Authorization Basics

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SAML and OAuth2 Comparison

SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) and OAuth 2.0 are both authentication and authorization protocols, but they serve different purposes and have distinct use cases. Here are the key differences between SAML and OAuth 2.0


  • SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language): SAML is primarily used for Single Sign-On (SSO) and federated identity scenarios. It allows a user to log in once to an identity provider (IdP) and access multiple service providers (SPs) without needing to reauthenticate.

  • OAuth 2.0: OAuth 2.0 is focused on authorization and delegation of access. It allows a user to grant third-party applications limited access to their resources on a resource server (RS) without sharing their credentials.

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Authentication vs. Authorization

  • SAML: SAML is more focused on authentication. It verifies the user’s identity and provides information about the user to the SP, including attributes and authentication status.

  • OAuth 2.0: OAuth 2.0 is primarily an authorization framework. It deals with access control and permissions, allowing a user to grant or delegate limited access to their resources to third-party applications without disclosing their credentials.

Use cases

  • SAML: SAML is well-suited for enterprise SSO scenarios, where a user needs to access multiple web applications without having to enter credentials repeatedly. It’s also used in federated identity setups.

  • OAuth 2.0: OAuth 2.0 is commonly used for enabling third-party applications to access a user’s resources (e.g., social media apps accessing a user’s profile). It’s prevalent in modern web and mobile app authorization scenarios.

Updated: Sep 15, 2023