My Unique Identifier

I am claiming this UUID/GUID: c0bdf5b3-bfb2-4a47-8058-99bae30807e2.

A GUID is a global unique identifier number for anything. Obscure database entries, products, television shows, locations, ice cream flavors. Everything can get a UID without worry, because there are plenty of UIDs to go around. It’s a 128-bit long sequence of 32 hex digits, so there are 16^32 possibilities. explains:

Think about how big the Internet is: Google has billions of web pages in its index. Let’s call it a trillion (10^12) for kicks. Think about every Wikipedia article, every news item on CNN, every product in Amazon, every blog post from any author. We can assign a GUID for each of these documents.
Now let’s say everyone on Earth gets their own copy of the internet, to keep track of their stuff. Even crazier, let’s say each person gets their own copy of the internet every second. How long can we go on?
Over a billion years.
Let me say that again. Each person gets a personal copy of the internet, every second, for a billion years.

Fine, so it’s very very unlikely that we’ll run out of them — BUT that doesn’t mean that we won’t start encountering collisions soon. It’s like the birthday problem, or possibly worse if people start designing their own GUIDs (such that they are not being randomly selected but preferentially chosen). In that case, they’ll be eaten up like domain names.

Since there’s no authority managing these things, right now we’re in kind of a wild-west scenario. Grab yours while you can. Stick it online and you’ve laid your claim. But which one should you choose? You could create some sort of algorithm to embed your name, a message, or some easter egg into your GUID. But they were designed not to be sequentially or algorithmically generated, but randomly generated. If everyone starts designing them, that seems to violate the true spirit of the globally unique identifier.

Perhaps the trick is to design one but convince everyone else to pick one randomly.

There are several people named ‘Aman Ahuja’, but you can specify exactly to whom you are referring by using my GUID. Which I picked randomly. Yes. This is clearly better than SSNs or driver IDs.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s