Today, when you are first exposed to Status, you might see an instant messenger and wonder whats the big deal? After all it’s just another instant messenger right? What makes Status different and more importantly why should I bother working on it?
If I had to answer in one word, I would say Decentralization.
Now, that word might not have much meaning to you, it might even sound like a buzz word, but in our context, Decentralization has the potential to fundamentally change the way we socially organize and to rebuild the Internet as it was intended. With Decentralization, we are changing the very foundation of civilization, providing a new infrastructural base that impacts everything else above, from our greatest Institutions to our daily social interactions.
Status is our gateway to this new world, let me explain.
Why I got into Ethereum?
At the time of writing I am 31, I was lucky enough to be born in the developed world and am old enough to grow up in a world where internet and personal computing wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today. I, like you, had a front row seat to the birth of the Internet and perhaps like you, I spent the majority of my childhood with networked computers. The idea of instant, cheap and global communications was a given, and this is the lens in which I viewed the world.
It wasn’t long before I began to start observing my environment, we way we collectively decided to do everything, whether that was in school, seeing my parents jump through hoops around taxation, dealing with receipts, banking, voting, dealing with car registrations and even setting up companies. In time, all of which I would experience myself. I didn’t understand why things were like this, having an grown up with the Internet - all of it seemed senselessly tedious. Couldn’t we do this all online? Wouldn’t life be better if we could do this from the comfort of our homes? Imagine how much time we’d save! and how precise things would be! No more waiting in line, never-ending form filling or traveling great distances just to see a person who tells you ‘no’.
This is my firsthand experience with a concept called transaction costs. It took me awhile to realize these monolithic, lumbering and inefficient Institutions was actually the best we could do. That all these needless jobs and their apathetic attitudes, these pens that barely worked, the paper torn from some rainforest were all just symptoms of operating the machinery of civilization. These dry, boring legal systems is what enabled us to collectively scale beyond tribes. They allowed us to build nations and are the very foundation of all our modern accomplishments, it allowed humans to begin to exploit the division of labour, maximizing the surface area in which we explore the natural world.
In fact low transaction costs are so fundamental to economic growth, it is expected that just a 0.1% reduction in transaction costs quadruples a country’s wealth — the difference between Argentina and Switzerland. Source: M Kovac and R Spruk (2015)
20 years later, everyone in the developed world is connected to the internet, they have more powerful computers in their pocket, yet these systems are still largely unchanged, for the most part, people go through life thinking they are as constant and are as unchanging as the ground they walk on, or the air they breathe. Even with yesterday’s technology we could make the shift to digital world, but it seems our current systems are setup to expand their bureaucracy with minimal increases in efficiency. An attempt to scale with our population and demands. People are starting to see our institutions buckle under scale, their legitimacy is starting to be questioned.
What more is the developed world only reaches a small fraction of our global population. The vast majority of trade is done in ‘dark markets’ and the vast majority of people are in third world countries, their governments have larger corruption issues than our own. These populations are side-stepping desktop computers in favour of mobile first, are they to follow in our exact footsteps? How can we simultaneously upgrade our systems and provide them with modern legal technology which is corruption-resistant, cheaper, less bureaucratic and more efficient?
Bitcoin, like most people, was my first taste of a paradigm shift. The first widely-adopted crypto-economic mechanism that provided the legal abstraction of money. It had effectively created Digital Scarcity, Bitcoin had provided a solution to the double-spending problem. Furthermore, it had created the Blockchain, a socially immutable database that could operate in hostile environments, the public domain, but with a fixed set of operations. Bitcoin had provided fair and inexpensive access for anyone wanting to participate and left a history that anyone could independently audit, a property that fades the action of book-burning of power regimes. It allows people to send value through the internet without an intermediary, without questions or gate-keeping, privately and securely - eroding top down control of institutions.
