The Liberty Alliance is a group of technology providers and corporations, such as Fidelity and American Express, that is developing a set of industry standards for verifying a person's identity when he or she accesses Web sites. The consortium, which was founded by Sun Microsystems and others in 2001, has over 150 members now.
IBM will also become a board member of Liberty and seek to find a common ground between the Liberty standards and an overlapping set of specifications that IBM backs, according to the company. The computing giant's Tivoli Access Manager security software already complies with Liberty. IBM added the support earlier this year.
Until then, IBM had stayed clear of Liberty. The company last year was a co-author of another technical specification, called WS-Federation, which was designed for many of the same tasks as the Liberty standards, such as verifying a network ID across several Web sites at once.
However, in July, IBM signed a deal to build a single sign-on network for Orange, the mobile service provider of France Telecom, which is using Liberty-based software to offer network services to its 50 million customers.
The system will allow users of the Orange cellular network to sign on to the system using either a mobile phone or a personal computer. With a single ID, the subscriber will be able to access services offered by France Telecom and its partners. The service will allow users to automatically retrieve passwords in a secure manner.
IBM said that it will continue to develop WS-Federation and related Web services security specifications, notably WS-Security. IBM said that it ultimately favors a single standardized method for so-called federated identity management.
Microsoft, too, has its own authentication service, called Passport. But industry support for that service has never caught on widely and is used only in a limited way by Microsoft and its close partners.