Despite the volatile cryptocurrency market and minimal publicity, WorldCoin, spearheaded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, successfully raised $115 million at a $3 billion valuation in a Series C funding round. This endeavor aims to establish a global, decentralized identity and financial platform leveraging zero-knowledge technology and cryptocurrencies. This article delves into the intriguing, controversial project: its conception, operations, and potential future role in identity verification and financial networks.
WorldCoin was founded in 2019 by Sam Altman, better known for being the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT and ushering in the current hype surrounding artificial intelligence. Initially, the idea behind the project was to create some sort of new digital token that was distributed to everyone globally as an experiment with the idea of universal basic income, or UBI. However, a problem immediately became apparent: how can they prevent fraud and ensure everyone gets their fair share of tokens? The answer, creating a secure and transparent identity verification system, has become the new focus for WorldCoin.
WorldCoin’s contentious feature is the WorldCoin Orb. This highly-detailed camera scans an image of an individual’s iris and uses it to create a unique “World ID.” Then, the iris scan information is deleted, and no private data remains. As one can imagine, the Orb was berated by the media and on the internet, as it seemed like a massive invasion of privacy and a tool to bring us closer to a dystopian future. Nonetheless, since the data supposedly does not leave the device, there should be little to no privacy risk.
Anyone who signs up for WorldCoin at an orb, which is available at miscellaneous locations worldwide and typically at cryptocurrency conferences, is eligible to receive 25 WRLD upon the token’s launch. So far, only around 1.8 million users have signed up for the protocol. The low number is likely due to the high difficulty of onboarding caused by the orb.
The concept of a unique, decentralized, internet-based identifier brings near-limitless capabilities to improve efficiency and reduce fraud in online activities.
For example, Lens Protocol, a decentralized social media project by the Aave team, has integrated Worldcoin to enable ID holders to verify themselves on the platform, essentially confirming their identity as verified humans. World ID could also be used to ensure that interactions online are happening with other humans as opposed to humanlike AI-enabled bots. It could also replace the current CAPTCHA verification system with a simple request to sign in with a World ID. More than that, it could replace sign-ins on almost every website and remove the need for giving sensitive information like a picture of one’s face, email address, or identification card to websites.
Despite its modest user base, WorldCoin is future-proofing its infrastructure and development to accommodate billions of users eventually. Their latest raise will go towards greater research and development, as well as preventing bots. Earlier this month, the World App was released. It is a minimalist app designed to be the gateway to World ID-enabled applications. The app is built on Polygon, allowing transacting with a few different tokens with no transaction fees.
Though it remains to be seen if Worldcoin can scale and offer the full range of its promised services, it is hard to argue with the potential and need for this type of solution. Worldcoin could allow for a bot-free experience on the internet and provide a much-needed distinction between artificial intelligence and humans. And the 25 free WRLD tokens for signing up aren’t bad, either.
By Lincoln Murr