Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Technology convergence or seamless integration?

A while ago I wrote that users want convergence not interoperability. I still hold that this is true, however “convergence” in this case, is “convergence of the user experience” not necessarily the technology. Paul describes the issues very well in his recent post. For users, the experience has to be that using one identity meta-system is all that is necessary to interact with the entire set of services on the web. Forcing a user to know about which meta-system is needed for which online services will never succeed. This means that the industry has to solve the problem somehow “under the covers”.

I applaud Sun's entry into the OpenID space. However, I disagree with some that this will lead to technological convergence. The existing meta-systems are too entrenched in their existing deployments to change to something new. Some believe that convergence will come through domination of a single protocol, but I have a hard time excepting that. So that leaves determining how to interoperate between the different identity meta-systems.

I don't think this is unsolvable but it will likely NOT be simple. There are issues with token exchange, token transformation, provider discovery, etc. With a number of good choices for back-channel web services (WS-*, ID-WSF), front-channel communication (OpenID, SAML, Cardspace, WS-Fed, ID-WSF, ...), and SSO (OpenID, SAML, Cardspace, WS-Fed, ID-WSF, ...) it seems the time has come for the industry to slow down the spec development work and instead focus on seamless interoperability.

Here are some starting use cases...
  1. User uses Cardspace to authenticate to a picture services that uses ID-WSF with it's billing partner(s)
  2. User authenticates with her college library using SAML and then wants to SSO into
  3. User users OpenID to sign in to their favorite hiking site which wants to display their buddy list as part of the site experience

Tags: Convergence, Interoperability, OpenID, SAML, ID-WSF

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