The Internet Identity Workshop just got a promotion on O’Reilly with the publishing of an article I wrote. The Identity 2.0 Gathering: Getting to the Promised Layer (it occurred to me after it was already published that the last word should be Layer instead of Land – oh well).
Here is the opening….
There were many who thought that an identity solution would emerge to support single sign on (SSO) shortly after the Web’s emergence in 1994. An SSO solution has proven very elusive. Solving internet identity management, creating an efficient, reliable ecosystem, is often alluded to as “The Holy Grail.” One of the reasons for this elusiveness is the fact that identity is no small matter. It lies at the core of who we are as social beings. There are many ways to think about what identity is, such as: how we define ourselves (self-assertions), how others see us (facts about us), and what others think about us (our reputation).
When tackling the problem of representing these elements, the first challenge is settling on a protocol used in a system that is flexible and broad enough to encompass the enormously wide range of ways people around the globe use and define identity. Identity protocols are not like TCP/IP–simply just connecting two machines. While reading Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, I came across this quote that summed up the challenge. “Protocol is synonymous with possibility … Protocol outlines the playing field for what can happen, and where. If one chooses to ignore a certain protocol, then it becomes impossible to communicate on that particular channel. No protocol, no connection.” The edge use cases must be considered carefully so that they are included within the protocol’s possibility landscape. The inherent complexity of this next identity layer of the Net is one of the reasons it has yet to successfully emerge.