This morning I participated in the Project Higgins announcement held at the Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan. It was a freezing cold day with biting winds, but inside the screening room we had some realistic and future-looking discussions about user-centric identity. Just the topic, I know you are thinking, that you would come out for on a cold New York City day. And you would be right.
Project Higgins is the cornerstone open source project of a coalition led by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, IBM, Novell, and Parity Communications. The project is being hosted at Eclipse and is all about giving users control over all the little pieces around that Web that constitute, in aggregate, their digital identity.
The press release is here. This is an excerpt from the release:
This is the first user-centric identity management effort to follow the open source software model, where hundreds of thousands of developers contribute -- and continually drive improvements through collaborative innovation. Being an open source effort, Higgins will support any computer running Linux, Windows or any operating system, and will support any identity management system.
Higgins will make it simple and secure for someone to change an address across all their online accounts with a single keystroke; delegate who can see what elements of their medical records; or change a password across online banking and brokerage accounts. For example, a person can grant their insurance company broad access to their personal information and medical records, while at the same time limiting the amount of data made available to their cable company. In turn, businesses can create new channels of communication with customers -- enabling information to be shared securely across networks to deliver targeted, relevant products and services.
To spur swift adoption of Higgins by the broadest community of software developers, IBM, Novell and Parity Communications are contributing software code to Higgins, and will be joined by other technology companies who are expected to participate in the project. IBM plans to incorporate Higgins technology within its Tivoli identity management software, with added support by independent software vendors and IBM's consulting services division.
Higgins will act as a standards accelerator for security standards such as those being developed in OASIS for web services. That is, having code readily available will allow more people to produce software and services that implement these standards correctly and quickly. Among the things I spoke about today, I emphasized that there was now a strong expectation that managing user identity successfully will only be done via architectures like this that are created by a community. See my blog entry from yesterday for more on that, as well as the importance of the transparency and certainty that truly open projects can bring.
Before I give my usual listings of press links I have to tell you two things that Higgins is not.
- It is not anti-Microsoft InfoCard. InfoCard can be one storage source for digital user credentials, but it need not be the only one. Higgins will work with this information stored locally, on a device, or held by a trusted third party. You decide. Thats the point. Higgins will work if you love Windows, Linux, the Mac, whatever. Given the similarity in the areas in which Higgins and InfoCard are trying to provide solutions, I understand the confusion. By the way, Microsoft has been working with the Berkman Center, IBM, Novell, Parity, et al, on the architecture for the overall solution.
- It is not anti-Liberty. Liberty is one way that people may federate identity, but that is at a lower level than Higgins. Higgins will be able to work with Liberty but will not require it.
Sorry if that ruins any conspiracy theories. Bear these in mind when you look at some of these articles (marked with a sigh).
- Red Herring: IBM Looks at Online Privacy: Consumers should control their data, not doctors, banks, and retail sites, says IBM.
- ChannelRegister: "Open source ID management puts users in control"
- Boston Globe: Harvard, tech firms push data privacy: Goal is to let Net users control the personal
- internetnews.com: Manage Your Own Identity Online
- ComputerWorld: Group backs new identity manager tool
- TechNewsWorld: IBM Open to Letting Consumers Control Identity Info
- [sigh] VNUNet.com: IBM backs open source alternative to Microsoft's Infocard: IBM and Novell set out to build identity management system
- [sigh] San Francisco Chronicle: IBM, Harvard linking up to challenge Microsoft
- [sigh] CNet: Microsoft's InfoCard draws open-source response
- [sigh] The Seattle Times: IBM leads challenge to Infocard