Microsoft, fresh off an announcement that it will be helping Starbucks with blockchain, AI and IoT support, has now announced that it is looking to build a decentralized identity (DID) network atop the Bitcoin blockchain.
This is not Microsoft’s first foray into decentralised identity as in December last year they announced they would be working with Mastercard in a strategic collaboration to improve how people manage and use their digital identity.
However, this attempt to provide an immutable, decentralised identity will be built on the oldest, and most well-regarded, blockchain. Microsoft has said the infrastructure, known as the Identity Overlay Network (ION), which will go on top of the Bitcoin blockchain, is based on an evolving set of open standards developed in conjunction with the Decentralized Identity Foundation.
By using this ION, Microsoft believes they will be able to overcome throughput issues that are well known on Bitcoin’s blockchain. In a blog post, the company said:
“The most robust, decentralized, public blockchains operate at just tens of transactions per second, nowhere near the volume a world full of DIDs would demand.”
However, they believe their approach means tens of thousands of operations can be achieved per second. In explaining the way the ION will work, the blog post added:
“We believe every person needs a decentralized, digital identity they own and control, backed by self-owned identifiers that enable secure, privacy-preserving interactions. This self-owned identity must seamlessly integrate into their lives and put them at the center of everything they do in the digital world.”
Importance of DID
Digital identity is seen as quite the blockchain prize as many companies have tried to achieve it over several different areas, with varying success. Microsoft’s own work with Mastercard on a digital identity last year was aimed at bypassing the need for verifying one's identity online, removing the dependence on physical or digital proof managed by a central party.
This included things like passport number, proof of address, driver’s license, user credentials and others. This kind of dependence places a significant burden on individuals, who have to remember hundreds of passwords for various identities successfully and are increasingly being subjected to more complexity in proving their identity and managing their data.
Working together, Mastercard and Microsoft’s aim was to give people a secure, instant way to verify their digital identity with whomever they want, whenever they want.
Now, this latest move, with this system atop the Bitcoin blockchain, the hope is again to remove centralised identity control. Daniel Buchner, a program manager for the Microsoft Identity team, has said the goal of such decentralized networks is to remove the control that apps, services and organizations have over digital identifiers such as email addresses and usernames.
An ambitious approach
A Blockchain digital identity, in theory, would be a huge step in advancing people’s digital lives as so much today is done online, but these actions need constant affirmation of one's identity. Having a provable, immutable identity would alleviate thousands of everyday pain points.
It is a goal that has been pursued by many, and for Microsoft, their attempt at it is impressive as it is ambitious.
The tech giant aims to create an ecosystem where: “billions of people and countless devices can securely interact over an interoperable system built on standards and open-source components.”
They added that it plans to collaborate with open-source contributors so ION can publicly launch on the Bitcoin mainnet in the coming months. Technology that gives users greater control over their digital identities is seemingly gaining traction, with PayPal also investing in such a startup last month.
Microsoft, fresh […]