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Introducing Token (tokenbrowser.com)
488 points by samscully on Apr 21, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

I'm not sure "Browser" is a good term for this; I get that they are trying to convey that it's just a client for the existing independent Etherium network, but to 99% of people, "browser" == "web browser". It's just going to cause confusion, especially in non-technical users (which seems to be a user base they are trying to go for here).

Even as a developer, when I saw "tokenbrowser.com", I was expecting to see a web browser. Visually, it looks more like a chat client (makes sense since they are taking inspiration from WeChat).

> I'm not sure "Browser" is a good term for this

Having been on the marketing side of a consumer product which used "browser" to describe what it was, I can confirm that "browser" = "web browser" to nearly everyone (analysts included) and is truly, sincerely not worth fighting.

In my experience, until they fix the "browser" positioning, nearly every conversation they have with anyone who might care about the actual product will include 2-5 minutes of explaining and rationalizing the use of a word that people already believe they understand.

I just clicked because I thought it was a cool new web browser. I don't care about Ethereum and it feels like clickbait to me.

Agree. I thought it might have been a better execution of brave payments.

Frankly, I think brave needs to look at this and realize they could race to be a point of sale payment solution. This miscommunication makes me realize what brave payments could turn into.

The domain name is click bait?

People create language, language doesn't create people. Meaning, words mean what the majority of people think they mean.

If the vast majority of people assume browser == web browser, then yes.

I was deceived too. "Token App Browser" is more apt if that's what it actually can do.



> We were unable to complete your search. Please try again.

Hmm, I'm going swim against the current and say I like the fact that it's called a browser. I like this because it is a browser, albeit not a web browser.

I think this is exactly what's missing from blockchain-derived technologies: a simple human interface to remote resources. More to the point, calling this thing a browser anchors it firmly into a well-known context. This should be useful for explaining it to our parents.

> More to the point, calling this thing a browser anchors it firmly into a well-known context. This should be useful for explaining it to our parents.

I think if I told my mom this was a browser, she would be confused to see something that looks more like her text message than a web page.

I'm going to gently accuse you of intellectual dishonesty, here ;)

In the phrasing you chose, you imply that it's a web browser -- this is the source of the hypothetical confusion.

Now try this: "Mom, this is a lot like a web browser (i.e. firefox, chrome, etc) but it's not for web pages. It's for a different kind of content".

Surely you'll admit this a helpful description...

Not at all. Non-experts will always consider only the outward appearance rather than the technical structure, since the latter is basically invisible to them. (Compare for exampl how hackers are depicted on mass media. Same principle.)

>Non-experts will always consider only the outward appearance rather than the technical structure

Exactly, and this thing behaves (outwardly) a lot like a web browser. It's just not browsing the web.

The description is useful for hilighting the similarities between both artefacts, mostly because Token is, stricto-sensu, a browser!

Not to be patronising, but you should try tech support. You'll quickly understand why arguments like this are futile.

Or this: "Mom, this is a chat program that has its own apps".

I don't know about you, but my Mom would find this explanation a lot more helpful than the browser one.


I'm looking at the Apache LDAP browser right now. Not a spec of HTML anywhere.

"Apache Directory Studio™: The Eclipse-based LDAP browser and directory client"

Sounds like that is a tool meant for technical users, e.g. IT staff, though, not general users.

I think the point still stands: calling something a browser implies that it's used for browsing. Most people will immediately think of a web browser, but it's still useful to frame things as "a browser, but not for the web. For something else".

Is this not HN????

If HN is the only market for this product then this would make sense as an argument but the OP was talking about the general public.

Is unfortunate, IMHO, that "browser" as come to mean "web browser". What are we supposed to call user interfaces that browser other information representations?

Has it though? Does nobody else use a file-browser any more? I'm mostly command-line but even I use a file-browser fairly often.

Most people I know never called that a file-browser in the first place. It was just "my files", as if the files were things in their own right that just appeared on screen. OS vendors have played into that, with icon labels that say "My Documents" or "All my files". It's to their advantage to not let anyone know that there's a separate program that sits on top of the filesystem to show the contents of the filesystem. Most people don't care how things work as long as they work.

