Liberty Alliance adds to ranks

The Liberty Alliance Project this week added five new members, kicking up momentum behind the organisation as it prepares to release its first technology specification this summer.

The Sun Microsystems-backed open identity project brought on new sponsor members Cingular Wireless LLC, i2 Technologies Inc., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., SAP AG, and Wave Systems Corp. The chairman of the alliance is Eric Dean, CIO of United Airlines.

Sun and other high-profile technology and industry players last October formed the Liberty Alliance, which is working to develop an open and federated identity standard for authenticating users on the Internet.

Other Liberty Alliance members include AOL Time Warner, American Express, Bell Canada, Citigroup, France Telecom, Novell, NTT DoCoMo, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, MasterCard, Nokia, Openwave Systems RSA Security, Sony, United Airlines, and Vodafone.

The Liberty project is competing against Microsoft's Passport network identity model, which has been criticized by Sun and others who fear the prospect of network identity falling under the control of a single vendor. Project Liberty, according to the organization's officials, is attempting to gather support across a variety of industries, government organizations, and non-profits.

Phase one of the Liberty specification will offer a federated network identity and authentication-sharing model that will interoperate with existing identification systems and network access devices, Liberty officials said. In addition, Sun has said it plans to ship a related product around the same time frame.

In addition to adding members, the organization also announced two new membership levels. Affiliate-level membership is aimed to support the participation of non-profit groups and government organizations. The Associate membership level targets companies interested in participating in the Alliance but not wishing to participate at the full sponsor level. Affiliate level is free of charge while Associate membership fees are US$1,000 per year, according to Liberty Alliance officials.

Sponsor companies are able to attend and vote in any of the technology, public policy, and marketing expert groups within the Liberty Alliance. They also have the ability to access and comment on draft specifications and proposals prior to public release, officials said.

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