By Johannes Ernst

Longer version:

But some of you may be interested in the longer history because all of what we do here sounds soooo deja vous:

I’m Johannes Ernst. I accidentally fell into this entire area because back in 2004, after an enterprise customer visit, driving home in the car and pondering the web app we had built for them, I realized that what it needed was people as a first-class entity in the system, not just “data”, so each user could tell other users about themselves at a URL in a place of their liking, “see” what each other user was doing in real-time, securely identify each other with that universal cross-side username (my personal LID URL), and send/receive rich data to/from them strongly authenticated and encrypted through GPG key pairs associated with every user. Public keys were distributed straight from their personal LID URLs. I thought of it as an “identity” system which is why I called it “Light-Weight Identity” (LID).

I didn’t have much time, and decided it should be possible to build such a light-weight identity system in an afternoon. Turned out to be a bit of a stretch, but not by much at least initially. LID V1 started with securely publishing communication endpoints (like phone numbers) and other profile data ACL-protected through public key-based auth (think HTTP Signatures with GPG keys), then we added web single-sign-on, authenticated and encrypted person-to-person (URL-to-URL) messaging with arbitrary payloads etc.

Needless to say, it was before its time. So when OpenID V0.9 showed up on the scene, I got together with Brad, and Dave from Livejournal, Drummond and others from XRI, set my sights a bit lower, agreed on a bunch of protocols and our collaborative project grew and became the OpenID movement. We were tremendously successful in signing up most of the large internet companies at the time — and in process lost the P2P symmetry and user-centricity of early OpenID. (Which is why I dropped out of the community for a while starting ca 2010).

A side effect was that for identifier metadata discovery web got XRD from XRI and Drummond, under the label “Yadis” (reused from before OpenID was OpenID). Which replaced my light-weight URL?lid=meta discovery and Brad’s openid.provider Link tag, with an XRDS file discoverable via 3 separate methods. Some people thought that was too complicated, and created Webfinger instead.

In the meantime, I created a Linux distro for self-hosting (, an “App Store” for server-side apps, been selling personal cloud servers with Nextcloud-preinstalled, some IoT stuff.