The JSON Web Token (JWT) and JSON Object Signing and Encryption (JOSE) specifications are now standards — IETF RFCs. They are:
- RFC 7515: JSON Web Signature (JWS)
- RFC 7516: JSON Web Encryption (JWE)
- RFC 7517: JSON Web Key (JWK)
- RFC 7518: JSON Web Algorithms (JWA)
- RFC 7519: JSON Web Token (JWT)
This completes a 4.5 year journey to create a simple JSON-based security token format and underlying JSON-based cryptographic standards. The goal was always to “keep simple things simple” — making it easy to build and deploy implementations solving commonly-occurring problems using whatever modern development tools implementers chose. We took an engineering approach — including features we believed would be commonly used and intentionally leaving out more esoteric features, to keep the implementation footprint small. I’m happy to report that the working groups and the resulting standards stayed true to this vision, with the already widespread adoption and an industry award being testaments to this accomplishment.
The origin of these specifications was the realization in the fall of 2010 that a number of us had created similar JSON-based security token formats. Seemed like it was time for a standard! I did a survey of the choices made by the different specs and made a convergence proposal based on the survey. The result was draft-jones-json-web-token-00. Meanwhile, Eric Rescorla and Joe Hildebrand had independently created another JSON-based signature and encryption proposal. We joined forces at IETF 81, incorporating parts of both specs, with the result being the -00 versions of the JOSE working group specs.
Lots of people deserve thanks for their contributions. Nat Sakimura, John Bradley, Yaron Goland, Dirk Balfanz, John Panzer, Paul Tarjan, Luke Shepard, Eric Rescorla, and Joe Hildebrand created the precursors to these RFCs. (Many of them also stayed involved throughout the process.) Richard Barnes, Matt Miller, James Manger, and Jim Schaad all provided detailed input throughout the process that greatly improved the result. Brian Campbell, Axel Nennker, Emmanuel Raviart, Edmund Jay, and Vladimir Dzhuvinov all created early implementations and fed their experiences back into the spec designs. Sean Turner, Stephen Farrell, and Kathleen Moriarty all did detailed reviews that added ideas and improved the specs. Matt Miller also created the accompanying JOSE Cookbook — RFC 7520. Chuck Mortimore, Brian Campbell, and I created the related OAuth assertions specs, which are now also RFCs. Karen O’Donoghue stepped in at key points to keep us moving forward. Of course, many other JOSE and OAuth working group and IETF members also made important contributions. Finally, I want to thank Tony Nadalin and others at Microsoft for believing in the vision for these specs and consistently supporting my work on them.
I’ll close by remarking that I’ve been told that the sign of a successful technology is that it ends up being used in ways that the inventors never imagined. That’s certainly already true here. I can’t wait to see all the ways that people will continue to use JWTs and JOSE to build useful, secure applications!