Why we’re launching MATTR VII

Nader Helmy • Mar 26, 2021 • 6 min read

It’s no secret we need a better web. The original vision of an open and decentralised network that’s universally accessible continues to be a north star for those working to design the future of digital infrastructure for everyday people. Despite the progress that has been made in democratising access to massive amounts of information, the dire state of cybersecurity and privacy on the internet today present significant barriers to access for too many of our most vulnerable populations. We started MATTR because we believe that standards, transparency, and openness are not only better for users; they make for stronger systems and more resilient networks. We recognise that a decentralised web of digital trust, based on transparency, consent, and verifiable data, can help us address critical challenges on a global scale. It represents a significant opportunity to give people real agency and control over their digital lives.

Our story

At its inception, we chose “MATTR” as a moniker because we strongly believed that the movement towards more decentralised systems will fundamentally change the nature of data and privacy on the internet. Matter, in its varying states, forms the building blocks of the universe, symbolically representing the capacity for change and transformation that allows us all to grow and adapt. In another sense, people matter, and the impact of decisions we make as builders of technology extend beyond ourselves. It’s a responsibility we take seriously, as Tim Berners Lee puts it, “to preserve new frontiers for the common good.” We proudly bear the name MATTR and the potential it represents as we’ve built out our little universe of products.

In September 2020, we introduced our decentralised identity platform. Our goal was to deliver standards-based digital trust to developers in a scalable manner. We designed our platform with a modular security architecture to enable our tools to work across many different contexts. By investing deeply in open standards and open source communities as well as developing insights through collaboration and research, we realised that developers want to use something that’s convenient without compromising on flexibility, choice, or security. That’s why we launched our platform with standards-based cryptography and configurable building blocks to suit a broad array of use cases and user experiences in a way that can evolve as technology matures.

At the same time, we’ve continued to work in open source and open standards communities with greater commitment than ever to make sure we’re helping to build a digital ecosystem that can support global scale. We launched MATTR Learn and MATTR Resources as hubs for those interested in these new technologies, developing educational content to explore concepts around decentralised identity, offering guided developer tutorials and videos, and providing documentation and API references. We also unveiled a new website, introduced a novel approach to selective disclosure of verifiable credentials, built and defined a new secure messaging standard, developed a prototype for paper-based credentials to cater for low-tech environments, and made a bridge to extend OpenID Connect with verifiable credentials. We’ve consistently released tools and added features to make our products more secure, extensible, and easy to use. In parallel, we also joined the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SVIP program in October to help advance the goals of decentralised identity and demonstrate provable interoperability with other vendors in a transparent and globally-visible manner. Zooming out a bit, our journey at MATTR is part of a much larger picture of passionate people working in collaborative networks across the world to make this happen.

The bigger picture

It has been an incredible year for decentralised and self-sovereign identity as a whole. In light of the global-scale disruption of COVID-19, the demand for more secure digital systems became even more critical to our everyday lives. Start-ups, corporations, governments, and standards organisations alike have been heavily investing in building technology and infrastructure to support an increasingly digital world. We’re seeing this innovation happen across the globe, from the work being done by the DHS Silicon Valley Innovation Program to the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework and New Zealand Digital Identity Trust Framework. Many global leaders are stepping up to support and invest in more privacy-preserving digital security, and for good reason. Recent legislation like GDPR and CCPA have made the role of big tech companies and user data rights increasingly important, providing a clear mandate for a wave of change that promises to strengthen the internet for the public good. This provides an incredible catalyst for all the work happening in areas such as cryptography, decentralised computing and digital governance. Just in the last year, we’ve seen the following advancements:

  • Secure Data Storage WG created at DIF and W3C to realise an interoperable technology for encrypted and confidential data storage
  • Decentralised Identifiers v1.0 specification reached “Candidate Recommendation” stage at the W3C, establishing stability in anticipation of standardisation later this year
  • Sidetree protocol v1.0 released at DIF, providing a layer-2 blockchain solution for scalable Decentralised Identifiers built on top of ledgers such as Bitcoin and Ethereum
  • DIDComm Messaging v2.0 specification launched at DIF, a new protocol for secure messaging based on Decentralised Identifiers and built on JOSE encryption standards
  • Self-Issued OpenID (SIOP) became an official working group item at the OpenID Foundation, advancing the conversation around the role of identity providers on the web
  • Google’s WebID project started developing features to allow the browser to mediate interactions between end-users and identity providers in a privacy-preserving way

For more information on how all of these technologies are interconnected, read our latest paper, The State of Identity on the Web.

In addition, as part of our involvement with the DHS SVIP program, in March of this year we participated in the DHS SVIP Interoperability Plugfest. This event saw 8 different companies, representing both human-centric identity credentials as well as asset-centric supply chain traceability credentials, come together to showcase standards-compliance and genuine cross-vendor and cross-platform interoperability via testing and live demonstrations. The full presentation, including demos and videos from the public showcase day, can be found here.

These are just a handful of the significant accomplishments achieved over the last year. It’s been incredibly inspiring to see so many people working towards a common set of goals for the betterment of the web. As we’ve built our products and developed alongside the broader market, we’ve learned quite a bit about how to solve some of the core business and technical challenges associated with this new digital infrastructure. We’ve also gained a lot of insight from working directly with governments and companies across the globe to demonstrate interoperability and build bridges across different technology ecosystems.

Launching MATTR VII

We’ve been hard at work making our decentralised identity platform better than ever, and we’re proud to announce that as of today, we’re ready to support solutions that solve real-world problems for your users, in production — and it’s open to everybody.

That’s why we’re rebranding our platform to MATTR VII. Inspired by the seven states of matter, our platform gives builders and developers all the tools they need at their fingertips to create a whole new universe of decentralised products and applications. We provide all the raw technical building blocks to allow you to create exactly what you have in mind. MATTR VII is composable and configurable to fit your needs, whether you’re a well-established business with legacy systems or a start-up looking to build the next best thing in digital privacy. Best of all, MATTR VII is use-case-agnostic, meaning we’ve baked minimal dependencies into our products so you can use them the way that makes the most sense for you.

Starting today, we’re opening our platform for general availability. Specifically, that means if you’re ready to build a solution to solve a real-world problem for your users, we’re ready to support you. Simply contact us to get the ball rolling and to have your production environment set up. Of course, if you’re not quite ready for that, you can still test drive the platform by signing up for a free trial of MATTR VII to get started right away. It’s an exciting time in the MATTR universe, and we’re just getting started.

We’re continuing to build-out features to operationalise and support production use cases. To this end, in the near future we will be enhancing the sign-up and onboarding experience as well as providing tools to monitor your usage of the platform. Please reach out to give us feedback on how we can improve our products to support the solutions you’re building.

We’re excited to be in this new phase of our journey with MATTR VII. It will no doubt be another big year for decentralised identity, bringing us closer to the ultimate goal of bringing cryptography and digital trust to every person on the web.


This blog was originally posted on Medium.