digital concrete

I ran across this article this morning, about how Microsoft is reaching out to other browsers like Firefox and Safari to encourage adoption of InfoCard technologies. The article is certainly true as written, and I’ve written before about some of my involvement in those discussions, but I would like to caution people against reading into it that we have made or announced concrete plans to support InfoCard as a piece of the Firefox platform.

I think that support for rich and user-empowering identity infrastructure is an important element of the future growth of both the web and Firefox, and I think — perhaps somewhat more controversially — that InfoCard’s principles and protocols are a pretty strong basis for that infrastructure, but there’s a big gap between those beliefs and an item in the committed Firefox roadmap.

For better or for worse, my still-forming opinions about technologies do not Mozilla technology policy make.


I lost a week to a horrible bout of insomnia — I cannot recommend it to you, my loyal viewers, even for experimental purposes — and then “lost” most of a week to a great management offsite and HQ visit. So I’m quite a ways behind in putting to bed various post-drafts about, especially, identity and Firefox’s disruptive potential. I’ve blocked off a fair bit of time this week to catch up on those things, as gently egged on by Kim and Frank.

I’ve also had a lot of interesting personal stuff going on, but that’s not really planet material, so it’ll be in another post or few.


And by “decide”, I mean “make sure that it is decided, and tell me when I can start typing”.


trade ya

The back injury I sustained last week was remedied by three days of rest, stretching, and good luck. Tonight, though, as we closed out the season of my Monday-night Ultimate team, I replaced it with a knee injury. Such joy.

One of my teammates thinks it’s probably my IT band, but I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Tomorrow morning will tell me if I need to find a doctor.

Update: knee is pretty good today, just a little sore. Might be able to play Thursday, but I’m not counting on it.

laws of identity

This is the first — perhaps second — in what I expect will be a long-ish series exploring some of my thinking behind what the “identity strategy” for Mozilla should look like. Not necessarily what the strategy will be, but what problems it needs to solve, and how the values of the project are reflected in the choices that we face.

If you are new to the modern discussion of “digital identity”, you might find some useful discussion of the issues and stakes here in Kim Cameron’s “Laws of Identity”. Kim’s captured a lot of good thinking from himself and others, and I think it’s a solid basis for discussing the differences between identity systems (or, as is the more fashionable thing these days, identity metasystems — but that’s another post).

So that’s my plan! I finally feel like I have a handle on enough of this stuff to start sharing it without being totally incoherent, and so I will try.


I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time, but I’ve now finally made a change to WordPress as my blogging software of choice. I hope that none of you especially care about this, though I did have some fun playing with my theme. Hope it looks OK in IE! (Well, I kinda hope.)

baby got back (pain)

In the course of a mildly unpleasant, but ultimately quite satisfying, Ultimate victory last night, I managed to torque my back a bit.

Therefore, today’s predicted complement of blog-post editing, document authoring, and general PowerBook jockeying will be pre-empted. Instead, we will be offering a delicious selection of lying on the floor, hot water bottles, and an ibuprofen buffet. Moaning and cursing are available at a small additional premium.

(I can be reached through the traditional channels of cellular technology and Blackberry-borne email, though my response time may be even worse than usual.)

No manual entry for raidhotadd

The machine I host this blog and various other things (like, you know, my mail) on had some trouble recently, probably related to the hydro-vault fire in Toronto a few days ago.

I replaced one drive, one motherboard, and two IDE cables. She seems happier now. Thanks to the EI Catalyst guys for their help and above-the-call support. (They’re much cooler than their web site would have you believe.)

Now, to catch up on the 5 hours of work I missed wranging with this silly thing.

All Foo’d Up

I was supposed to fly to SFO today, to spend the weekend at Foo Camp. In fact, I guess I still am supposed to fly to SFO, since the last flight isn’t scheduled to leave for 4 hours. But between a stomach bug that had me up all night and is still plaguing me — I’ll spare you the details — and the recently-declared tornado warning for Toronto, I’m thinking that I’m not going anywhere.

