Worldcoin was founded with the mission of creating a globally-inclusive identity and financial network, owned by the majority of humanity. If successful, Worldcoin could considerably increase economic opportunity, scale a reliable solution for distinguishing humans from AI online while preserving privacy, enable global democratic processes, and show a potential path to AI-funded UBI.
Worldcoin consists of a privacy-preserving digital identity network (World ID) built on proof of personhood and, where laws allow, a digital currency (WLD). Every human is eligible for a share of WLD simply for being human. World ID and WLD are currently complemented by World App, the first frontend to World ID and the Worldcoin Protocol, developed by the contributor team at Tools for Humanity (TFH).
“Proof of personhood” is one of the core ideas behind Worldcoin, and refers to establishing an individual is both human and unique. Once established, it gives the individual the ability to assert they are a real person and different from another real person, without having to reveal their real-world identity.
Today, proof of personhood is an unsolved problem on a global scale, making it difficult to vote online or distribute value on a large scale. The problem is even more pressing as increasingly powerful AI models will further amplify the difficulty of distinguishing humans from bots. If successful as part of Worldcoin, World ID could become a global proof of personhood standard.
Some of the core assumptions behind Worldcoin are:
Proof of personhood is a missing and necessary digital primitive. This primitive will become more important as increasingly powerful AI models become available.
Scalable and inclusive proof of personhood, for the first time, allows aligning the incentives of all network participants around adding real humans to the network. Bitcoin is issued to secure the Bitcoin network. Worldcoin is issued to grow the Worldcoin network, with security inherited from Ethereum.
In a time of increasingly powerful AI, the most reliable way to issue a global proof of personhood is through custom biometric hardware.
The following dynamic Whitepaper shares the reasoning behind the implementation of the project as well as the current state and roadmap.
World ID is privacy preserving proof of personhood. It enables users to verify their humanness online while maintaining their privacy through zero-knowledge proofs, via a custom biometric device called the Orb. The Orb has been designed based on the realization that custom biometric hardware might be the only long term viable solution to issue AI-safe proof of personhood verifications. World IDs are issued on the Worldcoin protocol, which allows individuals to prove that they are human to any verifier (including web2 applications) while maintaining their privacy through zero-knowledge proofs. In the future, it should be possible to issue other credentials on the protocol as well.
World ID aspires to be personbound, meaning a World ID should only be used by the individual it was issued to. It should be very difficult to use by a fraudulent actor who stole or acquired World ID credentials. Further, it should always be possible for an individual to regain possession of a lost or stolen World ID.
While network effects will ultimately come from useful applications being built on top of the financial and identity infrastructure, the token is issued to all network participants to align their incentives around the growth of the network. This is especially important early on to bootstrap the network and bypass the “cold start problem”. This could lead the Worldcoin token (WLD) to become the widest distributed digital asset.
World App is the first frontend to World ID: it guides individuals through the verification with the Orb and custodies an individual’s World ID credentials and implements the cryptographic protocols to share those credentials with third parties in a privacy preserving manner. It is designed to provide frictionless access to global decentralized financial infrastructure. Eventually, there should be many different wallets integrating World ID.
Worldcoin revolves around World ID, a privacy-preserving global identity network. Using World ID, individuals will be able to prove that they are a real, unique human to any platform that integrates with the protocol. This will enable fair airdrops, provide protection against bots/sybil attacks on social media, and enable the fairer distribution of limited resources. Furthermore, World ID can also enable global democratic processes and novel forms of governance (e.g., via quadratic voting), and it may eventually support a path to AI-funded UBI.
To engage with the Worldcoin protocol, individuals must first download World App, the first wallet app that supports the creation of a World ID. Individuals visit a physical imaging device called the Orb to get their World ID Orb-verified. Most Orbs are operated by a network of independent local businesses called Orb Operators. The Orb uses multispectral sensors to verify humanness and uniqueness to issue an Orb-verified World ID, with all images being promptly deleted on-device per default (absent explicit consent to Data Custody).
Worldcoin could significantly increase equality of opportunity globally by advancing a future where everyone, regardless of their location, can participate in the global digital economy through universally-accessible decentralized financial and identity infrastructure. As the network grows, so should its utility.
Today, many interactions in the digital realm are not possible globally. The way humans transact value, identify themselves, and interact on the internet is likely to change fundamentally. With universal access to finance and identity, the following future becomes possible:
Owning & Transferring Digital Money: Sending money will be near instant and borderless, globally. Available to everyone. The world could be connected financially and everyone would be able to interact economically on the internet. The COVID relief fund for India, where over $400 million were raised in a short period of time by individuals around the world to support the country as a hint at what can be possible. Overall, this has the potential to connect people on a global scale unlike anything previously seen in human history.
Digital money is safer than cash, which can be more easily stolen or forged. This is especially important in crisis situations where instant cross-border financial transactions need to be possible, such as during the Ukrainian refugee crisis, where USDC was used to distribute direct aid. Additionally, digital money is an asset that individuals can own and control directly without having to trust third parties.
Keep the Bots Out: Bots on Twitter, spam messages, and robocalls are all symptoms of the lack of sound and frictionless digital identity. These issues are exacerbated by rapidly advancing AI models, which can solve CAPTCHAs and produce content that is convincingly “human”. As services ramp up defenses against such content, it becomes essential that an inclusive and privacy-preserving solution for proof of personhood is available as public infrastructure. If every message or transaction included a “verified human” property, a lot of noise could be filtered from the digital world.
Governance: Currently, collective decision making in web3 largely relies on token-based governance (one token, one vote), which excludes some people from participating and heavily favors those with more economic power. A reliable sybil-resistant proof of personhood like World ID opens up the design space for global democratic governance mechanisms not just in web3 but for the internet. Additionally, for AI to maximally benefit all humans, rather than just a select group, it will become increasingly important to include everyone in its governance.
Intersection of Finance and Identity
Incentive Alignment: Coupons, loyalty programs, referral programs and more generally sharing value with customers is traditionally prone to fraud as the incentives for fraudulent actors are high. Frictionless and fraud resistant digital identity helps to align incentives and benefit both consumers and companies. This could even incept a new wave of companies owned in part by its users.
Equal Distribution of Scarce Resources: Crucial elements of modern society, including subsidies and social welfare, can be rendered more equitably by employing proof of personhood. This is particularly pertinent in developing economies, where social benefit programs confront the issue of resource capture—fake identities employed to acquire more than a person’s fair share of resources. In 2021, India saved $5 billion in subsidy programs by implementing a biometric-based system that reduced fraud. A decentralized proof of personhood protocol can extend similar benefits to any project or organization globally. As AI advances, fairly distributing access and some of the created value through UBI will play an increasingly vital role in counteracting the concentration of economic power. World ID could ensure that each individual registers only once and to guarantee equitable distribution.