The founder of Jabber open-source instant messaging software believes he has a way to simplify the problem of online identity.

Jabber developer Jeremie Miller has launched a new project, called MicroID, designed to give users a way to prove authoritatively that they are the authors of blog postings and websites.

Miller has been quick to point out that MicroID is a "utility," and not a full-fledged identity system like the Liberty Alliance project. But he believes the technology will give authors a simple way to identify material posted to the internet as their own. "You can stamp a MicroID on your content, sites, and individual pages," he wrote in a Saturday blog posting. "Then these can be independently verified and even aggregated into third party services."

The new system, which Miller calls a "work in progress," uses a mathematical algorithm to create a unique number, called a MicroID, that can be associated with web pages or blocks of data.

"It's a very, very simple solution," he added. "The most exciting aspect is that it empowers end users with absolute control while fully protecting their rights and privacy."

MicroID could be used by web services like Google or Technorati to verify ownership of online material, but it could also be used by comment-moderation systems and membership-based websites, Miller said.

The system works in a distributed fashion, which means that no single party would be in control of a database of MicroID identity information. Fears of this kind of centralisation helped prevent Microsoft's Passport identity system from taking off.

Miller developed Jabber in the late 1990s as a way to enable users to send instant messages between services like AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. The software has now evolved into a full-fledged, open-source alternative to these systems.