Microsoft releases a beta version of its decentralized identity tool on the Bitcoin blockchain

Microsoft's decentralized identity tool, called ION, is moving to the Bitcoin mainnet for a public beta test, according to an announcement from Microsoft. 

Decentralized identity tools enable greater ownership over one's digital identity credentials by creating unique identifiers that are cryptographically verifiable. Users can secure their own information and verify the identities of others using public key infrastructure, limiting the reliance on big tech companies like Facebook and Google.

Microsoft has developed ION with the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), an industry consortium aimed at creating technical standards for decentralized identity systems. Microsoft first announced that it would run ION on the Bitcoin network last year.  

ION itself is a decentralized network that is built to operate independently of Microsoft. It doesn't have its own validator nodes or consensus mechanisms, instead relying completely on Bitcoin's blockchain network to verify transacitons. 

CoinDesk first reported on ION's beta release. In a statement, Microsoft listed bitcoin startup Casa in addition to BitPay, Gemini and others among "the next wave of collaborators" who will run nodes and provide feedback during the beta period.