Liberty Alliance gets nod from Novell

This week, Novell Inc. plans to throw its weight behind the Liberty Alliance Project, an initiative aimed at creating an open identity standard for authenticating users on the Internet.

Novell joins other industry leaders including Sun Microsystems, General Motors, Nokia, and United Airlines in hammering out the business rules and technology components needed for an alternative to Microsoft's Passport network identity model. Passport has drawn concern from critics who fear the prospect of network identity falling under the control of a single vendor.

Novell intends to lend its experience in identity management and single sign-on, including its eDirectory technology, to the policy, marketing, and technology committees of the Liberty Alliance.

"Novell brings its expertise in identity management from the enterprise and e-business space to the table," said Justin Taylor, chief strategist for directory services at Novell in Provo, Utah.

The company also plans to share lessons learned from an earlier experiment with online identity management called digitalme. The eDirectory-based user authentication service was launched in October 1999, designed to give online users access to single sign-on while maintaining control over personal information.

The Liberty Alliance has gathered significant momentum recently with the support of heavyweights such as AOL Time Warner and American Express, as well as continuing signals from Microsoft that it may join the Liberty effort or link its Passport technology to the Liberty effort.

The Alliance seeks to create an open and federated network identity, enabling businesses and consumers to maintain control of personal information on the Internet, according to Marge Breya, vice president of SunONE at Sun Microsystems, in Palo Alto, Calif., and representative of the Liberty Alliance.

"No single entity should have [control] of identity and preference information. The goal of [the Liberty Alliance] is to allow information to stay as it is today: with entities you have trust with," she said.

Breya added that the initiative is not necessarily positioned as a rival to Passport.

"We'd like to see, hope to see, Microsoft join the alliance, because it is about open federated identity, which is what [Microsoft] says they want," she said.

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