Cross industry interop event at RSA 2008

From Mike Jones at here's the latest on the Information Card and OpenID interop testing coming up at RSA.  The initiatives continue to pick up support from vendors and visitors will get sneak peaks at what the many upcoming products will look like.

33 Companies…
24 Projects…
57 Participants working together to build an interoperable user-centric identity layer for the Internet!

Come join us!

Tuesday and Wednesday, April 8 and 9 at RSA 2008, Moscone Center, San Francisco, California
Location: Mezzanine Level Room 220
Interactive Working Sessions: Tuesday and Wednesday, 11am – 4pm
Demonstrations: Tuesday and Wednesday, 4pm – 6pm
Reception: Wednesday, 4pm – 6pm

OSIS Participants RSA 2008

Success brings complexities too

Pamela Dingle is the awesome, programming, geek, girl Canadian who runs The Pamela Project.   She produced the WordPress InfoCard plugin that I use on my blog.  In this piece, she has a different take on Information Card adoption:

“It has been a while since I’ve meandered through my thoughts on where the world of the Identity Metasystem is going these days.

“A few entries in the blogosphere have examined what this system is not – which is in common use. I can’t deny the truth of such statements. However, what I do see, is a growing number of people who are contacting me, because they are working hard to change this fact.

“I can honestly say that I don’t worry about whether Information Cards will succeed. What I worry about, is what happens when it does. To me, this is why it is critical to run interops via OSIS, and not only that, but to create a body of work that anyone can use to understand, test, and create correctly operating components. We are in the lull before the storm.

“Have you ever heard the term ‘victims of our own success’? This is what we will be, if the wave of mass adoption comes, and we haven’t made it easy to be a GOOD member of the Identity Metasystem. If we don’t set community consensus on edge cases, abuse cases, some common standards for basic user interface, and other such things now, if we all don’t get busy implementing and learning from our mistakes and fixing them while it is still easy to do so, it is going to be chaos when suddenly the big thing is for every site out there to accept Information Cards.

“My view is, that user-centric technology in general is a massive tsunami moving towards the coast. It doesn’t look like much now because the wavelength is long — but once we get close to shore… If I’m right, there will be a sudden, immediate, and critical demand for architects, sys-admins, and developers with experience in this space. The more mistakes we make now and learn from, the less mistakes these future techies will have to make en masse.

“… and if I’m wrong about the tsunami — well I guess we’ll all have stories to tell around the campfire…. :)

Continue reading Success brings complexities too

Burton Group reports on user-centric interop

The Burton Group has posted its evaluation of the user-centric interopathon held at this year's Catalyst. The analyst is Bob Blakley, now with Burton and previously chief scientist for Security and Privacy at IBM Tivoli Software. 

Bob writes, “Prior to the event, there were some specifications, one commercial product, and a number of open-source projects.  After the event, it can accurately be said that there is a running identity metasystem.” Continue reading Burton Group reports on user-centric interop

DigitalMe for Mac passed the Interoperathon

Bandit's contribution to the emerging identity metasystem is exceptional – we're talking about the DigitalMe Identity Selector for Mac and Linux , as well as relying party components.  I will post a download link as soon as one becomes available.  Novell's Dale Olds wrote about the Catalyst Conference and OSIS Interopathon here Continue reading DigitalMe for Mac passed the Interoperathon

The CardSpace dimensions

Axel Nennker from T-Systems in Germany now has a blog called ignisvulpis (OK, no translation found in search engines – I had to crack open my latin dictionary to be reminded that ignis means ‘fire’ and vulpes means ‘fox’…   Yikes, Axel!)  Axel is a contributor to the openinfocard project started by Chuck Mortimore and Ian Brown.

In a bizarre case of Information Card Fever sweeping through Germany, he writes:

Yesterday I learned that the team of the new java CardSpace project jinformationcard works in the same building as I do. As I am a contributor to the openinfocard project we now have two independent java CardSpace projects “in the house”. 

That's amazing.

Anyway, I heard Axel speak at a meeting a while ago and was fascinated by the way he conceptualized his “information card dimensions”.   Now I can share it with you because he posted it to his blog:

While thinking about how Windows CardSpace could be used and extended I came up with this graphic.

Thus the dimensions of Windows CardSpace are:

  1. Cardstore: Where is the cardstore?
    Service Providers store the information cards and facilitate the use through different devices.
  2. CredentialStore: Where are the credentials?
    Storage of credentials and engine for cryptographic operations.
  3. UI Generation: Where is the UI generated?
    The UI could be generated on a server but be displayed on one of the user’s devices.
  4. Identity Selector (UI): Where is the UI displayed and where is the Information Card selected?
  5. STS: Where is the STS?
  6. STS Authentication: Authentication Technology
  7. Browser: On which device is the authentication needed?

