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Passport to get Web services stamp

Microsoft plans to make its Web authentication service adhere to Web services standards, potentially broadening its appeal for developers.

Microsoft this summer will lay out a plan to make its .Net Passport authentication service more Web services-friendly.

Passport, which allows people to use a single sign-on to access multiple Web sites, is currently built on the use of Web browser cookies and technology such as HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). A Microsoft representative on Thursday declined to say when the work to integrate the Web services standards is expected to be completed.

Passport will eventually work with Web services standards, including Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Microsoft said. It will also conform to

Microsoft currently offers a software developer's kit for Passport, which gives programmers a tool for incorporating an authentication process into Web site applications. The future support for Web services standards is expected to make it easier for developers who are familiar with Web services to use Passport within applications.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker claims that there are more than 200 million people with Passport accounts and more than 300 Web sites that accept the authentication system.

In addition, the company intends to describe later this year how its redirected .Net My Services initiative can be used by businesses. The initiative was originally envisioned as a series of Microsoft-hosted services that would host and deliver users' personal information through e-commerce sites.

But Microsoft rolled back the consumer-facing services amid complaints from its corporate customers. The company now plans to sell .Net My Services as software that can be run within corporations.

Although widely used on the Internet, the Passport service has been shrouded in controversy.

It came under criticism from privacy advocates that contended that Microsoft would have too much control over how a person's personal details might be shared. A rival authentication service that's being promoted by a group of companies backed by Sun Microsystems called the Liberty Alliance formed two years ago in efforts to offer an alternative to Passport.

Microsoft recently agreed to make changes to Passport in order to give consumers more control over how their personal data is shared among sites that use the system. The changes, which are being implemented worldwide, were part of in order to adhere to EU data protection laws.

In addition, the company signed a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in August to make changes to Passport in response to complaints that the service didn't do enough to protect the privacy of individuals.