If both the external and internal weather clear up in time, I suppose I’d crash with Vlad and drive up in the morning, but I’m not feeling very optimistic. (Ignoring the fact that I haven’t actually asked Vlad yet.)

Update: Madhava has a candid of the weather where he works, at the north end of the city. Good times!

papers, please

I was outed as a new member of the Mozilla Foundation team by a press release about a now-long-past keynote address, so there isn’t really much to announce here. My contract has me working primarily as a technology strategist, a necessarily-vague position that has been described pretty well by Mitchell’s post about new people and roles in the Mozilla Foundation world. I continue to help with release management, organizational governance, and even advising the intrepid devmo squad, but I try to spend most of my time with my sights on the technology strategy issues that are of significant interest to our community and products. (Which is not to say that I do spend most of my time there, but I’m learning how to do so better every day, and with every gentle nudge from my wicked-awesome manager.)

The primary area of technology strategy that I’ve been working on so far has centred around “identity”, which is of course a topic broad enough to consume several lifetimes. I count myself lucky to have developed a grounding in identity and privacy issues while at Zero-Knowledge, as it’s allowed me to get up to speed more quickly than I might otherwise have been able to.

The biggest strength of the current identity climate is also the biggest weakness: there are a number of identity systems that provide different capabilities, are built to emphasize different values, and require different amounts of infrastructure support. As the Mozilla Foundation is chartered to promote choice and innovation on the Internet, it would seem that we’re in good shape on at least half of our primary concern: choice.

I don’t think it’s really the case, unfortunately, because the sort of choice that the user faces is not one that empowers them at all: in many ways, it forces the user to pick a winner, and it forces similarly unpleasant choices on developers that want to take advantage of “Identity 2.0″ capabilities in order to build interesting services, technologies, and experiences. Choice competes with innovation here, and while that’s a tension that arises in many contexts, it’s of even more concern when we’re talking about something this central to the web experience — and, I feel I can say without gross overstatement, to the social fabric of modern life, as mediated by all this computer nonsense.

(I should point out that all of the interesting proposals for modern identity infrastructure permit users to exert control over what organizations actually hold their private information, which is a huge step forward from the Passport nightmare we faced not that long ago. I still think that having to choose an identity system is a bad scene, but it could certainly be worse.)

Being the technology strategist for the Mozilla Foundation has its perks, and chief among them is that I get to work with a truly amazing team on a project that really is at the center of the modern web. Right after that, though, is that a lot (lot) of people want to talk to me, and while it can be a mixed blessing in terms of time management, it’s tremendously helpful in making sense of something as complex as the identity landscape. I had good, if preliminary, discussions with folks from the Passel and SXIP camps, while I was at OSCON, and I’ve since been setting up meetings with other identity-system boosters to get other perspectives. (If you are with an identity system group and you haven’t made contact with me yet, please do send mail and some information about your system, because I’m by no means done with that part of the process.)

Most recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kim Cameron, Microsoft’s Architect of Identity and Access and the father of InfoCard. He came to spend some time with me in Toronto this week, and I was delighted to discover that we share many of the same positions on the key obstacles to having viable identity infrastructure on the web today. The InfoCard work looks to be pretty good from philosophical and architectural perspectives, and I’m trying to learn enough about the whole bloody WS-* stack to really grok the details. We had a very good conversation about a wide range of technical and social issues, and I look forward to more of them in the future. I’m pretty confident that Kim genuinely wants to do the Right Thing, and even more importantly he seems to have the Right Idea about what the Right Thing is — which is to say, in other words, that we agree about many things, much to his credit.

I hope to write more in the coming days about the identity systems I’ve looked at, and what I think the general form of Mozilla’s identity strategy should be, but I wanted to break my blogging fast and talk a little bit about what I’m working on these days. It’s really too exciting to keep to myself!

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