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The Identity Information Ecosystem is ready for Startups

The Consumer Identity world has changed substantially over the last 6 or 7 years (a personal reference point).

We have seen a lot of developments over that time. At a protocol level there have been several iterations of OpenID, the new one is pretty sexy (thanks Mike, John and Nat); Information Cards came and went; OAuth appeared and improved. The Open Identity eXchange was jointly founded by the OIDF and the ICF. We had meetings with White House CIO’s, meetings with National Security Czars in the White House Situation Room and the Minister for the UK Cabinet In the Cabinet Offices. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) was launched and advised. DIDW passed away (even more sadly so have some Identity friends), as did Sun Microsystems but the Internet Identity Workshop, Ping Identity and the Cloud Identity Summit develed or emerged, as did many new friends and concepts.

Six years ago, it was clear that to have a significant effect on the development of Consumer Identity, you had to start with a large collection of users and have a brand recognized and trusted by consumers(1).

Breaking out of the bootstrapping chasm seemed an insurmountable challenge for a startup. I badly wanted to work in a Consumer Identity startup after playing in the XML Gateway space for a while. However, the history of the various identity start-ups over that period validated my conclusion that it was not a good time to engage as a startup. Fortunately , Michael Barrett inveigled me to join at PayPal (after dangling the 600 million eBay Inc consumer identities in front of me). Since then I have been waiting impatiently for enough technology, platform, ecosystem and value to develop that would allow an identity startup to have a reasonable chance at success.

I joined Google to help create a consumer identity/information framework (platform, ecosystem, or whatever you prefer to call it). The Open Attribute Exchange work (part of OIX now) that started as Street Identity has been an enormously fun and exciting ride. I have learned a *huge* amount and had an opportunity to build on the conceptual work we had started at PayPal.

Like anything significant, it has had its share of frustrations.

A few months ago, wrestling the Attribute Exchange concepts through the Legal, Operations, PR, Policy, Privacy, Government folks in Google (all of whom are very bright, thoughtful and professional people) – in several countries – I hit a major frustration point. Driving home that afternoon it struck me that the ecosystem, technology and business engagements we have developed over the last few years had created the starting point for successful startups. It also became clear how to leverage the major IDP’s in several different ways.

Well, we have successfully completed the Attribute Exchange work and have a number of companies actively piloting solutions built on the framework. Fully operational API’s blessed by all of the  required Google groups have been launched and are available for you to work with.

The challenge is that Google for a host of reasons has to play an enabling role in the Consumer Identity/Attribute Exchange world. It can help create the playground, but does not get to have fun playing on the swings or monkey bars. Other companies have to develop the new business models, value propositions, use cases and solutions that will advance Consumer Information sharing models.

I have decided (somewhat sadly) it is time to move from Google for a consumer identity information startup (yes, I am the kid that liked to leap off the swing at the top of its arc).

I am hugely excited to announce that I will be taking on the role of CTO for Trulioo, (www.trulioo.com) working in the area of social identity verification.

To those of you that have shared in the ride so far, I would like to extend my thanks for what I have learned from you and what we have managed to build to date. I hope to continue to engage with you as Trulioo helps enable you as an individual to access the services you need, with the control and insight we as consumers would all like to have.

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(1) The bootstrapping chasm was clear. To provide value to consumers you needed to have a very large number of service providers (relying parties) to justify the investment in creating and managing an identity. However, to get large numbers of relying parties, you needed to have a large consumer base and significant coverage of the customer base.