Venndentity: The Virtuous Circle of the Identity Professional

Back in the mists of time, when I was taking my first steps in the identity industry, a wise person came to me and said “it’s all about Venn”. And they were right!  I rapidly discovered Eve Maler’s now seminal Venn of Identity:

Eve Maler, 2007;

(For those who might not remember, CardSpace, aka InfoCard, was an early instance of an Identity Selector; it was deprecated by Microsoft in 2011.)

I soon established that Eve’s Venn of Identity was just the first carriage in a train of Identity Venns. Yes – everything in Identity could be simply and easily explained via a Venn diagram. Even really complex things like the relationship between our industry and those adjacent to it:

 Ian Glazer, 2017

Higher-level ideas and developments in the identity industry could also be handily explained with a Venn. Take, for example, the rise of Mobile Device Management and Mobile Identity. Where would these concepts fit into an already well-established pantheon of identity topics? The answer, of course, lies in a Venn:

Gunnar Petersen, 2012;

Indeed, the Venn diagram soon became common currency in identity presentations. Too common, perhaps?

Paul Madsen, Brian Campbell, 2012(?)

Now, it’s true that using Venn diagrams to explain everything about Identity does rather rely on the audience actually understanding a Venn diagram:

Phil Plait, 2012;

But no matter!  The Venn set me on a path to success. Whether I was building my own, adapting existing material, or simply reusing (with appropriate credit) earlier work of others, these diagrams became indispensable reference material in countless meetings where I attempted to explain to hardened systems architects and project managers why they should refactor their applications to support ID-FF, SAML, OAuth, SPML…  well, OK, maybe not SPML.

Yes, 3-set Venns are the staple of our industry.  So imagine my outrage when I discovered that other sectors are outstripping us!

Druhv Bansal, 2017;

Yes folks, that’s a 4-set Venn!  Four sets! Four! And it has nothing to do with Identity.  (No really – the word Identity doesn’t appear anywhere in there… )

Well, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down. We all know how complex, convoluted, interwoven and interdependent our Identity industry is – it’s about time we had a Venn that really represents us in all our glory. The time has come for us to reclaim the birthright of the Identity Industry.

Hence, I’m pleased to present this template for a new Venn of Identity, fit for our modern age. As you can see, it’s at the same time breathtakingly simple and delightfully complex – a perfect metaphor for digital identity, don’t you think? 


7 sets.  Take that, Blockchain!

Now, it’s going to be a collaborative effort to complete this, but I think, if we try really hard, we should be able to have it ready for Identiverse, right!  (Which year? – Ed)

Then again…. it may turn out that none of these are actually Venn diagrams.


(…and worth a read, frankly – it’s a lot more amusing and well informed than this article.  -Ed)

But what the heck. I’ll carry on using them anyway!

(And in all seriousness – thanks to the giants of our industry on whose shoulders we stand. Describing complex topics in easy-to-understand ways is no mean feat, and we are grateful.)

Andrew Hindle & the Editorial Committee

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