Gitcoin Testimonials: uPort

How uPort is using Gitcoin to help build a self sovereign identity platform

At Gitcoin, we’re excited to be a part of ConsenSys and working with the folks who are helping build out the future of Web 3.0. During our time with ConsenSys, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with the hard-working people at other spokes. One exciting project that’s helping push blockchain forward is uPort.

uPort is building an interoperable identity network for a secure, private, and decentralized web. To do this, they’ve developed open protocols for decentralized identity and interoperable messaging to enable trusted source verification for all web communications.

One of the most important evolutions in the internet to date has been the introduction of cryptographic public and private key combinations. These key combinations allow us to digitally verify ownership without the need for a centralized authority. While cryptographic key pairs open the door to many innovations within the web, there are still some underlying issues that need to be solved. One of the biggest issues is, if you lose your private keys, you lose access to your address.

This is not acceptable if we intend to keep our sensitive personal data on a blockchain like Ethereum. Fortunately, the people at uPort are designing their product so that this is never the case.

uPort is laying the groundwork for “persistent identities” on Ethereum. There are two key components to their protocol. The first is a recovery feature to solve the issue referenced above.

“An Ethereum identity can be represented by the address of a smart contract or a traditional public key. Since smart contracts can be controlled by other smart contracts, they can be programmed to support various methods of key recovery logic.” — Pelle Braendgaard, uPort Engineering Lead

This provides users with a best of both worlds scenario. By creating a key recovery system like this, they have solved the issue of losing key pairs without needing to compromise the inherent security of the blockchain.

The second important feature is access control logistics. This helps build the framework for interoperability between apps; both on-chain and off-chain. As the uPort team puts it, they are developing the “on-chain backbone for an off-chain world”. Essentially, they want to make it simple for API’s to pull your verified identity data for off-chain purposes, while ensuring the data is completely secure and that the user remains in full control.

uPort is using Gitcoin

uPort has been one of our most active projects on Gitcoin. We got the chance to catch up with Kames Cox-Geraghty, Community Manager at uPort, to pick his brain about how he found us and what his experience using Gitcoin has been like.

Kames first met Kevin Owocki at ETHWaterloo, the first of the ETHGlobal hackathon series.

Kames: Kevin was presenting to Vitalik at ETHWaterloo. He developed the Gitcoin iOS app (Tinder for Developers), which allowed developers to swipe left/right on Gitcoin project they found interesting, which I thought was brilliant. After the presentations I immediately went up to Kevin, because of all the projects presented, Gitcoin was the most compelling.

The opportunity to work with and connect on a deeper level with developers in the space excited him. Their meeting happened to time up perfectly with uPort wanting to scale up their developer flow.

Kames: uPort is still in the process of open sourcing all of our code. So Gitcoin, at the present moment, helps uPort plant seeds within the growing Ethereum developer community. We expect these seeds will blossom into flourishing opportunities in the future. Put simply, as opposed to running a marketing campaign, we can use bounties to stay present in front of potential developers that we want to engage with while also building our codebase at the same time.

Instead of marketing to developers, the uPort team is able to remain top of mind to these individuals by maintaining bounties. This allows Kames and uPort to focus their attention on what is most important; building the code.

We also had the opportunity to discuss a specific uPort bounty with Kames; one that he mentioned was instrumental in moving the project forward.

Kames: Time and time again, Gitcoin bounties have proven themselves to be an extremely effective tool for completing important work quickly. For example, we recently launched a specific bounty because we realized that our original specification for social recovery was not the best path forward. Primarily because it exposed people’s recovery delegates in our IdentityManager smart contracts. We found that, if uPort requires people to share their recovery delegates on a public blockchain, it could be potentially dangerous.

This realization subsequently lead to uPort posting a bounty called the ‘Shamir Secret Sharing WebAssembly’. This was a very complicated bounty, requiring experience and skills in a few different programming languages.

Kames: The ‘Shamir Secret Sharing WebAssembly’ bounty required knowledge of C++, WebAssembly, and Javascript. Since WebAssembly is still relatively new and C++ is arguably an advanced programing language, it wasn’t a guarantee we would find a developer with the required know-how in Gitcoin’s emerging community. However, much to our delight, we came across Bakoah who was able to start and finish the bounty in record time. It was quite impressive.

Kames: uPort is happy to announce that the seeds for Ethereum’s private social recovery started on Gitcoin.

Gitcoin was able to fill a need gap quickly, which allowed for the uPort development to remain on course.

Kames: A lot of organizations and businesses are attempting to create a platform for decentralized bounties, but there is something special about Gitcoin. And that “something” can’t be quantified in code. The Gitcoin ethos. The spirit. As a developer turned Community Manager, my natural inclination is to understand how I can empower more developers to “buidl”.

For those unfamiliar with the history behind “buidl” it was originally actually coined by Gitcoin’s Kevin Owocki. Ultimately this has led to uPort’s BuidlBox. BuidlBox is an honoring of that moment. And in the coming months, uPort will continue to create a platform for developers to quickly launch uPort’s decentralized protocol as quickly and easily as possible. And we are 100% committed to using the Gitcoin platform to help scale the world’s decentralized Web of Trust.


At Gitcoin, we’re couldn’t be happier to be a part of the fantastic Consensys community which gives us the opportunity to work with projects like uPort. If you’re interested in contributing to projects like uPort, please feel free to browse the Gitcoin Issue Explorer linked in the green box below.