W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-credentials@w3.org > December 2020

VCs - zCaps / OCap a Discussion

From: Kaliya IDwoman <kaliya-id@identitywoman.net>
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2020 17:34:36 -0800
Message-ID: <CA+z9oKDoH_m1jAie9bLwj--eKXCa2Kmx4peg-h0PJ1svqkd-nQ@mail.gmail.com>
To: Credentials CG <public-credentials@w3.org>
About a week ago I sparked a discussion between Manu and Sam Smith about
VCs and zCaps / oCaps.

The conversation has pulled in a few more folks and it was agreed that the
discussion should move over to this list.

Below is the prior threads cut and paste. If you would rather read it in a
document form that is attached. The active participants will continue the
discussion here.

- Kaliya

From: *Kaliya Identity Woman*

Date: Sun, Nov 22, 2020 at 10:52 AM

Subject: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Manu Sporny, Samuel Smith

HI Sam and Manu,

I'm opening up a thread because I have heard via Drummond that Sam is
thinking about a new VC to do access management.

 I know this is an area where ZCaps are being used and I think it is really
critical to have discussions across the community amongst the deep experts
before 'just starting new things'.

 I hope you two can talk sooner rather than later.

 Warm Regards,

- Kaliya

From: *ProSapien Sam Smith*

Date: Sun, Nov 22, 2020 at 11:34 AM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Kaliya Identity Woman  Cc: Manu Sporny, Drummond Reed, Hardman Daniel


The proposed task force  is  to look at VC for authorizations in general,
not merely access management. Access management (aka ZCaps) is an important
use case of authorization but a generic broad definition of authorization
includes much more than access management. Object capabilities are a very
useful model for access management and this is not an anti-zcap effort but
a broader approach where an object capability semantic may be one of many.
  These include but are not limited to custodial relationships,
guardianship relationships,  business process management relationships,
supply chain relationships etc. The important feature is that the semantics
are embedded into existing VCs, i.e. VC Native, and not part of a separate
conveyance as is the stated objective of  https://w3c-ccg.github.io/zcap-ld/

Indeed the primary semantic we are looking at is not an authorization
semantic per se but a chaining semantic for establishing chained VCs.  A VC
chaining semantic supports more than authorization/delegation it also
 supports provenance of data transformations, data custody source to sink,
trust provenance (reputation), audibility, fine grained issuance semantics
etc. In this regard authorization may be viewed as a sub-semantic of a
chaining super semantic. This is especially useful in open loop systems
(not closed loop like access control).

In summary, access control (aka z-caps) may best be implemented via a
distinct process from VC chaining and hence benefit from a separate home
and conveyance. In this regard, pure access control via Z-caps is not
impinged upon by adding a general chaining semantic to VCs of which trust
provenance and/or authorization are sub-classes.

See this:




From: *ProSapien Sam Smith*

Date: Sun, Nov 22, 2020 at 1:33 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Kaliya Identity Woman

Cc: Manu Sporny Drummond Reed, Hardman Daniel


To give you a little more background.

There are two primary approaches to privacy protection in online exchanges
of information.

1) Manage the degree of disclosure

2) Manage the degree of exploitation given disclosure

The first approach is inherently leaky. Over time any disclosure becomes
more and more correlatable. It is best employed to provide temporary
ephemeral privacy protection

The second approach imposes liability or counter incentive to the
un-permissioned exploitation of correlated data. It is a persistent and
enforceable check on exploitation that removes the incentive to correlate.
This may be accomplished with contracts or with contracts in combination
with regulations such as GDPR.  A really good legal analysis of privacy
protection using contracts is given here called "chain link

Consent is a type of authorization. It is usually open-loop and persistent.
It benefits from a chaining semantic. It is hard to shoe horn consent
semantics into access control semantics. They are both types of
authorizations in the broad sense of the word, but they do not work the

Chain link confidentiality (or the like)  authorization semantics could be
implemented with self-contained VCs that employ a native chaining
authorization semantic.

When sharing data via VCs it makes the most sense that any associated
authorizations/consents/restrictions etc.  be conveyed in-band,
self-contained, attached, embedded, or entrained with that data as it is
shared. Not conveyed in a separate out-of-band mechanism.

