Worldcoin is an ambitious initiative that aims to create a globally inclusive identity and financial network owned collectively by humanity. At its core is an innovation called World ID - a privacy-preserving proof of personhood system built on iris biometrics. This provides the ability to reliably distinguish real humans from bots and artificial intelligences online. Alongside World ID, Worldcoin also issues a governance and utility token called WLD to align incentives and bootstrap the network.
This educational article will provide an in-depth look at the key components comprising Worldcoin:
- World ID - A privacy-preserving proof of personhood system
- WLD Token - Alignment of incentives and bootstrapping network growth
- Technical Implementation - The architecture and technology stack
- Decentralization Roadmap - Transitioning to community governance
- Tokenomics - Token distribution and incentive mechanisms
- Worldcoin Foundation - Current governance and operations
By the end, you should have a comprehensive understanding of how Worldcoin utilizes technological innovations like proof of personhood and thoughtful incentive designs to build collectively owned infrastructure suited for the age of artificial intelligence.
World ID: A Privacy-Preserving Proof of Personhood System
The Need for Proof of Personhood
A core challenge Worldcoin strives to solve is global proof of personhood - the ability to reliably verify that individuals are real human beings rather than bots or artificial intelligences. This is increasingly difficult as AI systems become more capable of mimicking human behaviors when interacting online.
Reliable proof of personhood unlocks several applications that are otherwise vulnerable to corruption:
- Fair distribution of scarce resources - Airdrops, subsidies, and even universal basic income rely on the ability to uniquely identify individuals to prevent cheating.
- Preventing sybil attacks - Fake accounts and bot armies are a growing problem. Proof of personhood provides sybil-resistance by rate limiting accounts.
- Global governance of institutions like AI - Collective decision making requires identity mechanisms to prevent manipulation by bots.
Without a tamper-proof and inclusive proof of personhood system, these applications and others like decentralized reputation systems become easily corrupted. Establishing digital identity on a global scale is one of the great unsolved technology challenges of our time.
Implementing Proof of Personhood with World ID
After extensive research, Worldcoin concluded that iris biometrics represents the only currently viable path towards establishing proof of personhood on a global scale. Approaches based on social graphs, official IDs, and online accounts all have critical weaknesses that prevent reliably verifying uniqueness for billions of humans.
Only iris biometrics provide the accuracy and accessibility needed for global proof of personhood.
World ID leverages iris biometrics processed on custom hardware called Orb to issue users a cryptographic proof of their uniqueness. This acts as their World ID - a privacy-preserving proof of personhood credential.
Here is how it works:
- Users download World App and reserve a World ID verification
- They visit an Orb operated by a local business to get their World ID verified
- The Orb uses advanced iris recognition technology to verify the person is human and unique
- The verification happens fully offline - no data is uploaded or retained
- Users receive a cryptographic proof of uniqueness, their World ID, stored locally on their phone
- World ID enables privately proving humanness to any platform through zero-knowledge proofs - no sensitive information is revealed
This architecture allows World ID to meet the requirements for a functional proof of personhood system:
- Inclusivity - Available to anyone with an iris to scan
- Fraud resistance - Iris biometrics provide uniqueness across billions
- Privacy preservation - No data sharing required between user and verifier
- Personbound - Difficult to sell or steal someone else's World ID
- Recoverability - Users can always reverify their World ID if lost
By leveraging advanced cryptography like zero-knowledge proofs, World ID provides the verification needed to prove humanness privately without revealing any other identifying information. Platforms can cryptographically confirm a user has a valid World ID without learning anything else about them. This enables use cases like preventing fake accounts at global scale while preserving user privacy.
WLD Token - Alignment of Incentives and Bootstrapping
The Worldcoin token (WLD) serves dual purposes of aligning incentives and bootstrapping the network:
- Alignment - Rewarding growth and ethical verification of the World ID network
- Bootstrapping - Overcoming initial cold start challenges common to new networks
A key challenge when launching a new protocol is the lack of network effects early on. The WLD token helps jumpstart the Worldcoin network by incentivizing early adoption.
Most of the initial WLD supply will be distributed as recurring user grants to World ID holders simply for being human. This provides a strong incentive for people worldwide to get their World ID verified even when the network is small.
As the network grows, the WLD token will also be used for governance once Worldcoin transitions to community control. This will give users a say in decisions impacting the protocol's future direction.
In summary, WLD facilitates alignment through incentives and helps bootstrap the Worldcoin network in its infancy when network effects are weakest.
Technical Implementation - Architecture and Technology Stack
The Worldcoin technology stack consists of two major components working in tandem:
- World ID Protocol - Standard for issuing privacy-preserving proofs of personhood
- Orb - Custom iris biometric hardware for identity verification
World ID Protocol
The World ID protocol provides the cryptographic standard for issuing verifiable proofs of uniqueness to users. It leverages zero-knowledge proofs to preserve privacy.
Here are the key elements:
- Built on Ethereum blockchain to inherit security properties
- Uses zero-knowledge proofs for privacy-preserving verification
- Applications like World App provide easy user access points
- SDK available to integrate World ID into any platform for sybil resistance
The protocol allows any app to act as a World ID "wallet", managing a user's credentials. The SDK also makes it easy for developers to integrate World ID verifications within their dApps, web2 apps, and other platforms to confirm users are real humans.
