I came across the following exchange on the ID Workshop discussion list.
First up was Brett McDowell of the Liberty Alliance:
I've just started looking for the follow-on thread I was expecting out of the “User Centric” session Dick led in Vancouver. I don't see it. Has that happened yet?
I was expecting an email that captured the consensus we had and a list of new “titles” for what I call “the identity management architecture formerly labeled ‘user-centric’ which is to be renamed in acknowledgement that at least two architectural models are appropriately labeled ‘user-centric'” (one model being a “user-centric deployment of Federation” and the other model being “TBD”… but it is what SXIP does).
That was our consensus view at the well-attended Vancouver session and I'm keen to participate on the naming exercise for the other architecture.
For more background read the wiki notes here. (note I'm not sure attendees are done tweaking these notes yet so they may not yet represent a true consensus but they are helpful now nonetheless):
So, Dick… are you going to kick this off? (or did I just miss it?)
Brett's challenge was directed at Dick Hardt, the amiable CEO of SXIP who understands better than any of us how to explain digital identity to a broad audience. (If you don't know him or forget how powerful his message is, make sure you look at this.)
After reviewing the meeting and looking at the graphics that were drawn, I think that user-centric might be the right term. The term has a fair amount of market awareness already and is being used to convey a model that is different from Federation.
I think User-centric means that each site trusts the user, and the user is free to choose any identity agent that provides the appropriate technical functionality. Federations are where a set of sites have decided to trust each other and the user has a relationship with one of those sites, which can then be communicated to the other sites.
This does NOT mean that “federation technologies” cannot be deployed in a user-centric manner.
Hopefully being August, the signal to noise ratio on any ensuing discussion will be high, but that may be wishful thinking.
I agree with Dick on this one, and don't really understand why Brett wants to fold user-centricity and federation into a single axis. They are orthogonal.
Federation technologies aim at helping internet portals, their suppliers, and their enterprise customers (businesses or government) to digitally identity the subjects of their business transactions. This might or might not involve “users” in the conventional sense.
User-centric technology aims at helping individual people organize their relationships with many different and unrelated portals and internet sites – contact relationship management for individuals, as Doc Searls once said.
So in my view we are likely to have individuals employing user-centric technology to organize their relationships with federations. There is no contradiction here, and no need to get rid either of the notion of the user-centric, or of the idea of federation.
The individual needs – and has a right to – technology that represents her. The individual hasn't really been a factor in the identity equation until recently – she has simply been whatever some domain says she is. That's changing. User-centric technology delivers those changes.