Monday, February 21, 2011

It is Finally Official: The End of MSFT CardSpace

There were a few things I wanted to write about recently ranging from all the discussion around OSGi in the Java community (and eBay) to what I would expect from an industrial grade Identity Provider (hint: it is not about which protocol it uses) and from when not to use No SQL to the emergence of a little known art and science called Entity Resolution, but let me resume my posts after a month with this:  Microsoft announced that it would not ship CardSpace 2.0.

Having worked on a authentication concept with MSFT for eBay sellers, I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand I was on the record not supporting the use of CardSpace for eBay sellers (or buyer). On the other hand I am concerned that technical community discounts the significance of Claim Based identity altogether and concludes that "FaceBook Conncet" is all we'll ever need.

There is a good reflection (from an insider's point of view) on Card Space here. (courtesy Gunnar Peterson) My personal view (and the reason I didn't support the adoption of Card Space at eBay) though centers around the challenges of "Change of Behavior" required by Card Space.

Basically, CardSpace failed b/c it requied uses to change their behavior. See, the "User name and password" protocol (a simple challenge and response) IS a protocol, one where a human being (a normal user) is a participant in. It has taken about 20-30 years (depending on how you count) to train users what to do when they see a "login panel" , the "login panel" contract is so widely understood that despite all of its short coming is the most viable remote authentication protocol we have today. It is flawed, it is costly, it is not secure, but it is a widely understood by users on the other end of the protocol. CardSpace, despite all its advantages, was not understood, would (and did) make people confused, they did not know what to do when the CardSpace screen popped up ... a technology whose adoption depends on change of a strongly learned behavior is unlikely to succeed (or at least I didn't think eBay sellers - not the early adopters of technology - would learn and accept it).

It also didn't help that a lot of browsers didn't support it (installing a plug-in does not count), and the fact that developers didn't know how to issue cards (or validate, update or revoke them).

Having said that, I did like the idea of decentralized identity provider and not having any one identity provider to be THE identity provider that everyone else had to rely on (putting user in control of their own identity). Compare this with a world where one identity provider (be it facebook or Google or twitter or anyone else) is the dominant identity provider because it is easy for RPs to embed a simple button  and for users to click on it.


Gunnar Peterson said...

Sometimes the best deals are made with a handshake

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