The Sun Microsystems Inc.-backed Liberty Alliance Project is gaining backing from a number of large companies, some of whom cite the consortiums dedication to interoperability as the determining factor in their decision to join.
The alliance, a conglomeration of high-tech, financial and other industries, on Wednesday announced that several large companies had joined its ranks, including General Motors Corp., AOL Time Warner Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.
The Liberty Alliance was formed earlier this year by Sun and several other charter members in an effort to develop an open, federated single sign-on service for Web applications. Its main competition in this venture comes from Microsoft Corp., whose Passport service performs similar functions.
However, some Liberty Alliance members say the choice between the two systems was an easy one to make.
"We think Passport is a great service and a great model, but it comes down to interoperability," said Tony Scott, chief technology officer of information systems and services at General Motors in Detroit. "Most consumers arent going to trust all of their information to one provider. Theyll want to keep their financial data with their bank and their car data with their car company. The ability to interoperate and exchange information is what makes that work."
Microsoft officials maintain that Passport will be federated, although they have yet to lay out such a plan. The point may be moot however, as Microsoft may be close to joining the Liberty Alliance in some capacity.
GMs Scott said that he has been involved in some talks involving Microsoft and Liberty Alliance representatives and says there are "very strong signs that Microsoft will join."
The Passport service was the first of its kind on the Internet and includes a large network of partner sites that accept Passport credentials. However, online privacy advocates have assailed the service as too invasive and security experts have found at least one vulnerability in the platform as well.
Such issues are increasingly at the forefront of corporate decision-making processes.
"Security was a big factor in our decision," said Scott. "Security and privacy are at times competing interests, but the specification will ultimately have to take care of both so the consumer doesnt have to make a decision [between the two]."