Even if you’ve been in the blockchain space for a while now, you may not be aware of the concepts of Decentralized identifiers and Decentralized Web nodes. Now, you are probably wondering why of all things in the decentralization and blockchain sectors, we’re discussing only these two, and how these are interlinked. Let’s put some work into getting a clear picture of them and their relationship.
As individuals and organizations, many of us use globally unique identifiers for various purposes. They serve as communication addresses such as telephone numbers, email addresses, and usernames on social media and also as ID numbers on passports, driver’s licenses, PAN number, Aadhar numbers, health insurance, etc., and also as product identifiers such as serial numbers, barcodes, and RFIDs. URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers) are used for resources on the web, and each web page you access in a browser on the internet has a globally unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator).
The vast majority of these globally unique identifiers and regional IDs are not under our control as they are issued by external authorities and government bodies that decide who or what they refer to and when they can be revoked. Also, they are useful only in certain areas and recognized only by issued bodies or their affiliates, which are not our choosing where our data is stored and used. They might disappear or cease to be valid with the failure of an organization in terms of security and management. In many cases, they can be fraudulently replicated and asserted by a malicious third party, more commonly known as “identity theft.”
Here comes the savior and identifier for all uses on the web. That is Decentralized Identifiers- in short, we call it DIDs. DIDs defined in this specification are a new type of globally unique identifier. They are designed to enable individuals and organizations to generate their identifiers using systems they trust. These new identifiers enable entities to prove control over them by authenticating using cryptographic proofs such as digital signatures.
A basic introduction is enough to understand identifiers, right? So now let’s get a foot into web nodes. Most digital activities between people, organizations, devices and other entities require the exchange of messages and data. For entities to exchange messages and data for a credential, app, or service flow, they need an interface to store, discover, and fetch data related to the flows and experiences they are participating in. So generally, these operations are done on companies’ centralized servers or in centralized cloud services.
Due to these centralized servers, data breaches are high, and the authority to monitor our data is in their hands. So, they can do whatever they want with our data, which are commonly sold to marketing companies for targeting advertisements. Here comes the modern saying, “privacy is a myth in the internet world.” The savior of our data and for safe data transfer, Decentralized Web Nodes come into play. A Decentralized Web Node (DWN) is a data storage and message relay mechanism entities can use to locate public or private permissioned data related to a given Decentralized Identifier (DID). Decentralized Web Nodes are a mesh-like datastore construction that enables an entity to operate multiple nodes that sync to the same state across one another, enabling the owner entity to secure, manage, and transact their data with others without reliance on location or provider-specific infrastructure, interfaces, or routing mechanisms.
This basic introduction of web nodes and identifiers gives their definitions, their flaws, and misuse, and the solution for those is the decentralization of identifiers and web nodes. Let’s dive into the technical details of how these are constructed to eliminate the flaws.
Decentralized Identifiers (DID)
Basic Structure of DID
A DID is a simple text string consisting of three parts :
1 . the DID URI scheme identifier
2 . the identifier for the DID method
3 . the DID method-specific identifier.
DIDs are resolvable to DID documents. A DID URL extends the syntax of a basic Decentralized Identifier to incorporate other standard URI components such as path, query, and fragment to locate a particular resource – for example, a cryptographic public key inside a DID document or a resource external to the DID document.
1. DID Subjects
The subject of Decentralized Identifier is, by definition, the entity identified by the DID. It might be a DID controller, person, group, organization, thing, or concept.
2. DID Controllers
The controller of DID is the entity that has the capability – as defined by the DID method – to make changes to Decentralized Identifier documents. This capability is typically asserted by controlling a set of cryptographic keys used by software acting on behalf of the controller.
3. DID Documents
DID documents contain information associated with the Decentralized Identifier. They express verification methods, such as cryptographic public keys and services relevant to interactions with the DID subject.
4. DID Methods
DID methods are the mechanism by which a particular type of DID and its associated Decentralized Identifier documents are created, resolved, updated, and deactivated.
DID Resolvers and DID Resolution
A DID resolver is a system component that takes a Decentralized Identifier as input and produces a conforming DID document as output. This process is called DID resolution.
Decentralized identifiers (DID) are a new identifier that enables verifiable, Decentralized Digital Identity. A DID refer to any subject (e.g., a person, organization, thing, data model, abstract entity, etc.) as determined by the controller of the DID. In contrast to typical identifiers, DIDs have been designed to be decoupled from centralized registries and identity providers. Specifically, while other parties might be used to help discover information related to a DID, the design enables the controller of a DID to prove authority over it without requiring permission from any other party. DIDs are URIs that associate a DID subject with a DID document allowing trustable interactions associated with that subject.
Each DID document can express cryptographic material, verification methods, or services, which provides a set of mechanisms enabling a DID controller to prove control of the DID. Services enable trusted interactions associated with the DID subject.
Things that are possible with Decentralized Identifiers are decentralization, control over data, privacy, security, discoverability, interoperability, portability, simplicity, and extensibility.
Decentralized Web Nodes
A Decentralized Web Node (DWN) is a data storage and message relay mechanism entities can use to locate public or private permissioned data related to a given Decentralized Identifier (DID). Decentralized Web Nodes are a mesh-like datastore construction that enables an entity to operate multiple nodes that sync to the same state across one another, enabling the owning entity to secure, manage and transact their data with others without reliance on location or provider-specific infrastructure, interfaces, or routing mechanisms.
The process of DIDs and their verifications and the operations like messaging and data transfer is done on Decentralized Web Nodes. Let’s take an example: Alice and Bob are messaging on Decentralized Web Node (DWN).
The steps in how the messaging communication is done on DWN through DIDs:
- Alice resolves Bob’s DID through DID resolver on DWN.
- After the resolution is complete, Alice sends a message to Bob’s Node through Alice’s Node.
- Bob’s Node relays Alice’s message.
- Bob resolves Alice’s DID through the DID resolver to know the sender.
- Bob sends a response to Alice’s Node.
- Alice’s Node relays Bob’s response.
This is how the communication is done, or data transfer safely in DWNs with the help of DIDs. And you are the sole owner of your data that you only can control until you give permissions to other entities.
We do hope this information has helped you understand Decentralized Identifiers and Decentralised Web Nodes. For further knowledge on blockchains and web3 technologies, do give our blog a visit!
Author is a tech student who explores web3 enthusiastically. (Twitter: @vamsikrishnaut1)
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