YAP Cast

YAP Cast S3E8: Sovereign Identity and the Future of Money with Nick Johnson

In Episode 8 of Season 3, Samantha continues her discussion with Nick Johnson, the founder and lead developer of ENS, as they explore the reasons why sovereign identities are valuable, before evaluating some of the risks they could impose.

We will also dive into how Sovereign Identities interact with decentralised finance (DeFi) and the operation of the ENS DAO, and lastly, Nick covers his thoughts on what the future might hold for ENS as a project.

Why Sovereign Identity?

Sovereign identity empowers individuals to take charge of their digital lives. As Nick Johnson, the founder of ENS, explains, one compelling reason for sovereign identity is the risk of losing access to one’s identity due to errors or flaws in centralised systems. Sovereign identity allows individuals to be the gatekeepers of their own information, ensuring they have control over their personal data.

“One of the advantages of a self-sovereign identity is that you can take it with you…you’re not at the platform’s mercy.” – Nick Johnson

What are the risks of sovereign identities?

While sovereign identities offer numerous benefits, they also come with risks. One concern is the possibility of a single point of failure, where someone gains unauthorized access to an individual’s data, including financial information and passwords. This risk is comparable to the dangers posed by centralized platforms like Google. To mitigate this risk, concepts like social recovery and trusted circles can be employed to help individuals regain control over their identities.

Does a sovereign identity help DeFi?

Sovereign identities have the potential to enhance the development and growth of decentralized finance. By integrating sovereign identity systems, DeFi platforms can provide a seamless and user-friendly experience, eliminating the need for long account addresses and facilitating actions like splitting bills with friends.

The shared requirement for some form of identity makes sovereign identities and DeFi natural partners.

“Building a system that is focused only around finance and not around who you are, is barren. These things are going to come out together…it enables better usability and more integration platforms.” – Nick Johnson


The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) DAO is a decentralized autonomous organization that governs the ENS project. Nick Johnson expresses his initial concerns about decentralizing ENS and handing control over to the DAO. However, he has been pleasantly surprised by the positive experience so far, appreciating the independent governance and the voice it gives to participants.

“I’ve been really encouraged by how it has worked out…for the decentralization and for the independent governance and the ability for people to have a voice.” – Nick Johnson

Sovereign Identities and Web3

Sovereign identities play a vital role in the Web3 ecosystem. As individuals increasingly engage with decentralized applications and platforms, the ability to maintain control over their identities becomes crucial. Sovereign identities enable seamless transitions between platforms, allowing users to carry their identities from one environment to another.

Future of ENS

Looking ahead, the future of the Ethereum Name Service holds great promise. With the continued development of sovereign identities, ENS aims to create a decentralized and user-centric internet experience. As more individuals recognize the benefits of owning their digital identities, ENS will play a pivotal role in empowering users and facilitating the transition to Web3.

Sovereign identities are transforming how individuals interact with the digital world, putting them in control of their data. Integrating sovereign identities with DeFi and the efforts of projects like ENS demonstrate the potential for a more decentralised and user-centric internet. As technology evolves, it is crucial to balance the advantages of sovereign identities and mitigating the associated risks. The future of ENS and sovereign identities in Web3 holds exciting possibilities for a more empowered and secure online experience.

Find out more about ENS here

Follow Nick Johnson on Twitter here