By relying on decentralized infrastructure, there is no central party who needs to be trusted with sensitive personal information in order to verify users.
Orb - Custom Biometric Hardware
The Orb is custom iris biometric hardware built from the ground up to issue World IDs. It provides the cryptographic proof of uniqueness that serves as a user's World ID.
Using advanced iris recognition and anti-spoofing technology, the Orb can accurately verify both humanness and uniqueness:
- Multi-spectral sensors across infrared, visible, and UV bands
- Powerful machine learning algorithms running real-time on the device
- All processing done fully offline - images are immediately deleted after verification
This enables the Orb to provide a highly tamper-proof biometric verification mechanism while preserving user privacy. The Orb hardware and firmware will progressively open source over time.
Decentralization Roadmap - Transitioning to Community Governance
To ensure Worldcoin creates value for humanity as a whole rather than any single entity, governance and control must decentralize progressively over time.
Here are key areas of focus for decentralization:
Open Sourcing Code
- Core protocol parts are already open source
- The Orb hardware design and firmware will release over time under shared source licenses to enable others to manufacture verification devices.
Production of Verification Hardware
- Enable other entities to produce Orbs and similar verification devices through published standards, documentation, and incentives.
Operation of Verification Devices
- Grow a robust global network of independent Orb operators managing local devices.
- Transition management of the sequencing infrastructure to community administration.
- Grant the community increasing authority over governance through initiatives like quadratic voting.
By decentralizing both the technology and governance of Worldcoin, the goal is for the protocol to become a collectively owned public good rather than controlled by any single entity.
Tokenomics - Token Distribution and Incentive Mechanisms
Worldcoin utilizes thoughtful tokenomics and incentive designs to bootstrap the network and encourage ethical growth:
- Total initial supply: 10,000,000,000 WLD
- This is fixed for 15 years by the WLD smart contract
The initial supply is distributed as follows:
- Community - 7,500,000,000 WLD (75%)
- Initial development team - 980,000,000 WLD (9.8%)
- TFH investors - 1,350,000,000 WLD (13.5%)
- TFH reserve - 170,000,000 WLD (1.7%)
The majority of tokens are held by the community pool governed by the Worldcoin Foundation. Their allocation will be discussed next.
To ensure long-term alignment, team, investor, and foundation WLD tokens unlock gradually over 15 years rather than all at once. However, user grants are not locked so people can use WLD immediately.
The majority of the community pool will distribute as recurring user grants. This incentivizes people worldwide to adopt early when network effects are weak.
Grants are available to any World ID holder. At launch, the grants include:
- Welcome Grant - 1 WLD on first verifying
- Genesis Grant - 25 WLD for existing users
- Recurring Grants - Weekly grants expected to decline over time
User grants are controlled by governance and aim to maximize participation. They can help transition to ongoing sustainability models like staking once the network matures.
Ecosystem Development and Operations
The community pool also provides WLD for:
- Core protocol development
- Supporting Orb production and operations
- Managing user growth initiatives
- Market operations like liquidity and exchange onboarding
- Security audits and bug bounty programs
- Other operational costs
Beyond governance, actual utility will evolve based on community needs. Potential examples include:
- Pay for actions like device verification
- Make payments for goods, services, or remittances
- Support causes by signaling approval
Well-aligned incentives and an engaged user base create the conditions for novel applications of the token to emerge.
To continue providing user grants into the future, governance may activate an inflation rate up to 1.5% annually starting 15 years after launch. This lets the community expand supply if deemed necessary to sustain the network.
Worldcoin Foundation - Current Governance and Operations
The Worldcoin Foundation is a non-profit entity stewarding the protocol's development and growth until the community can self-govern.
The Foundation consists of:
- Worldcoin Foundation - Non-profit based in the Cayman Islands
- World Assets Limited - Wholly owned subsidiary in British Virgin Islands
This structure provides legal longevity while remaining under community control through initiatives like quadratic voting.
Current responsibilities include:
- Legally holding core protocol intellectual property
- Funding ongoing ecosystem development
- Coordinating progressive decentralization
- Managing user growth initiatives and exchange outreach
- Developing token economic incentives
Current governance is through the Foundation's board. A multi-signature scheme limits control.
The ultimate goal is decentralizing to community governance over time. World ID uniquely enables "one person one vote" mechanisms.
Near term priorities include:
- Scaling Orb production and verified users globally
- Unlocking more team capabilities like SDKs and mobile apps
- Implementing initial governance through quadratic voting
- Transitioning operations like manufacturing and sequencing
This roadmap evolves based on community needs and input over time.
In summary, Worldcoin utilizes innovations in cryptography, biometrics, incentives design, and decentralized governance to build collectively owned infrastructure for the digital age.
A globally inclusive proof of personhood mechanism like World ID can enable entirely new applications not previously possible. Incentives like user grants and thoughtful unlocking schedules align growth with user value.
There is still much work ahead to progressively decentralize technical development, network operations, and governance. But Worldcoin offers a promising path to creating public goods that benefit the broadest swath of humanity.
The potential is enormous if the Worldcoin community can steward these technologies responsibly. Tools like proof of personhood and thoughtful incentive design may one day enable unprecedented cooperation between the billions of people who collectively inhabit this planet.