Decentralized Identity Metasystem

The core nucleus of modern Digital Identity are ‘DIDs’ – Decentralized Identifiers.

At a superficial level, a decentralized identifier (DID) is simply a new type of globally unique identifier. But at a deeper level, DIDs are the core component of an entirely new layer of decentralized digital identity and public key infrastructure (PKI) for the Internet.

Key developments for this topic include open standards notably the W3C’s specification, explained in this Evernym webinar, and through supporting industry initiatives like the Decentralized Identity Foundation.

As Security Boulevard writes on the topic:

According to Gartner, decentralized identity (DCI) leverages technologies such as blockchain or other distributed ledger technologies to allow an entity to create and control its own digital identity. Every user will have a self-owned digital “wallet” containing verified identity credentials provided by certified issuers such as the government or an employer. 


The concept of an ‘Identity Metasystem’ has been under development for twenty years, and refers to the environment that will arise as there is a large scale, universal adoption of these types of standards and wallets, like how HTTP and browsers brought about the web.

Microsoft Identity guru Kim Cameron defined the concept in 2006 and more recently ‘Self Sovereign Identity‘ guru Phil Windley describes it’s evolution up to today’s cutting edge progress and innovations like SSI.

Tim Bouma, Canada’s SSI expert, builds on this to add the further definition of its role as a Global Verification Network: A network to independently verify without reliance on trusted intermediaries.”

Layer 8

An Identity Metasystem will achieve this through a generalized evolution of the Internet to this end. The Paypers reports on Identity experts defining this as a new layer of the Internet:

“The current Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI) of the internet stack has 7 layers, 1) Physical, 2) Data Link, 3) Network, 4) Transport, 5) Session, 6) Presentation and then 7) Application.

SSI technologies are so fundamentally new that they create a whole new layer just for individuals and users — this is called Layer 8. In this layer, identifiers are managed and owned by individuals and companies. Verifiable credentials can be issued to the identifiers, which can then be shared with any number of services they might interact with.”

National Identity Frameworks

The question of Government’s relationship to a global Identity metasystem is pivotal, as Government’s are typically the issuers of the primary identifiers needed, like Passports and Social Security Numbers.

Therefore we’re likely to see their co-evolution, and why National Identity Frameworks are also key, to provide that type of mapping, authentication and legitimization.

An especially useful exemplar case study is Canada, where are both pioneering global innovations like SSI and also developing a very strong pan-Canadian co-operation group producing such a framework, the ‘PCTF’ – Pan Canadian Trust Framework.

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