Verifiable Credentials Aren’t Credentials. They’re Containers.

Stack of three shipping containers of different colors

This is part 1 of a 3-part series:

Part 1: Verifiable Credentials Aren’t Credentials. They’re Containers.

TL;DR:

  • Verifiable Credentials (VCs) aren’t actually credentials, they’re containers, like shipping containers for data.
  • Having containers inside of containers is a feature, not a bug.
  • Like physical credentials, the VC container is always verifiable, not its data payload.

The Credential That Isn’t

The word “Credential” with a line through it
The word “Credential” with a line through it
  • Balances, totals, deficits, ranges, statistics, source data
  • Statements, agreements, contracts, invoices, sources
  • Confirmations, acknowledgements, attestations, assertions, affidavits
  • The speed, trajectory, weight, temperature or location of anything
  • Laws, regulations, statutes, rules, orders, decrees, declarations
  • Photos, videos, music, messages
  • Software code, hashes, files, the state of a database at a given point in time
  • Tests, procedures, prescriptions, diagnoses
  • Licenses, passports, visas, permits, tickets, coupons, vouchers, receipts
  • Skills, competencies, certificates, badges, diplomas, degrees, achievements, awards
  • Identifiers, codes, account numbers, ticket numbers

Containers Inside of Containers Is a Feature, Not a Bug

Set of Russian dollas
Set of Russian dollas
http://www.rubylane.com/item/712219-T118-121814-3/Russian-Matryoshka-Dolls-Nesting-Dolls
Cranes loading containers at a shipping port
Cranes loading containers at a shipping port
CREDIT: Cam Geer

VC Containers Are Always Verifiable; Payloads Are Not

Man inspecting the label on a shipping container
Man inspecting the label on a shipping container
  1. They issued it to you;
  2. It has/hasn’t been tampered with since it was issued;
  3. ABCU has/hasn’t revoked it.

In Conclusion

If it’s true that VCs aren’t really credentials, and that calling them credentials often confuses people coming into the space, then we should seriously consider not calling them credentials.

GP, Digital Trust Ventures