Self-Sovereign Identity in Metaverse
We’ll be hearing a lot about the metaverse in the coming years. Although metaverse initiatives are still in their infancy, they are rapidly scaling up leveraging technologies such as blockchain, augmented reality, virtual reality, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and digital twins to redefine our digital capabilities.
Metaverse initiatives aspire to create digital spaces that users identify as personal; a space that has genuine value in the user’s life, whether as a platform for work, pleasure, engagement, or social contact. In this context, metaverse projects will need to focus on the essential feature of user identity and its authentication. Because the concept of metaverse stands by the idea of multiple digital worlds, identity authentication will be essential to facilitate transcending of users from one world to another, just as it is essential when we move from one city to another or one country to another.
How will identity and authentication play out in metaverse, how important its role will be, and how self-sovereign identity (SSI) technologies support metaverse; this detailed insight will cover all such important questions.
- What is the importance of identity in the metaverse?
- What is self-sovereign identity?
- How do self-sovereign identities apply to metaverse?
- What are the possibilities offered by SSI technologies to metaverse?
What is the importance of identity in the metaverse?
Although not a new concept, the metaverse gained attention after Facebook changed its name to Meta, and Mark Zuckerberg shared a video elaborating on the metaverse they are building. Regarding metaverse, it can be said that we have just scratched the surface, and going ahead, possibilities are endless. So, what will be this metaverse? Will it be like everyone seating at home with a VR headset to access the metaverse? The video presented by Mark Zukerberg does hint at a future like that, but at present, we don’t have a metaverse of that kind.
The metaverse is a concept that extends beyond the current popular paradigms of gametech and social media. It’s more about simulating the physical environment in the digital realm and enabling interactions that are similar to those we have in our daily lives.
Contemporary metaverse projects are mostly gaming platforms. These metaverses are immersive and provide users with a feeling-of-presence through 3D modelling and animation. Functionality-wise also, they present a higher level of engagement with elements like sophisticated UX, community building, in-game asset trading, and play-to-earn opportunities. Metaverse can be decentralized or centralized platforms. This insight focuses on decentralized metaverse, wherein SSIs have a more crucial role to play.
Adoption of the metaverse is not limited to the gaming industry; there are also metaverse projects on other themes, like platforms for buying and trading digital assets, social networking, connecting with friends, experiencing different cultures and lifestyles, and creating tokenized items, starting businesses, and exploring the space. Within the realms of metaverses, users can explore an entirely new set of virtual experiences that are beyond our usual perception of Internet-led encounters. But for the true success of metaverse, one pivotal need is identity authentication. Here is why identity in the metaverse is important.
- Multiple virtual experiences are facilitated by multiple metaverse platforms that exist in siloed spheres. Metaverse allow repleting with avatars, live events, currencies, and big-brand marketing, but, at present, doesn’t facilitate hopping between one metaverse to another; for instance, you cannot hop from Decentraland to Axie Infinity.
- Metaverse platforms are stringently focusing on interoperability because that makes a metaverse project more meaningful and purposeful for the users. Metaverse projects as siloed or fragmented platforms fail to provide users with a cohesive experience in the sense that users need to have multiple avatars or identities respective to each platform. Even the worth of their digital assets is restricted to a single metaverse. They may also need to keep track of several wallets or coins, depending on the systems’ compatibility.
- For a unified experience, users will want to traverse between different worlds(metaverses) seamlessly. While doing so, users will need identity authentication to retain the same avatar and individuality across different platforms.
- An identity system tailored to the metaverse is imperative to ensure that avatars are truly who they claim to be. By preventing impersonators from fabricating identities, verifiable credentials can help regulate identity crises and even transactional frauds.
What is self-sovereign identity?
Verified and interoperable data will be crucial in the metaverse across multiple levels, whether it is identity verification at the time of profile creation or verification at the time of transactions. The addition of verifiable credentials in the metaverse toolbox will help establish trust in avatars, profiles and in-game items. Here, Self-sovereign identities (SSI) will be more desirable than other types of verifiable credentials because SSIs are controlled by users themselves and can be used only on their consent. This help control the unintentional sharing of personal data.
Self-sovereign identities (SSI) are digital identities managed by individuals themselves without relying on any third-party providers. In an SSI system, users generate and manage their unique identities using crypto-wallets. These identities are verified using public-key cryptography anchored on a distributed ledger or blockchain. Self-sovereign identities are verified not by any centralized third party but by public identifiers of a decentralized network. This eliminates the need to maintain personal information on a central database. So, SSI offers the ability to address data security and privacy concerns. This level of decentralized, verified trust will be critical in merging data elements for a cohesive and open metaverse.
In an SSI system, all public identifiers of an identity are stored on a blockchain, which operates in a decentralized manner by many independent nodes or servers. Decentralized management of identities protects against tampering by individuals. With SSIs, users don’t require re-identifying themselves for every action; rather simply pull out their crypto wallet and access their identities. Blockchain cryptography proves that the selective representation points to the right identity.
