Interest in reputation and accounting solutions based on decentralized identity primitives has exploded in recent months. On the Ethereum side, ambitious use-cases have been put forth for “Soul-Bound Tokens” (SBTs), aka “Account-Bound Tokens” (ABT), anchoring off-chain reputations and profiles to entirely-public on-chain data. Meanwhile, the TBD team at Block has put forth a DID-based cross-chain identity system they playfully dubbed “Web5” to mark the distance between them and the chain-specific engineering of EVM-centric “Web3”, while ambitious native solutions for Solana and Polygon have also taken up the mantle of DIDs and VCs.
Developed last year and launched in Q1 of 2022, the Verite standard welcomes this flourishing of products and experiments with Verifiable Credentials and other privacy-preserving, data-minimizing patterns and principles. Verite is based squarely on the premise that individuals should be in control of their identity data, determining with whom that data gets shared, and preserving the contextual integrity of all sensitive data (including expectations of confidentiality and disclosure). Any solution or enterprise moving the conversation towards these topics is an ally to Verite.
On the subject of on-chain anchors for identity and reputation, our position is nuanced by both strategic and tactical considerations. While we find that storing identifiable (and re-identifiable) data on-chain does present risks, we also appreciate that much of the intent behind the #DeSoc paper was to sketch out use-cases that enable individual control over their identity data, even if the details are a little fuzzy in 2022. A thriving community of developers and companies that share a common motivation bring their valuable skillsets to the construction of this “decentralized society”. We are committed to working with this community to accelerate the period of acceleration and learn from previous experiments, contributing Best Practice guidance to obfuscating on-chain anchors, fuzzing, data minimization, and other privacy engineering techniques that get 80% of the benefits of #deSoc thinking with only 20% of the privacy issues and systemic risks.
We also understand the appeal of on-chain identification of data subjects, from the perspective of either User Experience or Developer Relations. The tooling and architectural assumptions of much of the Decentralized Identity tradition can be a square peg in the round hole of stateless and on-chain engineering!
On this and other topics, the community of Verite early adopters and evaluators has provided a lot of constructive feedback through our Discord and Github, which we have been taking to heart and working to incorporate as the open-source tooling evolves. This feedback will soon be reflected in both the sample implementation and its documentation, as well as the introduction of a developer toolkit to aid protocol engineers working across more of today’s architectures, including entirely stateless development.
A lot of work goes into bootstrapping any healthy ecosystem for data exchange; with Verite, we’re adding the extra complexity of bootstrapping one using relatively young technologies and niche techniques from privacy engineering. In addition to “priming the pump” of attestations on which many parties can rely, we also have to pioneer new tooling and technology for passing around those verifiable claims: we need example credentials for testing and development, “faucets” to dispense those test credentials, test suites, and educational materials. And this is just our short-term roadmap, to help those already motivated to adopt; after that, we have to grow the pool of implementers! Lowering the barrier to entry for implementers further afield requires long-term efforts to standardize and popularize credential-handling functions across blockchain wallets, SDKs, and the like.
An example of this kind of optimization for developer adoption can be seen in the sample repo and demo we released earlier this week, showing how Verite and Sign-In With Ethereum (SIWE) can be used to achieve an off-chain NFT allowlist. Advantages include reducing gas costs (versus posting and updating an on-chain allowlist), building a more intimate relationship to community members, and combining with other Verite credentials like KYC/KYB credentials.
On the decentralized identity side, we have been collaborating since long before designing Verite on the protocols and standards which it uses for creating, exchanging, and verifying credentials; most of this open-source work takes place at the Decentralized Identity Foundation. On the blockchain-engineering side, we are also active in the Chain-Agnostic Standards Alliance, which promotes standardization among blockchain wallets and APIs. Across both of these organizations, we are lobbying on behalf of our current and future implementers to keep the barriers to adoption low and the interoperability payoffs for investing in Verite high. Moving forward, we want to improve visibility into those efforts, and the ability for the community to contribute by providing previews into our thinking and getting feedback to build a roadmap together.
Watch This Space
As mentioned above, many parallel efforts to expand and enhance Verite’s implementation are underway already. In July, we plan to provide some additional utilities to help developers getting started with building VC/DIDs in web3
- Test credentials and documentation for using them
- Credential "faucets" for dispensing test credentials to wallets under test
- Verifier test services
Following fast on that, look out for more code samples and detailed guidance for on-chain best practices. Keep an eye on our github and use the #Verite-community section of the USDC Discord to reach out with any questions!