Microsoft have recently announced its plans of building a new decentralized network that uses the Bitcoin blockchain to allow people to manage their own digital identities.
Daniel Buchner, a senior program manager at the Microsoft Identity Division (MID) explains that this could lead to a more secure and private digital world. This open source project is designed to place digital identities directly in the hands of the user in a similar fashion to Bitcoin, which allows its users to manage their private keys and store their funds.
Today, we’re announcing an early preview of a Sidetree-based DID network, called ION (Identity Overlay Network) which runs atop the Bitcoin blockchain based on an emerging set of open standards that we’ve developed working with many of our partners in the Decentralized Identity Foundation. This approach greatly improves the throughput of DID systems to achieve tens-of-thousands of operations per second.
The implications of the project are far-reaching as their goal is ‘to create a decentralized identity ecosystem where millions of organizations, billions of people, and countless devices can securely interact over an inter-operable system built on standards and open source components’.
Microsoft have distinguished the unique benefits of utilizing blockchain technology for these purposes and stated:
decentralized consensus systems (e.g. blockchains, distributed ledgers) provide capabilities that can be leveraged to create Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) that are owned by the user. While blockchains unlock the ability to create highly secure, censorship resistant identity systems, their transactional volumes are severely limited when compared to traditional systems. The most robust, decentralized, public blockchains operate at just tens of transactions per second, nowhere near the volume a world full of DIDs would demand.
At present, the ION uses the Bitcoin blockchain but as the Sidetree design is chain-agnostic it means that Microsoft could indeed build on top of other blockchain based networks. Although Microsoft have released this information, they do realize that it is currently in Beta mode and that community collaboration is needed for its further development.
In the coming months, we’ll work with open source contributors and members of identity community to prepare for a public launch of the ION network on Bitcoin mainnet.