Making Sense of our Web 3 Identities
Your reputation follows you.
Who are you? Where did you come from? What do you do? What school did you attend? Who are your friends?
Identities take on many different forms and are things that make you, you.
In the world we live in, our gender, ID cards, college transcripts, LinkedIn profile, and occasional hangouts with friends are different ways to prove and answer the above questions.
With all that information, one might ask why do we need another layer of identity in Web 3? Wouldn’t all that in Web 2 suffice? To understand this, we need to take a step back to understand why Web 3 exists.
Web 3 is meant to solve the problems of Web 2 — giving back users equal access to information, trust, privacy, and security. Web 3 is not a replacement to Web 2 but a complement to.
As we traverse into Web 3 where identity becomes self-sovereign, it also becomes our digital footprint. This gives individuals direct control over their digital identities — what’s being produced & shared, and how we are represented.
Why it is important.
For protection & privacy
Your online profile is not always built on facts. Companies and malicious actors that have access to some of your data can make decisions by further interpretation of seemingly other bening data points — whether you interacted with Metamask, the websites you surf, how long you stayed on a page looking at cats.
A self-sovereign digital identity allows you to control and set some boundaries on what information is being shared. This can range anything from your real name, search terms, metadata, login details and device settings.
If privacy is the goal, the idea is to share only what you’re comfortable with, with an understanding on how the information will be used. In this way, we can significantly reduce profiling for advertisements, marketing funnels, recommendations, identity theft, scams, or phishing attacks.
If a user choses to use the one wallet across the metaverse of applications, their identity is also seamlessly transferred. This marks a start for incentivising a culture of reputation building for those wanting to make a mark in the digital economy.
With public histories verifiable on the blockchain, it is possible to prove provenance and build trust.
In music, an artist will be able to identify songs played number of times across different platforms, and identify their hardcore fans. In finance, decentralized identity can enable an internet-native credit score.
If who we want to be and what we want to show is up to us, then depending on the application and use case of what we’re interacting with, there are several types of identities that one might adopt.
- Anonymous — A user not tied to any identifiable off or on-chain traits.
- Pseudonymous — A partially known or identified user. Semi-verified through reputation or transactions built online. Use cases: Bitcoin, Escrow services, social media, e-commerce.
- Public or Private— Fully identified, doxxed users. However, what determines a profile public or private depends on what the user wants to share. Use cases: government e-services, fintech/services onboarding & payments.
For the identities listed above, each can be purpose-built for different functions just like how you would use different personas for dealing with different situations and circumstances.
Depending on the use case of the identity, you might want choose to incorporate some of the examples below.
- Off-chain to on-chain affiliations — off-chain authentication of personally identifiable information on-chain (IDs, drivers license, etc.). Professional & educational accomplishments (diplomas, accreditations)
- Proof of Attendance Protocols (POAPs) & Non-Fungible Tokens — ticketing, recording of people’s attendance at live or digital events, real estate title deeds, credit scores.
- “Gym Badges” — loyalty rewards & tiers, in-game accomplishments, Discord server badges or roles
- Digital Addresses — Naming services such as Ethereum Naming Service (ENS), Unstoppable Domains.
As an example, if you’re having an NFT degen profile, you’d want to incorporate POAPs / NFT information along with the Discord server badges and roles that’s tied to your address.
Or if you are a coffeeshop trying to accept payments in Ethereum, you might want a .ETH address via ENS & enable a off-chain authentication using a 3rd party dapp for tax purposes.
As one might show their profile picture and populate details on LinkedIn or Facebook, there may be a lot of other information that you do not share — your place of residence, how you feel about your previous job, et
- Noise — blockchain data and wallet transactions accrue a lot of noisy data. How do you sift through all the data to populate and extract out what you really need?
- Simplicity — Right now, it is easier to sign in to a website using a standard user ID and password than it is to sign a transaction on Metamask using a hardware wallet. Until we scale this hurdle, adoption of decentralised digital identities will take a while.
- Standardization — Upkeeping of systems such as credit scores and title deeds will require agreed upon standards. Garbage in, garbage out principle applies here.
- Permanance — With a blockchain’s public nature and immutability, this presents another challenge of one self not being able to escape the past. How would it be for you to not be able to live with a mistake?
- Security — Not your keys, not your coins. There is still alot that needs to be done when it comes to making sure we know how to keep our wallets (and identities) safe. Today’s wallets do not offer a lot of protection against data being lost of compromise.
In summary, Web 3 integration into Web 2 is inevitable. However the understanding of what makes it Web 3, not so much. As our daily lives become more intertwined with our online personas, who we want to be might have a profound impact on how we act, think and behave.
But of course, even if we do solve the ‘digital identity’ problem, what comes next? The possibilities from there seems limitless and it will pave a new future of decentralization.