Identity Commons was originally created (LINK: historical pages -- purposes and principles, board) by Owen Davis and Andrew Nelson in 2001 to evangelize the creation of a decentralized user-centric identity infrastructure and to address the resulting social trust issues. It was partially in response to the 2003 paper, "The Augmented Social Network: Building Identity and Trust into the Next-Generation Internet," along with their participation from 2000-2002 with the Planetwork Link Tank that generated the ideas in the paper. It was also experiment in new social structures (chaordics) for supporting loose-knit collaboration.
At the time, these ideas were revolutionary. Very few people were even thinking about these issues, much less doing anything about them. This first iteration of Identity Commons helped change this. It not only raised awareness about the complex issues surrounding this topic, it also played an active role in helping create the necessary infrastructure.
There are many threads of activity related activity that lead to the community as we know it today.
- Liberty Alliance founded in 2001 with 30 members today it has 150 members including global technology vendors, consumer-facing companies, educational organizations and governments from around the world. It works on Open Standards for authentication and authorization that became SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) at OASIS.
- Digital Identity World was founded in 2002 and besides focusing on 'Provisioning and Termination' in the Enterprise Context had a few folks that were thinking about user-centric identity - mostly Andre Durand of PingID with his Mydentity, Ourdentity Theirdentity frame. Doc Searls one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto traditionally gives the closing keynote there (He tells his version of evolution here).
- The Berkman Center for Internet and Society has two projects have some loose affiliation with them Social Physics Project founded in 2004 and The Higgins Project that is part of Eclipse. Fellow activity has included Mary Rundle's work on international legal frameworks relate to Identity lead by Mary Rundle. Doc Searls is leading the Vendor Relationship Management Project there. John Clippinger is a senior fellow published A Crowd of One the future of Individual Identity in 2007.
- Kim Cameron Microsoft's Identity Architect, worked inside Microsoft on how they could 'do the right thing' cause Passport was such a disaster. As a result of these efforts he published the Laws of Identity and proposed an identity metasystem.
The Light Weight Identity Efforts
- Way back in 2001 Brad Fitzpatrick was thinking about how to do an alternative more centralized ID approaches in the Blogosphere and settled on URL based authentication for LiveJournal. This is the May 2005 home page
- Johannes Ernst's Company NetMesh released LID in November 2004
- Sxip founded in 2003 put forward a protocol SXIP (Simple eXtensible Identity Protocol) in 2004. Dick Hardt the CEO delivered a widely shared talk entitled, "Identity 2.0," which helped spread awareness about why user-centric identity is important.
- Drummond Reed and others had been working on XRI and its user-friendly names space i-names both dirivatives of what was XNS.
Weaving it all Together
Kaliya Hamlin was working as an evangelist for Identity Commons(1) in the summer of 2004 and ran into Doc Searls at a post Linux World baseball game. He had all but given up hope for user-centric identity. She also flew to Boston to reach out to John Clippinger, Paul Trevithick and Mary Ruddy at the Berkman Center in the fall of 2004.
Doc Searls encouraged Kim Cameraon the chief Identity Architect at Microsoft to start blogging in the fall of 2004. He released his Laws of Identity one a week on his blog beginning in Dec 2004. Doc invited many community members to participate on the Gillmor Gang's final episode of 2004. The "Identity Gang" and mailing list formed out of this.
Plans were made to meet face-to-face at other's interested in these topics at events like PC Forum and Burton Group Catalyst. By the summer it was clear that meeting informally for a couple hours at other peoples events wasn't enough time so Kaliya Hamlin, Phil Windley, Doc Searls, and Drummond Reed organized the first Internet Identity Workshop (IIW), a grassroots gathering of 80 people interested in learning about and advancing the cause of user-centric identity. This gathering was a turning point for the digital identity community in a number of ways:
- It helped spark the adoption of Yadis, a discovery protocol for making different lightweight identity systems interoperable.
- It inspired interest in the concrete development of Identity Rights Agreements and a Service Provider Reputation Network.
- Most importantly, it demonstrated the importance of maintaining a neutral community space for continuing dialogue about these and other emerging issues.
By 2006, this loose-knit community began to collaborate and converge in important ways. There were two IIW events and very active mailing lists. Liberty Alliance and Digital Identity World invited the IIW leaders to host open space events beside their events in 2006. It became apparent that a neutral, open community like Identity Commons was more important than ever for holding this space and continuing to facilitate this ongoing convergence.
One of the reasons the community converged is that many of the people working in enterprises on identity management tools were participants in the directory and security communities.
In order to support the growing needs of this community, Identity Commons needed to restructure while revisiting its purpose and principles in a community-oriented process. Beginning in 2006 and through the first half of 2007, several members of the community met regularly to discuss goals and structure, resulting in the loose knit structure we hold today. In July 2007, the present incarnation of Identity Commons was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation.