What is decentralized identity in ten words or fewer?

“Decentralized identity creates verifiable data.”

“Decentralized identity puts you in control of your digital identity.”

“Decentralized identity creates trusted digital relationships.”

All true. And if you understand what decentralized identity is, you’ll likely agree that these are some of the shortest possible explanations of the technology and its value. You might offer variations of your own—you might emphasize the ability to preserve privacy—and you may concur with our belief that the identity in decentralized identity is more than just another digital ID card, it’s about the data that can be associated with any person, entity, or thing.

But would any of these statements provide a reader, who may or may not have heard of the term decentralized identity (but only heard), with a mental picture of what it does and how it works?


All new technologies face this explanatory challenge. They must be talked about and understood to be widely adopted and used in a way that doesn’t involve talking about or understanding how they work. How many of the planet’s five billion-plus users of the internet know what TCP/IP is and how it works? They don’t need to. But scroll back to the 1970s and early 80s, and you could not have discussed the internet without talking about TCP/IP.

We are at an inflection point with decentralized identity. It is increasingly being deployed because it is a powerful engine of digital transformation. But what is the minimal viable explanation that provides maximal understanding? What concepts and terms need to be kept in so as to leave no critical gaps in someone’s mental picture of how it works? And what should be left out because it the reader will likely not be able to fit into that picture without breaking understanding?

“A Beginner’s Guide to Decentralized Identity and Verifiable Data” is our latest attempt to solve this challenge. It’s relatively short but comprehensive. It avoids technicalities but explains what makes the technology innovative and powerful. We hope those who are coming to this technology for the first (or second) time, find this helpful. We hope those in the know find new and useful ways to explain how it works. Enjoy.