Now imagine all the combinations of the coordinates which span “use case space”.  My colleague Jochen Klaffer designed and implemented a tool which helped us a lot to find relevant use cases in our “CardSpace for Telcos” project which we are doing for Deutsche Telekom Laboratories’ Jörg Heuer.

This is of course only a selection of possible dimensions.  Others were excluded for simplicity and because there are strong indications that they will never be relevant.  Kim Cameron said e.g. about using different protocols instead of WS-*: “This will not happen”.

So the “Trust Protocol” dimension is not shown in this graphic.

Other dimensions missing are new transport protocols like SIP instead of HTTP to transport the RST/RSTR. So the “Transport Protocol” dimension is not shown in this graphic.

You will probably notice that there are points on the axis that are not part of CardSpace version 1.0…

Let us look at CardSpace 1.0.

  1. Cardstore: local (secure desktop).
  2. CredentialStore: local (secure desktop).
  3. UI Generation: local (secure desktop).
  4. Identity Selector (UI): local (secure desktop)
  5. STS: local or network
  6. STS Authentication: fixed set of four technologies
  7. Browser: PC

So this the current state, but the universe is expanding, right?

Interpretation of the axes and the new points the axes is left to the reader 😉

I think this is really brilliant and have been amazed at the methodologies being used.  I hope Axel will also report on the work by Jochen Klaffer to which he refers.

One small correction – we already support a simple RESTful http post of a token to a relying party – in other words, no need for WS.  So there is a protocol dimension.  In terms of the highly trusted connection between identity selector and identity provider, I would much rather avoid introducing alternate protocols that would drastically increase our attack surface and test matrix.

Catalyst Interopathon reveals sea change

Here are the logos of the projects participating in the Information Card Interopathon at the Burton Group's Catalyst Conference. Beyond that, people told me about at least half a dozen new open source projects (each with a unique mission) that are sitting in the wings getting ready to go public.  I'll try to keep you posted on these. 

We had a rehearsal for this a couple of months ago at Internet Identity Workshop, but something has changed since then:  many of the players seem to have made strides in getting concrete about how the technology would be used in their products.  That's the key.

According to the press release:

Participants include projects groups Eclipse Higgins Project, Internet2 Shibboleth Project, The Pamela Project, Ian Brown (OpenInfoCard), XMLDAP, and SocialPhysics and vendors BMC Software, CA, FuGen Solutions, IBM, Microsoft, NetMesh, Novell, Nulli Secundus, Oracle, Ping Identity, Sxip Identity, VeriSign, and WSO2.

The demonstration will be centered on a photo sharing application and will show the breadth and maturity of user-centric technologies by executing a variety of information card-based component capabilities including:

  • Protocol and wire format interoperability
  • Card format interoperability
  • Policy interoperability
  • Platform interoperability 

The interop event was organized by OSIS and identity commons and hosted by The Burton Group.  Thanks to all involved.

CardSpace control for ASP.NET

Dominick Baier at LeastPrivilege has made leaps and bounds in his CardSpace control for the Microsoft ASP.NET environment (though it should work equally well for people using a Higgins identity selector or managed card).  It is very cleanly designed.  Amazingly, he's already added support for the new icon (does he ever sleep?).  His blog has an ongoing discussion around the control and related issues:

After I made some incremental changes and releases of my CardSpace control (found some bugs, got some feedback), I wanted to consolidate all the information along with a new version and some new features here. It now contains all the features I need and will be the last release for some time i guess.

If you have any feedback or suggestions feel free to write me or leave me a comment. If you want to add support for XHTML, contact me too 😉

Download here. Have fun!

PS. This was only possible with a little help of my friends…thanks Brock and JasonD!


Easy to use syntax
One of my main goals was to have an easy to use markup syntax and intellisense support. I don't want to type in all those namespace URIs…

<lp:CardSpaceSelector runat="server" ID="_selector_sic" AutoPostback="true" 

    <lp:ClaimType Name="givenname" /> 
    <lp:ClaimType Name="surname" /> 
    <lp:ClaimType Name="email" /> 


Clean markup and independence of the server form
The emitted markup works with Firefox and IE. I also made sure that the <object> tag is placed outside of the postback form. This allows you to have multiple postback controls on the form without triggering the identity selector.

Support for standard InfoCard image
You can choose between all standard sizes of the official InfoCard image. You can also supply your own image and dimensions

Designer integration
I never use the designer – but I acknowledge the fact that some people do 😉 The control renders correctly in the designer and has an editor to setup the required/optional claims (including intellisense support).

