Eric Norlin on the Mysterious Law 7

In his post today, Eric Norlin of Ping gets right to the essence of the seventh law:

So *everyone* was talking about Kim's laws at last week's show, but one aspect of the whole thingy (btw – a “thingy” is totally different than “thingifying” something ;-) that really stuck with me is the Mysterious Law 7 (or something containted within it):

7. Consistent Experience Across Contexts

The unifying identity metasystem must guarantee its users a simple, consistent experience while enabling separation of contexts through multiple operators and technologies.

At first glance (or mine at least), i thought this was just about user interfaces – and i admit to not quite getting it…but hey – by the time you've made it through 6 laws you're exhausted – you don't care what they slip by you on law 7! ;-)

Yes, this is indeed a problem.

Buried within law 7, however, may be the most significant thing about the laws — the fact that for the first time in identity technologies we're aiming for something that spans *both* the enterprise and end-user. (quoting Jamie quoting Inigo Montoya) Lemme sum up:

In the short history of identity technologies, there has generally been 2 universes: the end user and the enterprise. Think firefly (aka passport) vs. the metadirectory. the closest attempt we've really had is the Liberty Alliance's work (SAML is admittedly not a “user facing” technology) — but frankly, it just hasn't caught on with the “end-user” (does it violate a law? dunno – that's a totally different conversation).

In the metasystem we have, for the first time, a unifying construct that A) solves enterprise problems and is necessary and B) becomes an incredibly powerful end-user facing technology. The vehicle for this is WS-Trust; the now oft-called “STS” or “secure token service” — what i've taken to calling “project cadillac.”

In essence, the STS exchanges tokens within the enterprise “onion layers” of security, thus enabling the use of identity tokens all the way back into the fossilized layers of mainframe security. Simultaneously, the STS exchanges tokens as the user moves throughout his/her differing domains.

I don't think i can emphasize *how* important this is…..this isn't the “mosaic” moment (where we realize the internet's potential by seeing it), but it is an important point of coalescence that surely is closely related to the mosaic moment (big bang) for identity. Digital Identity has not had this available before, and this convergence should not be underestimated.

Law 7 says that the metasystem really can be distributed, belong to no one, AND unifying and universal. No more sith (enterprise) vs. jedi (end user) – this could become the end of Return of the Jedi (without the ewoks, hopefully).

so – that's what i learned last week — how HUGE law 7 is……..

could we really be on the cusp of something big? god, i hope so.

Exactly. Enterprise identity systems normally”deal with” employee end-users – who go home at night and jump into consumer-to-enterprise and even peer-to-peer identity relationships. If we stop tying UX and protocols to these various silos, we can imagine that a user-centric paradigm would replace the scenario-specific paradigm. A user-centric identity paradigm could remain consistent across these various scenarios, resulting in portability of understanding across them. This is just one example of what happens when identity systems begin to benefit from synergy – the magical ingredient which has so far remained just beyond their reach.

My readers know how hard it was for me to name the seventh law and put it into words. The implications of introducing synergy are huge. With a little help from our friends we've been able to get closer to the bone and jettison a bunch of verbiage. Eric's contribution here makes it clearer still.

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Kim Cameron

Work on identity.