For that matter, I know a number of folks who don't know what a web browser is either. It's just "The Internet", thanks to Microsoft's marketing, or "the Googles", thanks to Google's. When I used to read Google user feedback, it was amazing how many people thought that anything that happened online or offline due to a Google Search was Google's fault - we'd get feedback like "The plumber came 2 hours late...I want my money back!"

Yeah, the idea of a "file browser" as an application separate from the OS is just not something most people have ever gotten. The file browser is just "Windows" or whatever, just part of the OS.

(You can install file browsers other than the default one on most OSes, true. But how many people actually do that? Even fewer than install Web browsers.)

in windows, to the last of my knowledge from XP, the file manager is integrated into the shell, all together called explorer

I agree. It is always important to remember that to most "normal people" this stuff - the Internet, the web, their smartphone apps - are a huge clumpy ball of undifferentiated "magic". And that's not because they're stupid people, but because this stuff really is quite complicated and most people already have plenty of other things to worry about.

I know a lot of people that use the phrase "I'll PFM that for you." (Pure Fucking Magic)

I actually say I am going to Google something when in reality I use DuckDuckGo...

I do this too... While I cringe internally. But usually I'm saying it to people that have never even heard of DuckDuckGo...

The term in wide use when I came into the field seemed to be "file manager" for an application that was about files. For a file selection dialog box, I've heard "file browser" from time to time.

Technically a browser isn't even a full application. It's part of the interface of a bunch of different types of applications. A "web browser" is a file renderer, a content fetch utility, an object container that's targeted by a built-in scripting language, and a whole lot more. One of its functions - just one - is to follow hyperlinks and let you browser / surf for other content. And yet "browser" means, yes, "web browser".

This is not an argument about what the word means or should mean. It's an admission that we allowed the word to become specialized. Now it's either go with the status quo or try to take the word back, like "hacker", or maybe "Kleenex", "Aspirin", or "Rollerblade".

Looking at the store page, "app" seems like a reasonable choice that seems like it would make sense with most people.

Likewise. I applaud their idea and technical work but their messaging needs an overhaul to make it more accessible/consumable to the average person.

Yesterday there was a discussion [1] about a similar app named Status, which calls itself a "Mobile Ethereum OS" [2]. And between "browser" and "OS", I'm not even sure which is the worse way to describe this type of app.

Perhaps a more constructive question would be: what is the best way to describe such apps?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14161695 [2] https://wiki.status.im

Because it's not immediately clear, this is a project developed by Coinbase, but under its own brand. The demo, which is available on the Apple Store and Google Play store uses TestNet Ether for now.

Yeah, I found it confusing that the ownership of the project was nowhere mentioned on tokenbrowser.com. The code seems to be copyrighted by "Token Browser, Inc" so I'm curious what sort of entity that is, whether it's just owned by Coinbase or what.


Yes; this post may have finally gotten traction thanks to yesterday's discussion of the nearly-equivalent "actual Ether" Status project.


I like the idea, but this is very confusing to end-consumers:

- Is this just a messaging app? A payments app? A web browser?

- It's all of those things, except not a web browser, it's an "app browser" (why not app store, especially considering the whole point of these is that they are paid?)

- The starting experience is anything but compelling: http://i.imgur.com/U69Gskl.png

- Is this developed by Coinbase? If so, why is there no mention, and the app is developed by "Bluxome Labs"?

The more confusing thing is what will happen when the userbase finds out Ethereum "smart contracts" aren't good for anything except online gambling which certainly will not be allowed on the TokenBrowser app. Also, I shook my head when I saw your screenshot, that is certainly not a good first impression.

Isn't the history of technology riddled with inventions that "aren't good for anything except ..." which turned out to be good for lots of things.

From the top of my head the following examples come to mind.

1. Early criticism of the tablet was that nobody would use them because they didn't have a keyboard.

2. Early criticism of the internet was that nobody would ever purchase anything over the internet.

3. Early criticism of dropbox mentioned elsewhere in this thread, "they're just re-selling S3, why would anyone use that".

Disclaimer that I'm pretty deep in the Ethereum space so my perspective is anything but objective, but it is informed as I know the space quite well.

Smart contracts are capable of big transformative change to how we do a lot of things, but they are REALLY new and we're only just starting to learn how to use them and what we can use them for. Here are some examples.

