As PR pitches go, this one had a good hook. "Hi Casey," it read. "I’d like to introduce you to the other Casey Newton." For years I had been peripherally aware of the Other Casey Newton (O.C.N.). There are more than two of us in the world, of course, but to my knowledge there’s only one O.C.N. here in Silicon Valley. I discovered him when I clicked on a link to what I thought was my LinkedIn profile: another white guy like me, only instead of writing about startups, he actually helped run them. At the time he was working for dull-sounding enterprise software companies, so I kept my distance. But I always wondered what he was like.
If you’ve ever played Mortal Kombat, you know that at some point Sub-Zero has to face himself. This was probably as close as I was ever going to get to that experience. And so I wrote the PR person back and said I would take the meeting. Via email, I tried to be up front with O.C.N. "To be clear," I wrote, "a LOT of this interview is going to be about Casey Newton and being named Casey Newton." He was game. We set a date.
That’s how, one day last week, the Other Casey Newton and I met at The Verge’s offices here in San Francisco. He’s the CEO of a company called oneID, which is releasing some new tools today. One is a free password manager and identity-management service that in some ways competes with apps like 1Password and Dashlane. The other is a third-party login service, which works like Facebook Connect: other developers can integrate it into their apps and websites, letting oneID users log in without creating new accounts.
Highlights of our discussion follow. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Casey Newton: Who are you, and what are you doing with my name?
Other Casey Newton: I’m actually the Bay Area guy. I know you came in from out of town, so I should be asking that question.
Some of my Twitter followers expressed concern that we may actually be the same person and that you’re only here due to some sort of rift in the space-time continuum. So let’s settle this once and for all: your parents are or are not Jim and Sally Newton, of La Habra, California?
No. John and Kathy.
In fact, you’ve been working in technology for some time here, right?
I have, yeah. I’ve been in tech basically my entire career on the sales and biz dev front. I’ve done everything from telecom and software to, ultimately, the web, where I’ll never leave. I love it.
I got into the startup scene; this is my second one. The first one I joined at right around the same stage — employee no. 10 or 15 — and we had a good two-year run and were fortunate enough that one of the major credit-card companies acquired the company. And that success gave me enough stupid pride that I could do it all over again.
But this time I was looking for a different challenge — we live in the Valley, and there are so many cool tech products out there. But most of them are just iterations of something else. And I really wanted something that was meaningful to me and, ideally, everyone I know. And oneID is that — everyone I know hates the password problem. If we can solve that for a good chunk of folks, that’s great.
So you’re working on oneID, which makes it even stranger that I’m interviewing you, since in a way, we actually share an ID.
That has actually crossed my mind. Although when you go to get your oneID, you won’t be able to have mine. So I beat you there.
So the username ‘casey’ is already taken?
At this point O.C.N. turned the tables and asked me a question: how did I get into tech reporting, and in so doing start totally messing up his vanity Google searches? Answer: I had a previous life writing about state and local politics, mostly in Arizona. But I had a far greater interest in technology, and when I had the chance to move to San Francisco and write about it, I leapt at the chance. That was four years ago.
The big three, as we call them in the news business. So tell me a little a bit how oneID works.
At this point O.C.N. tells me about oneID, which is conceived as a sort of passport for the web. The basic idea is that many developers and publishers don’t like having to manage their own username-and-password systems, and many people hate having to create new logins for every app and website. oneID’s solution is to store one of the keys to your accounts in its encrypted cloud, and the other on your device. When your device and account are connected, oneID will log you into the sites you visit automatically. The hope is that oneID becomes adopted as the web’s standard login, killing off the password over time.
But passwords aren’t going to die overnight, so oneID built a free password manager as a kind of bridge between the present and its hoped-for future. This appealed to me: 1Password is my favorite password manager, but installing it across all your devices can cost $50 or more. Unfortunately, oneID’s password manager feels half-baked. You can’t search your passwords, for example, and you can’t import passwords from an existing manager. More importantly, the interface just feels confusing to me: I had trouble understanding how to add new logins, how to find old ones, and how to use the app to log in. There’s apparently some powerful cryptography enabling the handshake between your devices and oneID’s cloud, but neither the app nor the web client do a great job of walking you through it.
Then again, it’s possible I feel this way only because I am threatened by the potential social media dominance of Other Casey Newton — and so I invite you to check it out yourself. Anyway!
Am I affecting your personal brand? Have you been in a situation where someone assumed you were a reporter?
I did get an email once that said "Did you write this?" And then a couple of my friends who know who you are will [sarcastically] send me links with, "Great article!" It’s starting to happen.
Do you feel like this town is big enough for the two of us?
I live in the East Bay. I only live here Monday through Friday. So you’re on one side of Market Street, I’m on the other. So let’s just keep the lines drawn and send smoke signals when we’re going to pass over.
And with that, our interview drew to a close. Like many Casey Newtons, Casey Newton isn’t just smart, friendly, or unbelievably handsome. He is also a great sport. And I wish him the very best, as long as he stays on his side of Market Street.