Modern life is a series of database entries. Whether it’s work, pleasure, dating, or friendship — today, life happens on applications. This is not a far cry from how older generations lived. After all, there were always neighborhood coffee shops, town squares, offices, local shelters, etc. They’re just online now.
During this transition, we lost one thing — the control over our identity, and thus, our personhood. While the interactions of the past afforded us the ability to decide what information we gave to whom and under what circumstances, today, we are forced to give up a lot of our information just to enter the gates of digital society.
This is not the future we imagined.
Those who are more conscious of their privacy make a point to use a password manager to manage their credentials associated with various applications. Others may use the same password everywhere, or forego this hassle altogether by logging in using their Google or Facebook accounts.
But ask yourself this: do you really need to give, or even link, your house address, email address, phone number, date of birth (and credit card information in some cases) just to read a 600-word article or get some discount coupons? We think not.
Disco.xyz is a web3 startup that makes identity management secure, easy, and fun. In a nutshell, they enable you to own your identity and let you decide the conditions under which your information is shared.
So imagine a profile that stores all your credentials and is connected with the applications you use. Except you have full autonomy in managing this profile. For example, you could link your Twitter account to your profile and make your DAO membership credentials always public, so people can come and verify your membership, and therefore, your commitment to the DAO’s cause.
However, you could selectively reveal your college degree to, say, prospective employers, or banking institutions.
Disco enables such profiles by giving users data backpacks that store credentials. Think proofs of employment, a college degree, cute badges that an ex gave you, club memberships, etc.
The credentials in a data backpack are wholly owned by its owner, and the owner gets to decide what credential is revealed when and under what circumstances. On the other side, Disco also enables individuals and entities to issue these credentials to one another.
In this way, it takes advantage of arguably the best feature of blockchains — managing the accessibility of data and its provenance — while avoiding arguably the worst part of blockchains — all data is being visible to everyone.
DIDs and VCs are at the core of Disco’s functionality. DIDs stand for decentralized identifiers. Think of it as a globally unique identifier that identifies you and your identities across the internet. These DIDs have identity details, authorization keys, and other information associated with them in their respective DID documents.
What’s most interesting about DIDs is that their integrity or truthfulness can be verified by third parties cryptographically without needing to interact with centralized authorities.
While DIDs are associated with entities or individuals, verifiable credentials are objects that these DIDs give to each other. For example, your university could use its DID to provide a credential that says “college graduate” to the DIDs of all the students that attended that college.
Or your DAO could use its DID to give a verifiable credential to the DIDs of all its members. You could even use your DID to state that your sister is the best by encoding that information on a credential and sending it your sister’s DID. The possibilities are endless!
A cool edge-case is giving yourself DIDs. For example, If I want people to know that my favorite color is blue, I could issue myself a credential that states, “this person’s favorite color is blue!” and make it public. That way, people can know that my favorite color truly is blue, since they can cryptographically verify the credential and know it’s from me.
While this may seem like a silly example, the cool part about this is the ability to use the magic of “reusable” data, meaning having the ability to connect my wallet and prove that my favorite color is blue to any number of apps, people, or experiences, without needing to repeat myself over and over again.
Verifiable credentials are the technical term, although they could be used for practically any kind of claim, attestation or information. These VCs also come in different types.
I might be alright with people knowing my favorite colors, but I may not be comfortable sharing other information. In such cases, verifiable credentials could be encrypted so that only the issuer and the recipient can access the data. For example, your doctor can send blood test results as an encrypted credential issued by their DID to your DID. Now, only the two of you can see this data.
This way, your DID has all these credentials that you can choose to make public or private. And if you decide to make them public, anyone seeing them can check their integrity because the VCs are signed by the original issuer. So if you share your education credentials with a prospective employer, they could verify it’s integrity since the credential would be signed by the University’s DID.
Disco currently uses the Ceramic Network to store these credentials. This means that the wallet associated with your data backpack can be used to access the credentials associated with your DID.
Since Disco is in beta, currently you can only link your Twitter and Discord handles, as well as domain names to your data backpack. However, in the future, Disco will add support for more types of credentials, different types of credential storage and more ways to connect public identifiers to your data backpack.
To get started, you can visit app.disco.xyz to request beta access. Setting up a data backpack takes minutes, and you receive a neat Disconaut credential upon completion.
While Disco has a long way to go, it has made promising progress on a rather old concept and shows no signs of stopping. Disco envisions a world where you reclaim full ownership of your information. In fact, putting it that way, it feels weird that we live in a world where this is not the default.
At The Symmetrical, we are huge fans of Disco and everything they do. View this video by Disco’s CEO to get a better idea of the potential of DIDs and VCs, and checkout their website here. It’s time you own your identity. It’s time you become the shining center of the party.