Even if you’re not “technical” and don’t understand what OAuth is or how it works, you should still read OAuth 2.0 and the Road to Hell, because it is a historic moment, and unusually well documented.
I always talk about the cycles of tech, and this is a perfect illustration of a moment when things turn, what we call in math an inflection point. Hammer was the driving force behind OAuth 1 and 2. There’s always someone who plays that role in any successful new layer of technology. My guess is that he’ll never play exactly that role again, having learned about the moment when BigCo’s step in and take over, and seeing what they do with a basically good technology that offers a level playing field. They always try to subtract the level-ness. They don’t have to do it, but they always do.
I remember once clearly in the early days of the web, having been invited to chair a panel at the Seybold conference. I forget what the topic was, I’m sure it had to do with some open technology. So I invited someone from Apple, Steve Zellers. And two people from other big companies. Zellers, who I’ve known for many years was respectful, but the two big company guys wouldn’t take my questions, and just conversed between themselves on stage as if no one else were there. I let them go on, because what they were doing was a far better illustration of politics in tech than anything we could have talked about.
I remember thinking these are two little people who work in big companies. Inside those companies they must be treated like shit. But out here, they expect deference. I’ve seen this a lot too. People who have little or no sway inside their big companies throw their weight around outside. No one inside cares, because the rest of us matter even less to them.
Moral of the story, which the industry as a whole will never recognize, but individuals can — is that when an interoperable spec falls into your lap, say yes. That’s what I did with Netscape’s work with RSS. I had my own format that I created to perfectly fill my need. But no one else was supporting it. Along comes Netscape’s imperfect format, with support from a dozen publishers. I had already learned, in 1999, that has more value than a format that’s a better fit. So deprecate your own work, and accept the interop. It worked remarkably well. I’ll always take that approach, if given a choice.
So I urge you to read that document, even if you don’t understand the nouns — I don’t understand many of them myself — the verbs and adjectives, the human exasperation and fatigue are what’s important. Here’s a guy who has learned a big lesson, and we all can learn it along with him, without having to go down that path ourselves.