I am sure you are well acquainted with the Kantara Initiative's Consent
Receipt spec.  https://kantarainitiative.org/download/7902/

In addition to the links in my prior email, some other relevant links are
as follows:




These all benefit from an embedded VC native chaining semantic for which a
separate out of band Z-cap conveyance is not well suited.

A further example of a use for a chaining semantic. The IETF and TCG
(trusted computing group) are promulgating several standards based on
verifiable remote attestations of the configuration of trusted executions
environments.  https://datatracker.ietf.org/wg/rats/about/

The semantics of these verifiable attestations could be embedded in and
conveyed by VCs with appropriate chaining and provenancing semantics

The goal here is to make VCs the universal locus of interoperability so
that implementers that want  Verifiable Containers of Data need use only
one infrastructure.  The VC spec with VC schema is sufficiently expressive
syntactically to encompass all these semantics we just have to standardize
the syntax for the semantics.

I hope this helps clarify the technical motivations and distinctions.



From: *Daniel Hardman*

Date: Wed, Dec 2, 2020 at 8:54 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Kaliya Identity Woman

Cc: ProSapien Sam Smith, Dmitri Zagidulin, Tobias Looker , Manu Sporny,
Drummond Reed

Kaliya, I think it's noble to look for a way to bring separate communities
together, but I feel like there are some misunderstandings about the
history and nature of our divergence. They may not doom such efforts to
failure, but they do get in the way. What follows is my attempt to describe
the problem from my perspective. I don't claim it to be objective truth --
only an accurate capture of the way I see the situation.

VCs can be verified by anyone *without* going back to the issuer. I
consider this one of their most important characteristics. It changes power
dynamics, technical architecture, regulatory compliance, trust, and many
human factors upon which SSI depends.

OCaps are generally validated/redeemed/invoked in a way that circles back
to their issuer. The OS gives a file handle; an application that wants to
work with the file makes an OS call and presents that handle as proof that
they have the right to use it. I believe this direct or indirect dependency
on the issuer is what Sam meant when he described OCaps as a "closed loop"

Because the use cases for VCs and OCaps sound a bit different when
described like I have above, it is not crazy to implement them differently.
But it is also not necessary. You can use a VC like a bearer token that
should be presented to and verified by its issuer. You can add to such a VC
various capabilities like attenuation chains, composite delegation,
etc -- *with
only schema choices, not changes to the VC spec*. In other words, VCs can
prove delegated privilege just like OCaps can. (On the other hand, you
can't address the breadth of VC use cases with the narrower featureset of
OCaps.) Note how this claim I'm making is similar to ones I have heard Dave
Longley and Manu make about other possible innovations proposed in the VC
space: "We don't need serviceEndpoint; just emit a VC that makes your
endpoint into verifiable data. We don't need type on a DID doc; use a VC to
describe attributes of a DID subject."

When I have advocated for ideas like serviceEndpoint and type, Dave and
Manu have sought to put the burden of proof on me: *Please demonstrate why
you can't do what you want with what we already have. *Why have we not
applied that same logic to the zCaps work item that CCG has undertaken?
What can we not do with VCs that forces us to invent an entirely new spec
for a kind of signed, verifiable, revocable data? (Note that I'm NOT asking
why we want OCap-like behavior in a security context; I'm asking why there
has to be a separate spec/impl for such a mechanism, when VCs -- the very
work product this group is known for -- are capable of expressing all the
same semantics.)

OCaps were emphasized at an RWOT that many of us attended (Boston, I
think). Some OCap experts were there, and I loved what they had to say.
OCaps are useful. However, when Manu and Chris W wanted to explore at that
same conference an OCap-centric vision of how the authorization section of
a DID Doc ought to work, I felt a lot of dissonance. So did others. We
eventually agreed that we wouldn't bog down other dimensions of progress
with a tough battle to consensus on the authorization topic. zCaps
(originally OCAP-LD, IIRC) were born soon thereafter as a method that DB
wanted to use for authorization in the DB ecosystem. I was fine with
that, as a feature of their DID method. I read an early draft of the spec
with some care to stay informed. Meanwhile, I began imagining how OCaps
could be done with a VC and any DID method, giving them selective
disclosure, strong privacy, powerful revocation, governance, regulatory
compliance etc -- without inventing a new mechanism for signing and
verification that would need DID method support and its own story about all
of these supporting topics. The outgrowth of my work was first a webinar
about delegated credentials, and later Aries RFC 0104
about chained credentials. I did not make an attempt to standardize my
work, because it only depends on the VC standard which already exists.
Everything else is just picking schemas cleverly. And my approach worked
from day 1 with all variants of VCs -- JSON-LD, JWT, Indy's flawed impl,

