Decentralizing Identity in VR with Holonet & Self-Sovereign Identity

alberto-eliasHolonet is an open source project that implements the Decentralized Identity Specifications for open web VR platforms like WebXR. A self-sovereign identity system could enable the seamless portability of your avatar identity across multiple sites without having to use centralized authentication methods that would require you to login to every site with a unique username and password, or have to re-upload assets onto every metaverse world that you visit. The Decentralized Identity Foundation formed in May 2017 with a number of blockchain companies and bigger companies like Microsoft who got together to open source their blockchain identity IP in order to create a number of decentralized identity open standards.


Investor Chris Dixon recently published an essay titled Why Decentralization Matters where he argues that some of the most exciting entrepreneurial & development opportunities are in building out a robust decentralized Internet architecture that leverages the blockchain technologies and cryptonetworks. These decentralized systems are a counter balance to the aggregated power of centralized companies like Google & Facebook, who are currently dominating the the online advertising market. Dixon argues that these companies initially collaborated with third-party developers to grow their ecosystem, but they all eventually started to focus more on “extracting data from users and competing with complements over audiences and profits.” In order to drive their advertising-based revenue models, Google and Facebook have pioneered methods of “surveillance capitalism” that tracks information about what users do online to form unified profiles to model behaviors and ultimately match advertisers with potential customers.

VR & AR technologies will provide the opportunity to have access to even more powerful biometric, emotional, embodied movement, and eventually eye tracking data, which has an unknown ethical threshold between what is predicting or controlling user behavior. Be sure to check out Voices of VR episode #520 for a more comprehensive write-up, discussion, and links to other episodes covering the complicated privacy issues that VR and AR introduces.

Holonet developer Elias hopes that one antidote to companies tracking your every movement and action in virtual worlds is build compelling user experiences that leverage decentralized identity technologies to put the control of your identity and data back into your own hands. He’s released a sparse toolkit to start to integrate self-sovereign identity tools within WebVR sites on the open web, and he’s planning on working on integrations with the popular A-Frame WebVR framework.

It’s still early days for where the open immersive web is headed, but High Fidelity is probably the most robust example of what’s possible with open web technologies. Co-founder Philip Rosedale told me that they’re planning on implementing a self-sovereign identity system, and High Fidelity also recently launched a beta of their own High Fidelity Coin cryptocurrency. Elias hopes that Holonet can provides tools for open web developers to create compelling user experiences that leverage the power of the open web with a decentralized user identity. There’s not a lot of compelling experiences just yet, but if Dixon is right, then we’re going to be seeing a lot more decentralized cryptonetworks in the future, and infrastructure tools like self-sovereign identity are going to be crucial ingredient for an open and portable metaverse that’s architected for privacy.

Other decentralized services mentioned in the podcast:

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