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Microsoft's Decentralized Identity

October 15, 2018


A white paper released recently from Microsoft describes a plan to develop two new products that use blockchain technology to give citizens total control of their identity information and unify storage methods in a decentralized fashion. This concept is nothing new to the blockchain industry. There are several startups that have been developing these type of systems for years. The more difficult part will be actually implementing a platform in a way that the majority of both public and private organizations can agree on.


The first product combines the already widely used Microsoft cloud storage services and a encrypted personal data store to create a sort of "identity hub." It services user's personal devices and cloud storage through Microsoft Azure. Users could store identity information in this hub with stipulated permissions for providing access to third parties. In crontrast, the current systems have created countless of third party storage systems storing the same information in different places instead of mutual access.


The next product is a "wallet-like app" that people could use to control their identity hub and communicate between the Azure network and others they are trying to permit or deny from accessing certain parts of their identity information.


Decentralized Identifiers


Both of these products build on the foundation of decentralized identifiers (DIDs). These term, and preliminary designs were created by the World Wide Web Foundation (W3C).

"If you start with the premise of what blockchain can do for identity, it opens up the aperture to think about how you can have a consumer- or constituent-owned ID that then you can do different things with," Yorke Rhodes, a program manager on Microsoft's blockchain engineering team, told CoinDesk in a podcast interview last month.


DIDs do not require a central authority. They are anchored on a distributed ledger or other type of decentralized system. Something like a phone number or a Twitter handle is in control of the company that hosts the system. DIDs and the new “identity hubs” are always under the user's control.


Microsoft’s pen-source implementation of DIDs would work as a second layer on top of multiple blockchains. In this way it will be "designed for world-scale use… establish a unified, interoperable ecosystem that developers and businesses can rely on to build a new wave of products, applications, and services.”


A Step Beyond the Decentralized Identity Foundation

This is not Microsoft’s first steps into the field. They were a founding member of the Decentralized Identity Foundation. They wants to make sure that the systems created today don't become "new islands like the social media islands of today, where you can't connect an identity from LinkedIn to Twitter, to Facebook, to WeChat, to Weibo.”


Further Applications


Microsoft plans to expand the range of identity types that can be integrated. Their already in place enterprise ID system called Active Directory will be recognized by the new blockchain-based decentralized identities. This would allow companies to seamlessly onboard a new hire, recognize a decentralized ID that she controls, and associate it with their new corporate employee ID.


"We are committed to establishing Open Standards and contributing to Open Source to make Decentralized Identity successful. As we make further progress, we will make appropriate contributions. With such a vibrant space, there are many such opportunities [to work on common standards]. We continue to evaluate and will participate in the ones that are most meaningful. We are committed to working with DIF, W3C, as well other industry or standards group that we believe can help realize a successful Decentralized Identity platform." -

Ankur Patel, principal program manager at Microsoft



By: BGN Editorial Staff

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