Identiverse LogoI gave the following presentation in the session Using Standards: Some Assembly Required at the 2024 Identiverse conference (PowerPoint) (PDF). The abstract was:

  • Standards are about making choices. When building machines, we take for granted being able to use nuts, bolts, wires, light bulbs, and countless other parts made to industry standards. Standards contain choices about dimensions of screw threads, nut sizes, etc., enabling a marketplace of interoperable parts from multiple suppliers. Without these choices, every part would be custom-manufactured. The same is true of the identity and security standards we use to build the Identity Engine. However, the identity and security standards at our disposal differ wildly in the degree to which they do and don’t make choices. Some consistently define ONE way to do things, resulting in everyone doing it that way (interoperability!). Others leave critical choices unmade, passing the buck to implementers and applications (your mileage may vary). In this talk, I’ll name names and take prisoners, critiquing existing and emerging standards through the lens of the choices they made and failed to make. Hold on to your hats as we examine the pros and cons of the choices made by OAuth, SAML, X.509, OpenID Connect, Verifiable Credentials, DIDs, WebCrypto, JOSE, COSE, and many others through this lens! I believe you’ll agree with me that making choices matters.

The audience was highly engaged by the process of giving existing and emerging standards letter grades based on the choices they made (or failed to make)!