Adobe and IBM have joined the Liberty Alliance, the global consortium which is developing an open federated identity standard and business tools for identity-based web services.
The companies made the move as Microsoft appeared to pull back on promoting its rival identity system Microsoft Passport.
Adobe said it plans to work with the Liberty Alliance to strengthen document security by adding federated identities, making it easier for businesses to run document services which comply with regulations to protect individual privacy.
IBM's decision to sign up to the Liberty Alliance was prompted by its July contract with mobile operator Orange. Orange chose IBM to deliver a single sign-on system based on the Liberty Alliance specifications for its 50 million mobile phone customers.
Through the system, Orange plans to provide its customers with a single sign-on to accounts and access to different mobile services or websites, such as instant messaging, location-based services, games, online banking and e-mail.
Liberty Alliance has been steadily growing and now has more than 150 members. Meanwhile, rival identity system Microsoft Passport appears to be scaling back.
Originally promoted as a web-wide authentication service, Microsoft confirmed last week that Passport would be limited to its own web services such as MSN Instant Messenger and Hotmail.
Microsoft no longer sees Passport as a single sign-on system for the web at large, a spokeswoman said. The service will now be limited to Microsoft's own online offerings and those of close partners.
Microsoft said, "Over the past few years, we have learned a lot working with partners and customers using Passport, and our commitment to provide our partners with secure and flexible authentication remains unwavered. That said, the primary value of single sign-in authentication services is realised by related parties.
"Going forward, the mission of the Microsoft Passport service will be to provide authentication services to Microsoft and MSN services and products and to Microsoft/MSN partners."
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The Liberty Alliance's mission
The Liberty Alliance Project is backed by more than 150 companies, non-profit and government organisations from around the world. The consortium is developing an open standard for federated network identity that will support all types of network devices. Federated identity offers users and businesses a more convenient and secure way to control identity information online. Membership is open both to the user community and to IT suppliers.