Internet Archive expands access to millions of books for people with disabilities


Now, disabled users that are certified by a growing number of organizations can borrow hundreds of thousands of modern books and download mostly older books all for free.

Individuals that are already a qualified user of  NLS-BARD, Bookshare, or Ontario Council of University Libraries Scholar’s Portal (ACE)  can link their archive.org accounts and gain access.

Individuals that are are affiliated with any of these organizations can contact them to authorize their archive.org account for print-disabled access.

Individuals can also request verification for free by filling in this form to contact the Vermont Mutual Aid Society.

We welcome other organizations, such as libraries, schools, hospitals, and dedicated service organizations to join in this free program to certify users for access and also get full access to digital books for further remediation.

If you have questions or suggestions about this program, please contact the Internet Archive. We are excited to be able to offer these services to the print-disabled community.

 

 

 

Posted in Announcements, News | 13 Comments

World’s largest collection of Tibetan Buddhist literature now available on the Internet Archive

The Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) and Internet Archive (IA) announced today that they are making a large corpus of Buddhist literature available via the Internet Archive. This collection represents the most complete record of the words of the Buddha available in any language, plus many millions of pages of related commentaries, teachings and works such as medicine, history, and philosophy.

BDRC founder E. Gene Smith sits at the computer with Buddhist monks and others

BDRC’s founder, E. Gene Smith, spent decades collecting and preserving Tibetan texts in India before starting the organization in 1999. Since then, as a neutral organization they have been able to work on both sides of the Himalayas in search of rare texts.

Several months ago in a remote monastery in Northeast Tibet, a BDRC employee photographed an old work and sent it in to their library. It was a text that the tradition has always known about, but which was long considered to have been lost. Its very existence was unknown to anyone outside of the caretakers of the monastery that had safeguarded it for centuries.

The Kadampa school, active in the 11th and 12 centuries, was known to scholars – they knew who had started the tradition and where it fit in the history of Buddhism – but most of the writings from that period had not survived the centuries. And yet suddenly here was a lost classic of this tradition, the only surviving manuscript of the work: The exposition on the graduated path by Kadam Master Sharawa Yontan Drak (1070-1141). Dozens of pithy sayings are attributed to Sharawa in later works but this writing of his is never directly cited in the classics of the genre that date back to the fifteenth century and before.

The exposition on the graduated path by Kadam Master Sharawa Yontan Drak (1070-1141).

BDRC’s digitizers never know what they will find when they arrive at a new location, but their work has uncovered missing links, beautiful woodblock versions of known texts, writings of previously unknown authors, and texts by famous people that they thought had been lost to time. While the manuscript above is an amazing find, it is by no means the only one their work has unearthed.

Children holding a manuscript in its box

This work highlights the importance of preserving cultures before they disappear or are too dispersed to gather together. In its efforts to make all of Buddhist literature available, BDRC is also digitizing fragile palm leaf manuscripts in Thailand, Sanskrit texts in Nepal, and the entire Tibetan collection of the National Library of Mongolia. Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive, said, “In 2011 we announced that we had digitized every historic work in Balinese, and this year we are making Tibetan literature available. We hope that this is a trend that will see the literatures of many more cultures become openly available.”

Children studying Buddhist teachings

This is not an academic pursuit. Many Tibetans have left their homeland, spreading to India and around the world. Younger generations who have been displaced and raised in other societies may not have the opportunity to grow up with these traditional teachings. The work of the BDRC is to make those teachings available to everyone.

Jeff Wallman, Executive Director Emeritus of BDRC and Jann Ronis, Executive Director of BDRC, addressed their reasons for making this information available on the Internet Archive: “The founding mission of BDRC is to make the treasures of Buddhist literature available to all on the Internet. We recognize that you cannot preserve culture; you can only create the right conditions for culture to preserve itself. We hope that by making these texts available via the Internet Archive, we can spur a new generation of usage. Openness ensures preservation.”

Buddhist monks

The BDRC’s extensive collection is used by laypeople and monks alike. Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is a frequent user of their collection. He and other traveling teachers call on the BDRC’s library for references and works when they are away from their libraries, or whenever they need a rare text that they could not otherwise access.

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the Abbot of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in Nepal, and a well regarded teacher of Tibetan Buddhism around the world, is gratified that the teachings of Buddha have been made available. “We can share the entire body of literature with every Tibetan who can use it. These texts are sacred, and should be free.”

