Microsoft Opens Up Passport Code

Outside of the Microsoft world, Passport has not made much of a dent.

Some people are surprised that Microsoft is opening up the Passport source code, as if the technology had a chance of success without drastic changes. Others—mainly those who work at Microsoft—say Passport has been wildly successful. Passport is integrated into Windows XP, and its required for users to log in to Hotmail and MSN—which means millions use it every day.

Outside of the Microsoft world, however, Passport hasnt made much of a dent, and its supplementary technologies, including HailStorm (.Net My Services), have gone back to the drawing board. Since Passports launch in 1999, Microsoft has worked feverishly to get it right. There are three aspects that Microsoft was working on: to enable Passport to provide single sign-on across Web sites and Web services, to make Passport a credit card wallet, and to make Passport an access control mechanism (for use, among other things, in managing how children interact with the Internet).

Technically, Microsoft did a great job of solving the single-sign-on piece. But outside the Windows world, few are using it, although Passport has made some progress. Its integrated into eBays sign-on page, for example.

"No one uses it!" shouts Suns top software guy, Jonathan Schwartz. "Ask them ... call them up right now! Theyll tell you that no one uses it!" Schwartz obviously has tremendous pent-up vitriol. He should, since eBay is a Sun shop that went with Microsoft technology and since he spearheaded the Liberty Alliance efforts, which countered any momentum that Microsoft had with Passport and HailStorm (.Net My Services) technologies.

I never used Passport to log in to eBay because I didnt see any advantage to it. Microsoft seems to own all the Passport information—and that troubles me, especially when money is involved (a la eBay).

Now Microsoft is opening up Passport, a good decision, said Novell (a Liberty Alliance member) in a released statement. "Microsoft is beginning to understand the need for transparency in identity management," said Justin Taylor, chief strategist for directory services for Novell.

Microsoft is doing about-faces left and right regarding Passport, although the technology remains more or less the same. Its impressive that Microsoft is working so hard to get it right. But is it too late?

Instant single sign-on—whats holding you back from using Passport? Write to me at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.