DIF Face to Face Jan 2021 Highlights

Come for the summaries, stay for the clip reel, bookmark for the links!

· 6 min read

Come for the summaries, stay for the clip reel, bookmark for the links!

DIF held its semiannual “Face-to-Face” community’ event this week, and man what an event it was! For obvious reasons, it was virtual for the second time, and for the first time, it spanned both Zoom and the interactive social platform gather.town, giving a more intimate atmosphere and allowing for more organic networking than often happens at “tele-conferences.” If you missed it in part or in full, you’ll find below summaries and recordings of the main events.

1# Opening remarks, and an update on DIF-OIDF Collaboration

Executive Director Rouven Heck got us started on a warm and welcoming note, bringing the largely unfamiliar audience up to date on DIF’s member-driven nature and its goals for 2021. These include a more engaged membership, more co-development at various scales, and more work items reaching stable specifications and publicly going from community incubation to commercial production.

Then, presenting from Tokyo (actually a little before the opening remarks, as is our asynchronous way here at DIF) Kristina Yasuda (Microsoft, Mydata) gave an update on her new role as the liaison between DIF and the OpenID Foundation. Joined by DID Authentication WG chair Oliver Terbu (Consensys Mesh), Kristina gave an overview not only of the ongoing SIOP work in the AB/Connect WG at OIDF, but also other identity-related efforts that might be of interest to DIF members, including the MODRNA and KYC-IDA working groups.

2# Interoperability and DIDComm working group

The “main stage” working group presentations started with the Interoperability Working Group, which has taken a break from its test-harness/test-suite role under its new chairs to concentrate on educational materials that support broader interoperability among verifiable credential protocols… and a better understanding of those protocols among decision-makers on the business side of the decentralized-identity business.

The chairs (Pam, Kaliya, and Juan) gave an overview of the last 6 months of their group, its publications and maps, and other products, an overview of their invited guests (and handy recordings), as well as the “parking lot” for future discussion/research topics for Q1.

The DID Communications Working Group, energetically presented by Chair Sam Curren (Indicio, Mattr), got the ball rolling with a swift and accessible overview of the group’s rapid progress from ambitious roadmap to the sophisticated draft specification since the last conference. In addition to the specification reaching its final rounds of editorial clean-up, many “nice to have” protocols that were put out of scope while the group focused on the specification alignment process (specifically a Bluetooth implementation and an NFC implementation) have spun out into parallel work items, which are already underway. In other DIDComm news, DIF member Jolocom announced this week a DIDComm v2 sample implementation in Rust, built for the company’s [otherwise completely non-Aries!] wallet. It seems 2021 will be the year of DIDComm!

3# Claims and Credentials, Presentation Exchange, and Sidetree

The Claims and Credentials group’s co-chair Wayne Chang (Spruce Systems) took a quick stroll through the new work item initiation process (currently being extended to other WGs DIF-wide) and the other major work items: the paused Credential Taxonomy, the work item formerly known as Credential Manifest, the new VC Marketplace.

DIF’s first Executive Director, Daniel Bucher (Microsoft Research), gave a quick overview of the Presentation Exchange spec, an ambitious specification for scaffolding credential requests and presentations between unfamiliar systems. After months of collaboration with core architects of the Aries ecosystem from DIF member Evernym, the presentation and request mechanics have been aligned with the upcoming iteration of the relevant Aries “Present Proof” RFCs, making this a major interoperability win that bridges the largest production ecosystems the decentralized identity space has yet seen. The specification is in the very home stretch of reaching 1.0 status and in the last weeks of a period of public comment, so give it a read and leave some issues soon if you have any!

Daniel also presented the other specification he has been tirelessly driving for even longer than the Presentation Exchange work item at Claims and Credentials — the Sidetree specification, which reached v1.0 this week. In this quick, extemporaneous video, Daniel runs through some common misconceptions and relates the overarching Sidetree Layer-2 architecture to Microsoft’s specific Ion implementation, the work of DIF members SecureKey on a Hyperledger Fabric implementation, DIF members Transmute’s Ethereum implementation, and even the affinities with DIF’s next working group to spin out of I&D, KERI.