BDRC’s home office is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with additional offices and digitization centers in Hangzhou, China; Bangkok, Thailand; Kathmandu, Nepal; and at the National Library of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar where it is establishing a project in collaboration with the Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP).

Internet Archive and BDRC are both delighted to join forces on sharing the Buddhist literary tradition for the benefit of humanity.

About Buddhist Digital Resource Center

BDRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to seeking out, preserving, organizing, and disseminating Buddhist literature. Joining digital technology with scholarship, BDRC ensures that the treasures of the Buddhist literary tradition are not lost, but are made available for future generations. BDRC would like every monastery, every Buddhist master, every scholar, every translator, and every interested reader to have access to the complete range of Buddhist literature, regardless of social, political, or economic circumstances. BDRC is headquartered in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

About Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit digital library based in San Francisco that specializes in offering broad public access to digitized and born-digital books, music, movies and Web pages.

Contacts:
Jann Ronis, BDRC, jann@tbrc.org
Jeff Wallman, BDRC jeffwallman@tbrc.org
Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive, brewster@archive.org
Posted in Announcements, Books Archive, News | 41 Comments

Don’t Click on the Llama

WE HAVE ONE SIMPLE REQUEST…. DO NOT CLICK ON THE LLAMA.

Clicking on the Llama will release Webamp, a javascript-based player that mimics, down to individual strangeness and bugs, the operations of the once dominant Winamp, a media player considered to be one of the classic software creations of the 1990s.

To help you avoid this llama, we’ll tell you it’s in the upper right corner of any Internet Archive item that has a music player in it. This means the Grateful Dead recordings, radio airchecks, network record labels like monotonik, and all manner of podcasts now have the capability to be turned into a Winamp-like player that becomes your new default.

(If, by mistake, you click on the Llama, clicking on it again will turn off the Webamp player and restore the default player.)

This all got started because of the skins.

As part of our celebration of all things Internet, the Archive now has a large collection of Winamp Skins, which were artistic re-imaginings of the Winamp interface, that allowed all sorts of neat creative works on what could have been a basic media player. These “skins” were contributed to over the years (and new ones are still created!) and now number in the thousands. In the collection you’ll see examples of superheroes, video games, surreal images and a pretty wide array of pop stars and celebrities.

We have added over 5,000 skins (with many more coming), and then someone had the bright idea to make the Webamp player work within the Internet Archive to show off these skins, and here we are.

Thanks to Jordan Eldredge and the Webamp programming community for this new and strange periscope into the 1990s internet past.

 

Posted in Announcements, Audio Archive, News, Software Archive | 7 Comments

More than 9 million broken links on Wikipedia are now rescued

As part of the Internet Archive’s aim to build a better Web, we have been working to make the Web more reliable — and are pleased to announce that 9 million formerly broken links on Wikipedia now work because they go to archived versions in the Wayback Machine.

22 Wikipedia Language Editions with more than 9 million links now pointing to the Wayback Machine.

For more than 5 years, the Internet Archive has been archiving nearly every URL referenced in close to 300 wikipedia sites as soon as those links are added or changed at the rate of about 20 million URLs/week.

And for the past 3 years, we have been running a software robot called IABot on 22 Wikipedia language editions looking for broken links (URLs that return a ‘404’, or ‘Page Not Found’). When broken links are discovered, IABot searches for archives in the Wayback Machine and other web archives to replace them with. Restoring links ensures Wikipedia remains accurate and verifiable and thus meets one of Wikipedia’s three core content policies: ‘Verifiability’.

To date we have successfully used IABot to edit and “fix” the URLs of nearly 6 million external references that would have otherwise returned a 404. In addition, members of the Wikipedia community have fixed more than 3 million links individually. Now more than 9 million URLs, on 22 Wikipedia sites, point to archived resources from the Wayback Machine and other web archive providers.

 

 

                   (Broken Link)                                                      (Rescued Page)

One way to measure the real-world benefit of this work is by counting the number of click-throughs from Wikipedia to the Wayback Machine. During a recent 10-day period, the Wikimedia Foundation started measuring external link click-throughs, as part of a new research project (in collaboration with a team of researchers at Stanford and EPFL) to study how Wikipedia readers use citations and external links. Preliminary results suggest that, by far, the most popular external destination was the Wayback Machine, three times the next most popular site, books.google.com. In real numbers, on average, more than 25,000 clicks/day were made from the English Wikipedia to the Wayback Machine.

