Numerous decisions we make in our daily lives are based on our ability to trust: Can I trust this candidate for the job? Can I trust this organisation to provide the goods? Can I trust this piece of news or is it fake news? Can I trust that hotel or restaurant to provide the level of service I expect? Can I trust this banker or that plumber to do their job without trying to screw me? Can I trust this t-shirt is not the product of child labour? Can I trust this diploma?…

Whether a business performing a background check or an individual choosing a college or a plumber, the information we have at our disposal to formulate a judgement is limited, fragmented, based on different formats and often not possible to verify. As demonstrated recently with the creation in London of a fake restaurant rated #1 on TripAdvisor, gaming current systems is relatively easy to create bogus reputations.

Our ability to trust is underpinned by our ability to recognise, and be recognised: certificates and diplomas are means to have one’s achievements, engagements or competencies formally recognised by trustworthy institutions. While formal recognition happens every so often, informal recognition, i.e. the recognition process that has not been formalised or institutionalised, happens everyday, hour and minute: one can be recognised by her peers and clients as a brilliant Java programmer and yet have no formal recognition to show as a credential. How can we make informal recognition visible (and actionable) without forcing a person to jump through the hoops of formal recognition?

What would be possible, if we were able to make existing trust and (informal) recognition information globally visible, so that our judgements, and that of Web applications and services would be based on verifiable data? What could be achieved if beyond making current trust and recognition visible we could provide everyone with the means to increase the level of trust and thus our human and social capital, notwithstanding the business and the economy?

The challenge we have to address is a Web architecture that was primarily designed to manage documents, not trust, nor people and their relationships. What is needed is a second order change, a Copernican revolution, where trust and recognition links are used to create a Web of Trust (WoT), just as hypertext links are used to create a web of documents. After the Internet of Documents (IoD), the Internet of Things (IoT), can we create an Internet of Subjects (IoS) where individuals and their communities are fully empowered to contribute to building an open society?

This is what Bit of Trust aims to make happen.

NB: this work is informed by the Bologna Open Recognition Declaration, and the Open Recognition Framework.