Identity Commons (IC) was originally founded in 2001 to support the emergence of a user-centric layer of the web. In 2007 it was restructured and become a nonprofit organization incorporated in Florida to support a community of working groups focused on different aspects of making a user-centric identity layer real.
Its founders Owen Davis and Andrew Nelson thought that an innovative organizational structure would be best to support end users being in control and having autonomy on this layer of the web. They modeled the organization on aspects of how Visa International was structured and imagined membership belonging to the people. The organization presented at the first Internet Identity Workshop in 2005.
This was from the initial IC entry on Wikipedia.
Identity Commons was originally conceived to be the first trust federation implementing Dataweb technology to build an open global network for persistent identity and trusted data sharing. Identity Commons worked with XDI.ORG to implement the first global i-name registry services based on the OASIS XRI and XDI specifications. Identity Commons was going to be an international non-stock membership organization similar to Visa, and was inspired by the concepts of chaordic organization developed by Dee Hock (founding CEO of Visa). Although open to any organization, its initial participants are largely civil society organizations (non-profits, NGOs, foundations, etc.) and their service providers who wish to promote cooperation through inter-community data sharing.
The current organization links together many different projects and technologies working on various legal, policy and social aspects of identity on the web. Member groups include the Internet Identity Workshop, OpenID Foundation, Information Card Foundation, Data Portability Project, OSIS OSIS interoperability efforts, ProjectVRM and Vendor Relationship Management.
The community and organization is focused on creating a commons where the challenges of user-centric identity can be solved rather than driving toward a particular solution. It is a purpose and principle-driven organization.
Purpose and Principles
The purpose of the organization is to "support, facilitate, and promote the creation of an open identity layer for the Internet, one that maximizes control, convenience, and privacy for the individual while encouraging the development of healthy, interoperable communities".
The organization has a stewards' council with representatives from each working group. Working Groups are the organs of the organization. Working groups agree to a set of principles on how they organize to work together.
- Self-Organization Enable any working group to self-organize at any time, on any scale, in any form, around any activity consistent with the Purpose and Principles.
- Transparency Fully and transparently disclose the Purpose and Principles of each working group, any requirement of participation, and any license or restriction of usage of its work product.
- Inclusion Conduct deliberations and make decisions by bodies and methods that reasonably represent all relevant and affected parties.
- Empowerment Vest authority, perform functions, and use resources in the smallest or most local part that includes all relevant and affected parties.
- Collaboration Resolve conflict without resort to economic, legal, or other duress.
- Openness Conduct, publish, and archive communications in a manner that facilitates open and trusted interactions within and across all working groups and the public Internet.
- Dogfooding When feasible and appropriate, employ the work product of Identity Commons working groups to facilitate the operation and interaction of Identity Commons itself.
Working Groups are required to report quarterly on their activities to remain active groups. Optional monthly teleconferences are held for stewards and there is a community mailing list.
Facilitating broad community dialogue and increasing the diversity of perspectives in the emerging field of user-centric identity. As community grows and as the vision of a decentralized, user-centric identity layer for the Internet comes closer to reality this becomes more important. Identity Commons creates opportunities for both innovators and competitors, for both the big guy and the small fry to come together in a safe and balanced space. Identity Commons fulfills this role in a variety of ways both online and offline.
On the technical side, IC is a voice for multiple, interoperating (and possibly competing) identity standards and reputation networks. IC encourages the development of systems that achieve zero customer lock-in, thus always providing users of identity systems the choice to move without the risk of losing the accumulated fruit of their labors/participation. Further, IC assists efforts to create transparency in the operations of the identity systems and their associated services, so that users who are not as technically adept could feel secure in their actions.
Identity Commons, inspired by the core principles of Chaordic Commons, consists of Working Groups and a Stewards Council. The bulk of the activities and decision-making occur within the Working Groups, which have a great deal of autonomy.
Any group of people who want to work together towards a purpose consistent with the Purpose And Principles may form a Working Group, which will automatically become part of Identity Commons unless the Stewards Council raises a specific objection (the goal is a culture of inclusion). To form a Working Group, the sponsors use the Working Group Charter Template to publish a charter on this wiki describing their purpose, process, and deliverables. They must also select one representative and one alternate to serve on the Stewards Council.
The only purpose of the Stewards Council is to make organizational decisions for managing resources shared by all Working Groups in the Commons (such as this wiki). Decisions are made by a vote of the majority. The council consists solely of representatives from each Working Group. Its deliberative process is totally open and transparent, and anyone may participate. However, only Working Group representatives have a vote on decisions.
Identity Commons is a not-for-profit legal entity that will hold any resources deemed necessary by working groups that are not themselves structured to be able to do so.
Working Group Agreement
The Identity Commons supports the community by allowing its name and brand to be used in conjunction with groups of individuals and/or organizations that organize themselves to pursue work that is consistent with IC's Purpose And Principles.
It is important to note that the use of IC's brand does not imply that the Working Group is doing work on behalf of IC. Each working group is doing its own work and is responsible for the quality and reliability of its products. The use of the IC brand only means that the working group has organized and governed its work in a way that is consistent with IC's Purpose and Principles. IC warrants nothing further.
To be considered for IC recognition, a working group must have:
- A written agreement among its participants that states the working group's:
- Purposes and scope of work,
- Qualifications and requirements for participation, if any,
- Required licenses or any other restrictions on uses of the working group's work product, if any,
- Method(s) of making decisions together, as needed, and,
- Any other agreements that seem necessary.
- At least one primary and one alternate individual who is charged by the working group to be its representative on the Stewards Council and ensure that its operation is consistent with the IC Purpose and Principles.
- A publicly accessible website that on which the agreements are posted and the responsible individual(s) are named.
These agreements do not have to be in a tight, legal format. It is much more important that they are clear and straight forward, at least to the participants in the working group and to the Stewards Council. The Working Group Charter Template was developed for this purpose.
Once recognized, the individual(s) charged to ensure conformance with IC's Purpose And Principles must be participant(s) in good standing in the Stewards Council, which will be organized by those individuals and the IC Board.
Should serious issues arise about the operation of a working group or its consistency with IC's Purpose And Principles, recognition of a working group can be revoked at the sole discretion of the Stewards Council as empowered by the formal legal board of Identity Commons. It is hoped this is a rare (or nonexistent) occurrence.
Identity Commons collaborates in several ways:
- On the Wiki
- Via the community and various Working Group mailing lists
- Occasional teleconferences and face-to-face meetups.
There is an aggregate blog Planet Identity maintained by Pat Patterson at SUN.
The actual work of Identity Commons happens within the Working Groups. Each group chooses its own methods and mediums for collaboration, provided they are consistent with our values outlined in our Purpose And Principles. IC provides some shared infrastructure as a service to Working Groups who want it. This infrastructure includes the creation of Wikis and mailing lists.
They often meet at the Internet Identity Workshop, which happens twice a year and is an Identity Commons Working Group. This working group also sponsors the Identity Open Space events that are co-located with other events, such as Digital Identity World and Liberty Alliance meetings.