When DB proposed zCaps as a CCG work item, I did not object. I figured that
any DID method that wanted to use zCaps should be able to. However, I had
no interest in collaborating on what I felt was an unnecessary new
mechanism that was missing important features VCs already had. I also felt
that chained credentials addressed another use case that zCaps can't handle
and that the general VC ecosystem sorely needed, which is general data
provenance. So I was getting 2 for 1. (Provenance of authorization is a
subset of a larger problem. Think of how academics and journalists cite
sources, and imagine that data provenance mechanism allowing someone to
attribute a legalName field in an employer credential to the government ID
it came from. But I digress...)

Anyway, I have been consistent about my disinterest in zCaps for several
years now. I spoke about my reasons (and about my alternate approach) at
IIW (unfortunately not attended by zCaps proponents). I have pushed back on
the way that capabilityInvocation enthrones an OCap worldview in the DID
core. I've linked to the chained credential RFC in several CCG emails. When
the CCG sponsored a special learning session about zCaps, I wrote the group
to note that an alternate solution was possible, where OCaps were built
from VCs. Joe engaged in a public debate with me about it on the mailing
His arguments were the only substantive engagement I got. He invited me to
come present to the group about it, but when the date didn't work, and then
COVID happened, we never circled back.

My point in all this is not recrimination -- it's simply to acknowledge
that Sam's task force is not a new, casual, or ill-considered divergence.
It is an old one that stems from philosophical, architectural, and use case
differences. These differences ARE NOT related to our other sore spot of
divergence around ZKPs; they are entirely independent. The approach Sam is
imagining is not a new effort to ignore a nascent zCaps standard; it is as
old as OCAP-LD itself, and just as well documented. And if anything, it is
Sam's approach that is standard; zCaps requires that a new standard be
developed, instead of using the one we already matured and have worked so
hard to implement.

None of this needs to prevent us from converging -- but the precondition to
convergence would be an agreement on the requirements we're trying to
address. I don't think we have that. I have modest interest in seeing if we
could find common ground, and would be willing to attend a meeting to
discuss. I would also be willing to revisit the offer from CCG to explain
this alternate approach, if there is interest. But achieving a convergence
here doesn't feel like a rational top priority -- only a nice-to-have. So
I'm waiting for someone else to take the bull by the horns. If no one does,
I'll continue to support Sam's task force because it is more closely
aligned with my priorities and my view of which standard I want to focus on
(the VC standard). I don't view divergence like this as a terrible tragedy;
often it's better to standardize after the market has weighed in on what it
wants. I feel like many in the CCG want to standardize too early.


From: *ProSapien Sam Smith* <sam@prosapien.com>

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 5:55 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Tobias Looker

Cc: Hardman Daniel, Kaliya Identity Woman, Dmitri Zagidulin, Manu Sporny,
Drummond Reed

Correcting typos and better wording.

Should read:

Not authorization statements in general. But even in the realm  of
authorization statements, they do not even begin to encompass all the types
of authorization statements indigenous to  real world of data processing.
Access control is only one thin slice of all authorizations.

From: *Tobias Looker*

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 6:37 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: ProSapien Sam Smith

Cc: Hardman Daniel, Kaliya Identity Woman, Dmitri Zagidulin , Manu Sporny,
Drummond Reed


> I appreciate the ongoing discussion. It is helpful to see how various
viewpoints and definitional understanding differ.  I want to comment on one
statement because I believe it is one of those that are pare  of a core
divergences in understanding.

