Decentralized Identifier (DID): what is it?

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With the emergence of blockchain technology, the concept of Self-Sovereign Identity or SSI was also born. If this approach is possible, it is thanks to the Decentralized Identifier (DID). A method that facilitates authentication while ensuring that the user retains control of their own identity. What is aDecentralized Identifier (DID)? What is the point of it?

What is the Decentralized Identifier (DID)?

The Decentralized Identifier (DID ) allows to designate a person, but also a company, an institution or an object. It is then possible to have a secure and unique identifier, in particular to authenticate oneself to an online service, while keeping the ownership of one's data and making the different stakeholders trust this identifier thanks to the principle of decentralization.

It is possible for an individual to have several identifiers and to manage them independently. Each person can use the Decentralized Identifier (DID ) that suits him or her, depending on the situation, and thus control his or her personal data while attesting to his or her identity in a secure manner.

How is it represented?

The representation of a Decentralized Identifier (DID ) is most often a URL that is divided into three parts:

  • A prefix referenced as "did
  • The definition of the DID implementation: we can find the terms "ethr" for the Ethereum blockchain, "th" for Tezos or "ion" for Bitcoin.
  • A unique identifier

Each individual remains in control of the information he or she discloses thanks to the use of this unique URL. The digital identity linked to the URL is also verifiable and decentralized, which makes it possible to benefit from a completely secure system.

Why is this important within an SSI protocol?

If the Decentralized Identifier (DID ) is important, it is also because it is part of a more global protocol of Self-Sovereign Identity or SSI. SSI is an approach that makes the individual fully sovereign of his personal data and his digital identity, it puts him at the center of the process to let him choose what he wants to disclose or not.  

Indeed, many Internet users today are not fully aware of the volume of data concerning them that is used, stored and sometimes sold by companies. The ISS concept allows them to be responsible for what concerns them. They can provide only what they need to prove their identity and not reveal all their data.  

What are its advantages?

The concept of SSI allows to give back to each one the keys of his digital identity and this has several important advantages such as :

  • Securely access various services (taxes, financial services, etc.)
  • Strengthen the protection of one's privacy  
  • Reduce the risk of cyber attacks
  • Streamlining education-related services
  • Access to better health services
  • Improve the customer experience
  • Etc.

Both users and companies that provide access to their services will find it beneficial to use Decentralized Identifier (DID ) as part of an IMS protocol. It is therefore up to companies to take the first step in supporting users in this direction.