Leaders in Decentralized Identity Slam Soulbound Tokens

On a panel discussing how to protect your identity, “our most precious asset,” the consensus was that SBTs were absolutely the wrong path.

AccessTimeIconApr 27, 2023 at 11:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 28, 2023 at 2:04 p.m. UTC

AUSTIN, Texas — The preservation of our identities is one of the most important aspects to our digital lives, and that conversation is alive and well at Consensus 2023.

That conversation around digital and decentralized identifiers (DID) isn’t new and has been approached by some of our brightest minds for some time now including notable figures Jack Dorsey and Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum. Buterin has proposed the idea of soulbound tokens (SBT), which function as non-transferable non-fungible tokens (NFT) that can help represent a person's identity and achievements in Web3.

When asked about SBTs on stage at Consensus during a panel titled “Not Your Keys, Not Your Identity: How to Protect our Most Precious Asset” Thursday afternoon, Daniel Buchner, Block’s head of decentralized identity, made his opinion clear.

“SBTs are largely a fraudulent meme,” Buchner declared. He added that decentralized identities don’t need a blockchain or a token solely for the sake of having a blockchain or a token.

Co-founder and CEO of disco.xyz, Evin McMullen, echoed the sentiment, declaring that it is imperative to “not adopt consent-free primitives that require us to manually hide unwanted assets in our NFT interfaces. If an NFT maps to your key, I can’t tell if that NFT is wanted or unwanted or airdropped or a gift.” McMullen went on to discuss the idea of rotating keys behind the scenes of DIDs to avoid catastrophic loss of an identity profile.

The final punctuation came from the third panelist, Tyrone Lobban, head of blockchain and Onyx digital assets at JPMorgan. He agreed with his co-panelists and urged developers to go and experiment and become familiar with verifiable credentials.

The unanimous agreement among panelists that SBTs aren’t the way forward is notable because Buterin is widely viewed as an important figure in crypto.

Edited by Toby Leah Bochan.


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George Kaloudis

George Kaloudis was a research analyst and columnist for CoinDesk.

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