In the digital age, decentralized identities (DIDs) are gaining traction, offering individuals control over their digital identity and promising a more sovereign internet.
Tim Yeoh — a pioneer in this field and founder of d.id, a company that provides DID solutions — compares DID to Bitcoin (BTC), as both empower users with autonomy. In this interview, Yeoh discusses the importance of community governance in DID, the evolution of the d.id ecosystem and its role in simplifying the transition to Web3, and how DID’s ability to decouple identity from applications will redefine online interactions, communities and personal identities.
Cointelegraph: In today’s digital age, the concept of identity has undergone a radical shift. In layman’s terms, can you explain decentralized identities and why they are gaining traction?
Tim Yeoh: In today’s digital age, our concept of identity is evolving. Think of DID as the Bitcoin of the identity realm. As Bitcoin, a programmable currency, uses cryptography and operates without central control, DIDs offer programmable identities not governed by a singular entity.
Bitcoin empowered individuals with unmatched control over their finances. Similarly, DID is shifting our identity paradigm, granting individuals more autonomy over their digital identities, free from centralized constraints. As we move forward, DIDs are becoming crucial, marking a new chapter in how we think of and manage our digital selves.
CT: The digital world has seen an explosion of online identities, from social media profiles to gaming avatars. How do decentralized identities stand out in this crowded space, and why are they crucial for the future of the internet?
TY: Decentralized identities offer distinct advantages in the digital landscape. The first one is ownership. In the Web2 era, platforms often owned our digital data, so our online identities were not indeed ours. DIDs, rooted in blockchain technology, change this dynamic. When users own their private key, they truly control their identity; it’s theirs. This increases personal and organizational empowerment.
The second advantage is unity. Right now, our digital presence with different apps and profiles is everywhere. DIDs unify our scattered online identities. Instead of juggling multiple apps and profiles, imagine one key that opens all digital doors. The internet of the future promises to return true sovereignty to the user by merging asset and identity control through DIDs.
CT: Community governance is a term often thrown around in discussions about blockchain and decentralization. Can you help us understand its significance and how DID plays a role in it?
TY: Governance is fundamental to the success and growth of any entity, be it a school club, a fan group, a DAO, a corporation, or even a country. What’s transformative about DID is its precise ability to delineate community membership. Specifically, only those with certain DID suffixes can participate in governance decisions. DID not only records an individual’s contributions and reputation but also translates them into voting weights.
This ensures that the direction of a community is predominantly influenced by those who are genuinely invested in it, thereby limiting any undue manipulation of power. We’ve called this approach DID-based governance — a model that embodies transparency, efficiency and inclusivity. A prime example of its application can be seen in our product Voty.
CT: Tim, before we delve deeper, can you give us a brief background on yourself and what inspired you to venture into DID?
TY: I started my career as an engineer at Tencent, the Chinese internet giant known for its vast ecosystem. At the heart of Tencent is its user identity system, the QQ number, which unlocks access to thousands of its applications. About six years ago, when I moved from the traditional internet to Web3, I was intrigued by a question: If Web3 is its own ecosystem, what should its identity system look like? How would it compare with systems like QQ or Facebook (currently Meta)?
While the blockchain address was a first attempt at a Web3 identity, it felt more computer-centric than user-friendly. ENS provided some direction but steered toward decentralized domains, a departure from my vision. This quest led me to focus on d.id, which pioneered the decentralized identity landscape.
CT: d.id began as a decentralized naming system and later evolved into the broader d.id ecosystem of products. What drove this transformation, and how does it reflect the changing needs of the online community?
TY: At d.id, our transition from a decentralized naming system to building a DID ecosystem stemmed from understanding human needs and our deepened experience with DID.
Three pivotal questions have always captured our attention: How might individuals with aligned passions and values forge a community where they truly belong? As these communities emerge, regardless of their global dispersion, what’s the strategy for efficient collaboration? And with the rise of powerful AI technologies, what sets us apart in today’s digital landscape?
For years, we didn’t have adequate answers. However, leveraging the principles of blockchain and decentralization, DID offers an innovative approach to addressing these challenges.
CT: With various products like .bit, Voty, SoulFrag and d.id Profile, how does your platform ensure a seamless and integrated experience for users in the space?