From “Research:Characterizing Wikipedia Citation Usage/First Round of Analysis

Running IABot on a given Wikipedia site requires both technical integration and operations support as well as the approval of each related Wikipedia community. Two key people have worked on this project.

Maximilian Doerr, known in the Wikipedia world as “Cyberpower”, is a long time volunteer with the Wikipedia community and now a consultant to the Internet Archive. He is the author of the InternetArchiveBot (IABot) software.

Stephen Balbach is a long time volunteer with the Wikipedia community who collaborates with Max and the Internet Archive. He has authored programs that find and fix data errors, verifies existing archives on Wikipedia, and discovers new archives amongst Wayback’s billions of pages and across dozens of other web archive providers.

The number of rescued links, and the quality of the edits, is the result of Max and Stephen’s dedicated, creative and patient work.

What have we learned?

We learned that links to resources on the live web are fragile and not a persistently reliable way to refer to those resources. See “49% of the Links Cited in Supreme Court Decisions Are Broken”, The Atlantic, 2013.

We learned that archiving live-web linked resources, as close to the time they are linked, is required to ensure we capture those links before they go bad.

We learned that the issue of “link rot” (when once-good links return a 404, 500 or other complete failure) is only part of the problem, and that “content drift” (when the content related to a URL changes over time) is also a concern. In fact, “content drift” may be a bigger problem for reliably using external resources because there is no way for the user to know the content they are looking at is not the same as the editor had originally intended.

We learned that by working in collaboration with staff members of the Wikimedia Foundation, volunteers from the Wikipedia communities, paid contractors and the archived resources of the Wayback Machine and other web archives, we can have a material impact on the quality and reliability of Wikipedia sites and in so doing support our mission of “helping to make the web more useful and reliable”.

What is next?

We will expand our efforts to check and edit more Wikipedia sites and increase the speed which we scan those sites and fix broken links.

We will improve our processes to archive externally referenced resources by taking advantage of the Wikimedia Foundation’s new “EventStreams” web service.

We will explore how we might expand our link checking and fixing efforts to other media and formats, including more web pages, digital books and academic papers.

We will investigate and experiment with methods to support authors and editors use of archived resources (e.g. using Wayback Machine links in place of live-web links).

We will continue to work with the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Wikipedia communities world-wide, to advance tools and services to promote and support the use of persistently available and reliable links to externally referenced resources.

Posted in Announcements, News | 111 Comments

Physical Archive Party October 28th, 2018

Archive friends and family please join us for the Physical Archive party, 2-6pm 2512 Florida Avenue, Richmond CA.   RSVP please so we can keep a count.  Staff, partners, friends of the Internet Archive are all invited.

RSVP HERE

This is a unique opportunity to see some of the behind the scenes activities of the Internet Archive and millions of books, music and movie items. The Internet Archive is well known for its digital collections — the digital books, software, film and music that millions of people access every day through archive.org, but did you know that much of our online content is derived from physical collections, stored in the east bay in Richmond?

2018 has been a year of focus on inventory and ramping up throughput at our digitization centers. At the physical archive we see collections of film, software, documents, books, and music at least three times before it is finally archived in Richmond. Once coming in the door to be inventoried, secondly as we ship it out to be digitized in Hong Kong or Cebu, and thirdly coming back to us for long term storage.

This year, the staff at the physical archive would like you to to see the physical archive and celebrate our achievements in 2018. Bring your roller skates and drones for competitive battles, get a drink at the ‘Open Container Bar’ and then peruse the special collections in our dedicated space. Uninhibitedly show off your dance skills at our silent server disco and enjoy brews and Halloween gruel.

We will also be showcasing our collection of books, music and film in both a working environment and our special collections room. We will have tours of our facilities, demonstration of how we get hundreds of thousands books a year digitized at our Hong Kong (and now Cebu) Super Centers and safely back again.

Prize for scariest librarian costume.
This is a halloween event so costumes are encouraged!

Posted in Event, News, Past Event | 1 Comment

Images of Afghanistan 1987-1994

Afghan Media Resource Center’s correspondent interviewing a Muj Commander, 1991

Journalists and others risk their lives to keep the public informed in times of conflict. War imagery provides us with important information in the moment, and creates a trove of invaluable archival content for the future.

Please be aware that this collection contains some disturbing photos of violence and its aftermath (though we have not included any in this blog post).