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How do self-sovereign identities apply to metaverse?
The concept of self-sovereign identities, in general, are applied to identity cards, driver’s licenses, certificates and diplomas. But in the context of the metaverse, self-sovereign verifiable credentials can take the form of vouchers, loyalty cards, coupons, and other membership cards. Self-sovereign identities can assist increase metaverse traffic, improving new user onboarding, and strengthening user loyalty.
SSI system applies to metaverse just as it applies to crypto games, DeFi and NFT galleries. Listed below are some pointers explaining how SSI verifiable credentials can apply to a metaverse ecosystem:
1. SSI verifiable credentials, as non-fungible tokens, can help facilitate interoperable identities.
Decentralized applications are adopting blockchain-native decentralized identity platforms or decentralized identifiers(DIDs) that offer infrastructure to ditch password-centric authentication. But the concept of identity in decentralized applications, including metaverses, are presently siloed within closed systems. In a closed ecosystem, DID means that only one company has access to identity and authentication.
With an eye in the future, decentralized metaverses need DIDs that can go beyond the limitations of one particular company or ecosystem. To break the present barrier of closed and siloed systems, metaverse ecosystems need interoperable identities that can move across ecosystems.
The rise of NFT adoption is pushing the concept of interoperability. NFTs are already being used to uniquely identify and prove authenticity for digital goods by registering them on the blockchain. The utility of NFTs, extended to self-sovereign identities, can facilitate interoperability in identities.
SSI credentials can function similar to NFTs. While NFTs describe what identity has, SSI defines what an identity is. An SSI-powered crypto wallet with cryptographic keys can support the decentralized identifiers within a metaverse.
2. SSI credentials allow the metaverse, as a platform, to have access to customers’ information on customers consent only.
As decentralized platforms, metaverse ecosystems give users control over their data but lacks information about their customers. Users’ anonymity may not be an issue, but uncertainty will be. Users may have their real identities remain anonymous within a metaverse, but they still have to be verified as real persons before entering the metaverse.
Likewise, some validation on user data or activities will get necessary at different levels within the metaverse. Take the example of crypto exchanges, which is being recorded on a blockchain. KYC data is reconciled with a blockchain address, assuming that the wallet belongs to the user doing the KYC, and it is impossible to link the KYCs information entered by a user with its wallet address. This assumption-based approach can lead to errors or fraud. The advantage of decentralization that restricts platforms to access their customers’ data can sometimes have negative consequences.
Self-sovereign identities can solve this problem by cryptographically associating a user’s data with a crypto wallet address. Moreover, with SSIs, the user always has the authority or power to decide when it wants to transfer all or part of the data to the platform. Hence, the protection of users’ data is always ensured.
3. SSIs help develop traffic and business on the metaverse by making it easier to rely on real-world brands without compromising on users’ data security and sovereignty.
For the true success of metaverse, it will be essential at some point or other to relate the actions in a metaverse with real-world events. Here, we are referring to establishing data exchange channels between a decentralized metaverse ecosystem and real-world companies and brands. This linking of a decentralized platform with real-world centralized sources raises the concern of leaking users’ data to outsiders.
Self-sovereign identities can help here because the data carried by SSI verifiable credentials makes it easy to rely on real-world partners or brands. In the real world, partners can share or produce user data to third parties only on users’ consent.
What are the possibilities offered by SSI technologies to metaverse?
The SSI concepts and technologies hold the potential to contribute a lot to decentralized applications, Web3 applications and even metaverse. At present, the main contribution of self-sovereign identities to the metaverse and even another web 3 applications is its ability to associate user data by cryptography with a crypto wallet account.
- A metaverse user with a crypto wallet with SSI functionalities can carry the identity of an avatar. The users can use this wallet to capitalize on their experience in one metaverse ecosystem and obtain advantages in other metaverse games.
- With this same wallet, the user can possibly develop marketing actions with real-world brands and help increase traffic to the metaverse. Linked with SSI functionalities, the crypto wallet can support coupons to recruit new users or can support a brand loyalty card or program.
- SSI powered crypto wallets empower metaverse platforms to run decentralized affiliation programs. For example, an organization of an event in the real world can provide certain metaverse players the chance to win a discount coupon on the purchase of a game’s artefact simply by scanning their SSI-powered crypto wallets. The wallet’s back-end synchronization with the metaverse will transfer the real world coupon to the metaverse platform. Here, the user had the complete authority to decide what data was transferred to who.
- With crypto wallets bearing SSI verifiable credentials, users can conveniently log into multiple metaverse platforms. The verified SSI credentials are transferred to the metaverse application, allowing users secured access to the platform.
- The crypto wallet can be a vessel to store those user data that are available for use in another domain or require more security, or are not easily manageable in a decentralized environment.
The self sovereign identity has evolved precisely through the deployment of blockchain technologies in identity data. SSI has the potential to carry the customer’s data of web3 applications and metaverse and make that data functional in a way that retains user sovereignty and promotes security,
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