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Verifiable Credentials: A brief history


For people looking to skip all the drama and see how VCs work, please jump here. If not, let me tell you the story of...


VCs and me


Around Jan 2021, while the world was learning zoom etiquettes and living with foggy specs over masks, I was exposed to the world of VCs. Not (evil?) Venture Capitals, but Verifiable Credentials.


As usual, I started by consulting my trusted friend Wikipedia, and found...


"Verifiable credentials (VCs) are an open standard for digital credentials. They can represent information found in physical credentials, such as a passport or a license, as well as new things that have no physical equivalent, such as ownership of a bank account."


Sounded amazing! And quite unnecessary. I was managing quite fine with a JPEG of my passport page, thank you. But I was in discussions for a role at a firm that deals with VCs (Affinidi), so I needed to find out more.


The 5 stages of research


I found a couple of other links that were more idiot-proof to my liking, especially the one from Affinidi. As a skeptic with a byte sized ego, I went through the 5 stages of grief while conducting my research

Looking back, I realize that I could / should do my bit to guide other lost souls who embark on a similar journey. So here's my story, starting with...


Denial: No one cares about VCs!


I'd never heard of VCs, neither had any of my friends. Given the elite circles I move in, I was inclined to dismiss as irrelevant.



(Source: https://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes)


But I decided to give it a chance.


Turns out the idea of Verifiable Credentials IS relatively recent (ha!) - it was recommended by this organization called W3C in Nov 2019 in the form of a geek-friendly data model. The recommendation was sufficiently long and comprehensive to scare any noobs away and leave the deserving ones to explore.


But the recommending organization W3C itself was 27 years old (as of 2022), established by none other than Sir Tim Berners-Lee (of created the internet fame). Long story short, the mission of W3C is to standardize things (protocols) about the internet, so that it's easy to build and access things on the web. Their whole point is the network effect: more the people who use the web, the more useful it'll be.


So when I found that W3C was talking VCs, it seemed like my time might not be entirely wasted. Then when I found that entities like the IBM, Microsoft, Linux Foundation Public Health & Salesforce are talking about VCs, I had to admit there might be something to it.


While questioning the eliteness of my circles, I moved on to...


Anger: Useless heap of esoteric mumbo jumbo!

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