Decentralized Identity Foundation
Our digital identity is part of our daily lives, both professionally and personally. The use of various services, devices, applications that allow us to interact with our loved ones, with other users, with companies, all of these uses that previously seemed inconceivable are made possible by our identity. However, the control of our identity has escaped us to the benefit of various entities, some more visible than others. The recent example of a huge data leak (533 million users) at Facebook (1) because of a security flaw known for several years proves once again that the management of personal data cannot be entrusted to third parties.
Rather than consenting to the provision of our data to services or other applications, a decentralized identity system will allow us to regain control over our data and establish relationships of trust between all digital actors and users.
Since its creation in May 2017, the Decentralized Identity Foundation (2) (DIF) has sought to bring together the decentralized identity community in order to develop an open ecosystem and ensure interoperability between all participants.
This organization was created within the Joint Development Foundation, which is now part of the Linux Foundation, and aims to be a place for co-development between all the players in the decentralized identity industry, large and small. It includes well-known players such as Hyperledger and Microsoft.
The foundation currently has about a hundred members as well as many contributors.
XSL Labs’ goal is to create an ecosystem around SDI (Secure Digital Identity). As mentioned in our white paper, we want to join the development efforts that will enable the emergence of standards related to decentralized identity and its interoperability, including participating in the work of the DIF.
The two components of standardization: Interoperability and open source
Interoperability and open source are at the heart of the foundation’s approach. Bringing together a good number of players in the decentralized identity sector, and aiming to establish the fundamentals on which all present and future players will base their work, these characteristics are indeed essential.
Interoperability consists in allowing a system to work with others. The goal is to ensure that the tools that are and will be created by various actors can communicate with each other. DIDs will be as essential to tomorrow’s digital world as a bank card or an identity card is today. It is therefore necessary to design standards for these DIDs and their ecosystems, in order to prevent monopolies and facilitate exchanges and communications.
In short, it is the ability of products and systems to work with other products and existing or future systems, without restrictions on access or implementation.
In addition to interoperability, the foundation’s work aims to establish open source components. In practice, this means that the foundation’s implementations are intended to be made available to the general public, and the code will be freely accessible and redistributable. The aim is to prevent the technologies developed in collaboration from being locked up behind patents, which is in line with the standardization of the protocols and systems developed by the foundation. Even if the members of the foundation could potentially be future competitors, they contribute together to the different projects and share their expertise to develop what could become tomorrow’s industry standard.
The stakes for decentralized identity are high. The needs for decentralized identity are and will be increasingly strong, whether it is to establish trust between actors, users of digital spaces, or to reinstate the concept of self-sovereign identity, where everyone is the own guardian of their online privacy and security.
Making available the skills of interested parties in a neutral place in order to establish the fundamentals of decentralized identity is an effort to coordinate in order to advance their common interests and to avoid any technological barriers in the future. The stack will be made available to all, without any restrictions.
DIF in 3 layers
BSIC Webinar Series: Decentralized Identity Foundation, July 13, 2020
The foundation’s activities are focused on 3 main aspects of decentralized identifiers, these are the 3 layers presented in the diagram above.
At the lowest layer are the DIDs, the decentralized unique identifiers that we have already mentioned in our blog and on our youtube channel.
The second layer consists in setting up the connection between two DID subjects, particularly the “DID Comm”, which is destined to become the secure, private and authenticated connection method between the DID subjects, whatever the means of communication, and without being limited to the Internet (Bluetooth for example is considered).
The working group is also interested in the protocols that will allow the exchange of DIDs and keys to initiate communications.
Finally, the third layer deals with the exchange of information between two DID subjects once the connection has been established. This involves the issuance of VCs (Verifiable Credentials) and their transmission from the VC issuer to the holder, and from the holder to the requester. All this is done to establish the chain of trust between the actors, and to reduce the transmission of information to its strict minimum.
Thus, the foundation’s working groups are seeking to establish technical standards concerning these three aspects, but not restricted to them.
Among other things, work is being done on data storage and synchronization.
It should be noted that the foundation is itself part of a working group on interoperability that brings together various communities such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Hyperledger, or mydata.org
Towards open standards
The development of standards is at the heart of the foundation’s activity, since all of its work tends to define standards that can be ratified tomorrow by standards organizations such as the W3C, which is responsible for promoting the compatibility of web technologies.
The foundation must establish tests and protocols that prove the interoperability of the systems it defines, which reinforces the importance of the very idea of collaboration between the various members and contributors of the foundation.
The opportunity for XSL Labs is therefore to participate in the development of the technical specifications that will form the basis of tomorrow’s decentralized identity, alongside the other DID players. We logically wish to take part in the emergence of standards that will govern the decentralized identity industry in the future.
(1) https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/stolen-data-of-533-million-facebook-users-leaked-online-2021- 4