As the world increasingly shifts towards digital landscapes, there’s a mounting need for secure and convenient identity verification solutions. Among the rising stars in this arena is Worldcoin, a novel digital identification platform that aims to enable individuals globally to verify their identity and distinguish themselves from bots and AI. This comprehensive guide dives deep into the concept, development, benefits, and concerns surrounding Worldcoin, presenting a clear picture of this innovative platform.
Worldcoin sprang from the collective genius of two innovators, Sam Altman and Alex Blania. Altman, a prominent figure in the AI industry, is recognized for his current role as the CEO of OpenAI, which birthed ChatGPT in late 2022. Before taking the reins at OpenAI, Altman helmed Y Combinator as president and also served as Reddit’s CEO for a short stint. Blania, on the other hand, has a background in AI research.
In 2022, the Worldcoin Foundation was brought to life, a non-profit entity purposed to facilitate the growth of the network as a public resource and steer it towards decentralized governance. The Foundation is overseen by a board comprising three directors, bolstered by the guidance of other advisors. Their decision-making involving Worldcoin’s smart contracts is carried out using a 4-of-6 multi-signature wallet. However, the ultimate vision is for the Worldcoin protocol to be regulated by its user community, with the Foundation’s influence becoming progressively limited.
The journey of Worldcoin has been financially backed by substantial venture funding amounting to over $100 million. This support has come from prestigious investors like Andreessen Horowitz and Khosla Ventures since 2021. The grand unveiling of Worldcoin’s native cryptocurrency, the Worldcoin (WLD), happened on July 24, 2023.
What is Worldcoin?
Worldcoin stands as a groundbreaking digital identity verification platform, designed with the goal of enabling individuals globally to authenticate their human identity, thus setting themselves apart from bots and AI algorithms. The brainchild of Tools for Humanity, Worldcoin was co-created by Sam Altman, the mastermind behind ChatGPT.
Worldcoin’s mission is clear and compelling: To establish a worldwide financial and identity network anchored in proof of personhood.
In an interesting twist, Altman’s participation in the project throws light on the irony of his previous contributions to the AI boom, a phenomenon that Worldcoin seeks to address. By harnessing the power of cryptography and blockchain technology, Worldcoin has succeeded in building a resilient digital passport system that operates using the WLD token.
The Worldcoin token, often referred to as Worldcoin (WLD), is the cornerstone of the Worldcoin ecosystem. It is via the World App that the Worldcoin grants are currently disbursed in the form of WLD tokens.
The WLD token made its debut on July 24, 2023, and quickly gained recognition on leading exchanges such as Binance, Bybit, Huobi, and Gate.io, among others. This “digital currency that acknowledges your human identity” can be claimed by users who have authenticated their identity through a Worldcoin Orb and have the World Wallet app installed on their device.
However, the utility of the WLD token transcends mere grants. It serves a pivotal role in the governance of the Worldcoin protocol, providing token holders the power to influence the trajectory and future of Worldcoin. In the foreseeable future, the token is set to be further integrated within the World App, facilitating payments for specific services.
How Worldcoin Works
The architecture of the Worldcoin platform is established on three fundamental elements: World ID, World App, and the Worldcoin token (WLD).
At the heart of Worldcoin resides the World ID, an avant-garde approach to enabling users to confirm their human identity in the digital realm, whilst prioritizing their privacy. This groundbreaking system of Proof of Personhood (PoP) operates via a state-of-the-art iris-scanning mechanism dubbed as the Orb.
Drawing a parallel to the distinctiveness of fingerprints, every person boasts a unique iris pattern. The Orb, upon scanning a user’s iris, captures its intricate structure and subsequently generates a distinct identification code, termed as an IrisCode. Crucially, this code is not linked to any personal details but solely serves to thwart the creation of multiple World IDs by a single individual.
Following the successful scanning of the iris and secure storage of an anonymized IrisCode, the Orb assigns a unique World ID to the user. It’s worth noting that the images of the iris are permanently deleted post the scanning process, negating the need for repetitive iris scans for identity verification.
To bolster the trustworthiness and security of the World ID system, every generated World ID is appended to the Worldcoin blockchain. Users can leverage a cryptographically secure application to validate their identity, thereby reinforcing the solidity of the platform’s digital identification protocol.
During the launch phase, Worldcoin Orbs were accessible in a plethora of cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Paris, Lisbon, Mexico City, São Paulo, Nairobi, New York, San Francisco, and nearly two dozen others.
Users can secure a World ID via the Worldcoin App, which, during the beta phase, operates on the Polygon blockchain. As part of Optimism’s Superchain, the app is slated to transition to the Optimism network.
Advantages of Worldcoin
Worldcoin, along with several other proof-of-personhood protocols, strives to address a handful of significant challenges encountered in the real world.
A vast number of identification systems hinge upon centralized governments and are administered by centralized bodies. These centralized entities grapple with numerous challenges, such as ensuring data privacy and occasionally struggling with limited accessibility.
With AI progressively adept at producing digital content that is increasingly hard to distinguish from human-produced material, there exists a pressing need for a method to differentiate content created by humans from that produced by AI. Implementing a proof-of-personhood solution can greatly alleviate the issue of bot-generated spam, a persistent problem that plagues many platforms and users.
Worldcoin’s method of handling biometric data has attracted a fair amount of criticism.
In reaction to Sam Altman’s 2021 tweet announcing the project, ex-U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden responded with a simple, yet potent message: “Don’t catalogue eyeballs.”
Further doubts were raised by an investigation conducted by MIT Technology Review, which questioned Worldcoin’s process of accumulating biometric data from developing nations, including Indonesia, Kenya, and Colombia, during the project’s trial stage.
The investigation concluded that the company used “misleading marketing strategies, gathered more personal information than it admitted, and failed to gain substantial informed consent” from its users.
Crypto researcher Molly White, who operates the website Web3 is Going Just Great, expressed her views, stating that this testing is “representative of a common practice in the tech industry to experiment on communities that have less agency and might be more readily convinced to participate in the project.”
Similarly, another critic named Howson commented on the substantial amount of data a potential user has to surrender, stating that if that data is lost, it creates perpetual problems.
A report by Gizmodo mentioned that individuals in China have been purchasing iris scans from the black market to gain access to the Worldcoin beta network, which provides KYC verifications for the World App.
In an attempt to reassure users about their privacy, Worldcoin claims that it will anonymize and destroy users’ biometric data once its systems are fully optimized. However, while the company has stored thousands of iris scans to train its algorithms, it has not yet established a deadline for the deletion of this data.
Worldcoin offers an innovative solution to a prevalent problem in our increasingly digital world: verifying human identity. Its unique use of biometric data, while undeniably groundbreaking, has sparked conversations on privacy and data handling. As Worldcoin continues to grow and adapt, it’s worth keeping an eye on this player in the blockchain and digital identity space. Whether it will successfully address the privacy concerns while providing a secure, efficient, and globally accepted proof-of-personhood protocol, only time will tell. Stay tuned as we continue to observe and report on Worldcoin’s journey.