How important is IBE?

I frequently get asked why people should care about identity-based encryption. Because I work for a company that sells products that use IBE, I might give a biased answer, so a more independent point of view might be useful. So instead of the opinion of one person who definitely isn’t impartial, why not look at the broader cryptographic community’s interest in IBE?

One way to do this is by using Google Scholar. Google Scholar can tell us how many times a particular paper has been cited by other papers, which can give us a rough idea of how important a paper is. Papers that are important are frequently cited, while those that aren’t as important are cited as frequently.

How important does IBE look when we use this metric?

Two of the most cited papers in cryptography are probably those that first described the Diffie-Hellman and RSA public-key schemes. The original Diffie-Hellman paper has been cited 5,644 times since 1977, or about 182 times per year. The original RSA paper has been cited even more often: 6,443 times since 1978, or about 215 times per year.

The paper by Boneh and Franklin that described what’s commonly agreed to be the first practical and secure IBE scheme hasn’t been around as long as the Diffie-Hellman or RSA papers. The Boneh and Franklin paper wasn’t published until 2001, or only seven years ago, but it has been cited 2,011 times since then. That’s roughly 287 times per year, which is more often than either of the other two that we’ve mentioned.

So if the interest by other cryptographers is any indicator of how important IBE is, then it certainly looks like the consensus is that it’s at least as important as the Diffie-Hellman and RSA schemes.

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