AMA Highlights: Unikname
By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.
September 20, 2021–11 min read.
On Thursday 16 September, we welcomed Laurent Lourenco and Damien Lecan of Unikname into the Hillrise Group Telegram chat for an AMA.
Unikname is a multipurpose decentralized identity platform providing businesses with fully customizable web solutions for different aspects of digital identity management.
Their products are running on their own DPoS blockchain which is based on the ARK infrastructure and has been live since 2018.
One unique highlight of Unikname is that it has no KYC requirements for setting up digital identities.
We were eager to learn more about their unique approach to self-sovereign digital identities.
In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from the event.
Hi Laurent and Damien, before we get into the nitty and gritty, can you introduce yourselves and Unikname to our community?
Hi all, I am Damien, CTO. This means I’m responsible for the technical choices with the team and checking if these choices are working well. I’m also responsible for products architecture, especially the blockchain stuff.
In fact, I’ve been using blockchain frameworks and SDKs since 2015, at first on Ethereum, then on Hyperledger, then on Ark.io.
Before I was building secured APIs for mobile applications of banking companies. I also founded a now quite big meetup in France about the Blockchain revolution in 2017, where I met Laurent!
Hi all, I’m Laurent — CEO of Unikname. I’m 53 and I’ve started to be interested in cryptocurrency and blockchain since 2013. I’ve got a long background in managing complex IT projects and other small ventures.
With Damien, we’ve been convinced that blockchain technology will play a major role in the future of society and the internet. We’ve created Unikname in 2018.
Does your previous experience with Ark.io tie into why you’ve decided to run your own Delegated Proof of Stake blockchain based on the Ark.io framework?
From what we are seeing the blockchain has been live since 2018, and secured by 23 delegates run by 10 individuals and 10 organizations which can change over time by vote, and 3 network players that stay unconditionally.
This provides some sense of decentralization but is dwarfed by Ethereum which in contrast has over 200,000 active validators and 14 billion USD of Ethereum staked in ETH 2.0.
If I’d truly care about the (long term) sovereignty of my Digital Identity I’d choose for my DID to be represented on a decentralized system with the most decentralization and least single point(s) of failure.
How do you feel your blockchain compares to this, why should someone trust your blockchain as sufficiently decentralized and stable?
At Unikname, we say that we build products that really work. Our product is up and running since 2019–2020 (depends on the components) and at that time, public networks had a lot of scalability issues.
Remember the CrytoKitties effect on the Ethereum network. At that time, we decided to start a new and specialized blockchain network dedicated to Decentralized Identifiers.
Does DID verification require high transaction amounts?
Not that much, but no one wants to have his business in trouble because someone is selling cats at the same time.
In the future, we will also cross-publish DID proofs on other Blockchains, where transaction *fees* are low.
Ok, so public blockchain integration is in the works?
Yes, our roadmap includes extending the Unikname SSI platform to be connected with multiple blockchains, fully public, or fully private.
Daniel Dal Bello
You have developed a multilingual naming system for your UniknameIDs and human-readable named IDs. This technology is based on NFT and DID technology, for which you’ve reported to have patented elements.
Can you tell us more about the innovations that you’ve patented and why?
We’ve designed and developed a way to get unique human-readable names (such as @jacksparrow) and to make them obfuscated and minted into the blockchain as an NFT.
This technology may apply to any blockchain.
And about the multilingual alphabet, the solution accepts more than 14 scripts with many alphabets. UniknameID owners have their names protected against spoofing.
We’ve based our work on the ‘confusing characters’ work done by Unicode. let's give us a simple example: ‘Sarah.O’Connor’ is the same as ‘sarah0c0nn0r’ and is represented as an NFT in our blockchain.
People decide to disclose their UniknameID or not.
Daniel Dal Bello
Interesting, good to have this angle covered. And how about the patent side?
Today we’ve implemented the Latin alphabet (with 614 Unicode characters) and we’re ready to implement other alphabets.
