Identity Commons is a community of groups working on developing the identity and social layer of the web. We are loosely connected sharing a common purpose and principles. Our main community gathering is the Internet Identity Workshop that happens twice a year.

We create opportunities for both innovators and competitors, for both the big guy and the small fry to come together in a safe and balanced space.

Our organizational forms are diverse including:

  • several dozen people on a mailing list
  • nonprofit foundations behind particular technologies
  • open source projects part of other foundations
  • autonomous projects working on market advocacy and development

We formed to facilitate information sharing and coherence this space and to support interoperability and convergence around open standards.

Identity as a Commons

Why a Commons for Identity

Mike Neuenschwander did a presentation at Burton Group Catalyst in 2006 about identity as a commons like, air, water or energy. This was one of the slides he put forward to make his point.


It can’t be “owned” by anyone – it is a commons – it all has to work together using open standards and protocols AND these need to give people (users) usable tools that give them control over how identity information about them is shared. It also has to work for corporations.

Is “identity” the right name for the nature of all the problems that we addressing today in this community? The term social web, open social web etc. have all emerged since the community formed and I think some of the key work that has emerged out of the community has helped inform/form the core components underlying the social web (OpenID, OAuth, etc.). I think we can agree that people and their identities (or should we say identifiers?) along with information about them (data, social graph, attention, activities) are foundational to a social web.

The latest installment of the Internet Identity Workshop #8 in May 2009 brought key companies (Microsoft, Google, Apple, MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo!, AOL, Plaxo) together to get a lot of shared work done solving real problems. This is a commons of huge value to everyone participating, and is worth preserving. I have a post on the IIW blog about how we got to where we are and the bumps in the road to building the culture of the community. There is also a post about cultivation of community that has helped form a common culture.