, although the import failed for me, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to try again. I’m not sure what advantage you get from importing your contacts, anyway.

The profile page DandyID creates is very basic and not very customizable. But Facebook users may choose DandyID because it offers a very nice app that allows you to embed your online presences into your Facebook page.

RetaggrRetaggr-logo

Retaggr bills itself as “the modern day equivalent of a business card.” Aliza wrote about this service last year, and noted how it had improved a few months later.

When you sign up, you’re taken to a well-designed form where you provide Retaggr with information about yourself, and about the places you have online presences. I counted over 180 different social networks, and you can add sites not listed. (Apparently, you can import some of this information if you have a FriendFeed account, but that option didn’t work for me.) You can also add information about groups with which you are affiliated, and widgets allowing people to IM you directly.

Retaggr-Profile-CardYou get three ways of displaying the information you’ve entered:

  • A profile page on the Retaggr site (and which can be used with a custom domain name if you buy its premium service). The page can be set to display your status from Twitter and Facebook, blog entries and even pictures from Flickr.
  • A virtual “business card” that can be embedded almost anywhere on the web, and in email signatures.
  • An “add me” button that can be used to encourage others to connect with you.

ClaimID

claimID-logoWhile you can use ClaimID to list your profiles on social networks, the site is really about aggregating any web page or site that you wish to “claim,” either as author or subject. This is done by adding MicroID code to the web pages in question to show you have access to them.

So instead of offering you a list of social networks, as DandyID and Retaggr do, ClaimID offers a “Post to ClaimID” bookmarklet that you install in your browser, then click it whenever you want to add a site to your ClaimID page. You can then organize the links into categories and annotate them as you wish.

This site might be a good way for, say, writers or web developers to put together a portfolio, although if you don’t need ownership verification, it would be easy to produce a similar-looking site with basic web page editing tools.

GizaPage

GizaPage - LogoAs Scott discussed recently, GizaPage‘s concept is simple: One URL displays a series of tabs showing the social network sites you select. Web developers will recognize that this is essentially a “Web 2.0″ version of HTML frames, with options that allow the GizaPage owner to select who gets to see what. I like the concept, but the site seems often to be slow and buggy for me. But it has potential, and is definitely worth watching.

Chi.mp

Chi.mp-logoBy far the most comprehensive option for managing online identities is Chi.mp, which Darrell recently wrote about. Read his review for details; I’ll just say that Chi.mp offers many options that none of the above services do, notably:

  • A custom domain name as a standard feature (optional with Retaggr).
  • The ability to show different information to public, work and home groups.
  • Some customization of the site’s template.
  • Twitter-like posting of status and images.
  • Contact management (Chi.mp calls it the “Ultimate Black Book”).

Because Chi.mp has so many features, it takes more setting up than the other options, and, I suspect, more maintenance. But it may be an attractive option for those who need a hub for their web presences, and are willing to spend the time to use its features to the fullest.

Conclusion

There are a number of other services for aggregating social network identities. Many of these products are in beta, or just don’t seem to work very well. I’ve tried a few, and will hold my opinions until we see how they develop. Like the social networking field itself, I’m sure that the best services will survive, and others will fade away.

For now, though, I found Retaggr to be the most useful service for managing online identities, although signing up for DandyID may be worth it just for the Facebook app.

How do you manage your social identities?

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