Google hoping to bring back the finger protocol?

By andy

Have you been online and frequenting Unix systems long enough to remember, and have used, the finger command?

For the uninitiated, finger was a command that, given an email address based on a Unix system, allowed various real-world information to be gleaned, depending on what the user wanted to share: usually a real name, a real location, maybe other methods of contact, plus some witticism, quote, ASCII art or other.

I had one when at Uni, though I don’t know if anyone actually used it.

Sadly, due partly to security concerns, the finger command all but fell into disuse. However, Google is now looking to bring back “web finger” using HTTP.

It’s now increasingly accepted that email addresses would be good identifiers for people (since that’s what people are used to already, and have on business cards and in their addressbooks, etc.), but we’re back to the original problem that email addresses are write-only.

If I give you my email address today, you can’t do anything with it except email me. I can’t attach public metadata to my email address to give you more information.

WebFinger is about making email addresses more valuable, by letting people attach public metadata to them.

You can read more about the proposal at

Would you like to see finger make a comeback?

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