Exploring the evolution of self-sovereign data and Web 3.0 identity solutions.
Earlier this month, Drummond Reed was one of the panelists at CoinDesk’s 2022 Consensus conference discussing “The Promise of Self-Sovereign Data and Web 3.0 Identity Solutions: Real or Mirage?” Reed, who heads Digital Trust Services for Avast, spoke about the evolution of these solutions and — like his fellow panelists — tried to frame Web 3.0 in terms of this perspective.
Joe Cutler from Perkins Coie moderated the session and began things by talking about how Web 3.0 combines both data and its ownership and attempts to return some of the control of our data back to us, the users. “We are in the process of flipping who has control over your stuff,” he said. “And we are doing it on a planetary scale, and it could be very disruptive to existing technologies, especially when it is time to bind both the physical and virtual worlds together.”
Richard Widmann, a strategy lead for Google Cloud, agreed: “Certainly, any walled garden — meaning proprietary technology collection — is right now ripe for disruption, but to disrupt something means you have to provide something that isn’t already available.” Reed posited that this new capability was a digital identity wallet — a way to manage your Web 3.0 identity keys and credentials. “Just because you have a digital wallet, managing these keys and credentials and making sure you have a good way to recover won’t easy.” Tobias Batton, CEO of ExPopulus, agreed: “There is a big challenge for people to create their own digital wallets.” Reed pointed out that individual digital wallets are going to be much widely distributed than the HTTPS keys used for website security today. “Giving individual users the same ability to use keys that websites have today will be a tipping point for Web 3.0,” he said.
Certainly, there is a wide range of opinion on Web 3.0: Cutler mentioned how Elon Musk sees this is more marketing hype than reality. Notably, there is a lot of money being pouring into Web 3.0 — Cutler said, “Venture capitalists have invested $12.75B in 460 different blockchain projects this past year, up from $2.75B in investments during 2020”. Widman said that “With Web 3.0, you have to get to a marketplace of ideas where they can win on their merits,” before the concept will gain traction.
The panel discussed how SSI and digital identity wallets are gaining traction. Reed mentioned that government agencies already understand Web 3.0 and that the EU is working on making a digital wallet available for all EU citizens by end of 2023. Avast is also working to provide new solutions for healthcare patient identities that are more secure and to allow patients more control over how their health data is shared. “This is where we need national legislation,” he said. “Trust is not primarily a technical problem — it is a human problem and it is our policies that take the longest time to change.”
Several of the panelists drew analogies with earlier technology to illustrate how they felt about the reality of Web 3.0. “We haven’t invented the equivalent of the PC or the browser for Web 3.0 yet,” said Cutler. Reed agreed, saying, “We are right on the verge of going from Windows 3.0 — which was promising but not really usable — to Windows 3.1 — which changed the world.” Reed and Batton also think that having a “portable” digital identity as part of a consumer-grade wallet in the gaming world — where you can move your reputation intact across a series of games — will potentially transform the gaming industry.
Also on the panel was Lisa Seacat DeLuca, who is now Director of Product and Engineering for Unstoppable Domains. Her company is selling domains ready for the world of NFTs. In a previous career, she worked for IBM and was a prolific inventor. Her view was that the tipping point will be to make Web 3.0 simple, human readable, and easily sharable, such as having your real name listed on sites such as blockchain.com instead of publishing a long wallet address that could be prone to errors. “I want everything to live on the blockchain, eliminate all middlemen. Plus, it doesn’t help that we have all this bad public relations of crypto being stolen and other negative stories.”
Batton concured, saying that, “Things with Web 3.0 are still a bit scary, because people don’t have the training to implement the various protocols properly.” Still there is much to like about Web 3.0, and Cutler points out that “The metaverse could be the appropriate delivery vehicle for more consumer-friendly crypto, like NFTs.”