The Afghan Media Resource Center (AMRC) was founded in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1987, by a team of media trainers working under contract to Boston University. The goal of the project was to assist Afghans to produce and distribute accurate and reliable accounts of the Afghan war to news agencies and television networks throughout the world.  Beginning in the early 1980’s amidst a news blackout imposed by the Soviet backed Kabul government, foreign journalists had become targets to be captured or killed. The AMRC was an effort to overcome the substantial obstacles encountered by media representatives in bringing events surrounding the Afghan-Soviet war to world attention.

An armed Muj posing for the camera, 1988

Beginning in 1987, a series of six week training sessions were conducted at the AMRC original home in University Town, Peshawar, Pakistan.  Qualified Afghans were recruited from all major political parties, all major ethnic groups and all regions of Afghanistan, to receive professional training in print journalism, photo journalism and video news production.  Haji Sayed Daud, a former television producer and journalist at Kabul TV before the Soviet invasion, was named AMRC Director.

After the completion of their training, 3-person teams were dispatched on specific stories throughout Afghanistan’s 27 provinces, with 35mm cameras, video cameras, notebooks, and audio tape recorders. Photo materials were distributed internationally through SYGMA and Agence France Press (AFP). Video material was syndicated and broadcast by VisNews (now Reuters), with 150 broadcasters in 87 countries, Euronews and London-based WTN (now Associated Press), Thames Television, ITN, Swedish, French, Pakistani and other regional networks.

A young girl carrying clean drinking water, 1989

In 2000 AMRC began publishing a popular and influential newspaper in Kabul: ERADA (Intention). With one interruption, ERADA publication continued until 2012.

Beyond the AMRC archive, the AMRC conducted dozens of training programs and workshops for writers and radio journalists, including training programs for Refugee Women in Development (REFWID). The AMRC also established radio and TV studios in the provincial capitaol, Jalalabad, and produced radio and TV programs, including educational radio dramas, for a variety of international organizations. AMRC also conducted public opinion polls in Afghanistan, including an extensive Media Use Survey in Afghanistan, financed by InterMedia, a Washington, D.C. group.

Armed Muj pulling out an unexploded missile, 1989

The AMRC collection spans a critical period in Afghanistan’s history – (1987 – 1994), including 76,000 photographs, 1,175 hours of video material, 356 hours of audio material, and many stories from print media.

An Afghan weaving carpet, 1990

In 2012 AMRC received a grant to digitize the entire AMRC archive, to preserve the collection at the U.S. Library of Congress. AMRC senior media advisors Stephen Olsson and Nick Mills were trained in the digitization processes by the Library of Congress, then spent two weeks in Kabul training the AMRC staff. The digitization and metadata sheets (in English, Dari and Pashto) were completed in 2016, and were welcomed into the Library of Congress with a formal ceremony.  We are now making the entire AMRC collection available through our on-line partner, The Internet Archive.

Now the entire collection is readily available to scholars, researchers and publishers.  All royalties for commercial use of the photo images and video material will continue to support the non-profit work of the AMRC.
Posted in Announcements, Image Archive, Movie Archive, News | 2 Comments

Over 1,100 New Arcade Machines Added to the Internet Arcade

The Internet Arcade, our collection of working arcade machines that run in the browser, has gotten a new upgrade in its 4th year. Advancements by both the MAME emulator team and the Emscripten conversion process allowed our team to go through many more potential arcade machines and add them to the site.

The majority of these newly-available games date to the 1990s and early 2000s, as arcade machines both became significantly more complicated and graphically rich, while also suffering from the ever-present and home-based video game consoles that would come to dominate gaming to the present day. Even fervent gamers might have missed some of these arcade machines when they were in the physical world, due to lower distribution numbers and shorter times on the floor.

A somewhat beefy machine and very modern browser will be required to run these games. In general, pressing the 5 key will insert coins, 1 and 2 will start 1 or 2 player games, and the arrow and spacebar keys will control the games themselves.

Let the games… continue!

To visit the new 1,100 additions, click here.

Thanks, as always, to Dan Brooks, for maintaining the Emularity system to allow near-instant upgrading of emulators and additions of new platforms to the Internet Archive collections.

Posted in Announcements, News, Software Archive | 15 Comments

Let’s Celebrate: Building A Better Web!

White Tie Optional: the stylish Kyle Courtney & Hannah Scates Kettler enjoy Internet Archive’s 2017 Annual Bash.

IA’s Director of Media, Alexis Rossi, sports the most memorable hat of 2017’s Bash.