1. Look at [ENS](http://ens.domains/) as an example of what DNS might look like if it weren't centralized.

2. Look at [simple Escrow examples](https://dappsforbeginners.wordpress.com/tutorials/two-party-...) for how smart contracts can remove middlemen from financial transactions.

None of these things are likely to blow up into massive mainstream adoption tomorrow but they are illustrative of what is possible and there are a lot of people working very hard to make these things ready for mainstream adoption.

>how smart contracts can remove middlemen from financial transactions.

These sorts of things are trivially gamed and have been since they were first proposed in the bitcoin space. Besides that you don't even remove a middleman for this example since you still need the courier to act as the middleman.

That's not true at all though. Smart Contracts are being used in a wide variety of great projects.

In my opinion what's really missing is a fiat currency token, that can be legally recognised as actual money for a lot of business to be able to go massive.

> That's not true at all though. Smart Contracts are being used in a wide variety of great projects.

Do you have any examples of projects that would be truly different or impossible to implement without smart contracts?

Well that depends in what's truly different for you. A quick example, because I'm on my phone, is [1], which is enabling donating to specific people around the world with total transparency through smart contracts

[1] http://www.giveth.io/

This is a perfect example of what I was talking about. It is a nice idea. However there are no problems charities face that existing FIAT currencies or bitcoin or standard real-world contracts don't already solve. Unless there is a case to be made that censorship or centralization is a problem for contracts in the charity space, this app is a solution looking for a problem, in my opinion.

It is unclear how blockchain smart contracts contribute any value to the users in this case.

There are a number of Islamic charities that have been prosecuted under suspicion of funding terrorism. Of course, as soon the government thinks Ethereum is being used to send money to ISIS, anyone associated with the project will be swiftly conveyed to Guantanamo Bay.

Poor Vitalik, I don't want him to get waterboarded.

I would find your pitch much more interesting if you didn't go from "look at this very cool technology" to "look how we're changing the world for the better for these poor people in Africa".

Be realistic. How many Sub-Saharan Africans are using Token or working on it right now? You're first-world devs working on first-world tech and wrapping it up in humanitarian terms because it makes you more attractive.

It's kind of exploitative. It's all about money at the end of the day, isn't it?

I apologize for the rant. Just had a semester of classes on faith and development and law and development and this stuff is often very complex and a type of unintentional colonialism often runs through it.

"Hey, check out these people! Check out how much they need our help! Wouldn't things be so much better if we did X for them?"

In many cases, yes, but in a lot of ways it is impossible for people who aren't on the ground to properly understand culture, context, and needs. Does the team have anyone on the ground? Is this informed by research on the topic? From a less critical perspective, a portion of the site dedicated to such research (and thus informing the goals) would be really cool and useful.

> It's all about money at the end of the day, isn't it?

I'm still having a hard time seeing any cryptocurrency based application as anything but an attempt to facilitate speculation based on that currency's value. There seem to be so many perverse incentives inherent to this technology that I automatically find any idealistic application of it suspect.

Perhaps this is overly cynical, but all cryptocurrencies seem to boil down to a system that would immensely benefit whoever came up with that particular currency (by virtue of having mined all the early blocks before going public or whatever) and whoever invested early if it ever took off.

We already have a financial system structured to immensely benefit those who came up with and control currencies. With traditional currencies this is an ongoing benefit, not just a one time return on investment.

Governments, banks and other financial institutions that are able to create more units of a currency (by literally and figuratively printing money in the case of governments and by virtually creating money through fractional reserve lending in the case of financial institutions) immensely benefit from their monopoly/oligopoly privileges in that regard.

> Perhaps this is overly cynical

Probably not, especially not for all the coins started after bitcoin took off.

Bitcoin itself may be an exception but without a reliable genesis story it's impossible to know for sure.

AFAIK Bitcoin early-mined blocks were mined and are still owned by its creator. So it's perfectly ok to be cynical about Bitcoin as well.

Edit: Some details here https://bitslog.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/the-well-deserved-f...

They are owned or their wallet has long ago been lost.

It's not all that hard to permanently erase some bitcoins.

Bitcoin creator(s) hold bitcoin worth a cool couple billion USD. Be very cynical.

No, they mined bitcoins that have a present day virtual value of lots of $, but that they are still holding on to them is an assumption that may prove wrong and that value is there mostly because of the relatively low number of bitcoins that is actively being traded.

