Who will confirm the identity of 1 billion refugees? I understand Microsoft's decentralized identity project DID

“As data breaches and identity theft become more complex and frequent, users need a way to protect their identity. After testing decentralized storage systems, consensus protocols, blockchains, and a range of emerging standards, We believe that blockchain technology and related agreements are the best choice for creating DIDs…"

— Ankur Pate, Head of Microsoft Identity

Microsoft will release the Decentralized Identity (DID) solution, codenamed ION (Identity Overlay Network), as soon as possible. Following the exposure of Facebook's Libra Stabilization Coin, a complete plan for a blockchain project of a head tech giant officially surfaced.

Compared with Facebook's pressure on supervision and business bottlenecks, it is necessary to explore the helplessness of transformation. The story of Microsoft DID is somewhat warm and warm. Of course, under the warmth of stories full of human care, Microsoft's ambition to target the global identity market should not be underestimated.

01From the intersection of humanities and technology

Syrian boy exposed to Turkish beach | Source: Nilüfer Demir via DHA

The boy in the picture above is called Aylan Kurdi. Because of the Syrian civil war, in order to live in peace, he sneaked to Greece from his home country with his parents, but unfortunately died in Turkey on the way. He is unfortunate, and his young age is suffering from human purgatory; however, he is fortunate, the deceased can rest in peace, but the living still has to live in pain.

A large number of human compatriots like this little boy cannot enjoy the most basic medical, educational, housing and other services because they do not have a "legal identity." According to the statistics of the United Nations in 2017, the number of people without such “legitimate identity” is as high as 1.1 billion, which is about 1/6 of the total number of human beings.

In the summer of 2017, Microsoft and Accenture and Avanade presented a prototype of a blockchain-based database system to the audience at Microsoft, which runs on Microsoft's Azure cloud service platform. With this database, multiple parties can share the same data, and it has an "extremely high level" of confidentiality and security.

At the time, the prototype was launched to support a project called ID2020, which aims to reduce the number of people who cannot get the most basic life services because of their unknown identity. This is the Microsoft DID solution that will be born today. Indiscriminate.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Flippo Grandi, commented on Microsoft’s plan in October 2017:

“This will strengthen accountability and promote two-way communication between refugees and service providers. It will also help prevent and reduce statelessness.”

Around the same time that the prototype was exhibited, Microsoft also established the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) as a founding member with IBM, Hyperledger, Accenture and other organizations and projects.

The establishment of the foundation marks the beginning of Microsoft's establishment of a decentralized identity program, and opens the door to its sublimation path: not only must the sword of science and technology be used to defend the war against refugees, but also use the technology to plow the vast majority of the benefits. general user.

In February 2018, Microsoft released a notice called "Decentralized digital identities and Blockchain: The future as we see it", the first system. It explains the value of the blockchain in its eyes to digital identity.

In particular, Microsoft pointed out that blockchain technology enables users to hold decentralized identities (DIDs) on distributed ledgers, thereby gaining more control over personal data rather than having the latter be used by countless apps. And service control.

Ankur Patel, head of Microsoft's identity department project, wrote in the announcement:

“As data breaches and identity theft become more complex and frequent, users need a way to protect their identity. After testing decentralized storage systems, consensus protocols, blockchains, and a range of emerging standards, We believe that blockchain technology and related agreements are the best choice for creating DIDs…"

After the completion of the organizational mechanism, research results, and real-world testing, the release of the Microsoft DID program will be completed.


02Understanding Microsoft DID: Starting with "Three Axes"

Microsoft's DID solution can be disassembled into three parts: Sidetree, ION, and DID, which correspond to the protocol layer, the network layer, and the application layer, respectively, and the three belong to the hierarchically upward relationship. ION is both the name of the network layer and the project name of Microsoft's DID solution. Let's take a closer look at the characteristics of the three components:

1, Sidetree

As a protocol layer, it can be deployed on Bitcoin and the Ethereum network, according to its official Medium, which can then be deployed on a wider variety of blockchain networks.

It should be noted that in the current Microsoft DID solution, Sidetree, as a protocol layer, is only deployed on the Bitcoin test network and is expected to be deployed on the Bitcoin main network in the next few months.

The core functions of Sidetree are as follows:

  • Sidetree Core (Sidetree Core)

Observe the incoming transaction (incoming trasactions) from the target blockchain (in the current situation, this is the bitcoin blockchain), grab all the DID operations it observes, and then verify The status of each DID.

