After reading and listening to so much about Web3 Identity and everything that goes along with it, I can’t help but try to gather my thoughts and put them in an organized structure, and write my views about these topics. Especially since I’m actively taking part in its mainstream adoption by providing ENS subnames with Namespace.
In the last few years, the narrative around digital identity has been rapidly evolving, driven mostly by the advancement of Web3 tech, open-source protocols, public good infrastructure, onchain primitives, and the amazing people behind it.
Web3 Identity has become a foundational element of the new internet, offering a promise of decentralized and user-controlled IDs facilitating a shift from centrally controlled data and identities to user-managed ones.
Historically, our identities (and data associated with them) have been controlled by centralized entities such as tech giants. But Web3 introduces a paradigm where users have complete autonomy over their onchain data and self-sovereign digital identity.
My Fascination with Identity
Even though it never occurred to me before, it feels like the Identity is a fluid puzzle made out of a few bigger pieces and even more smaller ones that make up the whole picture of our identity and who we are. DIDs, reputation, attestation protocols, etc. are just a few bigger ones.
Something I’m fascinated by when thinking about them is that they differ in nature from each other and work towards the same goal:
DIDs and Identities - Identifiers - name, username, universal profile as my friend Evan (@evanmoyer_eth) likes to call them. (They come from the outside world, freedom of choice, or our parents).
Reputation system - monitoring and capturing onchain activity and creating a merit-based system for more transparent insight into individual behavior. (It comes from the organization, an app, a community, etc. that has certain criteria that define the type of people they want to let in, work with, accept, reward, etc.)
Attestations - verifiable claims about who we are, what we do, what we did, where we come from, etc. (our behaviors and behavioral patterns, our collective onchain activity).
What is Digital Identity?
Digital identity in the context of Web3 is how a person is seen and represented onchain. It’s made out of information such as name, birth date, social handles, and blockchain addresses, but also, contents of the wallet such as assets, NFTs, and POAPs held, onchain activity, and behavior captured by reputation and attestation protocols that represent onchain credentials of a user. Collectively, this represents the user’s onchain Digital Identity.
Some time ago I tweeted this:
I don’t know if I’m correct or not but it certainly feels like what I’m witnessing it’s happening out there.
DIDs are the foundation of the self-sovereign identity system. Period.
They are identifiers that can represent virtually anything that needs a unique ID. They essentially map arbitrary computer data with human-readable form (.eth names and subnames). This can be applied and used to represent people’s wallets, names, contracts, digital assets, documents, objects, social handles, or anything else.
ENS stands out as the supreme market leader in this space. Its success isn't just by chance. The strength of ENS isn't solely dependent on its market position but also on its solid foundation. It has arguably the most sophisticated infrastructure and protocol design in its space, making it efficient and reliable.
Furthermore, its governance model sets it apart. Being governed by the ENS DAO ensures that decisions are made with the broader community's interest in mind. The DAO is led by some of the most biggest thought leaders in the crypto world.
What makes ENS extremely strong is its Ecosystem projects that are building on top of the protocol. As more projects integrate and develop on top of ENS, its utility and value proposition multiply. This symbiotic relationship means that as these projects grow and thrive, they simultaneously strengthen ENS's position, creating a positive feedback loop that benefits everyone.
Some interesting developments and cool projects:
Offchain minting subnames completely gasless using CCIP
Storing assets in your ENS name
Minting subnames on L2s using CCIP
Doing swaps by sending
Gassless DNSSEC integration
3DNS & NicNames: Tokenizing Web2 domains through ENS
TKN: Token Name Service - public onchain token database anyone can curate
UnruggableNames: OP subnames with AA built-in
NameSys: global off-chain gasless ENS records manager
Namehash/Nameguard: Make ENS names safe(r) again!
KiwiStand: web3 alternative to the tech-focused news Hackernews
Namespace (soft shill): ENS Subnames management platform for everyone
So many things are happening it’s actually overwhelming to keep up with everything.
What the hell is onchain reputation and who even needs it?
Reputation, in the context of Web3, refers to a measure of trust or credibility that a user or entity has within a community or platform. This reputation can be based on their past behavior, contributions, or interactions.
Onchain reputation is a system where a user's reputation is recorded and managed on a blockchain. This way, their reputation is transparent and can be verified by others in a decentralized manner, without relying on a central authority. This could be used for a variety of purposes, like deciding who gets to participate in a decision, who gets access to certain resources, or to encourage good behavior in online communities.