If those coins are still held by some individual and they decide to unload the BTC will drop like a stone.

> If those coins are still held by some individual and they decide to unload the BTC will drop like a stone.

That would be the concern yes. So they won't make a couple of billions, but they'll make a lot, and the rest of us will be left holding worthless bits.

I'm sure you can see why that could make someone reluctant to buy into the system, since it sounds plausible, and we don't know for sure the creators are not in fact holding a ton of bitcoins.

That's a good clarification. Who knows where all that bitcoin went after it was mined.

> a system that would immensely benefit whoever came up with that particular currency

In Bitcoin's case, Satoshi created the world's first trustless, global digital payment system and distributed it as open source.

Maybe it's just me, but that seems like a pretty big deal. Especially when the software was not patented, and free for anyone to use and build with.

Could Satoshi hold a bunch of BTC worth over a billion USD? Yup, and I hope he/they do. IMHO the creator(s) deserves all that wealth.

> whoever invested early if it ever took off.

Is that not the nature of anything that is capable of being an investment?

Bitcoin began as a whitepaper because it's a runaway thought experiment. I'm sure Satoshi would've done things a little differently if he truly expected to become a billionaire from it.

There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a little excessive to assign such heady altruistic qualities to Satoshi as if he/she/they knew ahead of time what bitcoin would become. The infamous "$15k pizza" clearly demonstrates that bitcoin began as a toy and people got a kick out of it when people started treating it as real currency.

I really respect bitcoin's implementation as a thought experiment/"let's try this crazy thing" project. I think its use as a permanent basis for a real-world currency and/or a storage/execution platform for programs is misguided.

It'd be a shame if we elevated the experimentation of one intelligent person to be elevated into religion and never their mistakes, instead of respecting their intent and leadership and developing improvements that reference the work without memorializing it.

> it's a little excessive to assign such heady altruistic qualities to Satoshi as if he/she/they knew ahead of time what bitcoin would become.

> It'd be a shame if we elevated the experimentation of one intelligent person to be elevated into religion...

Just giving credit where credit is due. If you invented a new open source technology that yielded a market that went from $0 ---> $19B+ in 8 years, then I'd think you'd deserve to be financially rewarded for it, and I may even have some nice things to say about you too.

> I really respect bitcoin's implementation as a thought experiment

Cool. But Bitcoin would still be a BFD even if no one used it. It's an elegant technological implementation of a decentralized immutable ledger and currency system that doesn't require you to trust someone else with your money when you want to spend it. It still puzzles me how many posters on HN (a forum of creators, engineers, and inventors) disregard its technological achievement. Perhaps the idea that "real money" doesn't have to come from some authority figure is simply too offensive?

> I think its use as a permanent basis for a real-world currency and/or a storage/execution platform for programs is misguided.

And therein lies one of its best advantages over traditional currency: it's opt-in only, so you don't have to use it if you prefer not to.

>It still puzzles me how many posters on HN (a forum of creators, engineers, and inventors) disregard its technological achievement. Perhaps the idea that "real money" doesn't have to come from some authority figure is simply too offensive?

It's not a novel concept. Bitcoin is a linear web of trust, applied to transactions instead of identities. Webs of trust are as old as PGP. Block C is valid against Block B is valid against Block A, which we both trust.

Bitcoin is respectable primarily for its ambition, the way it applied existing technology to accomplish a goal that its creators cared about and which many people would've thought was too daunting to undertake.

Believing that people only criticize bitcoin because their minds are too small to accept the concept of decentralized money is blatantly closed-minded.

> It's not a novel concept. Bitcoin is a linear web of trust, applied to transactions instead of identities. Webs of trust are as old as PGP. Block C is valid against Block B is valid against Block A, which we both trust.

It's more than just a basic "web of trust". It wouldn't work if it was. Primarily, Bitcoin was the first system to implement proof-of-work to prevent double spending, establish consensus, and distribute the units of account fairly.

EDIT: PGP's web of trust is kind of a poor comparison here, because it requires trusting people, whereas blockchains require trusting math/algos.

> Believing that people only criticize bitcoin because their minds are too small to accept the concept of decentralized money is blatantly closed-minded.

I'm just trying to understand the reasons behind HN's vitriol, always open to hearing other suggestions. (Though there seems to be far less vitriol lately.)

