Microsoft’s ION Identity Layer for Bitcoin Is Now Live

The decentralized ID protocol can provide a secure complement to usernames and passwords.

Shutterstock photo by tomeqs

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft has announced the launch of ION, its decentralized identity protocol for managing web account access.
  • As of today, the project is open source and ready for general use.
  • ION is one of many blockchain efforts from Microsoft.

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Microsoft announced today that its ION layer for Bitcoin is complete, as reported in a blog post from the company.

What Is ION?

Microsoft’s ION Network is a Decentralized Identity (DID) network built on top of the Bitcoin blockchain as a second-layer protocol. Rather than handling payments, Microsoft ION is designed to handle identities and access to online accounts.

This provides a secure alternative to usernames and passwords. Project lead Daniel Buchner previously suggested that for end users, the experience can be made similar to that of Google Authenticator, a popular tool for managing two-factor authentication (2FA).

Today’s release marks the first full release of ION. Director of Identity Standards Pamela Dingle stated: “We are excited to share that v1 of ION is complete and has been launched on Bitcoin mainnet” and added that anyone can use the open source protocol.

Microsoft’s Many Blockchain Projects

Microsoft’s decentralized identity network efforts have been in development for four years, while ION has been in development since 2019. The project launched in beta in June 2020.

ION was built on an existing protocol called Sidetree, which was developed by members of Microsoft and several other tech companies. Notable contributors include the enterprise Ethereum firm ConsenSys, the Bitcoin wallet company Casa, the payment processor BitPay and the crypto exchange Gemini. Protocol Labs (IPFS) and Cloudflare also contributed to the project.

Microsoft additionally has several other blockchain initiatives underway. In previous years, it has become a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, made heavy use of JP Morgan’s Quorum blockchain, and introduced a .NET toolkit for NEO.

Development on ION will continue, meaning that this is not the last time that the blockchain community will hear from Microsoft.

At the time of writing this author held less than $75 of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and altcoins.

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