The patent has been registered in December 2020. We need to wait 12 to 18 months to be able to publish it.
We’re all used to identifying ourselves in online services/stores using email addresses/social media accounts etc. Which just like your no-KYC Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) can be created swiftly and without KYC.
Most emails/social media accounts have their data managed on non-transparent or centralized servers. You’re flagging this as a sovereignty and dependency issue for users of current non-KYC identifier methods.
However, non-KYC identification is mostly used in low-risk online interactions, while higher-risk interactions are more often willingly KYC identified.
For example: When traders set up their account on a centralized exchange they are often happy to provide only their emails as an identifier, but once they decide to trade substantial amounts on it they KYC to secure their access to the funds.
How do you position your solution as an alternative for these low-risk and high-risk identification moments? Why would someone switch to your SSI instead of email for low-risk identification, and is your SSI even applicable on high-risk identification?
The low-risk you’re mentioning is becoming more and more high risk, because of the major increase of hacks on websites. Hackers are looking for emails and passwords to be able to use them everywhere. With our Decentralized Authentication, both users and the website, have the guarantee that the identification information cannot be hacked not phished.
With our Decentralized Authentication, both users and the website, have the guarantee that the identification information cannot be hacked not phished.
Then another important factor is that DID without KYC can also be used for many cases, to certify an operation, a file, a vote, keeping full confidentiality of the user. This is a major improvement and added value.
Passwords are essential data to steal, not only emails as many people used the same one (or a small number of passwords).
On high-risk identification, we are at that time discussing with companies that need a highly secured authentication. But they don’t want KYC on our part — banks for example, or accounting platforms.
To my understanding, the non-KYC element of your SSI means that just like when setting up parallel emails several identities can be set up swiftly by one natural person. If that’s the case, what’s the benefit/incentive for businesses to add or migrate to your alternative of SSI for identification on such votes, etc?
The solution is frictionless for end users but the people do not need to get many UniknameIDs as their ID is not communicated to websites they’re connected with. It’s up to their choice. But the main benefit is for businesses, they can implement a highly secure authentication solution at lower costs, and provide additional SSI services to their users very easily.
To our understanding your DID method is in compliance with the W3C’s DID Specification, you are part of DIF — which envisions an open ecosystem for DID, and you are part of the NFT Alliance.
What is your vision with regards to the standardization of DID/NFT technology, and how important is it for you to play part in this and where do you place Unikname in the overall DID/NFT ecosystem?
Our customers need standards and interoperability. Three years ago, we began to build Unikname without any accepted standards by the market about SSI and DID.
It was so hard to talk about SSI and DID to clients and at that time they were afraid of our private implementation. But now the DIF has provided clear and shared specifications it is much easier to discuss with clients.
So we decided to join the DIF last year to participate in the development of this ecosystem.
Our clients are afraid of vendor locking, and standards are a good way to avoid that so that’s better for our business, despite the slow process of standardization of the DIF (as usual).
About NFT, it’s also a matter of technical interoperability, for example, to be able to trade your UniknameID on other NFT ecosystems.
At the end of the day, how is SSI and DID better, cheaper, and faster than e.g. a Facebook plug-in, or Microsoft sign-on for a business? And how can I, as a person recover my accounts easily if I ever lose access?
SSI and DID offer guarantees of privacy and confidentiality to both users and companies.
SSI and DID can provide faster access than any centralized solution at cheaper costs, because of the new value-chain with the distributed model.
The recovery of your account in the crypto-world is a real challenge. With Unikname individuals can create another ID and reassign it to the website account they are connected with.
In addition, we’re working on a social backup solution (a decentralized one).
How is that made possible without enabling me to reassign other people's accounts to my SSI on claims their SSI logins are lost?
I’ve worked in the support teams of banks and e-commerce websites. Every day, clients need to change their email because they lose access to it. Same thing for SSI: handle that with direct support. Unfortunately, human issues won’t disappear with SSI and DID.
It’s noticeable you’re active on community management, you just shared your new Telegram group at the beginning of this AMA.
