About This Show
Albert Wenger is a partner at Union Square Ventures (USV), a New York-based early stage VC firm focused on investing in disruptive networks. USV portfolio companies include: Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Etsy, Kickstarter and Shapeways. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the companyâ€™s sale to Yahoo. He previously founded or co-founded five companies, including a management consulting firm (in Germany), a hosted data analytics company, a technology subsidiary for Telebanc (now E*Tradebank), an early stage investment firm, and most recently (with his wife), DailyLit, a service for reading books by email or RSS. Albert graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in economics and computer science and holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology from MIT. | Podcast produced by Narify.
Most Recent Episode
Apr 1 14
If you ask someone who they are on the Internet, they will likely give you an email address or point to their profile on Twitter, Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn. Some people might instead reference a profile on a more industry specific network such as Behance for creatives or Doximity for doctors. Others use a personal home page provider like about.me and an even smaller fraction have their own domain. This is a pretty unsatisfactory state of the world from both an individual and a service creator perspective.
As an individual, you are never really in control of your identity. In every case other than your own domain a centralized service provider decides what can and cannot be on your profile and can also revoke your profile at any time (most terms of service give the provider nearly complete control). Even with your own domain there is a risk that it could be seized and your identity wiped out.
As a service creator, you can either let users authenticate with one of the big centralized providers or revert to signing in with username/email and a password (where email for most people is right back at large service provider). How much information you then receive about the person and the format for that information is controlled by the authentication provider.
Starting a new centralized identity provider not only doesn’t solve these problems but also faces a classic chicken and egg problem between user and service adoption. Therefore people have been looking for a decentralized solution for quite some time that would put individuals truly in control and allow for permissionless innovation. At first this ran into a problem known as Zooko’s triangle, which was the conjecture that you couldn’t have system was secure, decentralized and allowed for memorable all at once. As it turns out though this is exactly the kind of problem that can be solved using the Bitcoin protocol.
Namecoin is a decentralized key/value store for registering, updating and transfering information based on Bitcoin. Namecoin allows the creation of globally unified namespaces that can be used for all sorts of applications, including a decentralized domain system and personal identity. Namecoin itself only provides the consistency mechanism. It does not define a format for what should be contained in an identity entry.
There are at least a couple of proposals for doing that. One is Namecoin ID and the other