Microsoft’s Decentralized Identifier Network (ION) Goes Live on the Bitcoin Network

The new framework for authenticating online identities was launched on the Bitcoin mainnet on Monday. A layer 2 technology, DID is similar to Bitcoin’s scaling solution Lightning network with the exception that instead of payments, it uses the largest blockchain to create digital IDs.

Microsoft’s ION has had contributions from Bitcoin and the likes of BitPay, Casa, ConsenSys, Gemini, and Protocol Labs, as well as from Cloudflare, Spruce, and others. The teams from Transmute and SecureKey, who are building their own DID networks, worked on ION too.

“We are excited to share that [version 1] of ION is complete and has been launched on Bitcoin mainnet,” wrote Microsoft’s Daniel Buchner in a blog post.

“We have deployed an ION node to our production infrastructure and are working together with other companies and organizations to do so as well. ION does not rely on centralized entities, trusted validators, or special protocol tokens. ION answers to no one but you, the community.”

As an open-source project, anyone can download the code and run an ION node and start using the service. For this, ION makes use of an open-source protocol for decentralized identifiers, Sidetree, which is built by the developers of ConsenSys, Transmute, Mattr, and Microsoft.

The ID network, ION, authenticates identity online that may no longer require users to fumble with emails, phone numbers, or passwords for verification.

The project has been in closed beta since June 2020 and is finally open to the public.

To verify that a user owns an ID, ION uses a public key and its associated private key, much like Bitcoin’s transaction layers. These IDs are anchored to the largest network’s blockchain through the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) protocol.

The nodes can process up to 10,000 ID requests in a single transaction. Anyone who wants to run ION can do that either via a remote node or by downloading it directly on a native device. For those who wish to interact with the service but don’t want to download a node or wallet, Microsoft has developed an API for them.

The team said now that version 1 of ION is launched, to bootstrap nodes faster, it will focus on releasing a “light client.” This will also streamline ID resolution by authorizing an ID while the related transaction is still in the mempool, where valid transactions wait to be confirmed by the Bitcoin network.

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