Microsoft has released a whitepaper describing a blockchain-based decentralized identification (ID) system. The system is specifically designed to manage the digital identities of individuals. Microsoft’s engineers are still working out the technical details of a decentralized ID (DID) system that can include multiple blockchains.
Microsoft’s Concept of Decentralized Identities
Microsoft’s whitepaper sums up digital identities in the following way:
“Each of us needs a digital identity we own, one which securely and privately stores all elements of our digital identity. The self-owned identity must seamlessly integrate into our lives and give us complete control over how our identity data is accessed and used.”
Microsoft currently has two planned products for its DID system. The first product, an identity hub that stores personal data will run on Microsoft Azure, the internet firm’s in-house hosting service. The other product will look more like the ever familiar self-hosted wallet where users can manage customized permissions.
In a move that may be meant to reassure crypto insiders who are leery of governments and large corporations, Microsoft says the DID system will be independent of any organization or government. Information placed on the system will belong entirely to the users that participate in the ecosystem.
Blockchain-Based ID Systems Not Original to Microsoft
As usual, Microsoft wasn’t the key innovator behind the idea of a decentralized ID system. In its continued commitment to lack of originality, it has merely created its own product that is based on blockchain technology, probably after seeing that other blockchain-based ID systems are already in development, or even exist in some cases.
Bitnation was one of the first to release a proof of concept for a blockchain-based photo ID system. The Bitnation team has implemented notary functions, such as the management of marriage certificates, birth certificates, land registry, the Estonian e-Residency program, and a Refugee Emergency ID system. It also has a diplomatic passport function. Holders of any of Bitnation’s documents might want to check whether their host “legacy” nation even recognizes Bitnation or its documents as valid before attempting to utilize them, however.
Civic has launched an app that promises to eliminate most KYC-related headaches to the end user by making it possible to upload identifying documents to its system. Once Civic can verify its users’ identities, those users can then pass KYC-related “barriers to entry” with organizations that partner with Civic.
The Civic system has also been proposed as a way for investors to make sure an ICO team is actually real and the project is not falsely claiming to have prominent influencers on its advisory board. At a recent event, Civic demonstrated one use case for its app, with a vending machine that gave free beer to users that could use its system to establish that they were over 21 years old.
Considering these already-existing systems, several crypto and blockchain insiders may have wondered what’s so innovative about Microsoft’s DID whitepaper. It doesn’t describe anything that organizations, like Bitnation and Civic, haven’t had already thought of. Many cryptocurrency enthusiasts may decide to stick with organizations that actually specialize in using blockchain to store their identities, in comparison to trusting the faceless corporation that is Microsoft.