TY: Our suite consists of four products, each of which can be used independently, but together they provide a comprehensive solution tailored to community development.
With .bit’s “DID as a Service,” communities create their own DID suffix, such as tim.swiftie, which identifies Taylor Swift fans. SoulFrag and Voty, both DID-based, automatically recognize these DIDs. This allows admins to link soulbound tokens (SBTs), which track members’ roles and contributions, directly to their DIDs.
Voty facilitates community participation guided by pre-defined governance rules. Meanwhile, the d.id Profile gives each DID holder a curated personal page highlighting their community milestones and social connections.
Thanks to the universality of DID, there’s no need to import members redundantly across applications. Every community will use its own DID in the coming era, unlocking the vast potential of decentralized identities. After all, a community thrives on its members and their relationships, and the DID encapsulates those assets. While custom DID issuance and broad application support were once daunting tasks, innovations like the ERC-20 standard have transformed token creation from complex public chain designs to simple contract deployments, fueling the growth of the Web3 ecosystem.
Similarly, d.id’s “DID as a Service” simplifies DID issuance to simply owning a .bit name, dramatically lowering the barriers to entry. This simplicity will benefit communities and unleash a new wave of growth, accelerating our transition to a programmable society.
CT: The shift from Web2 to Web3 has been exciting and daunting for many. How is d.id simplifying this transition for users, especially for those who might not be tech-savvy?
TY: Web3 shouldn’t be limited to technical insiders. That’s why we’re championing the “barrier-free Web3 principle”, which emphasizes no private keys, no transaction fees and true decentralization.
We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that all our products embody this principle, making Web3 accessible without technical barriers.
CT: You crafted a DID model comprising decentralized identifiers, soulbound tokens and scenarios. Can you explain how these three components shape an individual’s digital persona?
TY: In this system, an individual’s unique decentralized name (decentralized identifier), such as "tim.swiftie," aggregates their contributions, achievements and experiences via soulbound tokens. This enriched identity, similar to how our names encompass our real-world deeds, facilitates participation across different societal platforms (scenarios).
But unlike real-world identities, DID ensures a digital identity that’s all ours, cross-platform, persistent and trusted, offering a new approach to age-old identity challenges.
CT: The gaming world and DAOs use significant digital identity implications. How does d.id cater to these specific sectors?
TY: We’ve harnessed the potential of DID to serve multiple digital domains, spanning fan and creator economies, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), brand memberships and gaming communities.
For fans, we connect their identities directly to their idol’s brand, enhancing fan authentication and intensifying their bond with their idols. Moreover, embedding the celebrity’s name in each fan’s DID suffix further increases the celebrity’s brand influence.
In the DAO space, beyond simplifying member authentication and strengthening identity and affiliation, our solutions significantly boost governance and collaboration aspects. Like Voty, which uses a DID-based governance model where only members with a DID can propose or vote. It also allows organizations to segment into specific working groups for targeted decision-making.
For brands, we’ve introduced a transparent membership system that enables seamless cross-brand collaboration. Imagine nearby merchants offering discounts to Marriott hotel members simply by showing their Marriott DID identity, bypassing complex brand partnership agreements and directly benefiting Marriott members.
We also have our “DID as a service” for the creator economy. Essentially, creators can add a DID suffix to their projects and sell them to supporters. This not only allows them to authenticate their work in the market but also provides a unique revenue pathway, using the DID as an entry credential.
For the gamers out there, we’re enhancing the Web3 gaming platforms with a robust DID-based user account system, making the overall gaming experience even more immersive and secure.
CT: Lastly, as we look toward a more decentralized future, in what ways do you believe DID will redefine our interactions, communities and personal identities online?
TY: DID revolutionizes how we understand identity by decoupling it from specific applications. Imagine individuals or organizations seamlessly transitioning their identities across platforms, just as Bitcoin users aren’t tied to a single wallet.
Another key benefit of DID is the concept of “seamless collaboration.” As I mentioned in previous questions, a restaurant used to require extensive negotiations with Marriott to verify member discounts. With DID, verification can be as simple as checking for an identifier like xxx.Marriott, and there’s no need for extensive discussions or contracts.
This transformative approach streamlines the experience and introduces innovative business models, leading us to a more decentralized future.
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