What are Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)?

W3C DID Syntax for Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)

Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) have been described as the linchpin of self-sovereign identity, and it’s hard to overstate their significance.

For those unfamiliar, a DID is a new type of globally unique identifier (URI) that does not require a centralized registration authority because control of the identifier can be proved using cryptography.

Think of it like one of the identifiers we’re more familiar with—a domain name or a phone number—without a central registrar like ICANN or NANP.

To get into what this means for digital identity, our own Drummond Reed (Chief Trust Officer) and Brent Zundel (Senior Crypto Engineer) hosted a webinar last Thursday to discuss how DIDs are being used today and the work being done through the W3C to create an Internet-wide DID standard.

The webinar began with Drummond likening Decentralized Identifiers to IP addresses:

“If you think of the IP address as the fundamental building block of the Internet, then DIDs are the fundamental building block of the trust layer of the Internet.”

In the same way that all Internet communication takes place between IP addresses, all secure communications designed to establish identities and share verifiable credentials take place between DIDs. In other words, we can think about IP addresses as a way to connect devices and DIDs as a way to connect people.

And just as protocols like TCP/IP and DNS allow everyone to visit the same website regardless of which browser or device they use, the work being done through the W3C will allow interoperability across all Decentralized Identifiers—meaning everyone will be free to use whichever type of DID they prefer without being locked into any one vendor or system.

(And in fact, Decentralized Identifiers are on the way to becoming the first identifier approved by the W3C since the URL.)


To learn more, check out the recording of our webinar:

Or, browse the slides:




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