4# Secure Data Storage WG, Identifiers and Discovery WG, and KERI

From potentially universal specifications for presenting credentials, we jumped straight to potentially universal specifications for storing credentials and other confidential data. The Secure Data Storage working group co-chair Dmitry Zangadulin (Digital Bazaar) talked about the group’s first and flagship specification, Confidential Storage, which is designing a modular and DID-controlled storage protocol that would allow so-called “encrypted data vaults” (with or without a coupled authorization server called an “identity hub”) to create a portable, secure, redundant, and replicable storage layer for the decentralized identity world. In addition to bringing the audience up to speed on the current status of the specification work and prototyping, the group also gave a quick overview of the many guest presentations since the last F2F, spanning the cutting edge of decentralized storage and next-generation database projects.


Identifiers and Discovery WG, the oldest continuously-active group at DIF, gave a detailed overview of its impressive roster of donations, work items, and updates since the last F2F. Chair Markus Sabadello (DanubeTech) ran through this long list. These include research on WebID and key recovery/roll-over systems, the evolving WebID pre-standard being discussed in some browser groups of W3C, new common libraries in .NET and Rust. Markus also explained to those new to the space the group’s broader mission of supporting the DID ecosystem and DID methods in particular as they experiment with decentralized governance and infrastructure. (Of particular interest to close watchers of the space was his update about the Universal Resolver project offering up very high-level analytics (privacy-preserving, of course!) about resolution activity on the public “testnet” service.)

Markus’ co-chair, Sam Smith (ProSapien, Digital Trust Ventures) talked about his passion-project, soon to become its own DIF WG: Key Event Receipt Infrastructure, or “KERI.” KERI offers a new way of thinking of the “layers” of decentralized identity infrastructure, focusing doggedly on the “bottom half” of the concerns of a traditional DID method and separating itself entirely from the “top half,” including method-specific namespacing and all [clear-text] data. After months of honing the skill, Sam impressively conveys a considerable portion of the core concepts in this complex and nuanced system in a record-setting fifteen minutes!

5# Special Interest Groups: Product Managers, Banking and Finance, and Healthcare

Transmute’s Margo Johnson, co-chair of the Product Managers’ community of practice, gave a quick overview of their very generative and generous non-technical working group. In addition to producing a useful open-source corpus of discussion notes, presentations, and UX blotters, and the like, the group is also an important watering hole for product and user interface design thinking, covering such topics as accessibility, ethics, and adoption strategies, for products but also for new concepts of software (and better user interface patterns) more generally.

Co-chairs Paul Dunphy (OneSpan) and Isaac Patka (Bloom) gave a fascinating overview of the activity of their fast-moving and diligent Banking and Finance open group. Paul introduces the philosophy, focus, and working methods of the group, then Isaac overviews the invited guests to date. In addition to hearing reports from SSI researchers in the financial services space, the group is also building out a wiki of relevant regulatory events in the space, as well as opportunities in the space like the UK’s financial regulatory sandbox, the subject of their next meeting with Evernym’s Andy Tobin.

Interim Chair Juan Caballero (LearningProof) gave a brief overview of the discussion group’s intentions and format. These could respectively be summarized as exploring the opportunities and access points for innovations in the healthcare space, and a recorded invited-guest series where researchers from the space offer “reverse pitches” about pain points and problems that decentralized identity might be uniquely suited to solve. As with all of DIF’s special-interest groups, the group is open to DIF non-members and interested parties can reach the chairs through the group’s repository, where they can also find notes and recordings of all guests to date.

Stay Tuned and Get Involved

As you can see, the DIF community has grown considerably since the last F2F, and keeps expanding into new terrains and modalities. If you work in the decentralized identity space or are trying to move your work into it, please consider joining the foundation, joining one of these working groups and special-interest groups, or even bringing a future project into DIF as a work item. 
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