Microsoft Launches Decentralized Identity Tool on Bitcoin Blockchain

Microsoft is launching the first decentralized infrastructure implementation by a major tech company that is built directly on the bitcoin blockchain.

The open source project, called Ion, deals with the underlying mechanics of how networks talk to each other. For example, if you log onto Airbnb using Facebook, a protocol deals with the software that sends the personal information from your social profile to that external service provider. In this case, Ion handles the decentralized identifiers, which control the ability to prove you own the keys to this data.

Christopher Allen, a crypto veteran and the co-founder of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) working group for decentralized identity (DID) solutions, told CoinDesk that Microsoft’s move could impact the entire tech industry.

“A lot of enterprise infrastructures use Microsoft products,” Allen said. “So if they integrate this into any of their infrastructure products, they’ll have access to DID.”

Indeed, Yorke Rhodes, a program manager on Microsoft’s blockchain engineering team, told CoinDesk that Microsoft’s team has been working for a year on a key signing and validation software that relies on public networks, like bitcoin or ethereum, yet can handle far greater throughput than the underlying blockchain itself.

Underscoring the fact that Microsoft was a founding member of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, Rhodes said:

“There are systems that we have at Microsoft that give you permissions in an enterprise context, a product called Active Directory, that we think need to be able to recognize these DIDs as well.”

He added such infrastructure products and services related to Azure are among the Microsoft’s most popular offerings. This tiny piece in a giant machine, then, could have far-reaching impacts.

Meanwhile, an anonymous source with knowledge of Microsoft’s project told CoinDesk that Ion will shift from using bitcoin’s testnet to the bitcoin mainnet later this year. As such, any tech-savvy observer could run a node and contribute to this project.

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