Blockchain development made easy: Getting started with Hyperledger Indy
Our ‘Blockchain development made easy’ series continues with Hyperledger Indy, a distributed ledger, purpose-built for decentralized identity. What are the advantages and how can developers get started with it? We talked to Daniel Hardman, Hyperledger Indy maintainer about what’s under this project’s hood.
JAXenter: Can distributed ledgers put an end to all the privacy breaches on the internet?
Daniel Hardman: Not exactly. However, they can change security and privacy dynamics enough to drastically alter incentives for nefarious actors.
Traditional approaches to identity centralize personal data in massive troves owned by institutions. These troves make juicy targets – an intruder steals data on millions of individuals if outer defenses can be overcome. If you change the equation such that each person owns their own identity, and manages its cryptographic bona fides through a distributed ledger, and each identity is protected separately, then a hack must breach one identity worth of information at a time. There’s no million-to-one multiplier, so the economics shift.
JAXenter: How can Hyperledger Indy help solve this problem?
Daniel Hardman: Indy provides a nicely packaged implementation of decentralized, independent identity for people, organizations, and IoT things – exactly the game changer I just described.
JAXenter: How does Hyperledger Indy work? What’s under its hood?
Daniel Hardman: The foundation of Indy is a distributed ledger (blockchain) purpose-built for identity. This gives it scale, performance, and cost effectiveness that are very attractive when compared to more general-purpose blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
A unique feature of Indy is its ability to interface with “trust frameworks” – governance models that describe how actors in an Indy ecosystem agree to behave, how regulatory requirements will be addressed, and so forth. When Indy is combined with a carefully crafted trust framework, for example in the Sovrin Network, regulatory pressures from GDPR, ePrivacy, HIPAA, and the like can be addressed in uniquely powerful ways. For more on this, I recommend this recent blog series.
Indy includes a powerful SDK that can be called from various programming languages. This SDK helps developers create rich indy-identity-enabled applications.
Layered atop Indy’s ledger is a data management and exchange technology called “anonymous credentials.” These credentials allow parties to prove things about themselves in a way that can create islands of privacy in the ocean of our surveillance economy.
Indy includes a powerful SDK that can be called from various programming languages. This SDK helps developers create rich indy-identity-enabled applications. Indy also provides reference implementations of various components–mobile app, cloud services – samples, documentation, and various developer tools.
JAXenter: According to Phillip J. Windley, Ph.D., Chair of Sovrin Foundation, “Indy shares three important virtues with the Internet: No one owns it. Everyone can use it. Anyone can improve it.” What’s there to improve at the moment?
Daniel Hardman: Today, Indy clients runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows, as well as iOS and Android. That’s pretty broad coverage for a young technology, but we’d still like to be broader. For example, we’d like to run on some embedded platforms, on more Linux distros, and on older mobile devices. We’d love community contributions there. Indy’s docs could benefit from more content and better organization. Integrations between Indy and related technologies such as cryptocurrencies and dapps would be exciting.
Indy leverages several emerging standards, such as the W3C spec on Decentralized Identifiers, the W3C spec on Verifiable Credentials, and work on distributed key management systems. All of these interoperability efforts could benefit from the time and energy of bright community minds.
JAXenter: What’s the end result of Indy’s efforts?
Daniel Hardman: I believe Indy technology will eventually be the fulcrum around which a revolution in personal digital empowerment, security, and privacy pivots. The world will shift away from institutions granting identities on terms they control to a paradigm where people create their own identities with lower cost and greater freedom and confidence. We’ll all benefit – people already active in the digital economy who are surveilled and manipulated today; populations that have been disenfranchised by lack of access; companies that want richer and more trusted interactions with customers.
This is the world stirringly described by Doc Searls in his book, The Intention Economy.
JAXenter: What’s next for Hyperledger Indy?
Daniel Hardman: Indy’s codebases are steadily adding features and supported platforms. The community is growing, with many PoCs and pilots underway. The first commercial, production software offerings based on Indy released last January; a government project using Indy will reach production status shortly.
Our Blockchain development made easy interviews published so far: