ld1At the end of September, The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) may approve the world’s first Web Payments Steering Group, to explore issues such as navigating around obstacles to seamless payments on the web and ways to better facilitate global transactions while respecting local laws. Identity and digital signatures have a role here, at the same time as they go beyond the realm of payment into privacy and other arenas. At the end of October, there also will be a W3C technical plenary, to discuss identity, graph normalization, digital signatures and payments technologies.

Expect Linked Data to come up in the context of both events, Manu Sporny told attendees at this August’s 10th annual Semantic Technology & Business conference in San Jose during his keynote address, entitled Building Linked Data Into the Core of the Web. “It is the foundational data model to build all this technology off of,” said Sporny, who is the founder and CEO of Digital Bazaar, which develops technology and services to make it easier to buy and sell digital content over the Internet. (See our stories about the company and its technology here.)  He also is founder and chair of the W3C Web Payments Community Group, chair of its RDFa Working Group, and founder, and chair and lead editor of the JSON-LD Community Group.

In fact, Sporny said during his talk, identity and payment are the two opportunities for Linked Data killer apps to be born – indeed, to make Linked Data not just something that people use in a secondary or  tertiary way, but as a thoughtful choice for solving complex problems in a fairly simple and straightforward manner. The current web platform, he said, is broken in both the identity and payment areas, relying on legacy centralized login user name and password mechanisms and “archaic forms of value transfer.”

The W3C, he said, can empower organizations to care about the problems of identification, such that individuals can provide who they are to a website in an interoperable and secure way, as well as empower those organizations to care about high value payment transactions, which themselves require a standard verifiable identity mechanism. And it can set them up with a framework, “effectively Linked Data, digitally signed Linked Data, to enable them to solve the problem themselves.”

Said Sporny, when it comes to identity, “We need the ability to have third-party digitally signed credentials using a simple and extensible solution, and honestly Linked Data is the only game in town as far as I can tell.” The goals for work in Linked Data here in the next two to five years will include a focus on a secure way of storing and transmitting such credentials: “Solve this, and you solve the log-in problem on the web,” he said, as well as address the need for verifiable identification for higher-order payments.

A Walk Through Linked Data At The Core

Further showcasing Linked Data’s potential, Sporny discussed its role in payment initiation and digital receiving. Instead of users giving all their credit card information to merchants in a pull model (and potentially exposing that data to hackers), he talked about moving to a push model. In that model, merchants could mark up their offers for sale in Linked Data, listing all the information associated with the offer on web sites, and then a software agent or web browser or wallet software would pull that offer, and with the buyer’s authority, send it to their payment processor. Payment would be sent to merchants through that mechanism.

“You need an initiation payment standard on the web,… and it seems like Linked Data ideally is suited for this,” he said. It provides a standard way to get the basic information right, while allowing vertical markets to layer their specific information atop that. The Web Commerce API is being worked on to support this.

Once the money is moved into the merchant account, buyers would be issued digital receipts of sale that serve as proof of purchase to give back to the merchant. To this end, a digital receipts standard is needed, and “we’re looking at an extensible data format [such as] JSON LD” for that.

Sporny also discussed the problem of trust on the web, noting that, “The trust layer of the semantic web layer cake is a big problem – we need this mechanism and that means we need help building it.”

Importantly, he advocated that members of the industries that will benefit from moving in all the directions he discussed step up and be involved in the various groups that are working on digital signatures, identification and payments – or anyone who just wants to see Linked Data move into the core functions people perform on the web.

“You’ve got to bang down the W3C door and say this work has to be done,” he said. “Right now people are a little too silent….This work doesn’t happen without the involvement of you.”

To view the entire video of the presentation yourself, please go here.