World ID is a new digital identity protocol created by Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI, that prioritizes privacy and aims to solve the problem of verifiable identification that exists both online and globally. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lacks legally verifiable identification, a persistent issue since the inception of the internet. World ID emphasizes the importance of this problem in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, where it is necessary to ensure democratic access and governance of these systems, fairly distribute the benefits generated, and know who and what to trust online.

World ID is a self-sovereign and decentralized protocol designed to provide proof of personhood without risking the sensitive information of the holder being compromised. Powered by zero-knowledge cryptography, it is an open protocol that provides developers with a software development kit (SDK) to leverage the innovative digital identity solution. The goal is for World ID to function as the largest network of authentic humans on the internet and to operate as a public good.

World ID serves as a global digital passport stored on a user’s mobile device that enables them to prove their uniqueness as a person without sharing personal data through zero-knowledge proofs. The protocol supports various verification types, including phone number verification and privacy-preserving iris verifications, which offer different levels of accuracy. The Orb, developed by TFH, is the first hardware device that supports World ID. It is an open iris imaging device that is mobile, user-friendly, and engineered to protect privacy. It operates in untrusted environments and runs seven neural networks locally on the device, enhancing the privacy provided by the zero-knowledge cryptography of the base protocol.

What distinguishes World ID’s offering is that it is not derived from or connected to the holder’s biometrics, phone number, crypto wallet, or any other identifier. The proof of personhood verifications, such as those performed by the Orb, serve as stamps that allow the holder to prove a specific passport has been verified without revealing any information about the verification or the passport itself. To utilize World ID, interested parties can download a compatible wallet and the World App, with phone verification currently available in most countries. While Orb is currently limited to select countries and conferences, a broader and more public rollout is expected later this year.

World ID offers numerous benefits, including secure sign-ins to websites, mobile apps, or crypto dapps, enabling users to prove they are real and unique individuals. The system supports pseudonyms and allows dapps to enable users to create multiple accounts linked to one World ID while maintaining privacy. Other potential applications include social networks, voting, financial services, customer incentives, marketplaces, and money distribution.

World ID’s primary goal is to revolutionize digital identity solutions by providing a decentralized, privacy-first alternative to traditional methods. Ultimately, this would improve security and user experience across the internet.