About Ágora Virtual

Ágora (Greek: ἀγορά): An open gathering place.

Ágora Virtual® is an environment designed to work in groups.

Traditionally, the solution for collaborative work has been represented by integrated, monolithic platforms, with limited range of services and restricted access to registered users, usually members of the same institution, in conditions very like the technological environment of local networks.

The expansion of Internet came to change this scenario with a global access and an increasing range of services. Under these conditions, implementing time and again the same services in closed and monolithic environments was almost equivalent to reinvent the wheel, so it was necessary to look for alternative architectures.

However, this explosion of services caused by the network is not without questions and problems, including managing user identity across the services, controlling access to them and the preservation of personally identifiable information.

Hence, in recent years we have seen the emergence and consolidation of a new generation of technologies built upon the so-called "identity integration" and "connection hub" patterns, related to participation in different networks and with different levels of commitment.

In this scenario, Ágora Virtual® serves as experimental environment or testbed in which to test the feasibility and effectiveness of different ideas, alternatives and solutions in the field of collaborative working and technologies that support it.

Throughout its evolution different proposals have been tested, such as OSID OKI interfaces, using APIs for interoperability with tools like Google Maps, external services such as Jabber, wikis, Ajax technologies to improve usability, and identity and access management solutions as PAPI or SimpleSAMLphp.

This has been feasible because, technically, it is not based on a complex and cumbersome framework, but follows a simplified MVC pattern, agile enough for a quick adaptation to changing requirements, news conditions and technologies, with support from light but effective external libraries. The simplicity of this architecture has remained virtually unchanged since its inception.

This dual structure, -lightweight modular components upon a stable architecture-, has enabled him to evolve while providing at the same time a consistent work environment. Thus, even maintaining its primary purpose of experimentation and development, it has been used since the implementation of its first public release in 2005 by teachers, students and research groups in different contexts of training, research and participation in national and international projects, being translated into several languages.

In its current evolution, once consolidated the authentication in diverse identity providers using the Advanced Authentication Server (adAS) of PRiSE, Ágora Virtual® is experimenting with authorization outsourcing based on a groups, roles and permissions management service for users of different institutions, in which participants can manage their own groups easily and with an high level of autonomy. If needed, other services will be able to use that information exposed through an OAuth2 API provided by the oauth2lib library by RedIRIS.