Event driven
The control fires an event when a token is submitted.

protected void _selector_sic_TokenSubmitted(object sender, TokenSubmittedEventArgs e) {     string xmlToken = e.Token; }

Conditional rendering
You can choose to render the control only if the client browser supports InfoCards. You can specify an alternative <div /> that would render in that case (e.g. to tell the user how to get CardSpace).

I intentionally didn't couple the control with any user management semantics (like membership) or decryption clases (like the TokenProcessor). It is totally up to you how to proceed after you received the encrypted token. This is considered a feature 😉


InfoCard setup

This enum has two values ‘SelfIssued’ and ‘Managed’. If you select ‘SelfIssued’ then the issuer URI for self-issued cards will be emitted. If you select ‘Managed’ you have to set the issuer URI yourself. Defaults to ‘SelfIssued’

Issuer and IssuerPolicy
Specifies the URIs for the issuer and the issuer policy.

Specifies the token type. Defaults to SAML 1.0.

PrivacyUrl and PrivacyVersion
Specifies to the URL and version of the associated privacy policy (if any).


Specifies a custom image to display. Defaults to the official InfoCard icon. 

Selects one of the standard images sizes for the official InfoCard icon. Defaults to 114×80.

Width & Height
Specifies the size of the image in pixels. Only relevant when a custom image is used.


When set to true, the control will only render if the client browser supports CardSpace. You have to embed the control into a <div /> and specify the name in the DivToRender attribute. Defaults to false.

Specifies which <div /> to render/make invisible based on client support.

Optionally specifies a <div /> to render when CardSpace is not supported on the client.

Choose between static and dynamic rendering. Static preserves the space for the control on the client. Defaults to Static.


Name of the hidden field used to transmit the token back to the page. Defaults to __XMLTOKEN.

Specifies if the control posts back after a card has been selected. Defaults to false.

Specifies if the identity selector should be invoked directly after the page has finished loading. Defaults to false.

Holds the encrypted token after the user has selected a card.

Dominick also did a set of four videos on CardSpace for UK MSDN that I would recommend:

Implementation Strategies

Also find the sample code he used here

Announcing the Information Card Icon

I want to congratulate Mike Jones and my other colleagues for all their work in creating and figuring out how to protect an Information Card icon that can be used by everyone worldwide who supports InfoCard technology.  Creative people, legal people, and marketing folks all helped bring this to fruition.  Here's Mike's post:

I’m very pleased to announce that, as of today, there is now a graphical icon freely available for people to use to indicate that “Information Cards are accepted here”. This icon is intended to provide a common visual cue that Information Cards can be used to provide information to a site or program, similarly to how the RSS icon is used to indicate the availability of syndicated content.

The guidelines for the use of the icon, a frequently asked questions document, a set of png images of the icon rendered in a range of sizes, and the original artwork in Illustrator format are all available together in a download package. Please consult the guidelines and the FAQ before using the icon.  [You can also download the icon package here – Kim]

You’ll notice that the login page for my blog now uses the icon. Hopefully your sites will soon too!

And just for fun, because the icon is, after all, a graphical element, here’s a gallery of the renderings of the icon that we included in the downloads package. Enjoy!

OK Mike – I just updated my login page too.  I used to have the picture of my heroine Elastigirl as my InfoCard icon, but it's time to move on.  I'll continue to honor her through the quote at the top of my blog.

For the curious, Mike's posting includes the definitive series of icon variants – an outstanding display of Warholian excess.

Information Card user education resources

Keith Brown points out that we need some permanent web resources that would teach people about Information Cards, how they work, how to use them, and so on:

As I add support for information cards to Pluralsight, I'm rather surprised that I'm having trouble finding official landing pages for consumers. For example, on our logon page, there will be a button to click to log in using an information card, kind of like what you see on Kim's login page. For people who don't know what an information card is, this might be confusing, so of course we'll want a link that points to some documentation. But right now it seems as though everyone is creating their own descriptions for this. Here's Kim's what is an information card page, for example.

It seems as though it would help adoption if there were some centralized descriptions of this stuff. Do these pages exist and I'm just missing them? Or is it that Microsoft only wants to talk about CardSpace, which is their implementation of the selector? I note that when Kim wants to tell you how to install an identity selector, he points to a WordPress blog called the Pamela Project, which doesn't seem too helpful, but might be interesting for someone wanting to add support for information cards to their WordPress blog.

It seems to me that if the industry really wants consumers to start adopting information cards, somebody's going to have to explain this stuff in terms my mother can understand, and it would help to have a common place where those explanations live.

In another post, discussing the issue with Richard Turner, he adds:

In my opinion, somebody (Microsoft?) needs to break this holding pattern fast. I agree that things aren't going to take off until there are more relying parties. But as a guy who is busy doing just that (adding support for infocard to, it doesn't make me feel very comfortable that those consumer landing pages I talked about in my post don't already exist on the web. I happen to be very committed to this technology, so I'm going to implement a relying party no matter what. Other websites might not be so inclined.

