Introduction

Our goal is to create Web standards for a credentialing ecosystem that enables people and organizations to issue, store, and request secure and verifiable digital credentials. The technology has applications in a variety of industries including finance, education, healthcare, and government.

Background

A credential is a qualification, achievement, quality, or piece of information about an entity’s background, typically used to indicate suitability. A credential could include information such as a name, home address, government ID, professional license, or university degree. The use of credentials to demonstrate capability, membership, status, and minimum legal requirements is a practice as old as society itself. The potential use cases are innumerable, but common important examples are represented here in the domains of:

  • Education - where academic credentials and co-curricular activities are recognized and exchanged among learners, institutions, employers or consumers.
  • Workplace - where an applicant’s certified skill or license is a condition for employment, professional development and promotability.
  • Civil Society - where access to social benefits and contracts may be based on verifiable conditions such as marital status.
  • Payments - where the legal right to purchase a product depends on the verifiable age or location of the buyer.
  • Identity - where an entity presents credentials to prove their identity or qualification.
  • Ownership - where an entity presents proof of ownership of a particular asset or a right to perform specific operations against a resource. Examples are ownership of securities that entitles the entity to dividend payments or the authority to transact on an account.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) - where a machine presents credentials that enable it to act on behalf of its owner in a limited capacity, and where that machine can delegate certain tasks to other machines in an ad-hoc way.

Goals

A number of W3C member organizations are proposing the creation of a new standardization activity around credentials on the Web with the following goals in mind:

  • Interoperability and Portability. We want to ensure that an open credential can be used by as broad of a range of organizations as possible. We firmly support the notion that a recipient of a credential should be able to store, archive, and migrate credentials throughout their lifetime with relative ease.
  • Scalability. The credentialing solution should be usable by the 3 billion people using the Web today, and the 6 billion people that will be using the Web by the year 2020.
  • Verifiability. The veracity of claims made by a credential should be verifiable using the credential itself.
  • Privacy Enhancing and Recipient Controlled. We want a system that protects the privacy of the individual or organization using the credential by placing the recipient in control of who is allowed to access their credential.
  • Extensibility. Our desire is to construct a foundation where different industry vertical-specific solutions can be built without unnecessary central coordination.
  • Accessibility. The credentialing solution should be accessible and therefore also usable by the 10% of the world population with disabilities.
  • Patent and Royalty-free. We are building public infrastructure whose growth should not be limited by patents and royalties. Credentials affect everyone and the technology to create them must be open and free.

Next Steps

The Credentials Community Group is open to the public. Anyone may join and participate. If you are interested in diving in deeper, here's the best way to start:

  1. Get a W3C account (free) and join the Credentials Community Group
  2. Document your organization's credentialing needs
  3. Participate in the weekly teleconferences