JLINC and the Internet

My Co-founder, Victor Grey, has just completed a whitepaper that explains JLINC in five pages. JLINC Technical Philosophy provides a concise background rooted in the lineage of ideas that led up to the JLINC protocol, and explains how it achieves a new paradigm for data exchange on the internet.

This has tremendous implications not only for personal data control and privacy, but now it is increasingly clear, for reestablishing a basis for truth on the internet. The academic term for this is ‘data provenance’, a term borrowed from the lineage of art or diamonds to prove where something came from and who has had previous possession of it. JLINC provides that for data on the internet.

JLINC essentially takes some of the same key puzzle pieces that made blockchain possible, and rearranges them in a more simple, elegant, and developer-friendly manner, to achieve a way of controlling how data may be used, after it is shared.

This is a completely different paradigm than blockchain. Instead of trying to establish a global canonical record, JLINC creates conditions whereby each party (or their “agent”) has their own signed copy of all of their own relevant contracts with all other relevant parties. Then the audit trail for that can be distributed wherever any party wants to put it.

The key puzzle pieces are: standard PKI (cryptographic key pair signatures), hashes (essentially digital fingerprints), and the emerging standard way to record digital identity (called DIDs), as well as standard webtokens that allow these pieces to be moved across the internet in compact transactions.

However, the most important element that made a practical implementation possible was the emergence of JSON-LD. This stands for JSON Linked Data. It essentially means that “contexts” can be created, which are defined schemas that allow data to be serialized and thereby easily moved from one database to another.

This is a huge step toward interoperability by itself, as it allows data to be moved precisely from one location in one database to a location in another. But there was one key piece missing. When data is controlled inside one system it has ‘permissions’ that determine how it can be accessed. This is why the internet is still based on “access control” that determines what an outsider can do when they login and are now “inside” another system (now often called a “cloud”, but it's really a server with a database).

By adding a digitally signed contract to JSON-LD, it becomes possible to move data between entirely separate systems under agreements that determine exactly how it can be used by the recipient. JLINC stands for JSON-LD Link Contracts and it does just that.

This differs from “smart contracts” which are executable code rather than legal contracts. JLINC creates human readable and therefore legally binding, agreements that govern how data can be used, after it is shared.

For those who remember RDF, that promised to make data contextually interoperable to create a “semantic web” on the internet, JSON-LD is fully backward compatible with RDF. For those who remember XDI, that tried to create a “graph language” for data exchange using XML, JSON-LD is a graph language that any developer can understand. For anybody who likes the aspiration of Solid (Tim Burners-Lee’s initiative) based on RDF, JLINC delivers the same objective, but using JSON-LD, standard PKI and open standard DID’s.

JLINC automates data sharing agreements across the internet.