Appreciate the feedback and discussion too. I think I see the source of our
disagreement quite well. Essentially you view the verifiable credentials
spec through a more abstract lense than I (which I totally understand),
whereas I view verifiable credentials as a cryptographically secure
identity claim assertion format, not one for describing authorization,
because I see them having divergent requirements meaning they should not be
conflated and technologies like OAuth and OpenID Connect are examples where
they have maintained this separation (id_token vs access_token).

> The verifiable in verifiable credential means cryptographically verifying
signatures. A more generic way of expressing this is that a verifiable
credential is verifying the authenticity of a statement.

Really nothing more and nothing less. The meaning of that verified
statement is open, its free. The schema and semantics of a VC have nothing
to do with its primary purpose, that of verifying authenticity of a
statement. The "identity" in this case is the holder of the private key
from the public private key pair. Nothing more nothing less.  It is
identity at its simplest expression, that is a cryptographic identifier.

Again I see it differently, what I believe you are *indirectly *talking
about is the concept of transferability of a capability, for instance
bearer tokens in OAuth (access_tokens) have virtually no protection against
transfer, he who possesses the access_token can exercise the authority it
permits. Employing a cryptographic binding layer to tokens of
authorization, imposes the requirement that the invoker of the capability
(token) prove possession of the cryptographic key the token is bound to.
However this is NOT about the identity of the invoker, its about ensuring
the invocation of that capability is sound in the eyes of the authority who
issued it (or chain that delegated it). An example is a resource server in
an OAuth architecture can readily validate requests from authorized parties
by simply checking the validity of the access_token, they do not need to
know (nor should they in many instances) the concrete identity of the
authorized party.


*Tobias Looker*

From: *ProSapien Sam Smith*

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 7:23 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Tobias Looker

Cc: Hardman Daniel, Kaliya Identity Woman, Dmitri Zagidulin Manu Sporny,
Drummond Reed

So to close the loop.

Given a generic authentic data container. One need merely specify precise
semantics for a given syntactical schema to unambiguously perform an
associated task. There would be no confusion as to the task because the
syntactical schema and semantics are precisely defined.  A container can
hold multiple sets of syntactical blocks each with associated semantics.
Again completely unambiguously.  One mechanism establishes authenticity of
all the contents. A chained authentic data container would allow granular
provenance of each set. Moreover a chained container may be a node in
multiple disjoint trees which are completely unrelated semantically. Each
chained block contains references or proofs of the external provenance of
contents  the chained block in the container.

Now it may be a bad idea to chain different types of syntactical blocks
with different semantics. But that would be an easily detected invalid use
of chaining. Chains can easily require coherent semantics. But the
container itself is merely establishing the authenticity of its contents to
the source of the container. A single source may make multiple statements
that all share the same source but have no other relationship to each

For example, suppose that there are three disjoint blocks in a container,
namely A, B, and C. By virtue of those blocks being in the container, the
authentic data container specification allows a verifier to ascertain the
origin of the container, i.e is authenticity relative to a key-pair or a
set of key-pairs and by implication to the holder of those key pairs
whomever that may be. The verification happens only once. And all three
blocks are now verified independent of the semantics and syntax each block.

Let suppose that block A has a sub block A.1 that comes from some other
source. I.E another authentic data container Z. By including a reference to
that other container Z in A.1, a verifier is able to verify the provenance
of A.1 as authentically sourced from Z. And so on up a chain of provenance.

Likewise independently blocks B and C in the container, merely by virtue of
being in the container are simultaneously verified as being authentic to
the source of the container independent of their semantics. They are not in
anyway necessarily dependent on each other. The container conveys authentic
information from a source.   The authentic data container is merely
multiplexing one or more authentic statements, that are, A, B, and C. And
each of A,B, and C may belong to completely mutually disjoint provenance

Suppose that block A is an authorization statement. Its semantics do not in
any impede the semantics of Block B or C. Nor do the semantics of block B
or C impede or confuse A.  They are not semantically related. They just all
happen to come from the same authentic source.

The hard part of security is establishing authenticity of statements.
Having one generic method for establishing authenticity of multiplexed
statements via one conveyance is way more secure in general than having
separate methods of establishing authenticity one for each type of
statement each via multiple non-multiplexed conveyances.

