Sun-led alliance to compete with Microsoft Passport

Sun Microsystems has brought together a host of companies to offer an alternative to Microsoft's Passport online authentication...

Sun Microsystems has brought together a host of companies to offer an alternative to Microsoft's Passport online authentication service.

The group, code-named Liberty Alliance, aims to create a ubiquitous single sign-on and decentralised authentication system for online services, accessible from any device connected to the Internet.

Among the 33 initial supporters are IBM, Nokia, General Motors, NTT DoCoMo, Philips, and Bank of America. Participation is open to all commercial and non-commercial organisations.

"This is an alternative to Passport and Hailstorm. Project Liberty will allow users to decide what information to pass on and customer data won't be controlled by one party," said Hans Appel, Sun's chief technology officer for northern Europe.

The Liberty Alliance project intends to create a universal digital identity service based on open standards. Users should be able to log in once and be authenticated for all online services supporting the Liberty standard. Customer data, such as phone numbers, addresses, credit records and payment information, will be secure, according to a statement on the Liberty Alliance project's Web site.

The group claims that businesses will benefit because they only need to adopt one technology to give access to all users, no matter what device is used. The alliance envisions users signing on with mobile phones, portable computers, televisions, cars, point of sales terminals and the traditional desktop computer.

The announcement comes exactly a week after Microsoft surrendered to mounting legal and industry criticism and said it would consider handing over management of Passport to a federated group made up of rivals and corporate partners. Microsoft also said it would open Passport to work with similar competing services.

The charter members of the Liberty Alliance Project expect to finalise an agreement covering organisation and intellectual property within 60 days.

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