RealTime IT News

Liberty Alliance Adds New Members

The group forged to oppose Microsoft Corp.'s meant-to-be-ubiquitous Passport identification system is gaining momentum, as the Liberty Alliance Project announced five new sponsor members Wednesday.

The Liberty Alliance, which hopes to release a federated network identity and authentication sharing mechanism that will interoperate with existing identification systems and network access devices this summer, welcomed an internationally-flavored host of new firms to the fold. They include: Cingular Wireless, i2 Technologies Inc., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, SAP and Wave Systems Inc.

Upon joining, the new firms will be entitled to vote in any of the various expert groups within the Alliance, focusing on technology, public policy and marketing. They also have the ability to access and comment on draft specifications and proposals prior to public release.

Eric Dean, who pulls double duty as chairman of the Liberty Alliance and chief information officer of United Airlines, said: "The development of interoperable, federated identification standards will have the power to drive e-commerce, enhance relationships among businesses and their customers, vendors and employees -- and ultimately evolve computing in every industry."

Indeed, the idea of identification standards over the Internet is crucial, as firms such as e-commerce specialists are looking to bring a lot more consumers to the Web via convenient, but perhaps most importantly, secure, single sign-on services. The idea is crucial to major software providers, such as Microsoft, which has been touting Passport as a major feature in its .NET strategy. Meanwhile, the Liberty Alliance, whose founding members include Microsoft rivals Sun and AOL, is hoping to perpetuate its own non-proprietary standard.

Gartner Group noted that the number of Passport users jumped to 14 million from 7 million between last August and February, but the group has also warned that many users are concerned about the degree of privacy the software offers.

The research firm said businesses interested in procuring Passport should know certain things about the psychology of consumers: "Be aware of consumers' privacy concerns; Understand the low levels of trust in Internet companies and retailers; and take note of the strong consumer resistance to using Passport for "one-click" shopping where they need to store financial and credit-card account information."

Daniel Blum, senior vice president and research director at Burton Group, an IT research and advisory firm focusing on identity management, favors the open approach to identity management.

"Identity management is a key enabler for the next wave of Internet commerce, yet identity must be federated across businesses, service providers, companies and individuals to deliver global scalability," said Blum. "The Liberty Alliance is moving in the right direction by becoming one of the few organizations of its kind to open membership levels on generous terms to both public and commercial organizations."

Moreover, the alliance also announced two new membership levels to field growing interest from corporations, not-for-profits and government organizations. First up is the Affiliate level membership to encourage not-for-profits and government groups. These organizations may join at the Affiliate level free of charge. Second, the Associate membership level was created for companies interested in participating in the Alliance but not wishing to participate at a sponsor level. Associate membership fees are $1,000 USD per year.

The new members join founding members: American Express, AOL Time Warner, Bell Canada, France Telecom, General Motors, Global Crossing, Hewlett-Packard, Mastercard International Mastercard International, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Openwave Systems, RealNetworks, RSA Security, Sony Corporation, Sun Microsystems, United Airlines, Vodafone. ActivCard, Catavault, EarthLink, EDS, Nextel, OneName Corp., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Register.com, Schlumberger Sema, Verisign, Inc., and Visa International joined in February.

The next all-member meeting will be held in the third quarter of this calendar year.