Other than  narrow corner cases, it defies best practice security
principles to not multiplex.

To put a fine point on it. Suppose I want to access a web site. Should I
establish a secure communication channel via TLS and then tunnel all my
requests for any resource on that website via that secure channel or should
I create multiple simultaneous channels one for each mime type of resource
or even each resource.   Well if there are some highly unique
characteristics of different types of resources like asynchronous video
streams versus database queries then maybe yes. But the authenticity of the
website is the same in all cases. So it I have a secure way of establishing
authenticity for any type of  resource, it makes sense to reuse that one
secure way whenever its practical. An to not use a different authenticity
mechanism resource.   The authentic source is the same so establish
authenticity the same way. In general one just establishes one multiplexed
authentic channel and lets the mime type of each multiplexed resource
determine the semantic behavior.

If we build a single standard for authentic data containers with extensible
and separable semantics for the data conveyed inside that container then we
have a very high degree of reuse of tooling. This fosters much higher
interoperability and adoption. If instead every time we have a different
type of semantic for data conveyed in a container we build a new non
interoperable type of authentic data container then we will have a hot
mess. We are just recreating at the VC layer, the DID method proliferation
mess that happened at the DID layer.

From: *ProSapien Sam Smith*

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 7:33 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Tobias Looker

Cc: Hardman Daniel, Kaliya Identity Woman , Dmitri Zagidulin , Manu Sporny,
Drummond Reed


It may never be that one wants to put all of A, B, and C in the same
container. That is not the point. The point is that the verification of the
container as authentic does not care about A, B, or C. If it does then we
have designed a bad container. We do not have separation of concerns. We
have confusion of concerns. Arguing that VC somehow are meant for identity
purposes is fundamentally confusing what a VC truly is.  The term
Verifiable Credential may be part of the problem. The definition of
Credential is a right or privilege, i.e. it is synonymous with
authorization. It is indeed ironic to be in a discussion where one side is
arguing that verifiable authorizations (credentials) must not be

From: *Drummond Reed* <drummond.reed@evernym.com>

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 7:39 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: ProSapien Sam Smith <sam@prosapien.com>

Cc: Tobias Looker <tobias.looker@mattr.global>, Hardman Daniel <
daniel.hardman@evernym.com>, Kaliya Identity Woman <kaliya@identitywoman.net>,
Dmitri Zagidulin <dzagidulin@gmail.com>, Manu Sporny <

I am not a real software architect like the rest of you. But I must admit
that Sam's argument that a verifiable container is required in all these
scenarios and that having one consistent way of handling verifiable
containers independent of the semantics in the container seems to be a
serious advantage, especially considering all the infrastructure we are
talking about building on top of this foundation.

What am I missing?


From: *Tobias Looker*

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 7:46 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: =Drummond Reed

Cc: ProSapien Sam Smith , Hardman Daniel, Kaliya Identity Woman, Dmitri
Zagidulin, Manu Sporny

> What am I missing?

I understand, in essence I think Verifiable Credentials are more
opinionated than the generalized verifiable data container vision that Sam
is putting out. For instance if you use the credentialSubject property in
the VC you issue, you as the issuer are aiming to describe a subject in
some capacity, which is fundamentally different than describing the
authority to do something (a capability), it is that commingling that is
problematic in my eyes and leads to a well document set of problems that
often plague identity systems.

*Tobias Looker*

From: *Daniel Hardman*

Date: Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 8:41 PM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Tobias Looker

Cc: ProSapien Sam Smith, Kaliya Identity Woman, Dmitri Zagidulin Manu
Sporny, Drummond Reed

> in essence I think Verifiable Credentials are more opinionated than the
generalized verifiable data container vision that Sam is putting out.

Okay, excellent. I believe we've zeroed in on one root of our divergence,
which is *whether VCs are a general mechanism for verifiable statements, or
are specially dedicated to establishing identity*. This is progress.
Commentary on that subtopic is indented below.

