Microsoft Is Using Bitcoin to Help Build a Decentralized Internet

The ION project promises to give individual users absolute control over their online identity and privacy.


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In an age of increasingly ubiquitous government surveillance, security breaches, and high-profile cancellations, in which internet giants have ultimate control over users' online profiles, credentials, and data, Microsoft is helping to build a technology that would give individuals ownership rights over their own virtual identities.

The mission of the ION project is to build Decentralized Identifiers, or DIDs, that can serve as the anchor point for our activities all across the internet. If the goal of bitcoin is to eliminate the power of centralized institutions over money, ION is trying to do the same thing with online identities.

To achieve this level of decentralization and immutability, ION is built on top of the shared database that's used for recording bitcoin transactions, which is known as the blockchain. Though Microsoft is contributing most of the work, the company would have no control over who participates in the system.

Daniel Buchner, a self-described libertarian, is the project lead for ION. Reason sat down with him at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami to talk about how this technology could usher in a new era of hyper-individualized online identity and privacy.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie, edited by John Osterhoudt, camera by Jim Epstein and Noor Greene, additional graphics by Lex Villena