  • Content Addressable Storage Protocol

This function is similar to IPFS, which stores data under the chain to reduce the burden on the chain and allows transaction propagation across nodes.

  • Blockchain/Ledger Adapter

The code to read and write DID operations to the underlying blockchain.

Sidetree Logo | Source: @DIF Medium.com

  • ION

Microsoft made the following definitions for ION:

ION is an open source network based on the Sidetree protocol that consolidates and maintains ownership of DIDs by writing operations to secure and immutable blockchains such as Bitcoin.

When introducing the characteristics of ION, it points out that ION is "globally scalable" and "maintains the decentralization of bitcoin blockchain" ("while inheriting and preserving the attributes of decentralization present in The Bitcoin blockchain.” ).

It should be noted that as Layer 2, ION is not limited by the throughput limit of the bitcoin blockchain of one layer. It is reported that the TPS on it is "tens of thousands of operations" per second.

ION Project Logo | Source: ION Official Github

In addition, ION also involves some things that need to be paid. When ION nodes want to anchor transactions to the Bitcoin blockchain, they need to pay.

In general, this part of the cost will be passed on to the end user. According to Daniel Buchner, senior vice president of Microsoft's decentralized identity affairs, a transaction involving 30,000 operations costs $0.0003 per user.

Daniel further added that in the future Microsoft may use its own node to run ION, which will save end users from this part of the cost. Companies such as Casa, Equnix, Learning Machine, Civic, and Cloudflare have also expressed interest in operating ION nodes.

  • DID

To understand the DID, you might want to split it into two:

1, a unique identifier (a unique identifier)

2, related DID Document (an associated DID Document)

The former acts as the label for the latter, while the latter contains information such as what the DID can authorize, and in which services, the DID can be used. It should be noted that the DID document does not directly contain any personal information (name, address, phone number, etc.).

How does the combination of the three functions of Sidetree, ION and DID work? Let's understand it in a specific scenario:

Take WeChat as an example. At present, users use various Internet services, and they often directly choose WeChat's third-party login/registration to unify their identity and eliminate the trouble of login/registration on a platform-by-platform basis.

But the hidden problem here is that WeChat can retain ownership of your avatar, ID, nickname and other information. The most recent case is that after the user registered and logged in to "Flying Chat", the relevant information was declared as "WeChat All". Do not use on other platforms. A more serious situation may be that WeChat may shut down your account, which may make the services you use to register in a similar way unusable.

After the introduction of DID, the situation may change to, WeChat can shut down your account, but your ID, nickname, avatar and other information can still be used, other platform services relying on this information can continue to use. In other words, the control of identity information is handed over to the user.

At present, Microsoft's project has been open sourced, and the relevant code has been published on Github. Interested readers can read it further (https://github.com/decentralized-identity/ion/commits/master).

According to Cointelegraph, Microsoft is ambitious about this DID solution, and is ready to push it to create an ecosystem where “billions of people and countless devices”, but it faces many The resistance of reality.

03 dance 桎梏

1, the oligarch does not support

According to CoinDesk, Microsoft's DID program invited Facebook to participate in the R&D process, but the latter did not respond.

Rouven Heck, an active member of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), said Facebook apparently missed the community's research and development on DID solutions. He commented:

“Facebook is completely on the opposite side of protecting consumer privacy, and their business model is based on the profitability of your data.”

In addition, the giant similar to Facebook's business model is Google. Similarly, it is hard to believe that it has the motivation to participate in the promotion of DID solutions.

After adding up the number of users of Facebook and Google, it covers almost 80% of Internet users around the world. If such a giant does not pay for DID, it is hard to imagine that the latter will be widely used.

Facebook Cambridge analysis door event (the business model of FB, Google is such that they are difficult to accept DID) | Source: @Swapratim Roy Medium.com

2, "not expensive" user education costs

This is a common problem that all blockchain applications are currently facing: most users don't care about the so-called autonomy and privacy protection issues, and even if users care about these issues, how to simplify the public-private key approach? After all, the mode of account and password has long been ingrained.

However, the Circle Institute believes that Microsoft has two advantages on this issue:

First, the ION project has been open source, and both W3C and DIF organizations are working to promote the optimization and popularization of DID solutions.

In particular, the DIF organization has absorbed 68 institutions including IBM, Hyperledger, R3, MicroBank, MasterCard, etc., and the high probability will be a benign result of high firewood.

Second, there are already some ready-made products that can be improved, such as Blockstream's GreenWallet and Casa's Keymaster.

