Terminology – the Plan

From IIW

Terminology: The Plan

Thursday 15A

Convener: Drummond Reed, Daniel Hardman, John Jordan, Joe Andrieu (remotely)

Notes-taker(s): Sarah Allen

Tags for the session - technology discussed/ideas considered:

SSI, Decentralize Identity, Terminology

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

IIW started as a mailing list around user-centric identity.

People were talking past each other, until we get to shared understanding and shared language 

shared understanding - I understand what you mean even if we are using different words

shared language - shared terms

Eugene Kim - specialized in collaboration, way to successful collaboration is to identify small goals and make them happen

Paul ??? led community through process of creating a lexicon

Lexicon on the identity commons

NSTIC references it

Alice / Bob ==> ??? ==> Persistence of an attribute about Alice

SSI didn’t emerge until around 5 years ago

Decentralized identity, User-centric identity, SSI largely describe the same thing

Sovrin Foundation needed to create policies, founding docs, etc., so they needed a glossary


July 2017 - Sovrin Glossary v1 - 102 terms - all legal agreements used these terms

 ~50% of the terms were refined or replaced

March 2019 - Sovrin Glossary v2 - 248 terms

What about NIST Taxonomic Approach to Blockchain identity?


Functional Identity paper by Joe Andrieu.  Joe joined meeting via zoom and gave an overview  of this paper. The paper asks for people to think about Identity functionally, rather than political, cultural, psychological.  Let’s talk about how we use it. (Part of that was rejection of ISO standard that said that identity was a set of attributes associated with an individual)  

“Identity is how we recognize, remember and respond to specific people and things” — seems to work cross-culturally and cross-contextually

We operationalize identity in a number of ways.  This definition seems to work well for how we need to use identity.  The paper also introduced 10 terms, which also seemed to help. bit.ly/FunctionalIdentityPrimer 

Not being too prescriptive.  Let’s not run things in parallel that are really the same and not arbitrarily different just because of terminology.

One of the 7 laws of identity, “unified user experience” — regardless of terminology, we all have a shared experience of driving a car.  It’s a safety concern that we have consistent user experience in driving cars. Same for identity space.

What is the audience?

  • Need to have words for the people who use the software
  • Also, policy vs. software developers

Is this even about identity?  Should we instead focus on ue cases

When sovereign states use “identity” badly, they end up harming marginalized peoples.  It ends up turning into an oppressive statement like “we are giving you an identity” or “we are defining your identity”

How we use words amongst ourselves affects how we talk outside our community?  For example, the “stack” we created was helpful in organizing how we work with each other.


  1. Developers  / Architects
  2. Product designers
  3. UX designers
  4. Policy writers / regulators / lawyers / legislators
  5. “End Users” (useful to refer to different, specific groups of end users)
  6. Investors
  7. Journalists
  8. Customers
  9. Analysts
  10. Standards groups

Terms are valuable for developing a market for the solutions people are building

There are a number of terms that are well-used within the identity space — would be great to clarify if anything is different for SSI or just a clarification.

What do you think about moving the glossary into a repo?

What is the scope of this?  There are so many glossaries out there.  What is the scope of this?

Min scope - Developers + Policy writers


  • MyData
  • GDPR
  • Standards Groups
  • NIST

Maybe it needs to live somewhere that is not affiliated with a single group (e.g. IIW, identity commons) [Note: these suggestions are affiliated with their own group.]

To be continued, after closing circle.