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The Matrix

Michael Schwartz June 10, 2012

I’ve been struggling to find the right metaphor to describe the network of OX connected endpoints, something equivalent to “The Web.” This blog will make the case that that name should be “The Matrix.”

Thanks to Hollywood, we all know that the Matrix is some high tech thing you “connect to.” The concept is already in the vernacular. In the movie of the same name, Neo uses connectivity to the “Matrix” to supercharge (at least in cyberspace) his super powers.

The idea of a Matrix creates an accurate visual metaphor for interconnected-ness. One of the innovations of OX-based networks is that by globally addressing data, it enables you to both publish the data that you hold, and reference the data held by others. The promise of the Matrix is connection to all your data, wherever it exists, including myriads of “personal data stores” that may exist on your personal or cloud network.

In the movie, the “Matrix” was also a means to enslave people. However, the OX Matrix will have the opposite effect–it will help free us from our dependency on big brother. It will enable us to hold our own data, connect to our friends securely, and to build new tools which benefit us, and satisfy our curiosity.

The Matrix will help us to organize, share, and better utilize the mountains of data which needs to be organized and processed to be made into usable knowledge. Data is like a library: without the shelving and cataloging, its just and un-organized piles of books.

The qualities the Matrix would add to those of the Web are (1) consistency (2) security (3) federation (4) pseudonymity (5) semantics.

Our files and content are hard to address. For example, what’s the url of my current headshot photo? If there was a layer of abstraction, for example, clients could be a little smarter, and look up the current URL where I publish that picture. Even if I could remember the URI of my headshot, it would probably change in the next year.

To date, there is no Internet standard on data security. SSL only protects transmission across an unprotected network. LDAP ACI’s are not part of the standard, so every LDAP server has a different implementation of security. XACML provides a mechanism for centralizing authorization decisions–it is not a mechanism to store complex dynamic business objects and relationships. OX “Link Contracts” provide a metaphor for specifying who has access to my resources under what conditions.

A federation is a group of autonomous entities that cede power to a central authority. That power is the trust model: the standards and conventions that enable the network to inter-operate. But everyone controls their own data in the Matrix. You talk to others on an equal footing. How much to trust these identifiers will be handled in the open market. Any organization can start a registrar to associate identifiers with attributes.

Kaliya Hamlin made an excellent point this week that pseudonyms are driving crowd-sourced content on the Internet. OX supports the idea that people have many identity providers, and that you to release the minimum amount of information to achieve your desired result.

In order to make sense of mountains of data, and to enable agents to act intelligently on my behalf, I will have to organize it. Semantics technology enables OX applications to leverage current advances in the best data structures for knowledge management.

To conclude, the Matrix is not the Web, although it is built on web technology. The Matrix is the next evolutionary transformation of the Internet to serve its constituents–the users who connect to it–collectively empowering us to reach new levels of collaboration, productivity, equality and peace.

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Mike Schwartz

Mike has been an entrepreneur and identity specialist for more than two decades. He is the technical and business visionary behind Gluu. Mike is an application security expert and has been a featured speaker at RSA Conference, Gartner Catalyst, Cloud Identity Summity (now "Identiverse") and many other security conferences around the world.

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