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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

User-centric Identity – Big Scale, Big Business

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
7:17 pm

In yesterday’s post, SXIP emphasizes the key success factors Dick Hardt believes are essential for an Identity 2.0 system:

  1. Internet-scale – truly portable and not a closed circle of trust.
  2. Community driven – many people should be involved in designing the solution and it needs to be able to move all types of identity data. And the transport of the data must be seperate from the payload.
  3. Easy to adopt – zero footprint on the browser so that consumers don’t need to download software and simple for websites to implement.
  4. Protect privacy – architected so that users don’t need to disclose more than absolutely necessary.
  5. Functionality gradient – choice of security level from lightweight to highly secure, so that similar with for example Perl programming, “the easy things are easy and the hard things are possible”.

Okay, these may be necessary, but are they sufficient? I propose two other factors that must be in place:

  1. Extremely large scale. Perhaps Dick intended this in the “Internet Scale” statement, but he didn’t explicitly say so. This is essential for mainstream adoption. If user-centric Identity is going to really work, it must be adopted by the big dogs – eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google … It must become pervasive.
  2. Successful business model. For the big dogs to adopt this, the financial incentives must be just right for both Identity providers and relying partners. What will compel a Bank of America or American Express or Experian to become an Identity provider? Who pays the bill for the large scale infrastructure and operational overhead they will need to put in place? Why should the vendors like eBay, Amazon or Yahoo adopt this stuff, when they have already invested in Identity/Security infrastructures themselves?

I’m convinced that user-centric Identity is as much a business issue as a technology issue. If the compelling business demand is in place, the technology folks will make it work. If not, it will have been an interesting science fair project.

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