Messaging apps have become a vital marketplace in recent years. From the massive growth of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Telegram, and more to the likes of Slack for the business realm, messaging apps are now used more than any other type of app.
But each system is closed, and each offers differing levels of security and encryption.
Enter Status, the mobile Ethereum client built entirely on peer-to-peer technologies. Today, Status has announced a significant investment in New Vector, the company behind Matrix.org, the open standard for secure and decentralized communication.
How significant? Status is making a $5 million investment in New Vector, effectively creating a partnership between two of the industry’s largest decentralized messaging platforms.
“Matrix will use the capital to expand its team significantly over the course of 2018 and continue development of both the Matrix protocol and improving the Riot.im client,” Status cofounder Jarrad Hope told me. “Matrix is already used by millions of people worldwide, and in 2018 this number may reach the tens of millions.”
Matrix keeps communication private by allowing its users to decide who should host their data, rather than relying on a centralized server and trusting the provider to ensure a secure environment. It also removes the friction of switching between apps, while letting users control everything.
Within Matrix, the user can collaborate on projects across different communication apps and third-party tools within one workspace. External networks include Slack, IRC, Twitter, Gitter, and more. Users can have hosted services and integrations from New Vector run on their own server, providing teams with full end-to-end encryption.
Status — which successfully raised more than $100 million in less than 24 hours via its SNT token sale in 2017 — is developing an open source messaging platform and mobile browser that allows users to interact with decentralized applications (dApps) that run on the Ethereum network. It announced that the client would be preinstalled on the world’s first blockchain smartphone in 2018 — namely, Finney, from Sirin Labs.
Theoretically, decentralized blockchain/non-blockchain technologies are different from regular SaaS solutions in that the market only needs one winner per industry. So how does a partnership between open source projects change that? And can distributed ledger solutions truly coexist within categories successfully, or will the market still choose ‘the one’?
“Let 1000 flowers bloom,” Hope said. “You’re right that there is largely a Darwinian process that will select the ‘winning’ solution, but we’re at an earlier stage in technology research and development, before organizations are heavily focused on product over R&D. Take the common bicycle, for example. There was a period of time when we didn’t know what a bicycle was, and many different configurations were tried before we landed on a design that works. That’s what’s happening in decentralized technologies today, and we want to support different approaches to let the technology and research grow, which will help inform better design decisions and, ultimately, better products in the future.”
So what is the future of messaging and communication, and how will this change as we move toward new interfaces, such as AR headsets and conversational UIs?
“With mass-market AR devices on the horizon, we’re edging toward a world of contextual-based computing and messaging,” Hope said. “However, we currently sit at an important crossroads. The risks of centralization are becoming increasingly apparent to both the general public and open source communities alike. Just [look at] Equifax or any number of data breaches that occurred in 2017.”
That’s a significant issue, and both Status and Matrix are attempting to provide a tangible solution.
“Our incumbent communication and data storage systems rely on this centralization, but decentralized alternatives are emerging and address these shortcomings,” Hope said. “I envision us moving into a world where the world’s communications operate on peer-to-peer protocols, leading to greater security for individuals and institutions and stronger privacy that can preserve our freedom of expression across all of our computing interfaces.”
Matrix is Status’ first major external investment ahead of its beta release and signals the start of what the company says is “an aggressive expansion plan” for 2018.
Status migrated its community from Slack to Riot.im last year, stating that the platform is more supportive of cryptocurrency communities.
This new collaboration is expected to create a bridge between Matrix and Whisper — Ethereum’s own real-time communication protocol — and allow Status dApps to be integrated as widgets within Riot.im. It also allows the Status Network token to be used, enabling cryptocurrency payment mechanisms in Riot.im.