Microsoft introduces decentralized identifier system that runs atop Bitcoin blockchain

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Identity Overlay Network

Microsoft has released a new open-source decentralized identifier (DID) called ION (Identity Overlay Network) that will run on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Last year, the tech giant had announced its plans to create the open source, self-owned digital identity system using blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies.

This system was aimed to enable people, services, products, and apps to interoperate across organizations, blockchains and cloud providers. People will have complete control over who can access their personal information and to what extent.

Now, Microsoft is taking further steps with the early preview of ION. It is a public, permission-less, open network that can be used by anyone for creating DIDs and managing their Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) state.

Based on the Sidetree protocol for creating scalable DID networks, the Identity Overlay Network also came with a number of challenges. Microsoft addressed these challenges by developing it on open standards by working with partners in the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF). These partners included ConsenSys and Transmute.

“Today, the most common digital identifiers we use are email addresses and usernames, provided to us by apps, services, and organizations. This puts identity providers in a place of control, between us and every digital interaction in our lives,” wrote Daniel Buchner, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Identity Division, in a blog post.

“Our goal is to create a decentralized identity ecosystem where millions of organizations, billions of people, and countless devices can securely interact over an interoperable system built on standards and open source components.”

Blockchains are capable of creating highly secure, censorship-resistant identity systems. But the transactional volumes of blockchains are limited as compared to traditional systems. Even the most robust public blockchains can operate just tens of transactions per second.

Also read: Microsoft launches fully-managed Azure Blockchain Service for enterprises

Microsoft’s new approach with ION will significantly enhance the throughput of digital identifiers to gain tens-of-thousands of operations every second.

In the coming months, Microsoft will collaborate with open source contributors and members of the identity community to publicly launch the ION network on Bitcoin mainnet.

Equinix, Casa, Cloudflare, Civic, and Learning Machine are the organizations that have already leaned in to run ION nodes.

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