Amongst other things, you set up your own public forum. However, establishing continuity of interaction on a forum is always a challenge and requires great effort.
What is the strategic importance of these efforts made for a public community? And what is the incentive for continued involvement by public participants if your core products operate on a B2B market?
We’re testing the market for several months and we understood that our market is effectively B2B but our ambassadors are end-users. So we’ve decided to implement an ambassador program with permanent rewards, and one of the community nodes collect tokens to reward the community for their involvement in the project.
We’ve just opened a channel by country on our Discord server, with dedicated people for the support, coming from the community.
That ties into your general market strategy. We’re noticing you’re based in France and your standard homepage is in French, is this indicative of a primary focus on business-to-business development within France?
Now with the ambassadors in different countries does that mean you are broadening your scope?
Exactly, starting a business and testing a market is always easier in your local/domestic market, so France for us, and we’ve design part of the solution with a French bank.
Then our coming token sale is here to found the international development of our solution.
As the $UNIK token is scheduled to be released soon and will play a vital role in promoting (and rewarding?) delegates in the DPoS blockchain system, how has this process been run so far — as the Unikname blockchain has been live in use since 2018?
The decentralized authentication has been in beta for six months and is now live, after the independent audit too.
We began our testnet in 2018 and we launched the mainnet in 2020, with a native token. We were able to launch the mainnet when the number of delegates was 23.
The native token will be tradable on the DeFi ecosystem thanks to a bridge, which we’ll launch in the next months. It will allow any user to swap native $UNIK <=> ERC20 $UNIK.
The $UNIK protocol will be implemented as ‘fuel in the network’, meaning it will be required to enable operations and access to services, up until now businesses did not have to buy and use a token for access to your products. We are seeing many companies struggling greatly with requiring token-for-payment in a B2B setting, it is often seen as a large bottleneck for businesses.
How have revenue streams been so far, and how will they be in the future? Will the token be made 100% mandatory for access to your products, and if so, what makes you confident your client businesses will accept this?
Our business model has been built with our business customers. They wanted the blockchain and the token to be fully integrated with the solution.
Customers will buy credits, in the short term, and they will not bother about the token itself, but they are linked under the hood. Companies will pay credit in the currency they wish.
We can already see this concept of ‘credits’ on the market even for solutions not using tokens and blockchain at all.
And how does such credit tie into the value of the linked token? If the token is speculative of value, you’d have to prevent fluctuation on the amount of service bought on credit.
In our ecosystem, we have some gateways between the decentralized world and the centralized one, because most websites are traditional web platforms. These gateways, we call ‘Network Services Providers’. These services providers are the ones that define and fix the prices of SSI services in UNIK. The prices will be permanently adjusted according to UNIK value.
We’re preparing a blog post to explain that.
Examples of services: UniknameID minting, data verification (website URL, email), data storage, and decentralized authentication of course!
As a final question, you currently have six plug-and-play modules ready to be integrated by businesses, with focus areas ranging from authentication to certification to rewarding.
How is business adoption progressing for these modules, which module(s) do you see being used most, and which are you personally most excited about?
Are there more modules coming up that you are excited to share, or are you more focused on increasing business adoption for your existing modules?
Decentralized authentication is the door to any decentralized operations, so it’s the one we’ve started with and will be the most implemented to websites of our partners.
However the business pulls the priority in the roadmap, and we’re already working on the privacy-friendly data sharing and the data certification components.
Personally, I think that the rewarding system will open many new rooms for additional business to our customers.
We’re in touch with an international training center to use our solution for a proof-of-presence solution — that’s another possibility.
On my side, I’m excited by the data certification, because it’s a big enabler to build other modules. A kind of root stack to build the other modules on top of it.
We’ve forgotten to mention that everything will be open-source, SDK, and API in order to facilitate market adoption.
You can check it out on our Github if you’re interested.
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Unikname is a multipurpose decentralized identity platform leveraging blockchain innovation.
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