Web content filtering took an interesting turn this year. We saw a lot more appliances than in the past. We also saw a lot more than simply URL filtering. This mirrors the trend toward multiple related functions in the same product.
A year ago we would have had a difficult time defining exactly what we mean by identity management products. While that issue still is not completely resolved, this product group has taken a turn toward maturity as well. We set the minimum baseline as having at least one of the following capabilities (and the product must be enterprise-centric with central management): password management, user provisioning (creation of the user entity, authorization and permissions), or enterprise access management (e.g., single sign-on).
This counterpoint — the levels of maturity of web content filtering and identity management — points to a problem I have seen for years in the information security field: definition by differentiation. Rather than allow the market to decide what it wants, we allow the marketers to tell us. They do all sorts of quirky things to product definitions to accomplish an opposing set of goals.
The first goal is to fit neatly into a product category and gain market share, address a defined market, etc. The second goal is differentiation. This is where the trouble starts. Differentiation run amok gives us products that do not quite fit into any category. However, time cures all, and the market will eventually have its say. We see that happening quite nicely in the web content filtering category while identity management still has a way to go.
Occasionally we see a product that fits absolutely nowhere, but is so useful that it stands out on its own. This is a real frustration for the product's marketers, more of a frustration for consumers, and a real can of snakes for reviewers. That situation, in a nutshell, is why we introduced the First Look column this year. The products we look at fit into two groups: those likely to define a product genre and those that fit nowhere else but are worthy of note.
As always, your comments are valuable to us, so drop us a line.
— Peter Stephenson, technology editor