Once a year, the Internet Archive’s community pulls out its fancy hats, quaffs a cocktail or two, and celebrates the latest breakthroughs in building a better web together. Our goal: to bring you knowledge in all its many forms that is richer, deeper, more trustworthy and openly accessible on the Web. Knowledge that will fuel innovation and understanding for generations to come.  So won’t you join us?  Come to Building A Better Web: The Internet Archive’s Annual Bash, Wednesday, October 3 from 5-10 p.m. at our headquarters in San Francisco.  Tickets start at $15 but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Four arms are better than one? The special turntable used in digitizing 78 rpm records.

First order of business: come at 5 PM for taco trucks, cocktails and hands-on demonstrations of how to digitize a rare book, play a virtual reality game, or explore the newest features of the Wayback Machine.  Be sure to grab a library card and get it stamped at each demo station: at the end of the evening we’ll award you with an IA-themed prize.

San Francisco muralist, Ju Young Ku will be painting a new work while the party bubbles around him.

Meanwhile, don’t miss the amazing creativity of muralist Ju Young Ku as he paints a new library-themed scene before your very eyes. Before the night is over, you can take photos in front of his latest work. Be sure to get tattooed (temporarily) with a GeoCities GIF image from the 90s and groove to a 78 rpm mix from our DJ during the dinner hour.

IA’s Mek (Michael Karpeles) shows off experiments from Archive Lab.

Next up: head inside to learn more about the Internet Archive’s latest experiments.  And be sure to find the gallery of works by the Internet Archive’s Artists-in-Residence, including the mind-tripping installation by artist Chris Sollars. He sampled psychedelic screensavers, live recordings of the Grateful Dead, and psychotropic literature from the Internet Archive’s digital vaults to create a commentary on the nexus between drug culture and early tech culture from the 80s and 90s. 

Grab a grassy spot and contemplate Chris Sollars’ installation on display.

At 7 PM head upstairs to the Great Room for an hour-long presentation of the coolest new tools and mind-boggling new collections of 2018.  From the great works of Tibetan Buddhism to 12,000 free audiobooks on your mobile phone, we’ll unveil the latest and greatest breakthroughs of the year.

And don’t go home yet!  At 8 PM we’ll head outside for dessert, gift giveaways, and dancing to the vinyl playlist of DJ Phast Phreddie.  It’s a party with a purpose: to celebrate the open, creative, sharing community of the Web–a Web we’re working hard to make better each and every day.

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

 

Dancing anyone?  We’ll end the evening with ice cream and great music.

 

 

Posted in Announcements, Event, News, Past Event | 5 Comments

Revised wish list now available: 1.5M books we want

Earlier this year we released our Open Libraries wish list, which brought together four datasets to help inform our collection development priorities for Open Libraries.  After working with the wish list for a few months and reviewing our approach, we decided to make a few revisions to the ways in which we brought together the data.  Our wish list was always intended to be an iterative work-in-progress, and we are pleased to release our latest version here: https://archive.org/details/open_libraries_wish_list

Download wish list now

What’s in the wish list?

To create the wish list, we brought together four datasets:

  1. OCLC’s list of one million most widely held books, based on holdings records of libraries worldwide;
  2. Library Link’s holdings records of North American libraries, leveraging the decisions of thousands of librarians in prioritizing collections for patron use;
  3. Open Syllabus Project, which has collected syllabi from the Internet to compile the most assigned books in classrooms;
  4. Data about book and scholarly article citations in Wikipedia, published by the Wikimedia Foundation.

These data help us define a collection of 1.5M books, identified by their ISBNs, that are widely held and frequently cited.  We continue to work on human-mediated efforts to identify collections that are reflective of the diverse voices in our communities.

What’s changed?

In this latest revision to the wish list, we decided to keep the focus on materials that are widely held and widely cited by fine tuning the thresholds for inclusion on the list in the following ways:

  • In our previous wish list, we had included xISBN “synonyms” to the ISBNs on the list as a way of increasing the breadth of materials, but realized that approach created scenarios where we could have digitized a different edition than the one cited by a Wikipedia editor, or included on a syllabus.  In the latest revision, we chose to include only the ISBNs included on each list.
  • We also revised our approach to the Wikipedia citations, including those books that had been cited more than once.

This latest revision gives us a wish list comprised of 1.5M ISBNs that we feel confident in using as a core collection around which to focus our acquisition and digitization priorities.

How can you help?

