Worldcoin & the Internet’s missing Identity Layer

AI, Identity and Crypto – the perfect mix to cause the digital world to buzz with much more than excitement with the launch of Worldcoin by none other than Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. 

From mainstream media to LinkedIn posts, it’s not just Worldcoin hitting the headlines of popular businesses and technical media, it’s the introduction of WorldID which is forcing many heads to turn. The announcement brought many aspects to the forefront of discussions: 

Yet another Cryptocurrency. Worldcoin (WLD) is a cryptocurrency or rather an ERC-20 (Ethereum Request for Comments – number 20) token on Ethereum. In fact, Worldcoin is launched on an L2 (Layer 2) chain on Ethereum using the Optimism stack. As per CoinMarketCap – there are approx. 22,932 Cryptocurrencies available (March 2023). Does the world need any more?

UBI (Universal Basic Income).

Worldcoin is stepping into UBI in the form of “grants” through the ERC-20 tokens, the initial grant – the “Genesis Grant” is of 25 WLD. Identity, not just Digital Identity – a homogeneous Identity – which bridges the Organic and Digital Identity into a privacy-preserving singularity will be critical for UBI.


Worldcoin uses ZKP (Zero Knowledge Proof) / ZK-SNARKs (Zero-Knowledge – Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge), where one party can provide proof of the possession or knowledge of a secret without revealing the secret, as introduced in the paper (Succinct Non-Interactive Zero Knowledge for a von Neumann Architecture (iacr.org)) in 2012 by Nir Bitansky, Ran Canetti, Alessandro Chiesa, and Eran Tromer. Worldcoin uses the “Semaphore” protocol for ZKP. 

The Orb generates a signature/code after the iris scan (actually, it captures more than just the iris) for verification and uses the signature/code only and deletes the image captured for the verification if the user does not tick the “Data Custody” option [confusingly presented as an optional “Help Improve Worldcoin” option while verifying]. The important thing to note is that – ZKP relies on Cryptography to achieve this privacy preservation.

Biometrics and open source hardware.

The most talked about element around Worldcoin is the ball-shaped hardware “Orb”. Beyond the hype of YAG (Yet Another Gadget) and the controversies of what can and will happen with the data captured during the iris scans, it is interesting that the hardware specification of the Orb is open-sourced. It is important to note that reliance on hardware is an important aspect of Worldcoin, in fact for WorldID to be precise.

Decentralisation and Centralisation.

Just using a Blockchain like Ethereum does not make the approach decentralised: you need to queue up in specific locations like Luke Street in London to get verified using the Orb – that’s centralisation, at least for now. Worldcoin: can you please make up your mind – decentralisation or centralisation?

AI, of course.

Or rather the notions of elements of differentiating humans from AI – “Proof of Personhood”: This is the core of Worldcoin and WorldID, although it is not the first attempt to do the same, , Proof of Humanity, Circles UBI | Wallet, BrightID are some of the other attempts. 

For me, the most interesting aspect of the thrill around Worldcoin is not Worldcoin itself, rather it’s the introduction of the WorldID (I may be biased though, being a passionate Mobile Identity enthusiast). “Proof of Personhood” is integral to WorldID. 

Breaking through the inertia, we need to think, “Why do we even need ‘Proof of Personhood’?”. The question is much more fundamental than just positioning it against a simplistic narrative of differentiating humans from AI bots. 

It has to do with Identity – Digital Identity to be precise. Let’s face it: the Internet was created without an Identity layer; the Internet was designed to identify computers, not people (unfortunately, we humans do not have IP addresses as part of our biological existence). 

The other interesting aspect in the mix of things brought in by Worldcoin is the reliance on Cryptography at the core (for ZKP – Zero Knowledge Proof) and of course the positioning at the centre stage – of the specialised hardware – the Orb. 

Sounds familiar? Not yet? Let me remind you: Mobile Authentication has been using hardware – SIM as the critical hardware asset from mobile operators, and yes, cryptography has been at the core of it since 1991. 

The SIM and the cryptography within it were designed primarily for Identity (reminder: the “I” in SIM stands for Identity, even in eSIM – it’s the same). 

SAFr Auth – a smarter Mobile Authentication service with context awareness and packed with additional risk mitigation signals for added protection and assurance, is already providing elements of the missing Identity layer of the Internet and humanising it as well by balancing convenience and security. 

Let’s make the world a SAFr place, together.

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