I agree with your sentiment with regard to the huge number of altcoins that have emerged since bitcoin's arrival, but I still believe there is a core value to cryptocurrencies. However, I disagree with the common statement that that benefit is related to anonymity or privacy. I think the core benefit of cryptocurrencies is in their immutable ownership and exchange - if I buy something with PayPal on eBay I might get a chargeback or PayPal may arbitrarily decide that my transaction was fraudulent.

With cryptocurrencies, I don't have to worry about that. The fact that I can store them in a physical location (e.g. a phone app, on a paper wallet in a vault) is immensely useful - I can keep coins in my phone wallet for sending to friends for shared bills, and don't have to think about whether the company that owns my cash is going to make some bizarre policy change or if they are secure enough to prevent hackers manipulating my balance or crashing the company's infrastructure. There's also a sense of ownership that comes with that, similar to owning physical cash.

I think there's two innovations beyond bitcoin that are necessary to become properly useful instead of just a tech toy: economic stability, and fast transactions. Also, potentially offline transactions if that's feasible. Economic stability would provide the ability to trust the coins' ability to maintain value rather than using them for fast exchange and cash-out cycles (inflationary) or speculation and investment only (deflationary). Fast transactions for synchronous exchanges, e.g. in-person or business sales funnels. I don't know if Ethereum (or any other altcoin) provides these capabilities, but that's just my 2 satoshis.

Ethereum has a 14-second block time and plans to shorten it to about four seconds with proof-of-stake. Offline transactions are pretty simple to implement: http://www.blunderingcode.com/a-lightning-network-in-two-pag...

There are various stablecoin projects too, either backed by someone's offchain assets or using derivative contracts. Personally I think stability will come naturally to the native currency as it gets used more in commerce.

I think bitcoin itself is prone to constant deflation due to the 21-million coin cap and an expanding market.

Derivative contracts sounds like an interesting approach to this problem - could you point me to a paper or post on that? I'll definitely have to look into ethereum more deeply - it sounds like it might have the key features I believe are necessary.

The two best-known stablecoin derivative projects are Maker and Stabl:



Look at how M-Pesa is used in Kenya. Token has been available for a single day, of course no one uses it yet. In what way is it exploitative? If it works, which it may well do, it could provide a very valuable service to these people who could greatly benefit from it. They aren't forcing these people to use token, they're trying to create a viable business that provides them a service.

I can see your point, but, when it comes to the "Internet" it is Ok IMO. It is global already, people everywhere "consuming it". Facebook are "helping the poor people of Africa" now as well as the author hopes to.

Aside from the app, and what it can facilitate, I find chat UIs to be a zone for invention. Here Token partially formalized the UI [1] for menus and the like. As it is with Telegram for example, you provide a "keyboard" of a grid of buttons to press, similar to SOFA each button has a value. However Telegram does not have menus, so general purpose bots need a lot of back and forth to refine what the user's intention is. With SOFA, it seems to be one payload with nested options that do not need to be committed in order to explore what options there are, reducing concerns for connectivity requirements just to find out what they can do.

[1]: https://www.sofaprotocol.org

I don't understand what you say. You think it is something amazing that they invented a message format? The UX continues to be more-or-less the same, doesn't it?

I think it is a good thing that they are formalizing a chat based UI which may work well with low connectivity. Connectivity isn't a stated concern, but I do see it as addressed as round trip communication to discover affordances is avoided.

living in Zimbabwe now, there a severe shortage of cash, Im hoping a project like this one will catch one day. good luck

Is Ether not in short supply around there?

Serious question - is it easier or more likely to fix government issues which cause that lack of cash, or is it easier to fix those issues in order to get the technical infrastructure necessary to transplant technology not even widely used in the US?

The notion that a poor villager would be reliant on the Ethereum network for anything is slightly terrifying. Where do they go if they're wronged, there's a bug, or the people running the network decide upon a hard fork?

Is that a reliable money supply?

they stated their aim is to help 2B people in develop countries. it is very hard to fix the government. there are networks here, poor villagers how use money have a phone, I think its better to by-pass the government. relying on private company is terrifying as relying on third world government. decentralized solution would be the best. also E-money is used here already, trough the cellular company but they have a monopoly backed by the government so its just another way of stealing from the people.

