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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Identity is the Network

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, August 19, 2005
3:45 am

The footer attached to Sun Microsystems’ press
states, "A singular vision — ‘The Network Is The Computer’
— guides Sun in the development of technologies that power the world’s most
important markets. Sun’s philosophy of sharing innovation and building communities
is at the forefront of the next wave of computing: the Participation Age."

met Sara Gates,
Sun’s Vice President of Identity Management for the first time yesterday when she
addressed a group of us Sun folks. She proposed: "We have said ‘the Network
is the Computer.’ We now say ‘Identity is the Network.’"

Quite a bold statement! What in the world does that mean? Should we care?

Here’s my interpretation …

Networking technologies transformed computing from isolated functional
islands into a highly inter-connected information universe, enabling the Information
Age – because both computing and connnectivity became ubiquitous and highly

Identity technologies will transform computing into the next paradigm, the
Participation Age, because trusted Identity Relationships between all types
of online participants will become ubiquitous and highly available. The information
universe will expand to become a highly interconnected universe of trusted relationships
between digital Identities, representing real people, real enterprises, and
real communities, participating actively as never before.

The information age was all about interconnected nodes of computing power and
information. The Participation Age is all about Identity Relationships.

Establishing trusted Identity Relationships among online participants expands
the inherent value of the information universe. As trusted relationships are
established, online commerce, information sharing, community formation and interpersonal
interaction are all accelerated.

Our challenge? Build ubiquity and availability. Identity Relationships must
be more simple to establish, easier to use, more reliable, more sensitive to
personal privacy and much more secure than they are today.

I’ve been around the industry since connecting computers together required
custom hardware and software. I’ve experienced the transformation of computing
into the Information Age – to when my wife and kids miss email and IM more than
they miss television when cable TV fails. It’s great to be a part of the next
transformation – into the Participation Age — where Identity is the Network.


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