Over the last few days as we've travelled in and around Cancun we've seen first hand the results of Hurricane Wilma, the storm which devastated the Yucatan in October of 2005. The damage was phenomenal. Everywhere we travel there are new trees (50,000 were apparently replaced in Cancun alone). The beaches are back, a product of a $20 million dredging operation which replaced the sand torn away by Wilma. Construction is underway as well, as irreparably damaged hotels have been torn down, and new buildings are taking their place. Some buildings stand windowless and unmaintained with their broken steps and palapas facing the beach, a testament to the force of the hurricane.
Across Laguna Nichupte from the Royal Sands, where we are staying, flies the largest flag I have ever seen. This photograph was shot at sunset from a distance of 2.8 kilometres. The size of the flag, compared to the buildings behind, is no trick of perspective. The buildings and the flag pole are very near to each other. That flag actually is as large as it seems.
Flag etiquette demands that a flag must never be allowed to touch the ground. When the flag is changed, it takes a convoy of trucks to carry the dozens of soldiers required to do the job. These men stand in a line, each with a section of flag draped across a shoulder, walk forward as the halyard hoists the flag skyward, and then step aside when their small portion is completed.
The symbolism is magnificent. The dramatic size of the flag makes a powerful statement that Cancun is Mexican. And while Cancun is a tourist mecca, the number of people required to raise that flag says that Cancun is for Mexicans as well. Indeed, it's the driving force in the Mexican tourism industry, responsible for more than half the tourism dollars that Mexico earns each year. By extension, Cancun tourism is also a massive employer, with thousands upon thousands of Mexicans drawn to the area to work in construction, the hotels, restaurants, bars, boats, and the shows that Cancun provides.
After the hurricane Mexicans, and the Mexican government, followed through on the statement that flag represents.
So, what's this got to do with OpenID?
Yesterday, Nick Cubrilovic published a piece critiquing the industry excitement over OpenID. The criticism was fairly worrying — despite all the hype, not enough companies are consumers of OpenID to make it useful. Who cares if Microsoft and AOL, plus scores of smaller companies, jump on the band wagon, issuing new OpenID's, if they don't in fact use OpenID themselves? We'll just end up with the same identity gulag we have today.
Microsoft and AOL's support for OpenID is a bit like that flag — a massive statement that the concept matters. But unless they follow through, working together to create opportunity for those that would build sites and applications based upon OpenID, then the symbolism doesn't matter. The ecosystem called OpenID will never get off the ground.