Self-sovereign identity semantics: An economic extension to the Trust over IP stack

The dual ‘Trust over IP Stack’

Disclaimer: This blog does not cover cheqd’s strategic direction but does build some important foundations for the blogs and announcements to come.

As we began creating the tokenomic model and product roadmap for cheqd, we quickly hit a disconnect between the identity and public blockchain communities. In short, each community uses different semantics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the meaning of “Layer 2” which has wildly different meanings between the two communities.

This isn’t surprising given these communities have historically been segregated, purely by happenstance than desire. In this short blog, we want to establish groundwork to help us bridge the identity & public blockchain communities, as well as preparing for the many future blogs we will be writing detailing out our vision and progress.

Firstly, a quick overview of the layering model used in each community.

Identity

The SSI community largely follows the Trust Over IP stack / layering model, shown below, which extends the Technology / Infrastructure model from the Sovrin Foundation. This constrains the platform to “Layer 1” with layers 2–4 covering protocols and frameworks which exist above the base utility, which can be viewed as wherever the DIDs reside.

A table showing how the Trust Over IP Foundation represents the separation of governance and technology for digital identity
The dual ‘Trust over IP Stack’

Public blockchain

In contrast, the public blockchain community uses the following layering (example here from Coinscribble) :

  • Layer 1: Base network, i.e. Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.
  • Layer 2: Overlay network, i.e. Lightning, Raiden or Plasma
  • Off-ledger solutions: Custodianship, custody wallets, centralized exchanges

Bridging

In the absence of a more comprehensive framework in the public blockchain community, the ToIP stack requires amendments in two areas.

The first is that Layer 1 itself should be broken out into multiple layers to account for the innovations mentioned above, giving us:

  • 1.1: Base network, i.e. Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.
  • 1.2: Overlay network, i.e. Lightning, Raiden or Plasma

We recognize that expecting the public-blockchain community to adopt this terminology would be presumptuous but at least hope this will help clean up conversations within the identity community.

More significantly, an “Economy” or “payment“ stack needs adding to the existing “Governance“ and “Technology“ stacks [Full credit to Andy Tobin at Evernym here]. This new stack augments the existing stacks with:

  • Layer 1: Tokens to provide the medium of exchange
  • Layer 2: Payment protocols to provide the mechanism of exchange
  • Layer 3: Payment orchestration plug-ins to implement commercial constructs, such as subscription, transactional or flat fee models for ecosystems

All to create:

  • Layer 4: Economies
Modified Trust Over IP stack showing an economics layer in addition to governance and technology
Overlaying the ‘Trust over IP stack’ with a payment stack

Notes:

  • Economies within the “Economy“ stack, are simply Ecosystems with commercial structures / relationships whether unilateral, bi-lateral or multi-lateral.
  • Whilst the ToIP stack has a Governance Authority authoring Governance Frameworks, within Economies, the Governance Authority may be a range of structures from a single entity, through consortia to Decentralized Autonomous Organizations.

Adding an extra stack naturally introduces additional complexity. However, this can be addressed by simply introducing grid references, e.g. 4G referring to “Ecosystem Governance Frameworks” and similarly 1T referring to “Public Utilities: DIDs“. When necessary, this can be extended to 1T2 to account for second order networks within Layer 1, as per the diagram below.

Overlaying the ‘Trust over IP stack’ with a payment stack
Layer 1 can be further split to account for overlay networks

Open for comments

This may seem minor but we have seen enough conversations derailed by people and teams talking cross-purposes already to know this is necessary and hope this will help both ourselves and others to avoid any confusion in the future. And selfishly, it will also remove the need for us to clarify what we mean by “Layer 2” in any future blogs.

We would like to thank the Trust over IP foundation for their excellent framework. Whilst we have experienced clashes in terminology, this challenge is a lot easier to handle than making our own framework from scratch. We look forward to contributing back to the Trust Over IP community in the coming months.

We also recognize that this is only an initial outline and are sure there will be many in the communities who can refine and extend this proposed addition.

As identity ecosystems recognise the need for incentives to achieve adoption and growth, these cross-community conversations will only become more and more frequent, with cheqd leading the way.