Identity Commons was originally formed in 2001 to evangelize the creation of a decentralized user-centric identity infrastructure and to address the resulting social trust issues. At the time, these ideas were revolutionary. Very few people were thinking about these issues, much less doing anything about them.
Identity Commons helped change this. It not only raised awareness about the complex issues surrounding this topic, but it played an active role in helping create the necessary infrastructure.
In the last few years, user-centric identity has emerged as one of the most important issues concerning the future of the Internet. In addition to Identity Commons role in establishing the overall vision, we’ve seen a number of other key milestones. For example:
- Centralized Internet-wide identity systems are now widely acknowledged as being untenable. Most notably, Microsoft killed its Passport initiative, and Kim Cameron, Microsoft’s Identity Architect, has become an outspoken proponent of distributed, interoperable identity systems through his Laws of Identity.
- “Lightweight” identity systems, such as OpenID, LID, and SXIP have emerged.
- Many important players in the identity space both old and new began a cohesive conversation about the issues surrounding user-centric identity under the moniker, “The Identity Gang” (see http://identitygang.org).
- Identity 2.0 has emerged as the de facto term for describing visions of user-centric identity, thanks in part to SXIP founder Dick Hardt's talks of the same name in 2005.
All of these events culminated in the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) in October 2005, a grassroots gathering of roughly 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.
Out of this dialog came the impetus for Identity Commons to evolve into a new role as an “upside down umbrella” organization helping to facilitate and coordinate the work of distributed, self-organizing working groups who share the common purpose of creating an interoperable, universally-adopted user-centric identity layer for the Internet. This effort, dubbed “Identity Commons 2.0″, continued via Internet Identity Workshop sessions, Identity Open Space sessions, and Identity Commons community telecons until it resulted in the community consensus at the end of July 2006 to adopt the new and incorporate Identity Commons as an international non-profit legal organization.
In September 2006, we devised and completed a bootstrapping process to seed and launch the organization.