1 Why the internet is missing an identity layer—and why SSI can finally provide one


Alex Preukschat and Drummond Reed

    Self-sovereign identity—commonly abbreviated SSI—is a new model for digital identity on the internet: i.e., how we prove who we are to the websites, services, and apps with which we need to establish trusted relationships to access or protect private information. Driven by new technologies and standards in cryptography, distributed networks, cloud computing, and smartphones, SSI is a paradigm shift for digital identity similar to other technology paradigm shifts: for example, the shift from keyboard-driven user interfaces (e.g., MS-DOS) to graphical user interfaces (e.g., Windows, Mac, iOS), or the shift from dumb phones to smartphones.

    However, the SSI paradigm shift is deeper than just a technology shift—it is a shift in the underlying infrastructure and power dynamics of the internet itself. In this way, it is closer to other infrastructure paradigm shifts such as those in transportation:

    • The shift from horse travel to train travel
    • The shift from train travel to automobile travel
    • The shift from automobile travel to airplanes and jet travel

    1.1 How bad has the problem become?

    1.2 Enter blockchain technology and decentralization

    1.3 The three models of digital identity

    1.3.1 The centralized identity model

    1.3.2 The federated identity model

    1.3.3 The decentralized identity model

    1.4 Why “self-sovereign”?

    1.5 Why is SSI so important?

    1.6 Market drivers for SSI

    1.6.1 E-commerce

    1.6.2 Banking and finance

    1.6.3 Healthcare