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Crunch time for user-centric digital identity with DID spec fight

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Crunch time for user-centric digital identity with DID spec fight

‘Identity Woman’ Kaliya Young is optimistic about the near future of user-controlled digital identity, perhaps in the form of self-sovereign identity (SSI).

In an interview on Structure3C’s Cohere podcast, Young describes an online ecosystem that has always included a tension between communities and large corporations.

The discussion with host Bill Johnston includes a quick history of user-centric digital identity, including the dominant position of Facebook, and Young’s role co-founding the Internet Identity Workshop.

Young says efforts in support of user-owned and controlled digital identity are “on the cusp of success,” and refers to the standards for Decentralized Identifiers and Verifiable Credentials. The former sets a standard for resolvable public key infrastructure, she explains.

“(I)f you want secure communications on the internet, being at able to access the public keys of entities you’re communicating with is really important. And it’s not really a solved problem today.”

Young also sets out how the two open standards are intended to benefit people and organizations, as the plumbing for trusted, secure communications with simple user experience, before the conversation moves on to the metaverse.

A range of new peer-to-peer online applications are coming, based on DIDComm, Young says.

DID not done

The status of the Decentralized Identifiers (DID) specification under consideration as a W3C standard remains in doubt, after a proposal that had advanced through the review process was turned back by web browser providers in September.

Both DID and Verifiable Credential standards for both have advanced from W3C Community Groups to formal Working Groups, and the DID specification made it all the way to approval for a final vote before being rejected.

The disagreement is set out in a formal objection from Mozilla, supported or echoed by Google and Apple, and a blog post in response from Evernym.

Evernym suggests that the three browser providers have a vested interest in blocking the standard, pointing out that Google and Apple have each announced ISO 18013-5 standard support in their mobile driver’s licenses based on X.509 certificate chains incompatible with the W3C Verifiable Credentials Data Model 1.0.

The dispute is yet to be resolved. The current charter of the Decentralized Identifier Working Group expires on December 31, 2021.

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