Then Ethereum came along, replacing a fixed instruction set and minimal scripting language, moving away from “stored procedures” and replacing it with a Turing complete Virtual Machine. With Ethereum, the Blockchain became a world computer, capable of running Smart Contracts (arbitrary code), for a price. This incremental innovation opens the flood gates on what’s possible with Programmable Money.
We are witnessing the birth of a new trustless medium in which to execute not just code, but law in. We’re giving anyone who is willing to participate fair access to not just create new policy’s that can be used between friends, but to create new ways of socially organizing that can be deployed instantly and used globally, creating mass movements. We’re moving into a world where agreements we join are not just default’s when born, but contracts we enter into voluntarily, we can reclaim our sovereignty.
But for any of that to happen, we need to make this technology accessible and ubiquitous for the people, as it currently stands it is largely dependent on a technologists skillset. That’s where Status comes in. Status goal is the mass-adoption of the best public Programmable Blockchain, at the time of writing, this is Ethereum mainnet. Private Blockchains gain their strength by resting on the existing legal infrastructure, while this approach has its merits, private chains do little to move civilization forward and stagnate the redesign of systems that approximate and surpass our existing institutions.
If Ethereum is a World Computer, then Status aims to be a Operating System, or Window Manager. It is the visual expression of the Ethereum network, a user-friendly interface between people and machines alike (as Ethereum makes no distinction with it’s address identifiers - Smart Contracts are first-class citizens).
Status provides a way to find and transact with DApps and users.
We are a mobile-first experience, as of 2014 more people are on smartphones and more time is spent on smartphones than laptop/desktops - smartphones are the new personal computer. Status originally started as Web 3.0 Browser, a ‘Mist for Mobile’, and is currently expressed as an instant messenger, as a third of all time spent on a smartphone is within an instant messenger, and instant messengers have the highest amount of monthly active users, this allows us to increase the surface area of adoption, allowing users to interact with Ethereum on a daily basis.
Status should always adapt to how humans interact with their personal computers on both the hardware and software levels, this includes the inevitable change from Smartphones to Mixed Reality devices.
TODO and as such we should be striving for the best user experience possible, some guiding principles
But Status is more than a product, it is an experiment in organization.
Moving away from Product, to thinking to Networks
Of course, at the time of writing - designing, developing and shipping a high quality Ethereum client is our first and foremost goal, but this is just the expression of a belief in public Blockchains. This belief exists in our collective minds, and together, our collective forms a belief network.
This belief is mass adoption of a public Programmable Blockchain, or Ethereum, and as such is not bound to Status as a product alone. Our job is to strengthen and grow this network, create the means on how to govern it and give birth to new Networks, just as the Ethereum network has given birth to Status. This is the strength of open source development and permission-less participation.
Forks in open source are something of a misnomer, instead code should be viewed more like cultural text for an ideology. ‘Forks’ represent a shift in thought and give rise to new networks of belief.
Open source projects historically have had a hard time to fund themselves. Often they are carried by pure belief alone by a loose collective of people who found each other through the internet. Often is the case they must support themselves by support and consultation (which disrupts and distracts from original belief), or depend on donations from supports. If successful, maintainers may find their demand and complaints outstrip their ability to offer support, there is simply no means to scale with their users, except to encourage more developers and work on it fulltime, but we all have lives to maintain.
Tokens offer a way to commoditize beliefs and incentivizes software users to have an active role in the software governance and evangelism. This has interesting side-benefits, we hypothesize this will become network effects on steroids. If you’re having difficulty with this concept, take a common currency, such as the USD, this is only valuable because both parties believe in it, there reasons may be varied, but all stems from it’s legitimacy, or it’s belief in the value of that coin, even though today this is increasingly becoming backed by debt, rather than any tangible store of value.
Our role is helping find and testing forms of decentralized governance, to recreate typical functions found in organizations and adapt them to work out in the open, in hostile environments.
Discuss the Fourth Industrial Revolution (fulltime jobs thing of past, freelancers), paint potential imagery of the future.