Mapping the Identity Space
A deep dive into understanding the landscape
Over the two years I’ve spent virtually all of my waking hours thinking about on-chain identity and how to make it a reality. However what I didn’t realise in the process is that to most people in the crypto space think on-chain identity is more of a meme/dream than anything tangible. There’s very little understanding and knowledge of how the space works, who are the players in it and a framework for how to think about it conceptually.
Hence, I thought that content that maps it all out and explains how it works would be the most helpful to educate on the space and the various components of it.
I spent some time assembling all the various companies in the space and assigning categories to where they all belong. If you think I’m missing anyone or anything please don’t hesitate to reach out — this is the first iteration and I’m bound to miss some projects out.
This is the most common category you hear about when you hear about on-chain identity. The way that I define this category is that badges/achievements are typically tokens/NFTs that you earn from completing actions that you’ve taken on-chain or off-chain. The following startups I’d classify in this category:
Sismo - is a modular Attestations Protocol focused on decentralization, privacy and usability. It issues attestations under the form of Badges (Non-Transferrable Token/SBT). The protocol is live on Polygon and you can mint badges on their app.
POAP - POAP is a protocol for the preservation of memories as digital records, minted as non-fungible tokens on the blockchain under the ERC-721 standard.
Orange Protocol - Orange is a reputation and trust minting protocol that aggregates data and Web3 reputation models to generate comprehensive reputation proofs in the form of Verifiable Credentials and NFTs.
Noox - Noox is a platform where you can mint your on-chain achievements as Soulbound NFTs
Relative to badges/achievements, credentials/attestations typically require a 3rd party entity to verify a fact about yourself. This could be anywhere from proving you’re a real human via KYC details to proving that you’re a certified software engineer. There’s a lot of focus in the credentialing area since it typically offers the most signal about addresses. Each of the startups working in this space are taking different angles to this problem:
Galxe - Galxe is a Web3 credential data network enabling brands and developers to engage communities and build robust products in Web3.
BrightID - is a decentralized, open-source social identity network that allows people to prove to applications that they aren’t using multiple accounts.
Gateway - is a Web3 credential network that create attestations for your work and your abilities, building your Web3 native resume.
Zorro - is a Web3 citizenship, a way for people to prove that they're a unique person so they can obtain democratic DAO voting rights and other benefits.
Verite - comprises of data models, protocol recipes, and open source software that links identity proofs to crypto finance experiences.
Krebit - Krebit serves as a reputation scoring platform, providing fully decentralized, community-verified credentials.
The best definition of the profile category is the set of products that aggregate everything they can find out about your address and display it in a single place with a pleasant user interface. The utility of this interface can vary depending on the purpose of the profile in the context it is displayed in. Profiles can also act as aggregators and create a meta-utility of brining everything together in one place. Gitcoin Passport is one example of this. Listed below are the different profile plays:
Gitcoin Paspport - is a digital ID using verifiable credentials to confirm identity authentications from across the internet without storing personally identifiable information.
Phi - visualising on-chain identity and creating a metaverse land system that is based on universal web3 building blocks, such as ENS domains and wallet activity.
Probably one of the more popular categories in recent months, the social category is about creating social media networks/platforms that are based around your address as the basis for your identity. De-platforming of creators has prompted many people to reconsider web2 social networks. While still a small category, one of the more exciting ones for sure!
Lens Protocol - Lens Protocol is a composable and decentralized social graph made for builders.
Farcaster - Farcaster is a sufficiently decentralized social network. It is an open protocol that can support many clients, just like email.
Orbis - is a set of social data models combined with decentralized infrastructure with an advanced SDK and flexible modules to enable buildig fully composable, social experiences.
Disco - is a profile system and data backpack. Your profile shows social media acounts and web3 credentials.
Replacing the dreaded email address/password sign up/in flow is probably one of the largest benefits crypto offers in changing the fundamental structure of the internet. These category of startups help with everything with making Single-Sign-On authentication and the infrastructure around it accessible.
Spruce - is a toolkit for decentralized Identity, made up of their DIDkit, Rabase, Keylink and Credible enabling signing, sharing, and verifying trusted information.
ENS - The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a distributed, open, and extensible naming system based on the Ethereum blockchain.
PolygonID - is a blockchain-native identity system with programmable privacy. They offer on-chain verification and permissionless attestation.
Scoring & Attribution
Based on my experience, this is a technically harder category to execute on but opens the design space of the types of applications possible. Scoring & attribution is about running continuous computation over large data sets to assign users with a score or attribute about their wallet. Compared to badges and achievements, which are static, this category is dynamic and has more business use cases. An example of attribution is knowing where your users come from and how much they’re worth to you.
ARCx - A reputation-based decentralized credit market for DeFi. Through the use of the DeFi Credit Score users can borrow up to 100% LTV ratios on ETH collateral.
Degen Score - is a scoring protocol that scores users based off of their on-chain history.
Spectral - A credit scoring protocol that uses on-chain transaction data to calculate your credit worthiness.
Quests & User Acquisition
Barring sybil issues, quests represent an opportunity for crypto-native user acquisition channels to be opened up. Acquiring users based on certain aspects of their on-chain reputation (badges, credentials and/or scores). We’ve seen early signs of success in this space however the largest challenge that remains is acquiring meaningful users and retaining them. Liquidity mining and airdrops are very related to this category since they aim to achieve the same thing despite their differences.
Layer3 - is a protocol that hosts quests in the form of bounties, these bounties are Web3 tasks such as sending tokens on polygon or even lending and borrowing.
Rabbit Hole - complete Web3 tasks to earn rewards, protocols work with RabbitHole to distribute their tokens to users who have proven value.
DAOs and contributors face the same issues as traditional organisations, albeit in a different context. How do I find people to employ and how do I ensure that they’re good (+ stay that way). The startups that focus on identity in this space fundamentally optimise around answering these two questions or derivatives of of them.
Coordinape - is a scalable & permissionless platform for decentralized compensation built for the needs of DAOs
Source Cred - is a DAO & open-source community tool to measure & reward value creation.
With a lot of these identity plays, storage is a critical component due to the richness of the information available. Self sovereignty around data and decentralisation are two big themes. This is a category that is also very challenging technically as it combines the issues of consensus with larger data sets. There’s a few approaches to this problem that are actively being worked on and I’m personally excited for.
Cyber Connect - is a decentralized social graph protocol that returns data ownership back to users and helps devs build web3 social apps.
Spring - Spring Labs helps store and share sensitive data without revealing any personally identifiable information (PII) with their patented, ultra secure cryptography and tokenization solutions.
Verida - is a multi-chain protocol for interoperable database storage and messaging built on decentralized identity where personal data is owned and controlled by users.
Ceramic - Ceramic is a decentralized data network that brings unlimited data composability to Web3 applications.
As you can see, the on-chain identity and reputation space is buzzing with activity with many approaches to solve many different problems. This article simply outlines what each category is and an explanation of them. In future articles I’ll be going deeper into how these categories are composable with each other and what value they bring to end users when they do combine as lego blocks. However, until then feel free to ask any questions about the categories or what any of the startups here do :)
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