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[wbs] response to 'Call for Review: Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) v1.0 is a W3C Proposed Recommendation'

From: Tantek Çelik via WBS Mailer <sysbot+wbs@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2021 02:30:01 +0000
To: public-new-work@w3.org
Message-Id: <wbs-6cab68d17e29eaa1e33dbabc4bcc7bcd@w3.org>
The following answers have been successfully submitted to 'Call for Review:
Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) v1.0 is a W3C Proposed Recommendation'
(Advisory Committee) for Mozilla Foundation by Tantek Çelik.

Regarding the "Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) v1.0" specification, the
reviewer  suggests the document not be published as a Recommendation
[Formal Objection] (your details below).


Additional comments about the specification:
   Summary:
* No practical interoperability.
* Encourages divergence rather than convergence.
* Centralized methods allowed, in contradiction to WG & spec goals & name.
* Proof-of-work methods (e.g. blockchains) are harmful for sustainability
(s12y).

No practical interoperability. As Microsoft & Google expressed, the DID
“Core” spec has not demonstrated any degree of practical
interoperability, instead delegating that to a registry of 50+
“methods”, none of which themselves have interoperable implementations.
We agree with the analogy to URLs & schemes, as Google noted: “precedent
set by the development of URLs, in which RFC 1738 standardized 10 schemes
at the same time as it standardized URLs in general”. The Web has similar
experience with the img tag & image formats, and the video tag & video
formats. In each of those cases, there were multiple interoperable formats
before the tags themselves were standardized. In addition, we agree with
the comments made by Microsoft to “recommend that implementers use the
simpler JSON representation, to enhance interoperability and avoid
complications and incompatibilities arising from JSON-LD processing.”

Encourages divergence rather than convergence. The DID architectural
approach appears to encourage divergence rather than convergence &
interoperability. The presence of 50+ entries in the registry, without any
actual interoperability, seems to imply that there are greater incentives
to introduce a new method, than to attempt to interoperate with any one of
a number of growing existing methods. Note this is in contrast with prior
examples given (URL schemes, image & video formats). Thus, whether intended
or not, the DID specification (and perhaps its inherent architecture) is
designed in such a way that encourages divergence of implementations,
rather than convergence & interoperability. 

The lack of restrictions on the registry are allowing methods diametrically
opposed to the principles of the group & spec, and methods which are
actively globally harmful to sustainability. In particular:

* Centralized methods allowed, in contradiction to WG & spec goals & name.
As Google noted, some methods in the registry such as did:ccp use a single
server, and thus any interop with such a method would bias toward
centralization, and likely be literally centralized rather than
decentralized. Centralization might be at an architectural level, or – at
a minimum – a service level, even if multiple “implementations”
claimed to support it.

* Proof-of-work methods (e.g. blockchains) are harmful for sustainability
(s12y). Also as noted by Google, the registry contains methods which rely
upon proof-of-work which is wasteful. “Successful” proof-of-work
systems waste a staggering amount of electricity world-wide (e.g. Bitcoin
consumes more energy than most countries
<https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/05/05/bitcoin-devours-more-electricity-than-many-countries-infographic/>)
demonstrating that the more such methods are adopted, the more their energy
requirements grow, without any discernible upper bound, which is grossly
irresponsible given the global environmental crisis (recent IPCC report
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58130705>).

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggested “the registry should
include a requirement to provide system- and processor-independent
assessment of the energy requirements of any methods being registered.”
We don’t think this goes far enough.

We (W3C) can no longer take a wait-and-see or neutral position on
technologies with egregious energy use. We must instead firmly oppose such
proof-of-work technologies including to the best of our ability blocking
them from being incorporated or enabled (even optionally) by any
specifications we develop. If anything we should pursue the opposite:
develop specifications that supersede existing specifications, but with
much less power consumption. We believe this is consistent with the TAG
Ethical Web Sustainability principle
(<https://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/ethical-web-principles/#sustainable>).

For these reasons we believe the DID specification may not be fixable (MUST
NOT become a Recommendation). We suggest returning the specification to
Working Draft status.



The reviewer's organization:
   - does not expect to produce or use products or content addressed by
this specification

Answers to this questionnaire can be set and changed at
https://www.w3.org/2002/09/wbs/33280/did-core-pr/ until 2021-08-31.

 Regards,

 The Automatic WBS Mailer
Received on Wednesday, 1 September 2021 02:30:03 UTC

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