In cryptography, X.509 is an ITU-T standard for a public key infrastructure (PKI) for single sign-on (SSO) and Privilege Management Infrastructure (PMI). X.509 specifies, amongst other things, standard formats for public key certificates, certificate revocation lists, attribute certificates, and a certification path validation algorithm.
X.509 was initially issued on July 3, 1988 and was begun in association with the X.500 standard. It assumes a strict hierarchical system of certificate authorities (CAs) for issuing the certificates. This contrasts with web of trust models, like PGP, where anyone (not just special CAs) may sign and thus attest to the validity of others' key certificates. Version 3 of X.509 includes the flexibility to support other topologies like bridges and meshes (RFC 4158).
From Wikipedia X.509