Looked into WebID lately? Maybe it’s time. The open standard for identity and login seems to be gaining more momentum following the spring W3C Workshop on Identity in the Browser. That’s when W3C WebID Incubator chair Henry Story presented a position case on the standard; that was followed up by the Berlin Social Web event that included an explanatory video of WebID that he created. Recently The Semantic Web Blog also has noticed some positive commentary in the Twittersphere about WebID’s progress, too.
It’s been a few years since Story hit upon the Subject Alternative Name field in x.509 certificates as an appropriate way to accommodate an owner’s WebID URL. (A URL to name things, says Story, webizes trust.) Since then work has been underway to ensure implementations work across browsers and web servers and different systems, and earlier this year the WebID Incubator Group was born to further advance the protocol. “The biggest part of the battle until now was just to get people to realize there is a way of solving these issues they’ve wanted to solve for a long time that was completely open, built into browsers, and could work,” says Story. “So now people are enthusiastic about the concept because it is so simple.”
The problem having been that, without the aid of the Semantic Web, using a client-side certificate will only work with one web site, making it not much more useful than relying on a user name and password at each one anyway. “So that gives a whole lot of hassle for nearly no value, until we discovered how when you merged this with the Semantic Web …you can use this technology people think of as centralized in a de-centralized way,” he says. “And suddenly it works because you use the web in a webbish way, and you distribute trust around the web.”