For Web surfers who insist upon creating various on-line personalities and matching those personalities to specific Internet activities, keeping track of aliases, passwords and profiles often becomes a complicated exercise in identity management.

Novell, recognizing this situation, is offering consumers a means of controlling their multiple personalities, with the hopes that their business identities will find the service so useful that they will bring it into the office.

Novell’s newly released digitalme is a free, Web-based user identification system that stores passwords, allows for pre-filled Web forms, and updates Web contacts automatically, all using the Novell Directory Services (NDS) platform, according to Novell Inc.

Samm DiStasio, director of NDS marketing, said while the on-line consumer version of digitalme is free, Novell plans to make its money by marketing the technology to corporations.

“It could be your entire collaboration environment,” said DiStasio, noting the service enables business to business interaction, messaging between colleagues, and easier access for telecommuters. He said this corporate version could be built out further to include other functionality and branding.

But for now, Novell is focused on proving its usefulness to the consumer market.

“The value of managing your identity is not for you alone,” said Steve Adams, vice-president and general manager of Novell’s In-the-Net Services Group. “It’s a means to manage electronic relationships.”

By having different digital cards for different relationships – such as one for friends and family, one for banks and financial companies, and another for work – Adams said digitalme users are able to isolate what information is given to whom.

“We (Novell) don’t have any access to the user information at all,” said Adams.

When a card is shared with a Web site, the digitalme system creates an address book for the user. Adams said that means when the card is updated with new information, all of the sites that have that card are updated as well.

Carrie Oakes, director of digitalme programs and integration, said the level of interaction with a given site depends on whether or not the site is an official digitalme site. She explained while digitalme sites will have the automatic updates and form fill-in, non-digitalme sites will have to rely on XML tags to pull the information from the user’s profile. Where the information can’t be pulled, users will have to fill it in as usual.

By December, she said, digitalme will feature a “cookie jar” that will identify cookies on the PC and pull them into the profile, and save future cookies within the Web profile instead of allowing them through to the PC. E-mail capabilities are also expected to be added in the future, Oakes said.

Adams and Novell CEO Eric Schmidt both made several comments on the ineffectiveness of cookies because of their residence on a single PC.

“The cookie model is a bad model because you use different computers” at home and work, Schmidt said.

They’re hoping the digitalme cookie jar will make it easier for Web users to maintain a consistent Web presence regardless of what computer they happen to be using at the time.

“I think this is a very intriguing idea,” said Harry Fenik, an analyst at Zona Research Inc. in Redwood City, Calif. The eventual effect of digitalme, he said, would be to make on-line transactions more secure and easy to manage.

Analyst Richard Villars at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said NDS is likely to compete well in the e-commerce world where there is likely to be less concern about specific platforms. NDS runs on several platforms, Villars said, and can handle millions of objects, giving it adequate scalability.

Also, many companies will have to be sold on the idea that this is a better way to solicit and manage customer information than the systems they have already implemented to do just that, Villars said.

-with files from IDG News Service.