One of the most promising applications of distributed ledger technology is the ability to construct decentralised, permission-less payment and communication systems.
Blockchains like Bitcoin allow for the transfer of value between parties without requiring a centralised third-party, like a bank or broker.
Additionally, thanks to the power of smart contracts running on blockchains such as Ethereum, this concept can be expanded to include autonomous, public code which can be implemented by any participant on a distributed virtual machine.
This code is un-censorable and cannot be removed or manipulated by anyone on the network, making it an attractive tool for users who search for digital freedom.
For example – removing the need for centralised banks will allow users to send money without high transfer fees.
This level of decentralisation has its drawbacks, however, as users who send money by mistake rely on the goodwill of the recipient to get their funds back.
Status technical evangelist Andy Tudhope is one of the many proponents of these decentralised systems.
Status is a blockchain-based messenger app for smartphones which allows users to access a cryptocurrency wallet, send messages, and interact with decentralised applications.
Freedom and expression
Tudhope told MyBroadband he would like to see Status being used to increase independence within communities as decentralised systems grow in popularity.
“[I would like to see] radical self-expression and self-reliance as a feature of the way people, businesses, and communities connect,” said Tudhope.
He lauded the potential of blockchain adoption for free speech and the freedom to operate without permission from others.
“You can say what you want, transact with whom you want, and connect to whichever part of the world you want without having to ask anyone’s permission.”
Tudhope noted that the development direction for Status, and many other open source projects being built on Ethereum, is governed by the widespread community which has invested time and money in the project.
“The truth is, though, that Status aims to be an agnostic toolset, a crystal-clear window for Ethereum that does not impose any of its builder’s opinions about how it ought to be used onto the communities who adopt it,” he said.
“So, most of all, I would love to see people take our open source code and use it in surprising and unexpected ways we ourselves cannot yet imagine.”
Status currently includes support for Ethereum, allowing interested testers to connect their smartphone to the blockchain and interact with live applications.
On Status itself, Tudhope said while development of the application is continuing, there is still much to be done.
This includes the possible release of a desktop version of the app.
“It’s difficult to say exactly as the technologies we are working with are so experimental. We built an initial version of Status Desktop using a framework called Electron and had that working about four months ago,” he said.
“However, there were security concerns, especially around URL sanitisation, and so we have been building out a new solution using a framework called React Native QT, which is pretty ambitious.”
He said the move means that Status desktop has become a part of the same repository in which the code for the mobile app is kept.
This includes support for the secure and private Whisper messaging protocol.
“However, Whisper messages are these ephemeral packets of information with a specific Time To Live, so ensuring 100% reliability for messaging is essentially impossible, and yet absolutely necessary for a world-class messaging application,” said Tudhope.
“We therefore rewrote Whisper a little bit and added the concept of mailboxes – which are machines that will store messages for you when you are offline and send a push notification and then the message when you come back online.”
He said these mailboxes need to be decentralised and not only rely on Status infrastructure, and that the desktop client is the answer to this problem.
“Because we can access significantly more computational power, we can make sure people using the desktop application can also run a mailbox at the same time, and get paid for it in SNT – the Status Network Token,” he said.
“Technology which operates in a vacuum is no good to anyone, and truly decentralised networks and communities require robust crypto-economic incentives to remain sustainable.”
“We hope that Status desktop will provide a means for making sure that anyone actively taking part in ensuring the network functions reliably is rewarded for their contributions,” said Tudhope.