3. Intense competition

DID is in the blockchain world, which is the meaning of the road to the carriage. The determination of the former is indispensable for the construction and enrichment of the latter.

This is destined for Microsoft to be in a position to be surrounded by wolves – other institutions that work side by side in the DIF, also Microsoft's competitors.

Some institutions in DIF, Microsoft face fierce competition | Source: DIF official website

In addition, Paypal and Telegram, both of which are Internet giants, are also involved in this direction. Encrypted world-wide ConsenSys and Coinbase are also opponents that cannot be ignored:

Paypal chose to invest in a circuit called Cambridge Blockchain startup, which is currently a member of DIF.

Telegram launched a project called "Telegram Passport" last year. Its basic functions are similar to those of Microsoft's DID solution, which can encrypt users' private information and enable them to be securely interacted in various application services.

It is reported that Telegram plans to migrate information from all Telegram Passports to decentralized cloud servers in the future.

ConsenSys has introduced a solution called uPort. Compared to Microsoft's DID solution, uPort does not need to be created by a centralized server, and it can run on both the chain and the second floor. Microsoft The DID can only be run on a Layer 2 protocol.

In Coinbase , it acquired a digital identity startup called Distributed Systems in August last year, and then formed a team of 17 people to advance the digital identity business.

In December of the same year, Byrne, product manager of the Coinbase identity team, told CoinDesk that the way to advance digital identity might be to build a bridge between Coinbase products, such as building a Dapp browser in their mobile wallet. Clarify what activities their customers want to do on the chain.

Moreover, some of the E-round financings completed in October last year may be used for the promotion of this business, and it may recruit three new digital identity experts. At the same time, it is still negotiating with W3C to promote the development of DID standards.

04 Significance of the ION project

Although the promotion of the Microsoft ION project faces a series of internal and external challenges, such giants are so determined to cut into this track, which is of great value in attracting resources to enter the industry and boosting confidence in the industry:

  • Optimize the public opinion environment of Bitcoin and strengthen its leading position. For a long time, the "applicability" of Bitcoin has not been criticized. As the mature Layer 2 solution began to be adopted by giants like Microsoft, the pressure of public opinion on Bitcoin will inevitably be much easier, which further strengthens its leading position. status.
  • Encourage more projects to open source operations and improve industry transparency. Although the blockchain industry and the open source word often appear on the same screen, in fact, many projects are still "obscured" and do not want to operate in an open source manner (excluding some special projects, for security reasons and not open source) Today, giants such as Microsoft maintain open source operations on their own fist products, and open source operations in novel areas such as blockchain. This will greatly encourage more projects to follow and improve the transparency of the industry.
05 DID, Microsoft's blockchain picture

In recent years, Microsoft's overall image has become more and more intensive, and it has also been frequently used in the blockchain field, and both have tried to lock in key areas.

According to public information, Microsoft first or started in the blockchain field around 2014 and 2015, from becoming the first batch of online merchants to accept bitcoin payments, to launch Ethereum development tools for enterprise users, and then to form alliances with R3. (But in 2018, Microsoft left R3 again), and then formed an alliance with Bank of America.

After the previous period of exploration and alliance, Microsoft began to polish its blockchain products on a large scale, introducing blockchain to its own cloud service Azure test environment, and providing Baas service to all users of the former is important. step.

Then, Microsoft is fast-tracking on the development of blockchain products for service companies and institutional customers, such as customizing the blockchain platform for trade finance for Bank of America, integrating Jorge Chase's Quorum into the Azure platform, and collaborating with Starbucks to trace coffee beans. Full production links, etc.

Microsoft is trying to replicate its advantage in the Internet era to the B-chain world through alliances and self-study. From the perspective of the “tonnage” and quantity of its current companies and institutions, Microsoft’s The abacus is also quite effective.

Looking further, since the beginning of this year, no matter whether the JP Morgan Chase is born or the information of the Facebook Stabilization Coin project continues to emerge, we can gradually see the connection between the traditional giants and their connection with the encrypted world. , getting closer and deeper:

Microsoft will promote the latter's JPM Coin for JP Morgan Chase, and Facebook's stable currency project was exposed, and contacted the Gemini exchange to discuss the former's distribution plan.

The giants of the traditional giants and the encrypted world are gradually forming a bite force, and the kinetic energy of the tide is slowly changing. This may be the position of one of the footnotes of the next wave.

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Source: Carbon chain value


Edit: Carbon 14