What is a DID?
Overview on Decentralised Identifiers (DID):
Decentralised Identifiers (DIDs) are a new type of identifier that enables self-sovereign identity. For example, think of DIDs like a phone number that you fully control, usable anywhere in the world for texts, calls, and identifying yourself. It also cannot be shut down by any telecom operator and is protected with cryptography. You access your DID through ownership of your private keys.
DID vs Current Identity Systems:
Identity systems we use today are based on a centralised authority issuing credentials about you.
- Are you a US citizen?
- Did you graduate university?
- Are you over 21?
These credentials and claims are siloed and not connected to other systems. For example, your national ID is only valid within a specific country, not digitally native, nor useable across the board in different countries. With blockchain technology, these claims can be issued on a Decentralised Identifier that you control 24/7 without the need for a central authority to issue them.
Four Characteristics of DIDs:
- Persistence: It never needs to change as it is permanent.
- Globally Resolvable: You can look it up to get metadata.
- Cryptographically Verifiable: You can prove ownership using cryptography.
- Decentralised: No central authority is required to issue or create a DID.
No identifier in history has had all these four properties because what fundamentally enables DIDs is blockchain technology. Both individuals and organisations can have their own DID used to verify credential and claims. For example, your university's DID can sign your individual DID - verifying that you graduated in a certain year. Because a DID is globally accessible, you will no longer need to show, translate, or notarise your diploma or other credentials.