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A Russian feudal surf leaving his landlord on Yuri's Day. (Source Wikimedia Commons)
A Russian feudal surf leaving his landlord on Yuri's Day. (Source Wikimedia Commons)

About two months ago, I embarked on a new employment adventure. I really enjoyed my previous role in the Alfresco open source community (PDF), but my imagination was captured when a friend told me about Evernym, and their mission to help individuals control their online identities. This post briefly describes our goals at Evernym, and you will see how my work at Alfresco prepared me for this new challenge.

Some years ago, Bruce Schneier highlighted the risks of the Feudal Internet, where security concerns drive us to surrender control of our digital selves to manor lords who protect our avatars on our behalf. We do this because online security is a high technical hurdle. The founders at Evernym have a vision for creating tools that can restore control to individuals on the Internet, creating new digital economies centered around user autonomy. And we plan to do this in a way that scales for the billions of people who are now coming online.

Evernym is built on a big vision, and I was captured by that ambition. As Goethe said, “Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men”. The founders Timothy Ruff and Jason Law are both passionately committed to improving how individuals engage in a digital world, and they recognize that in addition to growing a company, we must build an ecosystem. As a result, they founded a number of related organizations to create the right incentives for broad cooperation:

Indy is an open source project dedicated to building a ledger that enables decentralized management of digital credentials in a way that preserves privacy and scales. In order to ensure community governance and long term continuance, this code base was donated to the Hyperledger project, which is part of the Linux Foundation. It is quickly becoming a multi-stakeholder open source community.

Sovrin is a non-profit foundation whose mission is to deploy Hyperledger Indy as a global public utility for managing digital credentials. It provides governance to ensure that the system is cost effective for users and private by design. The goal is for the foundation to have a funding model sufficient to guarantee it’s long term independence from any single stakeholder in the ecosystem.

Within the Sovrin ecosystem, Evernym will be launching products to help individuals and businesses manage their online identities, issue credentials, and have trusted communications.

This grand vision will require a lot of collaboration with other organizations. In addition to the governments, universities, and financial institutions that are building solutions on the Sovrin network, Evernym has been cooperating on creating standards that will allow these credentials to be inter-operable with technologies provided by other vendors and on other identity networks. One example is the Decentralized Identity Foundation, which brings together an impressive set of technology leaders to collaborate around common standards.

I am thrilled to be responsible for how Evernym contributes to Hyperledger Indy and to be working with Sovrin to prepare their network for wide usage. In addition, I get the pleasure of helping Evernym grow a developer community and continue a constructive engagement with our various non-commercial stakeholders. I am also enjoying my collaboration with the other Evernym teams as we clarify how our commercial strategy will dovetail with our open source strategy.

We recognize that there is a lot of work in order to make Indy ready for production and get live credentials deployed on Sovrin. After that, we still need to build products that demonstrate enough value to fund the business. I expect exciting and stressful times ahead, but I am grateful for my opportunity to work with a great team and fascinating technologies to tackle some of society’s most important problems. One day everyone will benefit from the solutions we are creating.

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