I agree this would help – and simplify our lives.  When I InfoCard-enabled my site, I had to cobble stuff up from scratch.  It was tedious since none of the materials existed.   Maybe that's why my help screens are a bit, as Keith is too polite to tell you, crude.

It sure would be neat to have a PERMANENT location everyone's Information Card help links can point to.  That would provide consistency, and let us get some really good resources together, including videos. 

I'll bounce this idea around with others here at Microsoft and see how we can play, as Keith says, a leadership role in making this happen.

Neil Macehiter on the identity metasystem

Here is some recent commentary from Neil Macehiter at macehiterward-dutton Blog on IT Business Alignment:

It's perhaps unsurprising, given all the brouhaha surrounding Microsoft's claims that open source software infringes on 235 of its patents (which incidentally I take to be largely ‘sabre rattling’ from Redmond in the face of the implications of the GPLv3 for its deal with Novell, as discussed in the Risk Factors of the latter's recent 10-K filing), that some recent news regarding the Redmond company's very positive collaboration with the open source community has not received the attention it deserves.

The news in question concerns a series of announcements the company made at last week's Interop conference in Las Vegas. These announcements, as the title of the post suggest, all revolve around Microsoft's vision for an Internet-scale, interoperable identity metasystem and range from additions to the Open Specification Promise (OSP) through to support for OpenLDAP with Microsoft's Identity Lifecycle Manager.

So, what did they announce? First, Microsoft is

making the Identity Selector Interoperability Profile available under the OSP to enhance interoperability in the identity metasystem for client computers using any platform. An individual open source software developer or a commercial software developer can build its identity selector software and pay no licensing fees to Microsoft, nor will it need to worry about future patent concerns related to the covered specifications for that technology

In other words, third parties are free to build the equivalent of Microsoft's CardSpace, following the likes of the Higgins project, Ian Brown's Apple Safari Plug-In and Chuck Mortimore's Firefox Identity Selector. This is important not only because it extends the reach of CardSpace-like capabilities beyond Windows but also because it facilitates the consistent user experience (I know because I have used CardSpace, the Safari Plug-In and the Firefox Identity Selector) which helps to reduce errors and misunderstanding by users.

Second, Microsoft

is starting four open source projects that will help Web developers support information cards, the primary mechanism for representing user identities in the identity metasystem. These projects will implement software for specifying the Web site’s security policy and accepting information cards in Java for Sun Java System Web Servers or Apache Tomcat or IBM’s WebSphere Application Server, Ruby on Rails, and PHP for the Apache Web server. An additional project will implement a C Library that may be used generically for any Web site or service. These implementations will complement the existing ability to support information cards on the Microsoft® Windows® platform using the Microsoft Visual Studio® development environment.

Or, to put it another way, doing for back end servers what the first announcement is doing for the front-end: enabling web sites and enterprises running a wide variety of web server infrastructure to support authentication using CardSpace and the other identity selectors.

The cyncical amongst you might be forgiven for thinking that these two announcements are just Microsoft paying lip service to interoperability. This post should help to allay your concerns: at the Internet Identity Workshop earlier in May the Open Source Identity Selector (OSIS) group demonstrated interoperability amongst 5 identity selectors, 11 relying parties (the party relying on authentication to prove an identity), 7 identity providers (the party asserting the identity), 4 types of identity token (the mechanism for conveying the identity assertion), and 2 authentication mechanisms. Also, on the same day as the Microsoft press release, Internet2 announced plans to extend Shibboleth, a federated web single sign-on solution based on SAML that is widely used amongst educational institutions, to support CardSpace and compatible identity selectors.

The third piece of news from Redmond last week, concerned the new Identity Lifecycle Manager product and is thus primarily focussed behind the firewall. Microsoft is going to be working with KERNEL Networks and Oxford Computer Group to enable bi-directional synchronisation of identity data between OpenLDAP, an open source implementation of the ubiquitous directory standard, and Microsoft's Active Directory. Identity Lifecycle Manager already supports a wide range of the commonly-deployed identity data repositories so I think this move is primarily in the “playing well with open source” category – but valuable nonetheless.

These announcements are further evidence that the likes of Kim Cameron, Microsoft's chief identity architect, and Mike Jones, the company's Director of Identity Partnerships, have been working hard to foster the relationships and commitment (both from Microsoft and third parties) required to help make the identity metasystem a reality. That reality is too important for the results of those efforts to be diluted by political shenanigans around patents and GPLv3.

I'm glad to hear that Neil has tried CardSpace and its sister implementations on different platforms.