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Liberty specs to be released
Monday, July 15 2002
by Matthew Clark

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On Monday, the Sun Microsystems-backed Liberty Alliance is expected to detail the technical specifications for its long awaited on-line identity management.

The new specifications, which have been expected for almost a year, are designed to counter Microsoft's Passport system, which serves much the same purpose as Liberty's system. These types of so-called identity management tools are the basis by which companies can build services that let consumers move easily through different Web sites without having to constantly re-identify themselves with passwords and other cumbersome digital IDs.

Founded in September 2001, the Liberty Alliance's forthcoming technology is generally seen as an alternative to the Passport service but at its core it will do much the same thing. The main difference is that the Alliance's initiative is an open-system single sign-on software code that industry experts describe as a federated-view solution.

Though the specifications are to be announced Monday, the Alliance plans to have personal information controlled completely by the user, according to reports. But this information will also be accessible by organisations of the user's choosing, thus preventing any single entity from garnering personal or proprietary information. Using this approach, the system will ostensibly block any single group from impeding on the interoperability of the system or from stopping service delivery.

And despite the competing standards, Microsoft would be eligible to join the Liberty Alliance if it chose to do so. And were it to do so, Microsoft's Passport could ultimately work alongside the Liberty solution, experts say. Liberty has said it continues to talk to the Redmond, Washington-based firm about joining the group.

There are currently over 14 million Passport users worldwide, and although Liberty has none, its list of large blue-chip members should give it sufficient clout to catch up with Microsoft in due course. Some of Liberty's members include Sun, AOL, United Airlines, Time Warner, American Express, General Motors, Nokia, Cisco Systems and eBay. Once the Liberty Alliance specification is released, many of its members will begin releasing products and services that implement the specification.

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