Lightweight Contacts DAPP And The Path To A Ubiquitous Protocol

Posted on June 9, 2022. Filed under: Uncategorized |

When I look at the Web 3 ecosystem, it feels like a system in want of a native communication layer. Basic consumer needs like “How do I message a wallet or public address?” are not addressed in any kind of final form. Basic business/DAPP needs like how do I notify or reengage a user when something happens in my DAPP are not addressed in any kind of final form. There are tons of attempts at building for these these needs, but few, if any, that I’ve seen with the properties I believe are necessary to endure.

When I started out thinking about this problem, I thought I was looking for a lower level protocol that contemplated a developer facing motion of distribution. I assumed that wallets would become inboxes (still believe that), and a standard for permissionless end-to-end encrypted messaging to those inboxes would be achieved by a protocol that spiked on anti-spam mechanics. Projects like Dialect, XMTP, and a handful of others touch that idea. In some ways, it feels like that game will be won on the back of a few critical BD type wins with heavily penetrated wallets in whatever the respective chain is that matters, but increasingly I’m starting to believe that won’t be enough. There are some pretty critical decision points around whether or not you are storing said messages on-chain, whether or not you care more about the async or real time messaging paradigm, and what if any ambitions you might have at the client/interface layer. For better or for worse, I’ve come to believe that an essential property of the winning system is truly permissionless communication. I believe I will be able to pick an arbitrary wallet address, and with the requisite will and investment, send them a communication that they will consciously receive. A second essential property, in my mind, is that the preservation of pseudonymity for both the sender and recipient must be contemplated as the base case. The path to such a reality is long and riddled with challenges.

Some of the needs articulated in paragraph 1 are being addressed at non-infrastructural layers in the stack as well. Etherscan, for example, recognized their asset of reoccurring attention/engagement with a significant consumer base in the ecosystem, and recently offered users a way to permissionlessly contact the owner of an NFT that one might covet, for example. The insight is that Etherscan has a better chance than most of that recipient seeing a notification by virtue of the recipient’s frequent use of Etherscan. That issue of a recipient “claiming their inbox” is complicated…and most flows I’ve seen that contemplate a messaging universe that’s relegated to the install base of a new client to do so, feel dead in the water to me.

Lately, I’ve been of the mind that the winner in this space is not a lower level protocol thinking dev first, but actually a SUPER lightweight application that achieves high penetration, develops an edge on anti-spam as a result, and then get’s baked in as the standard across wallets down the line. When I say lightweight, I think about the early instantiations of Groupme, that built a very very thin application layer on top of SMS. It feels like the core gesture within such an application is some version of graph formation, and the closest parallel I can see looks like the contacts app on mobile. I think there’s a world where giving someone a token, that she holds in her wallet, grants her access to my priority inbox. I think there’s a world where that consumer level action enhances a protocols anti-spam capability, and I think there’s a real network effect in productizing that gesture because overlapping relationships, as defined by common “personal token” holders, can make permissionless messaging of related non-holders less spammy (think friend of a friend type analysis).

The last thing I’ll say about this, which is related but distinct, is that it feels like forward and backward interoperability with Email and SMS are really valuable when trying to get to this end state. I think there are some pretty creative hacks that can help bridge the gap that seem to be percolating. Skiff, for example, feels to be playing with this line…

All of this is to say, I’d like to make an investment in a super lightweight crypto application that focusses on communication permission as the core user value, with all graph construction living on-chain, and if we nail that, it feels like there’s a path to attaining the dominant protocol position in the ecosystem. I’m jordan@pacecapital.com, would love to lead an early financing and help you build this.

P.S. I’ve done a bunch of research here (that I’m happy to share), but if I’m thinking about anything incorrectly or there are reference points I’ve missed, please do reach out an educate me…still learning


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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)

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