Sovrin Status: Provisional Trust Framework


Summary

The Sovrin Trust Framework is nothing less that the constitution of the Sovrin Network. The Provisional Trust Framework was recently completed and approved. This post gives details about what the Sovrin Trust Framework is and why it's so important.

Last week, the Sovrin Foundation Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the Sovrin Provisional Trust Framework (PTF). Trust is the primary benefit of Sovrin. I've written before about Sovrin as a universal trust framework and Sovrin's web of trust model. The Provisional Trust Framework is a set of legal documents that provide the foundation for Sovrin's trust model.

Sovrin is a permissioned ledger, meaning it achieves consensus using a known set of validators—in this case, trusted institutions around the world. This is in contrast to permissionless ledgers like Bitcoin's blockchain that rely on validators who are not identified. The permissioned model has advantages in both speed and cost of transactions. But it means that Sovrin needs governance. The PTF is the set of documents that spells out how various participants in the network must behave and the agreements that Sovrin Stewards make in order to operate a validator node. Each Steward will sign the Sovrin Founding Steward Agreement before they operate a validator node on the Sovrin network.

Sovrin is also a public ledger, meaning anyone can use it. This is in contrast to other permissioned ledgers that are operated as private systems for their owner's specific purposes. Sovrin is designed to operate as a global public utility for identity. Sovrin can be used by anyone. The PTF supports this goal, enumerating the participants in the network and their obligations and qualifications. The PTF also spells out how Sovrin's Web of Trust model works.

The PTF outlines:

  • the principles that govern the Sovrin network and by extension the Sovrin Foundation and Stewards;
  • key definitions and terminology;
  • the obligations of the Sovrin Foundation;
  • business policies for identity owners, stewards, trust anchors, and guardians;
  • legal policies for identity owners, stewards, agencies, and developers;
  • legal policies for dispute resolution;
  • legal policies for confidentiality;
  • technical policies for node operation, monitoring and reporting, write permissions, transaction limitations, and service levels; and
  • policies for amending the PTF.

The PTF governs the operation of the Sovrin network while in "provisional" status, meaning during its first months of official operation when it is still being “battle-tested” in live operation by the Founding Stewards. The PTF has a number of additional sections that must be completed, approved, and agreed to before the Sovrin network is declared ready for general availablity. At that point these documents will graduate and be called the Sovrin Trust Framework.

The completion of the PTF is an important step for the network. The Trust Framework Working Group and it's chair, Drummond Reed, have spent long hours hammering out this vital set of documents. With the PTF's completion and approval, Sovrin takes one more important step to being a reality.