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Reading the description I feel like Identity just allows you to reserve a "name" on chain, in exchange for bonding some tokens. Is this just a better version of the nicks pallet?

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The Nicks pallet is really not much more than a sample pallet. All it does is allow a user to set some string to their account, but there is no checking for uniqueness, accuracy, or anything that would resemble something useful on a public blockchain.

The Identity pallet on the other hand is a relatively simple, but fully functioning production pallet which allows users to associate data with their account (like a legal name, twitter account, email address, etc) and have an attestation provider verify these pieces of information.

I wouldn't go as far as to call the Identity pallet a "decentralized identity", but it is a reasonable attempt at providing users with attestation based identity information, which can be super useful for things like helping select which Validators or council members to nominate.

The Identity pallet has built in economics which pays attesters for their time, and multiple automated services have been set up to allow users to verify all the different points of their credentials.

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