4 January 2005 Microsoft has been forced into a humiliating climb down over its online authentication service, Passport, once a cornerstone of its Internet strategy. The software giant admitted it would no longer attempt to get third parties to use its service.
Microsoft was forced into the admission after flagship customers abandoned the service.
Online auctioneer eBay announced in December 2004 that it is dropping support for Passport by January 2005. This came just two months after another leading Passport user, Monster.com, terminated its support for the service.
Microsoft had initially positioned Passport as a cornerstone of its Internet strategy, allowing users to securely access a number of transactional sites through a single sign-on. It had hoped that the system would become an authentication standard across the Internet.
But it has failed to win support for the service. Although the authentication system is successfully used by millions of Hotmail users – Microsoft’s web mail service – it failed to win widespread support.
In 2003 security experts uncovered flaws in Passport which could have resulted in serious loss of sensitive information.
Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems has managed to build momentum behind its alternative approach for federated identity management. It established the Liberty Alliance in 2001, which has since garnered support from industry heavyweights such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM as well as end users including General Motors and the Royal Mail.