Tech powerhouse Microsoft announced its latest contribution the Decentralized Identity Foundation on May 13th, and it was a big one: the enterprise released a preview of its new ION tool, a decentralized identity (DID) service built on top of the Bitcoin network.
Alex Simons, VP of Program Management, Microsoft Identity Division, noted that the tool, which has been characterized by its builders as “open public infrastructure,” had achieved the performance capabilities necessary to power worldwide usage:
“Today, we’re announcing an early preview of a Sidetree-based DID network, called ION (Identity Overlay Network) which runs atop the Bitcoin blockchain based on an emerging set of open standards that we’ve developed working with many of our partners in the Decentralized Identity Foundation. This approach greatly improves the throughput of DID systems to achieve tens-of-thousands of operations per second.”
And why DID, then? For the sake of user empowerment, particularly with regard to privacy. Centralized identity mechanisms (e.g. account logins) have proven fragmentary, meaning users have had to trust their login info with disparate sources — some easier to compromise than others.
I'm excited to share with you an early look at our work on a scalable, open src, permissionless Layer 2 network for Decentralized Identifiers that runs atop Bitcoin, developed and supported by Microsoft as an open public infrastructure for all – meet ION: https://t.co/9TOl8oyEVB
— Daniel Ƀrrr (@csuwildcat) May 13, 2019
Yet ION is a developing stab toward leveraging encryption and Bitcoin to give users secure and self-owned ID, Simons said:
“We believe every person needs a decentralized, digital identity they own and control, backed by self-owned identifiers that enable secure, privacy preserving interactions. This self-owned identity must seamlessly integrate into their lives and put them at the center of everything they do in the digital world.”
For its part, Microsoft has been making increasing overtures to the realm of decentralized identity — which Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin recently told Elon Musk was solvable by blockchain tech — as of late. The company joined the ID2020 initiative last year, an effort focused on making blockchain-based ID systems a reality.
Microsoft Increasingly Active in Crypto Space
Earlier this month, Microsoft partnered with banking giant JP Morgan on a deal that saw Morgan’s private fork of Ethereum, Quorum, as the first blockchain project available to build on via the Azure Blockchain Service, which Microsoft launched on May 2nd.
That collaboration will make it easier for enterprise clients to build apps with Quorum. Likewise, on May 6th, Microsoft announced it was releasing a preview of an Ethereum development suite — the Azure Blockchain Development Kit for Ethereum — which offered a selection of relevant tools for builders.
In April, Microsoft sponsored the Ethereal Virtual Hackathon, which saw hackers and entrepreneurs racing to build Ethereum-based projects for prizes. The company also joined the Token Taxonomy Initiative, which is seeking to coordinate tokenization standards across multiple public blockchain projects.
“If you’ll look closely, you can see the ‘Microsoft’ logo right next to the words “2500 DAI, we want developers to look at that and say, ‘What’s Dai?’ What’s that about?”????
– Yorke Rhodes, Principal for Msft Blockchain on teaming up w/ Gitcoin for the Ethereal Virtual Hackathon
— sassal.eth ???????? (@sassal0x) May 13, 2019
The venture capital wing of Microsoft, M12, also participated in a $182 million USD funding round for the high-profile forthcoming crypto exchange and futures platform, Bakkt, earlier this year.
Taken altogether, the array of moves indicates Microsoft is doing much more than just its homework on the cryptoeconomy — the company is taking an active role in the space and positioning itself as an emissary to welcome other major institutions and enterprise into the crypto fold.
A Big Day for Big Names in Crypto
Microsoft’s release of its ION preview was just one of a few big adoption headlines hitting the cryptoverse on May 13th.
One such headline centered around the virtual marketplace eBay, as ads saying “Virtual currency. It’s happening on eBay” appeared on the premises of the Consensus conference during the event’s first day.
Another thread that hit the fore on the 13th was a partnership between the crypto exchange Gemini and crypto network Flexa in a deal that will see major retailers like Nordstrom and GameStop accepting digital assets as a payments option going forward. Not bad for a Monday, right?