Live ID : Java Glossary

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Live ID

(aka .NET Passport, Microsoft Passport Network, Microsoft Account, Windows Live ID). Microsoft’s password scheme so that you can use the same userid/password on many different sites. The protocol has been implemented by many different groups besides Microsoft. Ironically the original liveid.org site no longer exists, though the LiveID scheme lives on. It has been replaced by live.com. It has largely been supplanted by logging on with Facebook or Google accounts to other sites. LiveID accounts were once associated with hotmail accounts, but hotmail is now defunct but now they are associated with Outlook email accounts.

What is it For?

When you travel about the web, you often have the tedious job of giving a website your name, address, email address, phone number and sometimes a credit card number. Passport is Microsoft’s scheme to ease that. You tell Microsoft all the information. When you visit a website, you authorise Microsoft to divulge some of that information to the website. Microsoft looks after authenticating both you and the website. Microsoft sends you an email to verify you once received mail at that address. They do no other verification. Everything in the Passport application could be a complete fabrication and no one would know. It is nothing like a digital certificate id.

The Catch

What is wrong with this picture? Many people don’t trust Microsoft with such sensitive information. Microsoft is notoriously bad at keeping hackers out of their customers’ machines and even their own servers. Microsoft potentially could sell this information, and information about your buying habits to others. Once you have given this information to Microsoft there is really no way to retract it, no matter how badly they behave. Further, the websites have to pay Microsoft every time they need any information. If the system were to become entrenched, Microsoft could keep cranking up the price per transaction and the website vendors could not do much about it.

Microsoft, just to download a free app, demands your Windows password. It is none of their business, they don’t need it and I don’t trust them to store it securely or not to misuse it themselves. No other site demands your Windows password. That is why I don’t use LiveID.

Liberty was a decentralised alternative to the centralised Microsoft scheme which folded.



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