Liberty Alliance Gaining Momentum

The Liberty Alliance Project, a Sun Microsystems-led effort that some say is aimed at fending off Microsoft's Passport technology, has added some significant support from corporate giants with the addition last week of new members American Express, AOL Time Warner, France Telecom, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard Company, and MasterCard International.

"The Liberty Alliance continues to gain critical mass," said Eric Dean, CIO of United Airlines and president of the Liberty Alliance Management Board, adding that the group has started work on developing "a commercially-viable, open, ubiquitous standard for network identity, authentication, and authorization across a multitude of business systems and consumer products touched by the Internet—from cellular phones to Web browsers and automobiles."

Formed in September, the group's objective is to create open, federated, single sign-on identity standards for the digital economy via any device connected to the Internet, Dean said.

The group's list of charter members includes American Airlines, the Apache Software Foundation, Bank of America, Bell Canada, Cingular Wireless, Cisco Systems, CollabNet, Dun & Bradstreet, eBay, Entrust, Fidelity Investments, i2, Intuit, Nokia, NTT, O'Reilly & Associates, Openwave, RealNetworks, RSA Security, Sabre, Schlumberger, Sony, Sprint, Sun, Travelocity and United Airlines.

When the alliance was formed earlier this year, tech book publisher and alliance charter member Tim O'Reilly called the software for managing user identity and authentication "so fundamental that a widespread consensus has emerged that this is a technology that shouldn't be owned or controlled by any one player." Thus the belief by industry observers that the forum is aimed at Microsoft's Passport plan.

Passport ( is the first service of its kind on the Internet. The technology has been included on Microsoft sites such as Hotmail and The Microsoft Network for years, but Microsoft's decision to include it in the Windows XP operating system shoved it into the spotlight for corporate users. Online privacy advocates complained that the service is too invasive, and security experts worried about the platform's vulnerability.

Microsoft officials have maintained that Passport will be federated, although they have yet to reveal their plan. Sources have said that Microsoft may actually be joining the Liberty Alliance sometime soon.

Alliance membership is open to all commercial and non-commercial organizations. More information is available at the Liberty Alliance Web site (

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].