Thanks for the response. Hopefully Zimbabwe has a good future ahead.

fellow limbo, what zim needs is a pure decentralized currency that zanu can't control e.g a time based one

It's probably more reliable than Robert Mugabe's government has been. A good, stable Western government might be preferable to Internet anarchy (although not always: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417155/wisonsins-shame...), but they don't have a good, stable Western government: they have a deeply corrupt, horrifically incompetent kleptocracy.

Interesting that having a way to fix problems - someone you can call for help - always seems to be left unsolved with digital currency.

> What happens if I lose my phone? Can I recover my funds?

> Our launch today only uses Ethereum testnet coins (not real money) in case this happens. However, you can recover access to your wallet by storing a backup phrase, or by choosing trusted friends (coming soon).

Also, the stated aim of helping the poorest sounds noble, but experience with charity is clear: poor people want solutions used by wealth countries, not a solution designed to be used by them. Banks and Courts can't be what the first world uses to fix problems, while we make a different system for the poor.


Smartphone and cells are happening anyways given the huge demand.

Creating a stable and trustworthy government and a banking system is hugely difficult compared with developing any cryptocurrency.

Not sure why this is downvoted, looks like a decent question asked in good faith

It's because he wrote this:

> or the people running the network decide upon a hard fork?

which screams malice aforethought to people. The idea is that Ethereum had a hard fork which has divided people across two sides. To average people, you can get them to take any side depending upon how you compose the questions. You ask a non-techie:

1. What would you think if a company like Venmo decides to revert donations you received to pay for your daughter's cancer cure?

2. What would you think if the network of services you were using had a major theft, and the network took measures to thwart that theft by denying the thief access to the funds?

Please don't argue on which of the questions is more dishonest. The point here is, if you ask the first question, majority of the people will agree with the anti-hard fork side, and if you ask the second question then majority of the people will side with the pro-hard fork side.

Grandparent comment, writing what he wrote in passing is like reading a 'seemingly' unbiased article about US election, with a passing line about "but would people be ok with having a president who deleted confidential emails, only time will tell".

This is essentially what the GP comment did.

I actually thought twice about writing that because it does seem a little unfair. The Eth guys didn't want to do that hard fork and I'm sure they have no intentions of ever having one again.

But that was the case before the first fork. There was no indication that was going to happen then, either. so if it's five years from now, more people are relying on Ethereum and something we can't anticipate requires (truly or not it doesn't matter) another hard fork? Can you convince users that won't happen under any circumstances? We have a precedent.

Seems perfectly fair and not an invalid question if we are talking about people in the real world using Ethereum and not just a bunch of early adopters. Is it not?

> Can you convince users that won't happen under any circumstances? We have a precedent.

I have seen this common fallacy which exists across all areas (Especially around security), but the best example of this was when Apple revealed that it received orders from FBI to help them unlock a terrorist's iPhone.

Majority of the people were making arguments such as "But what is it to stop FBI from using this special software to crack other people's iPhones", which misses the point that if FBI can force Apple to issue a custom ROM which allows them to crack into a phone, then the security exploit already exists, it doesn't start to exist when Apple signs such a ROM.

Same goes here, if hard forking to alter the ledger is 'breaking immutability' then all blockchains are not immutable, they don't start becoming immutable the moment they fork the blockchain.

Take it another way, if you could go back in time and convince Ethereum community to not hard fork, is Ethereum blockchain more immutable in that timeline? In fact, you don't have to go that far, currently there exists a fork of Ethereum blockchain which didn't decide to go with the hard fork, is Ethereum Classic more immutable than Ethereum main chain?

The fact is the DAO hardfork was made possible because of one reason:

The DAO locked the funds of the hacker into a smart contract for 30 days. If the hacker got spending access to his Ethers, then this hard fork would not have been possible because it would mean reverting very legitimate transactions where people have transacted goods/services for Ether (not to mention, community would not have gone for the hard fork if that were the case).

> Seems perfectly fair and not an invalid question if we are talking about people in the real world using Ethereum and not just a bunch of early adopters. Is it not?

People in real world, if they fully understand the concept of Hard fork, are even more pro-hard fork than majority of Ethereum users. Remember, the non-blockchain world is as far from immutability as possible. Nearly all credit card companies offer reversible transactions, nearly all ecommerce sites offer you ability to get refunded if something goes wrong.

