MIT's Open Knowledge Initiative releases first APIs
Scott Wilson, CETIS staff
March 12, 2002

MIT have released the first set of Application Programming Interfaces for the Open Knowledge Initiative - a project aiming to produce an open architecture for educational software.

The release of the APIs is an important milestone for the project, which has raised expectations in the education community with its promise of free, open-source, standards-based components for building Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Environments.

The first set of API's aim to provide a common services framework. The set includes:

For each of the available APIs, the OKI project provides technical documentation, Java code, and code examples.

Currently only the Authentication and Shared APIs have been published on the OKI website; although MIT indicate that the other API specifications will be "available soon".

Authentication

The Authentication API provides a standard process for gathering security credentials from an 'agent' (either a person or another program), and for establishing their authenticity.

Security credentials typically consist of a user name and password, but can include certificates, cookies, and security protocols such as Kerberos and Shibboleth.

According to MIT, the OKI authentication API allows applications to "determine and manipulate the authentication status of an agent without having to manage the details of a particular institution's environment."

Shared

The Shared API specification provides interfaces for the 'players' in an OKI application, such as Agents and Groups. It provides a standard way to define Agents - either people or applications - so that they can take part in OKI transactions such as authentication and logging. The API also includes the base Exception class for OKI error handling.

This API is a much more fundamental piece of the OKI architecture than the Authentication API, and forms the basis of the Common Services layer.

Both API definitions are available from the OKI website from today. We'll take a look at them in more detail soon.