If you’d like to help us build our digital collection, you can contribute in the following ways:

  • Donate books
    • You can donate books to our physical archive. If you are a library, a publisher, or have a private collection with more than 1,000 books to donate, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at chrisfreeland@archive.org. We will add these books to our digitization queue and they will become ebooks available through Open Libraries as funding becomes available.
  • Identify books
    • If you are an author who would like to add your own books to the list, you can donate physical copies, and/or contact us to let us know you’d like us to ensure that your work will be preserved and available to future generations.
    • If you’re a librarian, educator, or other book lover and would like to help us continue to curate the wish list to ensure that it includes the most useful, important and culturally diverse books, please reach out to us.
  • Scan books
    • If you have books on our wish list but don’t want to donate them to our physical archive, we offer scanning services and can digitize your books in one of our regional scanning centers.

 

If you are interested in participating, or have questions about our program or plans, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at chrisfreeland@archive.org.

Posted in Announcements, Books Archive, News, Open Library | 7 Comments

Identity in the Decentralized Web

In B. Traven’s The Death Ship, American sailor Gerard Gales finds himself stranded in post-World War I Antwerp after his freighter departs without him.  He’s arrested for the crime of being unable to produce a passport, sailor’s card, or birth certificate—he possesses no identification at all.  Unsure how to process him, the police dump Gales on a train leaving the country. From there Gales endures a Kafkaesque journey across Europe, escorted from one border to another by authorities who do not know what to do with a man lacking any identity.  “I was just a nobody,” Gales complains to the reader.

As The Death Ship demonstrates, the concept of verifiable identity is a cornerstone of modern life.   Today we know well the process of signing in to shopping websites, checking email, doing some banking, or browsing our social network.  Without some notion of identity, these basic tasks would be impossible.

That’s why at the Decentralized Web Summit earlier this year, questions of identity were a central topic.  Unlike the current environment, in a decentralized web users control their personal data and make it available to third-parties on a need-to-know basis.  This is sometimes referred to as self-sovereign identity: the user, not web services, owns their personal information.

The idea is that web sites will verify you much as a bartender checks your ID before pouring a drink.  The bar doesn’t store a copy of your card and the bartender doesn’t look at your name or address; only your age is pertinent to receive service.  The next time you enter the bar the bartender once again asks for proof of age, which you may or may not relinquish. That’s the promise of self-sovereign identity.

At the Decentralized Web Summit, questions and solutions were bounced around in the hopes of solving this fundamental problem.  Developers spearheading the next web hashed out the criteria for decentralized identity, including:

  • secure: to prevent fraud, maintain privacy, and ensure trust between all parties
  • self-sovereign: individual ownership of private information
  • consent: fine-tuned control over what information third-parties are privy to
  • directed identity: manage multiple identities for different contexts (for example, your doctor can access certain aspects while your insurance company accesses others)
  • and, of course, decentralized: no central authority or governing body holds private keys or generates identifiers

One problem with decentralized identity is that these problems often compete, pulling in polar directions.

For example, while security seems like a no-brainer, with self-sovereign identity the end-user is in control (and not Facebook, Google, or Twitter).  It’s incumbent on them to secure their information. This raises questions of key management, data storage practices, and so on. Facebook, Google, and Twitter pay full-time engineers to do this job; handing that responsibility to end-users shifts the burden to someone who may not be so technically savvy.  The inconvenience of key management and such also creates more hurdles for widespread adoption of the decentralized web.

The good news is, there are many working proposals today attempting to solve the above problems.  One of the more promising is DID (Decentralized Identifier).

A DID is simply a URI, a familiar piece of text to most people nowadays.  Each DID references a record stored in a blockchain. DIDs are not tied to any particular blockchain, and so they’re interoperable with existing and future technologies.  DIDs are cryptographically secure as well.

DIDs require no central authority to produce or validate.  If you want a DID, you can generate one yourself, or as many was you want.  In fact, you should generate lots of them.  Each unique DID gives the user fine-grained control over what personal information is revealed when interacting with a myriad of services and people.

If you’re interested to learn more, I recommend reading Michiel Mulders’ article on DIDs, “the Internet’s ‘missing identity layer’.”  The DID working technical specification is being developed by the W3C.  And those looking for code and community, check out the Decentralized Identity Foundation.

(While DIDs are promising, it is a nascent technology.  Other options are under development.  I’m using DIDs as an example of how decentralized identity might work.)

What does the future hold for self-sovereign identification?  From what I saw at the Decentralized Web, I’m certain a solution will be found.

Posted in Announcements, Event, Past Event, Technical | 1 Comment