Reference Tokens

Access tokens can come in two flavours - self-contained or reference.

A JWT token would be a self-contained access token - it’s a protected data structure with claims and an expiration. Once an API has learned about the key material, it can validate self-contained tokens without needing to communicate with the issuer. This makes JWTs hard to revoke. They will stay valid until they expire.

When using reference tokens - IdentityServer will store the contents of the token in a data store and will only issue a unique identifier for this token back to the client. The API receiving this reference must then open a back-channel communication to IdentityServer to validate the token.


You can switch the token type of a client using the following setting:

client.AccessTokenType = AccessTokenType.Reference;

IdentityServer provides an implementation of the OAuth 2.0 introspection specification which allows APIs to dereference the tokens. You can either use our dedicated introspection middleware or use the identity server authentication middleware which can validate both JWTs and reference tokens.

The introspection endpoint requires authentication - since the client of an introspection endpoint is an API, you configure the secret on the ApiResource:

var api = new ApiResource("api1")
    ApiSecrets = { new Secret("secret".Sha256()) }

See here for more information on how to configure the IdentityServer authentication middleware for APIs.