While Visa and MasterCard work out the details for Net credit transactions, Verisign is proposing Digital ID, a method for encrypting and decrypting electronic documents.
Using public-private key technology, a message sender would first ascertain the recipient's public key and then use it to encode the message. Only the recipient would be able to decrypt the message using his or her private key.
Companies including Ameritech, Apple Computer, Mitsubishi, and Netscape Communications are backing Digital ID. Once approved the software will be included in operating systems and Net servers. Verisign will provide both links to the software and verification services. In effect, Verisign will serve as a clearinghouse for identifying certificates guaranteeing that the public key listed actually belongs to the individual or company named.
Digital ID will also provide an alternative to the government's Digital Signature Standard, required for use by government agencies.