Microsoft Building Open Blockchain-Based Identity System With Blockstack, ConsenSys

Microsoft has announced that it is collaborating with Blockstack Labs, ConsenSys and developers across the globe on an open source, self-sovereign, blockchain-based identity system that allows people, products, apps and services to interoperate across blockchains, cloud providers and organizations.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals include giving everyone a legal identity by 2030. As a first step, the U.N. wants to develop scalable identity systems by 2020. The inaugural “ID2020 Summit ‒ Harnessing Digital Identity for the Global Community,” held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on May 20, brought together policymakers and technology companies to develop an action plan.

“While we don’t profess to have solutions to these overwhelming problems today, we can start where the open source community is best: collaboration,” said Yorke Rhodes III, blockchain business strategist at Microsoft. “To progress toward these goals, we have been working with partners to address identity using the self-owned or self-sovereign qualities of blockchain technology.”

The Microsoft strategist said that the Redmond, Washington, giant is working with Blockstack Labs and ConsenSys to leverage their current Bitcoin and Ethereum-based identity solutions, Blockstack and uPort. Through this open source collaboration, Microsoft and its partners intend to produce a cross-chain identity solution that can be extended to any future blockchains or new kinds of decentralized, distributed systems. In the coming weeks an open-source framework for developers will be made available on Azure.

Blockstack ‒ an open source blockchain application stack ‒ permits building decentralized, serverless apps by plugging into Blockstack’s services for identity, naming, storage and authentication.

According to the Blockstack team, Blockstack is the largest, most popular blockchain identity system, with 50,000 registered identities that come with profiles and globally unique names. Identities can be registered for people, companies, websites, software packages and more. Profiles can contain both private and public information, which is attested to by the user and can be verified by peers and select authorities.

“Microsoft will make it easy to deploy new Blockstack servers and infrastructure on the Azure cloud and plans to integrate Blockstack with some internal systems for identity and authentication,” notes the Blockstack blog. “With the Blockstack technology users are in complete control of their usernames and data and don’t need to trust any third party for their information. We appreciate Microsoft’s committed to making the internet a more secure and user-centric place and to promote open-source software development.”

In November Bitcoin Magazine reported that Microsoft had partnered with ConsenSys, a blockchain startup focused on Ethereum technology, founded in October 2014 by Ethereum Foundation’s co-founder Joseph Lubin. In December, Microsoft and ConsenSys announced Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS) on Microsoft Azure, to provide a single-click cloud-based blockchain developer environment to Azure Enterprise clients and developers. 

In October, ConsenSys revealed that it was working on an identity management system called uPort . “[We] have started to integrate an ID and persona construct across all of our dApps,” noted the ConsenSys blog. “Soon a uPort persona will enable access to any dApp ConsenSys or other developers build. ConsenSys has begun efforts to work with various partners towards standardization of these components.” The company added that user-owned ID and data will be crucial for realizing the compelling vision of Web 3.0.

“We’re also collaborating with ConsenSys on a cross-blockchain solution for global namespaces,” notes the Blockstack blog. “We believe that a global identity system should not be dependent on any particular blockchain and users should be able to migrate from one blockchain to another, if needed. Along these lines, we plan to work with ConsenSys to add Ethereum support to the Blockstack server.”

Redmond Magazine notes that there are many unofficial identity systems in the social media world, including the systems operated by Google, Facebook and Microsoft itself, as well as various emerging blockchain-based platforms that have been proposed for the online world. But the U.N. and the companies that participated in the inaugural ID2020 Summit are more ambitious: They want to develop globally recognized identity systems for the real world.

One-fifth of the world’s population ‒ one and a half billion people ‒ are without proper identification, and 50 million children are born every year without a birth certificate and a legal identity. These numbers are growing, which underlines the importance of the U.N. goal of giving everyone on the planet a solid and tamper-proof digital identity based on common, interoperable standards. According to John Farmer, director of technology and civic innovation at Microsoft, blockchain technology can offer three key features to an identity system: It’s an immutable, trustless, and transparent agreed-upon network.

“[We] can imagine a world where an individual can register their identity in a cross blockchain fashion, providing a single namespace for lookup regardless of blockchain of choice,” concludes the Microsoft announcement. “[We are] excited by the potential societal benefits that can be derived from an identity that transcends borders, blockchains, organizations and companies.”


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