This document is the architecture vision statment of the W3C Credentials Community Group. It describes the principles upon which a Credentials architecture should be built.

The mission of the Credentials Community Group is to standardize a mechanism for exchanging provably-authentic claims via the Web. Examples of claims may be qualifications, achievements, qualities, or pieces of information about an entity such as a name, government ID, payment provider, home address, or university degree.

Terminology

Web Principles

Any architecture grounded in the Web should respect well-known Web principles such as:

Desireable properties of a Credentials Architecture

Creates a vibrant credentialing ecosystem

Credentials should be interoperable and portable. A credential should used by as broad of a range of organizations as possible. The recipient of a credential should be able to store, archive, and migrate credentials throughout their lifetime with relative ease. All participants in the ecosystem should have a wide variety of choices when it comes to credential issuing, storage, management, and consuming applications.

What about earners

Broadly applicable to many people and industries

The ecosystem should scale to the 3 billion people using the Web today, and the 6 billion people that will be using the Web by the year 2020. Catering to accessibility should be a fundamental design criteria, as 10% of the world's population have disabilities and the solution should be usable by as much of the world's population as possible.

Privacy enhancing and recipient controlled

The process of exchanging a credential should be privacy enhancing and recipient controlled such that the system 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.

Secure, decentralized, and trustworthy

Credentials should be independently verifiable where the veracity of claims made by a credential should be verifiable using the credential itself. The system should use cryptographic best practices to achieve a secure and decentralized design that is resistant to vendor lock in.

Enables automation and extensibility

The data format for a credential should be machine-readable to enable automation. The data format should also be extensible where different industry vertical-specific solutions can be built without unnecessary central coordination.

Facilitates legal and regulatory compliance

The Web is a global system which must operate across many legal and regulatory jurisdictions.

While there are common requirements across jurisdictions, it is not cost-effective to create a single system that satisfies all legal and regulatory obligations in all jurisdictions.

As a result, a successful architecture for credentials on the Web will account for variability with regard to legal and regulatory frameworks it can support. The group envisions an extensible set of 'hooks' that enable participant-authorized parties to comply with legal and regulatory requirements in different jurisdictions in a secure and more standard manner.

Enables commercialization of Web and native apps

Web developers will be able to integrate credentials smoothly into a variety of user experiences on the Web, including in-app authorization and high-stakes Web access. This is key to opening up new revenue generating opportunities on the Web that were not previously viable due to the costs incurred and poor user experiences required in requesting and processing credentials.

Acknowledgements

The editors wish to thank the participants of the Credentials Community Group for discussions about and contributions to this document.