Digital users are just users that can be distinguished by an Instagram photo or a Facebook profile. However, blockchain technology can be used to create a unique digital identity that connects with the world’s biggest digital advancements. Several companies are currently working on blockchain-based identities and their innovations dispute the idea that this is just a cosmetic change.
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What would this look like and why could it be a game changer?
The benefits of this are manifold, and particularly in an era when our online identity, tied to all of our personal data, is in a more fragile state than it's ever been, under threat from fraud and data harvesting.
Blockchain-based identities can offer control by allowing us to keep our credentials in blockchain wallets and only authorize access when we choose. We could have different access levels for various purposes –healthcare, finance, or online social accounts, for example.
However, the evolution of tech is never linear and often doesn’t pan out according to early predictions. NFTs are now beginning to appear in the digital identity arena, but in a largely experimental sense that foreshadows their possible future utility.
Twitter’s New Authenticated NFT Feature
So far, NFTs have gained significant ground for two initial use cases –art and gaming. Both of these areas still offer plenty of room for future growth and innovation. However, several criticisms have persisted, mainly around the real-world utility of NFTS –after all, there’s nothing to stop someone from screenshotting a piece of digital art.
This is one reason why Twitter’s latest announcement about NFT integrations was so interesting.
In late September, Twitter developers released a demo showing how a user could connect their crypto wallet, which would then allow the social media platform to recognize their NFTs as unique assets. The user can display them under the “NFT” tab in their account –It’s effectively a version of Twitter’s coveted blue checkmark, but for NFTs.
This is a significant step because, for the first time, it gives NFT holders a means to authenticate themselves as owners of the art or asset in question. Anyone could go and take a screenshot, but only the real owner can now make a true claim on social media.
NFTs as Digital Passports
Detractors may argue that this is merely a cosmetic change and not one that confers any additional value or utility to NFTs. But that would be a mistake, based on another emerging experimental use case –NFTs as a kind of digital passport.
As with other NFT trends, digital artists are the pioneers of this trend. When releasing one collection on Nifty Gateway, digital artist Odious limited participation in certain auctions only to “collectors,” or people who had previously bought one of his NFTs.
It’s easy to see how this could be extrapolated out to all kinds of use cases where NFT issuers may want to issue recognition or privilege or where buyers need to demonstrate their particular credentials.
For instance, someone could hold an NFT in their wallet of a particular exclusive song release, which later entitles them to front-row tickets at the artist’s gig. Possibilities are rife.
NFTs have even broader utility in the metaverse, a concept that’s been gaining rapid mainstream recognition over recent weeks thanks to Facebook’s renaming efforts. NFTs are the ideal medium for avatars, allowing them to be created as unique digital characters – like our identities themselves.
It’s an idea that digital identity provider Selfkey has taken and expanded with the idea of NFTs as part of our digital passports. Selfkey calls this the “Living Avatar NFT.”
The idea of the avatar is nothing new, but so far, in gaming or in the metaverse, there’s been nothing to link the avatar to the individual’s actual identity. The Living Avatar is a unique NFT concept allowing someone to prove that their avatar is them –either in the metaverse or in the real world.
A user can even layer NFTs representing particular credentials on top of their initial avatar, augmenting their digital identity over time. The avatar appears with QR codes that anyone can scan to verify any information that the user has opted to share.
Furthermore, it’s possible to issue different types of credentials, too. While many of these will be subject to governance checks, the principle is comparable to the broader idea of using NFTs as an identifier for groups of loyal customers or supporters or as a kind of entry ticket for events.
So, NFTs no longer exclusively represent a reality selected by a digital artist, but the NFT owner or manager can turn it into a representation of themselves in the metaverse –the reference is the identity of the person who has acquired it.
Everyone begins to recognize a behavior pattern, very much like in our physical reality in which our social relationships are built on the expectations of how those with whom we interact. But what happens if the NFT-based identity changes ownership?
This question opens up a necessary reflection on identity in the metaverses and, at the same time, on the very fact that this identity could also be bought and sold, very much like NFTs are. Such a possibility opens a myriad of possibilities in the metaverse, which could be monetized through advertising.
The world is only just beginning to wake up to the broader potential of NFTs. However, it could be a matter of only a few years before our digital wallets are full of NFTs that tell everyone as much or as little as we want about ourselves.