It is true that identity use cases predominate in the minds of VCs
proponents today. However, I don't believe it's correct to consider them
inherently related to identity. Here are several quotes from the VC spec
that might be relevant:

   - "Verifiable credentials represent statements made by an issuer in a
      tamper-evident and privacy-respecting manner." (section 1.3; note that
      identity isn't mentioned)
      - Issuers can issue verifiable credentials about any subject."
      (section 1.3)
      - "credential: A set of one or more claims made by an issuer. A
      verifiable credential is a tamper-evident credential that has authorship
      that can be cryptographically verified." (official definition
from section
      - "It is possible to have a credential that does not contain any
      claims about the entity to which the credential was issued." (note in
      section 3.2)
      - "When expressing statements about a specific thing, such as a
      person, product, or organization, it is often useful to use some kind of
      identifier so that others can express statements about the same
thing. This
      specification defines the optional id property for such identifiers... If
      the id property is present..." (section 4.2)
      - "A holder might transfer one or more of its verifiable credentials
      to another holder." (section 5.1)
      - "This section describes possible relationships between a subject
      and a holder and how the Verifiable Credentials Data Model
expresses these
      relationships... [Diagram: Subject present? no->Bearer Credential;
      yes->Subject = Holder? no->Credential Uniquely Identifies Subject?
      no->Subject Passes VC to Holder? no-> Issuer Independently Authorises
      Holder?...]" (Appendix C)

Key points: VCs are defined by their composition from verifiable
assertions, which can be about anything and for any purpose; identity is
only one of many uses. VCs can be bearer tokens. VCs are explicitly
contemplated for authorization use cases, including ones where the
credential (authorization instrument) does not uniquely identify the
subject. VCs can be transferable. This is all explicitly in the spec. Do
you agree?

>For instance if you use the credentialSubject property in the VC you
issue, you as the issuer are aiming to describe a subject in some capacity,
which is fundamentally different than describing the authority to do
something (a capability)

This is a second point of divergence, also important. *Is it really true
that a capability describes the authority to do something, that this
doesn't describe a subject in some capacity, and that this makes a
capability a different animal from a VC?*

Here is the definition of a capability from wikipedia
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability-based_security>: "A capability...
is a communicable, unforgeable token of authority. It refers to a value that
references an object along with an associated set of access rights."

Note the part in red. A capability is not a capability unless it asserts
that privileges attach to an object; it never describes privileges in the
abstract. The distinction with VCs collapses by this definition, does it

Suppose a robotics student asserts that her course of study at Cambridge is
very rigorous. I think we can all agree that this sort of assertion is not
identity-centric. (It does reference a subject just like a capability
references its resource or an RDF triple references its subject, but the
student isn't asserting (and her listeners don't evaluate her statement) to
establish the identity of Cambridge, or of herself. Right?)

It seems indisputable to me that this assertion is easily represented as a
verifiable credential, without any distortion or abuse of the standard:


  "@context": [ "https://www.w3.org/2018/credentials/v1", "
https://studentu.org/campuslife" ],

  "type": ["VerifiableCredential", "AcademicExperienceReport"],

  "issuer": "https://facebook.com/AmyLovesRobots",

  "issuanceDate": "2021-01-01T19:73:24Z",

  "credentialSubject": { "id": "https://www.cam.ac.uk/",
"opinionAboutRigor": "Super challenging."},

  "proof": {...}


So, now let's imagine that Amy wants to let a few of her friends play with
the robot prototype she's been developing as her capstone project. She
makes another verifiable statement framed in a way that satisfies the VC


  "@context": [ "https://www.w3.org/2018/credentials/v1", "
https://roboticlab.cam.ac.uk/grants" ],

  "type": ["VerifiableCredential", "RobotPrivilege"],

  "issuer": "https://facebook.com/Amy",

  "issuanceDate": "2021-01-01T19:73:24Z",

  "credentialSubject": { "id": "
https://roboticlab.cam.ac.uk/~amyt/capstone-project", "allow": "operate"},

  "proof": {...}


This VC also happens to be an OCap, in that it contains an unforgeable
object reference combined inseparably with a statement that authorizes or
confers privileges on its holder. It's an assertion that the bearer is

>it is that commingling that is problematic in my eyes and leads to a well
documented set of problems that often plague identity systems.

Can you give some specific examples -- not examples of identity system
problems solved by OCaps (which I think we all agree with), but of problems
that would be introduced if we implemented OCaps with VCs instead of
writing a new spec for them?