A bunch of early adopters are the only one who cry 'immutability'. We come from the software world, so we know why immutability is a desirable thing, but to an average person mutability or immutability is a meaningless distinction. They all expect mutability to the default.

What's more scary is them getting branded as "terrorists".

How about something like wechat[1]? It's pretty popular afaik in China etc.

1. http://www.wechat.com/en/

It's pretty hard to put money in and out without chinese banks though.

How common are smartphones in Zimbabwe?

Fairly common, according to http://pca.st/MgAe, although it sounds like the experience is somewhat Balkanized.

Btw, I really love The Phileas Club; it's a great roundup of world news, and as someone with a more or less conservative tendency, I think the host (Patrick Beja) does a great job being fair to points of view that aren't his own.

they are common, people value communication. most of the phones are older models or very cheap Chinese brands.

Then I think Ethereum could help, down the road a bit. You don't even have to use ether, necessarily; a contract could implement a local time-based currency and do away with your money shortage entirely. Lending circles might help with short-term needs.

For now you'd need a little ether to pay transaction fees, which are getting more significant, and it might be hard to obtain. And scalability could be an issue. But all this stuff is getting addressed:

- With the Metropolis upgrade in a couple months, contracts will be able to hold their own ether and pay the transaction fees with that.

- With the Serenity upgrade in a year or so, transaction fees should lower significantly (for a complicated reason I can explain if anyone's interested). This upgrade will also increase scalability to about 100 tx/sec, and take block time to about 4 seconds.

- With the first sharding upgrade, scalability should get to around 1000 to 10,000 tx/sec, and fees should be even cheaper.

Security of old android phones might be a problem.

> for a complicated reason I can explain if anyone's interested


Proof of stake. Instead of miners trying to make valid hashes, people bet their ether on which blocks will be accepted, and the blocks people bet on the most are the ones that get accepted. (That's Ethereum's PoS design anyway.)

In proof of work, the miners race each other to make blocks. Any time they spend actually validating transactions slows them down; they might find a block and not get their reward if another miner was a bit faster. The transaction fees have to be high enough to compensate for this risk. Since the reward goes up as the coin price goes up, the fees go up proportionally too.

In proof of stake, this race goes away. Blocks are released on a fixed time schedule. The fee no longer has to compensate for risk due to lost time, and instead just has to pay for actual computational cost of the transactions.

Any idea about the version of Android they typically use?

I just heard an interesting talk about this on the Bitcoin Podcast[1] a few days ago. They have some inserting ideas around being able to democratize startup stage investing.

[1] - http://thebitcoinpodcast.com/episode-120/

Are they using some implementation of the Ethereum light client protocol? Last time I checked it wasn't available yet: https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/Light-client-protocol

If they are using the standard protocol then how do they connect to the Ethereum network? Do they use their servers as proxy to the network? Because if it's so, that would defeat the whole point to me.

No, they're not using the Light Client yet for that very reason, but easily could in the future. But in any case, no crypto wallets are light clients. All Bitcoin wallets, for example, use servers because it's impossible to do Bitcoin light clients (at least, they haven't found a solution yet).

This app is more about having WeChat with crypto payments and with app interactions. Light client could come later though.

> All Bitcoin wallets, for example, use servers because it's impossible to do Bitcoin light clients (at least, they haven't found a solution yet).

No, SPV clients exist to avoid running a node: https://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/4649/what-is-an-...

No true light client exists. SPV is different. See here a Core dev talking about it.


Even your own links says "A Bitcoin implementation that does not verify everything, but instead relies on either connecting to a trusted node"

It verifies enough information to be secure. It is obvious that at one point they need to connect to some node because this ia the way blockcgain works.

Ok sure, connect to another node. But a light client is its own node.

That doesn't exist per definition. You cannot have a light client that its own node and it is not the node defined in the specific blockchain. The bitcoin innovation was about using a common ledger for every node and the nodes must run specific code to check that the blockchain state is the correct one.

If you find a way a node can do less work that what is doing now without relying on another node you would discover something new at the computer science level, so this light node will transform into the definition of a node.

SPV client security is enough for numerous use cases and many call them "light clients".

So for now the Ethereum promise to have a distributed network where I don't need to trust any man in the middle is really not possible yet on mobile devices?

