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Interview With Ryan Shea, Co-Founder of Blockstack: A New Internet for Decentralized Apps

Blockstack launched their new browser on May 23. I spoke with Ryan Shea, co-founder of Blockstack, about the project and the new developments.

For readers who are new to the project, how would you explain Blockstack?

It’s a new internet that is accessible via a new browser. You download the browser, and you have access to a whole new world of apps that run on your device without remote servers.

The key is that you bring your own identity and data. That means that you’re not locked in to any particular app or platform. And the data is stored with you, instead of being locked up in databases owned by the app developers.

There is an important difference here between this model and the model of traditional applications.

With traditional apps, the users revolve around the apps, like Facebook, Google and Amazon. All the data is stored with them, the identity systems are managed by them, the usage and authentication requires their permission.

With this new model, the apps revolve around the user. The data is stored with you, and your identity is under your control, managed by digital keys across all of your devices.

This means that one day you’ll be able to bring your reputation with you from AirBNB to Homeaway, and from Lyft to Uber. And one day you’ll be able to walk into a hotel room and it will ask permission for your hotel preferences and then it will personalize everything for you.

The browser was launched yesterday. What can users do with that that they couldn’t do the day before yesterday?

What we came out yesterday with was the initial developer release of the browser. The goal is to give developers a platform where they can build decentralized applications, and to help them to the greatest extent we can.

Some months down the road we’ll be coming out with the full consumer release. Today you can download the browser, then set up your identity and data storage, and then you can sign in to a sample application while bringing your identity and data with you. Signing up and signing in happens with a single click.

Are there teams of developers already working on Blockstack apps?

Yes. Before this browser release we came out with core components of the blockstack application stack.

We previously released the Blockchain Name System, the Blockstack Identity System, and the Blockstack Storage System (Gaia).

OpenBazaar is a great example of a product that’s built on BNS, Blockstack’s equivalent to DNS.

And there are a couple teams on our Slack working on a decentralized Twitter.

What’s the development plan? What can we expect over the next few months?

We’ll be making a tons of progress on the browser, on the developer libraries, and on tutorials for decentralized applications. We’ll also be working with teams to help them build out their decentralized applications.

Another big announcement we made yesterday was the Blockstack token. We’ll be coming out with more details soon. Over the next few months we’ll be working towards the release of our Blockstack token. It will be built directly into Blockstack; it’s not going to operate on Ethereum or any other token platform.

Blockstack currently runs on the Bitcoin blockchain, though, right?

Yes. Blockstack currently operates on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. It is built to operate as a virtual layer upon any blockchain. Our philosophy is that we should operate primarily on the most secure and stable chain and we should enable operation across multiple chains. Bitcoin is the most secure and stable blockchain today and that’s why we’re sticking with it, but of course support for other blockchains will follow.

The key though is that the logic for the operation of the token exists within the Blockstack virtualchain. This is a sequence of operations that uses the underlying blockchain for storing the operations. Projects like Counterparty and Mastercoin had to build systems for simulating tokens on Blockstack.

What we’re doing here is operating a virtualchain that simulates namespaces today and will simulate a token tomorrow.

In any case, the north star for Blockstack in the long term is to enable a full ecosystem of decentralized applications to grow and thrive. We have much work to do over the next few months to take our documentation and tutorials and libraries and sample apps to the next level.

How will you be funding development? Will there be an ICO once the token is ready?

Blockstack is an open system, but there is a company that employs core members of the development team. The system is open and decentralized and can operate without it, but we recognized it was important to ensure we could support development financially.

We’ve raised money in the past from some top investors to be able to build up a team around Blockstack development. There are no plans for an ICO but more details will be announced soon. What we can say is that there will be mining for the token.

Do you think there’ll be a particular ‘killer app’?

Yes. I do think there will be a power law distribution in terms of success of the early applications.

That said, whatever I guess is likely to be wrong. So it’s important to help a thousand flowers to bloom in terms of Blockstack apps. Hopefully one of them will knock it out of the park, and then another will, and then another one…

That said, I’m very excited about the prospect of a decentralized Twitter. I’m also optimistic about decentralized marketplaces.

Isn’t integration hard? You guys are working on an identity system and application platform, but other app developers are working independent of that. Is it hard to take separate projects and make them work with Blockstack?

It isn’t as hard as you might think. For example, imagine a single page application for the web, built in CSS, HTML, and Javascript calling to remote APIs for authentication and storage. You can swap out these developer-controlled APIs for user-controlled APIs. If you’re starting with a frontend-heavy single-page app and there’s very little logic on the server, integration can be as easy as swapping out these API calls. Other apps will be a bit more challenging to integrate, but still relatively easy. And then many apps will be built from scratch on top of Blockstack.

What if people want to help out?

We always encourage contributors. Our Blockstack Hello tutorial is a good place to get started.

If you’re interested in building a decentralized application, we’d love to have you. Come join us and we’ll help you get started. You can register for our Slack channel.

Image from zhouxuan12345678/Flickr.

The above is to be considered opinion and not investment advice in any way, as an unbiased media, no one interferes with the Editorial content of CryptoInsider.com, writers have freedom to choose their own direction, members of Crypto Insider do not participate in trades based on content.

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