October 7, 2021
These projects all rely on crypto protocols to solve real world problems in clever ways.
Brave is a web browser for your phone or computer that stops online surveillance/tracking. In doing so, it speeds up browsing and uses less battery.
Most websites and ads include software that tries to identify you. They want to track your every move across the web. As a user, access to your web activity and data is sold to the highest bidder. Internet giants grow rich, while publishers go out of business. And the entire system is rife with ad fraud.
Brave blocks all this, allowing you to browse freely. Blocking harmful ads and trackers means a faster Internet. Brave loads major news sites up to six times faster than Chrome, Safari and Firefox on mobile and desktop. When you open the browser, you see stats about how many trackers & ads have been blocked and the cumulative bandwidth saved.
On the other hand, Brave allows you to earn frequent flier-like “Basic Attention Tokens” ($BAT) for browsing and viewing privacy-respecting ads. You set the number of ads you see per hour. These tokens can be used to “tip” web creators. You can also exchange them for fiat currency (e.g., dollars).
Blockchain is not a prerequisite for an ad-free browsing experience. Bravo’s real innovation is using a blockchain to enable micropayment transactions between users and content creators and having this capability built into the browser experience. The protocol grants users 70% of the ad revenue in the form of $BAT tokens. It will be interesting to see over the medium term how much of these revenues users send to creators versus hold onto for themselves.
Helium is a global, distributed network of Internet Hotspots. Specially, they want to expand long-range wireless (“LoRaWAN”) coverage for IoT devices.
Internet-connected devices are valuable for transportation, agriculture, buildings, urban planning, environmental monitoring, healthcare, supply chain and logistics, utilities, and much more. Most of these devices are inexpensive to manufacture and use very little power. On the other hand, it is expensive and often impractical to bring these devices online through arrangements with existing wireless internet providers (e.g., Verizon). This is especially true in rural areas, where wireless quality and competition are even lower.
With 💛from Semtech
Helium is a new blockchain that incentivizes the creation of decentralized, public wireless networks. Members of “The People’s Network” install their own hotspot beacons and transmit long-range wireless coverage. These individuals, known as “miners”, are rewarded for their efforts with Helium Network Tokens ($HNT).
IoT devices connect to the network wherever it is available to send/receive small packets of data. And they pay for their usage with $HNT. It’s a bit like a pay-as-you-go mobile network that works all over the world (with no roaming fees or toggling between hotspots).
The Helium blockchain changes the economics of building and maintaining a wireless network. A new hotspot can be added for an upfront cost of ~$500 and less than $10/year in power. Compare this to the cost of building and leasing a new cellular tower (which is anywhere from $150K to $1M) before factoring in power and admin costs.
People are incentivized to keep adding hotspots so long as they can recoup their investment. The amount of $HNT they earn for their efforts is a function of localized supply and demand. In areas where there is less supply and more demand, miners stand to profit more from their investment. In dense markets (i.e., cities), the market should find its equilibrium more quickly.
The Helium community has also built a rich ecosystems of tools, including a coverage map, to help miners and users coordinate. Anyone can browse the coverage map, see how much $HNT a particular hotspot is earning, and track the value of $HNT in real time. In an era when many feel gouged by their wireless provider, such transparency is accelerating adoption and expansion of the network.
The Valora app is a mobile wallet that makes transferring, saving, and spending digital currency as easy as sending a text.
Anyone who has tried to send money to friends or family abroad will be familiar with the problem Valora is addressing. International cash transfers are cumbersome, slow, and expensive. Moreover, in emerging markets, many people don’t have bank accounts, further constraining their options for exchanging money.
Valora is a mobile peer-to-peer payments and remittance app. The user interface feels similar to payments apps like Venmo and Cash App, but Valora works anywhere in the world and doesn’t require a bank account. All you need to send money is the other person’s phone number. Transactions occur at the speed of sending a text, even in areas with slow internet connections. Funds are available within seconds of downloading and setting up Valora.
Valora is built on the Celo blockchain and uses “stablecoins” to avoid price fluctuations when converting between different digital currencies. A stablecoin is designed to have a stable value relative to a fiat currency: one Celo Dollar (cUSD) equals one US Dollar.
Although it’s possible to make instant, borderless transactions with any cryptocurrency, it feels more like sending cash when using a stablecoin. This is an important driver of adoption. The volatility of other cryptocurrencies makes it difficult to view them as safe stores of value. If users have peace of mind that the coins in their wallet won’t lose value, then they are less likely to immediately exchange them for fiat currency (or hold onto them indefinitely).
Mirror.xyz is a publishing platform that gives writers new ways of being paid for their work.
The Internet has opened up worlds of possibility for writers, but also new challenges: paywalls, platforms changing the rules and algorithms for how work is discovered, content moderation, trolling and abusive comments, bans, etc. These 21st century problems conspire with the age-old problems that writers face trying to earn a good income while doing work they are passionate about.
Mirror helps writers safely publish their work and maintain control of the digital rights. It introduces several novel options for funding and monetizing written works. Writers can earn tips from readers. They can earn money whenever their writing is embedded in other pieces. They can even seek upfront crowdfunding for creative projects — and offer to split a share of future revenues with their backers.
J.K. Rowling’s story speaks to some of the economic struggles that Mirror is intended to help writers overcome:
In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was typed on an old manual typewriter. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.
A year later, she was finally given the green light (and a £1,500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London… Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.
Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing.
In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000.
Mirror is a young platform and currently throttles the number of new writers who can join each week. However, unlike other publishing platforms, Mirror is effectively owned and governed by its community of writers. They decide who gets in, what if any content stays out, and how to expand the value of the platform.
When writers join Mirror, they receive a small amount of the $WRITE token. If you have $WRITE, you are given a custom domain and the ability to publish on the platform. You also get voting rights. The more $WRITE you own, the more your vote counts. When you publish or “mint” your work, you earn tokens too.
Mirror is a special project to follow because it takes elements that could individually be accomplished in more traditional ways — a publishing platform owned by writers, crowdfunding and tipping creators, better safeguarding of digital rights, a transparent revenue sharing model — and unites them in a way that only makes sense on the blockchain. Mirror’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I’m excited to watch these projects evolve and optimistic they will lead to more widespread adoption of crypto.