Worldcoin's Head of Product: The Orb is the Most Private Thing We Could Offer
Worldcoin's launch has sparked controversy across the crypto space
By: Zack Abrams
July 25, 2023
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Worldcoin, the crypto project co-founded by OpenAI's Sam Altman, officially launched this week, setting off its fair share of controversy. The project aims to create "...a new identity and financial network owned by everyone" by scanning the irises of users who wish to join the network and issuing them a biometrically-verified World ID.
This World ID entitles the user to receive regular payouts of WLD tokens — as long as that user isn't in the United States. In other words, Worldcoin has arrived. Worldcoin's WLD coin, however, is only available if you're not in the States. Get it?
The crypto community, unsurprisingly, has questions. In a blog post, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin raised potential issues with the project, while Twitter founder Jack Dorsey came out decisively against Worldcoin. Others have voiced concerns about the project's token distribution and relationship to market makers, which could result in a price dump due to misaligned incentives.
In a new interview with the community-owned outlet Coinage, Worldcoin's Head of Product Tiago Sada returned for a live interview to unpack the launch (watch above.) Sada once again explained that the Orb is simply the best idea the team came up with in order to issue a unique digital license to individuals all around the world.
"One of the reasons we use the Orb rather than something like [know your customer] is because it's the most private thing we could come up with," Sada said.
But what exactly is Worldcoin? And are any of the concerns about privacy and centralization warranted?
Worldcoin’s proprietary orb is an iris-scanning device meant to verify that each human on Earth can only join the Worldcoin network once. When a user scans their iris, which Worldcoin claims has enough fidelity to differentiate between ten billion people unlike fingerprint scans or facial recognition, an encrypted hash of their iris is generated.
That hash is then checked against Worldcoin’s ledger to ensure that the user has not joined the network yet. If it’s their first time getting scanned, that user then gets a World ID linked to their digital wallet.
“It will hopefully become the largest network, financial and identity network, for real humans,” said Sada, in a prior Coinage interview from May.
Sada pointed out that Worldcoin doesn’t store any of this biometric information or link it to anyone’s real-life identity. The purpose of the orb is merely to prove that a person has never been scanned before.
“You can imagine that if your wallet is like a passport, what the orb does is it puts a stamp on it that doesn't have any personal information”, said Sada. “And so when you're using your World ID later on, what you're doing is you're just showing that your real ID has this stamp. But that stamp says nothing about who you are. It says nothing about the biometrics that were used when you were verified, and it says nothing about things like your on-chain activity or your wallet.”
While Worldcoin has had success in signing up over two million users to the service, they’ve also faced criticism for their recruiting approaches, which involve contracting orb operators all around the world to entice people to scan. In return for a scan, Worldcoin had generally promised 20 Worldcoin tokens to its users — currently worth about $40.
Worldcoin has acknowledged the criticism and claims that its efforts to decentralize its operation will hopefully lead to more trust from users.
“I think we've learned in the last 20 years that when a company says we're not evil, you should look at that twice, right?” said Sada. “We believe in not being able to be evil. And so everything about how the protocol is built, the different parts of the system, they're meant to be open and verifiable.”