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did:erc725 method

27th February 2018

Markus Sabadello <>, Fabian Vogelsteller <>, Peter Kolarov <>

Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs, see [1]) are designed to be compatible with any distributed ledger or network (called the target system). In the Ethereum community, a pattern known as ERC725 (see [2]) utilizes smart contracts for standard key management functions. We propose a new DID method that allows ERC725 identities to be treated as valid DIDs. One advantage of this DID method over others appears to be the ability to use the full flexibility of Ethereum smart contracts for key management purposes.

DID Method Name

The namestring that shall identify this DID method is: erc725

A DID that uses this method MUST begin with the following prefix: did:erc725. Per the DID specification, this string MUST be in lowercase. The remainder of the DID, after the prefix, is specified below.

Method Specific Identifier

The method specific identifier is composed of an optional Ethereum network identifier with a : separator, followed by a Hex-encoded Ethereum ERC725 smart contract address (without a 0x prefix).

erc725-did = "did:erc725:" erc725-specific-idstring
erc725-specific-idstring = [ erc725-network  ":" ] erc725-address
erc725-network  = "mainnet" / "ropsten" / "rinkeby" / "kovan"
erc725-address  = 40*HEXDIG

The smart contract address is case-insensitive, but it is recommended to use mixed-case checksum address encoding (see [3]).

This specification currently only supports Ethereum "mainnet", "ropsten", "rinkeby", and "kovan", but can be extended in the future to support arbitrary Ethereum instances (including private ones).


Example erc725 DIDs:

  • did:erc725:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E
  • did:erc725:mainnet:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E
  • did:erc725:ropsten:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E

DID Document


	"@context": "",
	"id": "did:erc725:ropsten:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E",
	"publicKey": [{
		"id": "did:erc725:ropsten:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E#key-1",
		"type": ["Secp256k1SignatureVerificationKey2018", "ERC725ManagementKey"],
		"publicKeyHex": "1a0cb8f32c94921649383b14523cb6df04858cfbd4f77711371321cd8ebd87d72efe02b69ca4b02b35a848404101ad17efbf962441733135cb7d833313c3d37b"
	}, {
		"id": "did:erc725:ropsten:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E#key-2",
		"type": ["Secp256k1SignatureVerificationKey2018", "ERC725ActionKey"],
		"publicKeyHex": "00e17b0f13af42bd7c992ef991ebd75f8345b5edb8e937eb0c9c3dea80af23448419faa1d7562054e31bf56ab1af485944b3a327085c4502e38d723129fd5cf666"
	"authentication": {
		"type": "Secp256k1SignatureAuthentication2018",
		"publicKey": "did:erc725:ropsten:2F2B37C890824242Cb9B0FE5614fA2221B79901E#key-2"
	"service": []

JSON-LD Context Definition

The erc725 method defines additional JSON-LD terms for the supported ERC725 key types MANAGEMENT, ACTION, CLAIM, and ENCRYPTION.

The definition of the erc725 JSON-LD context is:

		"ERC725ManagementKey": "",
		"ERC725ActionKey": "",
		"ERC725ClaimKey": "",
		"ERC725EncryptionKey": ""

CRUD Operation Definitions

Create (Register)

In order to create a erc725 DID, a smart contract compliant with the ERC725 standard must be deployed on Ethereum. The holder of the private key that created the smart contract is the entity identified by the DID. The Ethereum network identifier together with the smart contract address becomes the DID as per the syntax rules above.

Read (Resolve)

To construct a valid DID document from an erc725 DID, the following steps are performed:

  1. Determine the Ethereum network identifier ("mainnet", "ropsten", "rinkeby", or "kovan"). If the DID contains no network identifier, then the default is "mainnet".
  2. Invoke the getKeysByType function for each of the supported key types, i.e. MANAGEMENT, ACTION, CLAIM, and ENCRYPTION.
  3. For each returned key address, look up the secp256k1 public key associated with the key address.
  4. For each MANAGEMENT public key:
    1. Add a publicKey of type Secp256k1SignatureVerificationKey2018 (see [4]) and ERC725ManagementKey to the DID Document.
  5. For each ACTION public key:
    1. Add a publicKey element of type Secp256k1SignatureVerificationKey2018 and ERC725ActionKey to the DID Document.
    2. Add an authentication element of type Secp256k1SignatureAuthentication2018, referencing the publicKey.
  6. For each CLAIM public key:
    1. Add a publicKey element of type Secp256k1SignatureVerificationKey2018 and ERC725ClaimKey to the DID Document.
  7. For each ENCRYPTION public key:
    1. Add a publicKey element of type Secp256k1SignatureVerificationKey2018 and ERC725EncryptionKey to the DID Document.
    2. Add an encryption element of type Secp256k1Encryption2018 to the DID Document, referencing the publicKey.

Note: Service endpoints and other elements of a DID Document may be supported in future versions of this specification.


The DID Document may be updated by invoking the relevant smart contract functions as defined by the ERC725 standard:

  • function addKey(address _key, uint256 _type) public returns (bool success);
  • function removeKey(address _key) public returns (bool success);

Note that these methods are written in the Solidity language. Ethereum smart contracts are actually executed as binary code running in the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

Delete (Revoke)

Revoking the DID can be supported by executing a selfdestruct() operation that is part of the smart contract. This will remove the smart contract's storage and code from the Ethereum state, effectively marking the DID as revoked.

Security Considerations


Privacy Considerations


Performance Considerations

In Ethereum, looking up a raw public key from a native 20-byte address is a complex and resource-intensive process. The DID community may want to consider allowing hashed public keys in the DID documents instead of (or in addition to) the raw public keys. It seems this would make certain DID methods such as erc725 much simpler to implement, while at the same time not really limiting the spirit and potential use cases of DIDs.