Decentralized Identifiers are one step closer to becoming an official W3C web standard

We’re proud to announce that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has approved a charter for a new Working Group tasked with standardizing the data model and syntax of decentralized identifiers (DIDs)—the linchpin of self-sovereign identity.

The W3C Decentralized Identifier Working Group will be co-chaired by Daniel Burnett of ConsenSys and our own senior crypto engineer, Brent Zundel. Founding members of the working group also include Evernym’s Lovesh Harchandani, Daniel Hardman, and DID spec co-author Drummond Reed.

The group’s mission is to “standardize the DID Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) scheme, the data model and syntax of DID Documents…and the requirements for DID Method specifications.” DID documents are standard data files that contain the cryptographic public keys and other metadata needs to initiate trusted interactions with the person, organization, or thing identified by the DID.

“At Evernym, we’ve known from the start that cryptographically-verifiable identifiers are a critical step in developing end-to-end digital trust relationships,” commented co-chair Brent Zundel, “and given their importance, I couldn’t be happier to help chair this new Working Group at W3C.”

The charter is the culmination of the work by dozens of contributors starting with the W3C Verifiable Claims Task Force and then the W3C Credentials Community Group. The first complete draft of the DID Spec was produced in December 2016 by Evernym and a group of partners under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. This project was led by Evernym Chief Trust Officer Drummond Reed and the Evernym cryptography team.

“We knew that there could never be a decentralized identity layer for the Internet without identifiers that did not require a centralized registry, and blockchain technology finally provided a way to solve this problem,” Drummond added, “What we didn’t realize was just how badly this key new piece of cybersecurity infrastructure was needed. The demand for DIDs has become almost overwhelming.”

The informal DID Method Registry maintained by the W3C Credentials Community Group now contains more than 30 DID methods, each with its own specification for how to use DIDs with a specific blockchain, distributed ledger, or other distributed network. The basic syntax of DIDs—in this case, a DID that uses the Sovrin blockchain—is shown in the following diagram:

W3C DID Syntax for Decentralized Identifiers

The DID Working Group has a two-year charter to finalize the DID specification and develop a full test suite for interoperability. The goal is to submit a final specification to be voted on by W3C members to become an official W3C Recommendation.

Evernym encourages existing W3C members to join this Working Group and companies who are not yet part of W3C to become members if they wish to become contributors. The Working Group is open to all W3C members; requests to join can be made from the W3C DID Working Group page. The group’s first official meeting will be held September 16-17 at the annual W3C Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee (TPAC) meeting in Fukuoka, Japan.

To learn more about DIDs and their pivotal role in self-sovereign identity infrastructure, check out our recording and slide deck of a webinar Brent Zundel and Drummond Reed gave on the significance of DIDs and this new Working Group.