The head of Liberty Alliance, a consortium of companies working on an open source alternative to Microsoft's Passport, has denied that his group is a direct challenge to Microsoft amid rumours that the software giant was on the verge of joining.
The group announced at the RSA Conference in San Jose, California that it had enlarged itself with 11 new members on Tuesday including EDS, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Verisign and Visa.
Microsoft was noticeably absent from the list but is thought to be making an announcement today about joining, or at least working alongside, the group. It still has qualms over intellectual property rights.
Eric Dean, chairman of Liberty Alliance and chief information officer at United Airlines, disagreed with the idea that the project is a direct challenge to Microsoft. "From the beginning, we were not interested in a battle with anybody," he said.
During a panel discussion at the conference, representatives from the Alliance and Microsoft maintained that they were committed to ensuring compatibility between the two systems.
The project was kicked off last September as a response to Passport. Sun Microsystems and other companies created the group to challenge what they saw as Microsoft's attempt to control the single sign-on market.
Dean set a date for the first release of Liberty's draft technical specifications for web user authentication by the middle of 2002.
This achieves the first objective of the Alliance, making it possible for a user to log on to one website then automatically transfer the log-in to another member's site.
He emphasised that the first specification is only the beginning of the project. "It lays the groundwork on which richer capabilities can be built," he explained.
Future updates will allow websites to share customer information, such as user profiles and credit card details.
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