Phil Karlton said (at least once in my hearing anyway) that naming things was one of the two hard tasks in computer science (reading X Toolkit Intrinsics — C Language Interface, to which he contributed, will give you some idea why he said it); I discovered the truth of this yet again when writing the FAQ for our Identity Provider for OpenID. In this case, it was even more convoluted, being about what to name the thing that names names.
When a Sun employee signs up at the Sun IdP there is no necessity for them to put their real names in the fields marked “first name” and “surname”; they can use a fictitious name if they choose (or put nothing at all). In common English, this fictitious name is often called a pseudonym. The various dictionary.com definitions of pseudonym would seem to fit this usage very well, so I was preparing to use it in the FAQ. Except for, it turns out that those steeped in identity management terminology tend to find that plain-English usage of the word confusing.
In SAML, for example, a pseudonym is defined as A privacy-preserving name identifier assigned by a provider to identify a principal to a given relying party for an extended period of time that spans multiple sessions; can be used to represent an identity federation. In Liberty Alliance work, the definition is An arbitrary identifier assigned by the identity or service provider to identify a Principal to a given relying party so that the name has meaning only in the context of the relationship between the parties. The same or similar meaning is used within WS-Security (the user identity [is] provided in a SAML assertion as a pseudonym) and WS-Federation (A pseudonym service allows a principal to have different aliases at different resources/services or in different realms, and to optionally have the pseudonym change per-service or per-login).
So in order to make life easier for those poor, easily confused identity management experts, I’ll be using the term “fictitious name” in the FAQ, where I would otherwise have used “pseudonym”, an added cost of one letter and one word per usage. I hope they appreciate my efforts to help them.