I suggest that we explore whether the separation into identity tokens vs
authorization tokens is advisable or not. That might be an interesting
question. However:

1. I suggest we define the purpose of VCs by the language in the standard,
not by tribal wisdom -- not assuming that VC != OCap.

2. If we decide that two different tokens are desirable, it does not free
us from the responsibility of explaining why we need two different specs
for them.

From: *Manu Sporny*

Date: Fri, Dec 4, 2020 at 7:28 AM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Tobias Looker, =Drummond Reed

Cc: ProSapien Sam Smith Hardman Daniel, Kaliya Identity Woman, Dmitri

On 12/3/20 10:46 PM, Tobias Looker wrote:

> I understand, in essence I think Verifiable Credentials are more

> opinionated than the generalized verifiable data container vision

> that Sam is putting out. For instance if you use the

> credentialSubject property in the VC you issue, you as the issuer are

> aiming to describe a subject in some capacity, which is fundamentally

> different than describing the authority to do something (a

> capability), it is that commingling that is problematic in my eyes

> and leads to a well document set of problems that often plague

> identity systems.

This is the crux of the philosophical divergence.

Fundamentally, Verifiable Credentials were meant to be used to do

authorization. You *can* use them to do authorization in the same way

that you can use a hammer to drive in a screw.

The abstraction that Sam is applying to VCs is really achieved one layer

lower with Linked Data Proofs/Signatures, which allows any information

to be digitally signed and verified as authentic.

Just because we *can* do authorization using VCs doesn't mean we should.

One reason we shouldn't is because a number of things that can be

capabilities (such as a DID Document on a ledger) are definitely not VCs

(square peg, round hole problem). Another reason is because we don't

want people to confuse what a VC is used for and what a ZCAP is used for

(confused developers problem).

I certainly don't disagree with a number of the points that Daniel and

Sam have made, but I don't think they're enough to get us over the two

concerns I have above. That said, seeing a concrete proposal of the use

cases Sam outlined might help analyse the benefits and drawbacks of the


I also want to point out that this si a very useful discussion and it's

a shame that it's happening in a private channel. The entire community

would benefit from the discussion. Can we move it to the CCG mailing list?

-- manu


Manu Sporny - https://www.linkedin.com/in/manusporny/

Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.

blog: Veres One Decentralized Identifier Blockchain Launches


From: *Daniel Hardman*

Date: Fri, Dec 4, 2020 at 8:02 AM

Subject: Re: VCs & OCap - please talk

To: Manu Sporny

Cc: Tobias Looker, =Drummond Reed, ProSapien Sam Smith , Kaliya Identity
Woman, Dmitri Zagidulin

I don't mind moving the conversation to the CCG channel. How should we
provide the background context? Would it be good to spend some conversation
time in an interactive meeting doing that, and connecting the email thread
to that interactive discussion either before or after?

>Fundamentally, Verifiable Credentials were meant to be used to
do authorization.

Just checking. You meant to say "weren't" there, right?

Regarding this statement from Manu:

>Fundamentally, Verifiable Credentials were meant to be used to do

authorization. You *can* use them to do authorization in the same way

that you can use a hammer to drive in a screw.

I strongly disagree with two aspects of this statement.

First, Manu can absolutely speak with authority about his own intentions
here -- and as an editor of the spec, he can even speak about his
experience getting the spec matured, where that perception was reinforced.
But Manu is not the only editor of the spec, and I know his
characterization has never been true about a significant subset of the
community who contributed.

Second, I have yet to see ANY justification for the hammer/screw analogy. I
gave an example of using a VC to express an ocap. It was simple and
elegant, and 100% compatible with the VC spec. To assert that this is using
a hammer to drive a screw implies a much stronger misfit than that. So if
we're going to make an assertion like that, I want concrete, specific
examples to justify it. I repeat the invitation I gave to Tobias:

Can you give some specific examples -- not examples of identity system
problems solved by OCaps (which I think we all agree with), but of problems
that would be introduced if we implemented OCaps with VCs instead of
writing a new spec for them?

Received on Saturday, 5 December 2020 01:35:07 UTC

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