For example, if you frequently contribute valuable information to a community, your on-chain reputation might increase. This reputation could then be visible to others, and might even carry over to other communities or platforms within the Web3 ecosystem, thanks to the transparency and interoperability features of blockchain technology.
Who decides on its merits?
How do we measure reputation?
Who gets to decide what action/achievement counts?
What my community values, some other communities might find unfit.
For example: if you’re looking to join the most prestigious Onchain Traders community, they might let you in if you qualify. However, the qualifying criteria could be a reputation-based smart contract that measures your profit and loss for your onchain trades of a connected wallet.
Others might implement some other criteria and focus on something else.
This is why Onchain Reputation, like every other public good primarily, needs to be built from the philosophy of building composable data primitives that developers can use to build their own systems the way they see fit.
Imagine if our Identity is a transformer made out of legos, legos are the building blocks or onchain primitives that we'll use in blockchain to build our identity but the reputation and its strength will depend on a case-by-case basis.
For example: it's a good enough reputation score to have a wallet older than 1 month and have 100 transactions on it in order to send a message using the Coinbase app and not be flagged as spam. But the same criteria might be too weak if you want to vote onchain for some important DAO proposal.
Intermezzo - Late night wonderings
Why do all of us have equal (1) vote for presidential elections?
I started wondering, why do I get only one vote for president. I’m a nice guy, I build stuff, I work, I have a family, I pay a lot of taxes, I built my NGO, I donated a shit load of money in my life, I’ve done a lot of charity work, I helped children and families, I’m well educated, I studied abroad… when you compare me with the average voter 50 and 60-year-old voter in my country, they got nothing on me. So why my vote isn’t worth at least 1.1 given all the sweet troubles I went through to become a good, upstanding, law-abiding, proud citizen, brother, family man, academic, and wealthy man?
This opened a world of thinking when I realized I’m just a guy who tries hard and has some mild successes under his belt. What about other people who are actually smart, geniuses, scientists, surgeons, PhDs, scientists, or millionaires, philanthropists who donate a big % of their total yearly income, who do charity work, who contribute more than their money - their time, who are undeniably good people.
Why do we all get the same (one) vote in presidential elections?
Why not have a voting system that is a sliding scale from 1 to 2? So that everyone gets 1 vote worth 1 point but almost no one gets 1 vote that is worth 2 points? Everyone gets 1 vote but you could get 1.05, 1.10, 1.15… 1.95, and 2 based on your behavior, activity, reputation, income, family status, and whatever else merit.
Why not implement a voting system that rewards those who are irrefutably the best of what this world has to offer and gives them up to 2 votes?
I’m magnitudes dumber than Elon Musk. Why not have his vote be worth 1.65 points, maybe?
For some reason, this can become something like a well-designed structure that incentivizes us to be better human beings and thus create better societies.
I knoooow. It sounds nuts.
But at this point, this does seem like it’s not achievable because the system can be gamed but.. maybe smart contract hardcoded logic cannot!
Attestation protocols in the Web3 are crucial mechanisms that help in verifying the authenticity and integrity of data or identities within decentralized systems. They serve as a proof mechanism so that some entity can prove certain facts about itself or someone else, without revealing unnecessary information.
Attestations are what give onchain reputation meaning… among other things.
I recently did a Twitter thread summary of J.P. Morgan’s article about Digital Identity which you can find below.
In the article they very nicely describe this:
Verifiable Claims or Attestations are a set of claims made by one entity (the issuer) about another (the identity holder). A third party can verify these claims because the issuer has digitally signed the VC, proving its authenticity.
These claims can be literally anything. In the context of digital identity, they can be the user’s name, address, age, qualifications, degrees, memberships, etc. Claims are usually stored offchain but still secure enough in the sense that only your wallet’s signature with your private key can unlock them. If done correctly.
If you’re interested in attestations, I highly recommend Bankless episode with Bryce Patrick and Steve Dakh
The excitement around Web3 Identity paints a hopeful picture for a future where we get to control our own digital identities, breaking free from the grips of big tech companies. With new tools, open-source code, public goods, and identity primitives used as building blocks to craft our identities, values, and reputation systems, we're stepping into a world of self-sovereignty. Projects like ENS are leading the charge, making it easier for us to own our names and data online.
It's a thrilling peek into a future where the internet becomes a friendlier and fairer place for all of us.
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