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Verifiable credentials overview


A credential is a document or certificate that validates an individual's identity or qualifications. Credentials are a part of daily life, with common examples including:

  • A driver's license that qualifies an individual to operate a motor vehicle.
  • A university degree that can be used to assert a level of education.
  • A government-issued passport enabling travel between countries.

These are examples of physical credentials, as they have a physical component that must be presented for validation. Credentials can also be digital, relying on authentication using cryptographic signatures such as canister signatures on ICP.

Verifiable credentials (VCs) are a type of digital credential that enables individuals, organizations, or things (such as devices) to authenticate cryptographically.

The technical implementation of VCs on ICP can be found in the specification. It is recommended you first read the rest of this documentation, as it includes technical details.


Verifiable credentials are designed to be tamper-evident, privacy-preserving, and interoperable across different systems and contexts, such as from one ICP dapp to another, or from an ICP dapp to a web2 application. By using verifiable credentials, you will have a mechanism to express these sorts of credentials on ICP in a way that is cryptographically secure, privacy-preserving, and machine-verifiable.


When learning about and using VCs, there are four primary terms to familiarize yourself with:

  • User: Users earn credentials, a piece of data that certifies information about the user, from an issuer.

  • Issuer: An issuer is an entity (a dapp, organization, government, etc.) that verifies information about the user.

  • Relying party: A different dapp (organization, government, etc.) which requests certified credentials for that user from the issuer. Since the relying party must verify the received credentials, it is also commonly referred to as the "verifier".

  • Identity provider: An entity that (in this case, Internet Identity) creates a temporary identifier for the user when the issuer passes the credential to the relying party, so that the relying party and the issuer never learn the user's identifier on the other entity's service.

How to use verifiable credentials

To use verifiable credentials there are two workflows. First, you can become an issuer of verifiable credentials. By issuing verifiable credentials, you can empower users to control and share their credentials selectively, enhancing privacy and giving users greater autonomy over their digital identity.

The second workflow allows you to become a relying party for verifiable credentials. By requiring verifiable credentials from your application's users, you can ensure that the claims users make are verified by parties (issuers) that you trust, while preserving the user’s privacy.

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