What is Worldcoin, the new crypto project with World IDs?

Meet Worldcoin, a crypto project that's been in the works for years.

What is Worldcoin, the new crypto project with World IDs?
Kaleem, 22, an engineer in Bengaluru, signs up for WorldCoin by having his eyes scanned by the spherical device in Mantri Square Mall in Bengaluru, India July 25, 2023. REUTERS/Medha Singh

The backstory: ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) wonder from OpenAI, has taken the tech world by storm, growing faster than the likes of TikTok and Instagram. For example, it took TikTok around nine months after its global launch to reach 100 million users; Instagram took 2.5 years. But for ChatGPT, it only took two months. Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has been making headlines thanks to the surging interest in AI tech. But he’s also making moves in the crypto world.

Meet Worldcoin, a crypto project he co-founded that's been in the works for years. Its mission is to tackle the challenge of distinguishing human-made content from AI-generated stuff. One way it’ll do with is with its World ID, a "digital passport" that proves someone is a flesh-and-blood human and not some AI bot. To get one, you have to go through an in-person iris scan with the company’s “orb,” a shiny silver ball about the size of a bowling ball.

More recently: Now, it hasn't all been smooth sailing for Worldcoin, which is a product of the San Francisco and Berlin-based company Tools for Humanity. Privacy concerns have raised eyebrows, with Edward Snowden, the ex-US intelligence contractor and whistleblower, voicing his worries about "cataloging eyeballs" back in 2021. Plus, the idea of using Worldcoin for such personal identification has sparked debate, given blockchain's focus on anonymity.

In May, Worldcoin secured US$115 million in a Series C funding round. Blockchain Capital led the charge and other investors like a16z crypto, Bain Capital Crypto and Distributed Global also jumped on board.

The development: Worldcoin officially launched on Monday after its successful beta phase with 2 million users. The project is expanding "orbing" to 35 cities in 20 countries. As part of the launch, Worldcoin is offering its cryptocurrency token, WLD, as an incentive to users who sign up in specific countries. You can even trade it now, thanks to listings on major exchanges like Binance.

Altman and co-founder Alex Blania said that World IDs are a game-changer in the age of AI tech like ChatGPT. They'll help distinguish real people from AI bots online, tackling identity verification and fraud issues. Altman also believes AI will revolutionize the economy. Now, Worldcoin's ambitious goal is to get 2 billion users on board after the official launch, according to Altman.

Key comments:

“Worldcoin is an attempt at global scale alignment,” said the project in a statement Monday. “The journey will be challenging and the outcome is uncertain.”

“The goal is simple: a global financial and identity network based on proof of personhood. this feels especially important in the AI era,” said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Twitter.“I'm hopeful worldcoin can contribute to conversations about how we share access, benefits and governance of future AI systems.”

"We note the launch of WorldCoin in the UK and will be making further enquiries," said a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office to Reuters, a day after Worldcoin was launched.