In theory, you could run a private client on DigitalOcean and then connect to that. Apart from that, true light clients are coming [1]. Particularly interesting is this comment by the ethereum light client developer: [2] "Can't promise anything yet but we're not that far from real trustless O(1) light client syncing."

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/ethereum/comments/5x27ss/after_metr... They may even

[1] https://blog.ethereum.org/2017/01/07/introduction-light-clie...

> All Bitcoin wallets, for example, use servers because it's impossible to do Bitcoin light clients (at least, they haven't found a solution yet).

This is totally false. So called SPV clients have been available since 2011 I think. Where the hell did you get this information? Just curious.

Examples of lite bitcoin clients include (but not limited to) breadwallet, bitcoin wallet for android (Schildbach), multibit, bittiraha-walletd etc.

Is this supposed to be a UI for end users of smart contracts? Are smart contracts widely deployed in production yet? Or just b2bexperiments experiments ?

Yes, this is a UI for Ethereum Smart Contracts. It is not in production yet, it is still running on the Ethereum Testnet. I suppose it will undergo more testing before it goes live on the main net. There're a few smart contracts that are already in production and being used, but the whole smart contract (DAPP) ecosystem is currently blossoming. There're many interesting dapps soon to be released. Since everything ethereum is so new and untested, development takes much longer to make sure there're no non-obvious loopholes and bugs.

It's a darknet market replacement.

I'm honestly curious about this thing I see occasionally on HackerNews. The observation of the thing are mostly negative comments, irrational in nature, which are presented by a significantly aged account with very low karma and posting history.

Servicing the underbanked is an important goal. I know people working on solving underbanked issues and I know it is important to them and support them.

In this case, your comment is a completely blatant blaming statement. Just because less than traditional marketplaces share a similarity to this product, or the other way around, is no indication it's intended use is a darknet market replacement. In other words, the developers intent here is unlikely to be what you claim, simply by way of a biased comparison. The outcome of use by users may be different certainly, but that doesn't make your claim valid, or rational.

In fact, the only group who would be mostly likely to make this claim would be a group who seeks to control markets. If such a group sought to control markets, by manipulation of sentiment and social logic (of which is required for discussing said post) then a highly rational thing to do would be to create a lot of accounts over a long period of time and then use those accounts randomly to post negative sentiment about things that remove control from the group.

Further, I present an observation that by not knowing who it is that is posting, we (the HackerNews group) are doing ourselves a disservice in letting these individuals have an equal voice, especially when it is a voice of blame. That is not to say that entities should be denied posting when new, but perhaps those entities should be required to engage in positive additions to the discussion before being able to be blaming, as I am doing here, clearly. Of course, I have the karma to do so and a long history of comments that can be inspected to verify identity.

That's a good use-case for cryptocurrencies, and text messaging, if there ever was one. I'd like to see a project, similar to HN be developed which implements this using similar techniques to eliminate the increasing inclusion of irrational arguments into the discussion.

What makes you so sure that cryptocurrency brings anything to the table that the underbanked would want? Particularly since M-Pesa is changing the world (in some countries) without it?

I agree it is worth exploring, but we need to treat this as an open question. Easy conversion to/from other currencies at stable rates may be more important to most users than the theoretical benefits of decentralization.

I think the most obvious use (hypothetically, not proven) is in countries that have seriously unstable currencies or controls on foreign exchange that the user is avoiding. "Darknet" doesn't seem like all that bad a way to refer to these use cases, so I'd say the gp is unsubtle and perhaps dismissive but not irrational.

> What makes you so sure that cryptocurrency brings anything to the table that the underbanked would want?

What makes you ask leading questions which cast my comments into a blaming statement that I think cryptocurrencies bring anything to improving the underbanked's situation or experience? This is what is called speaking for others. I intensely dislike people speaking for me.

As a matter of my own truth on this subject, I actually have no opinion on whether the application of cryptocurrencies is a good one or not to this problem, given I'm not underbanked or in a 3rd world country dealing with the challenges of moving money around in less than trustworthy environments. Further, I have no second hand knowledge of the problem myself.

What I do know is that there are a LOT of underbanked people, there are people working on this, some of which I know, and that I support them in their efforts. Whether or not their efforts are good ones or not, I cannot speak to.

My point of commenting was primarily addressing the fact we can no longer trust random comments from accounts with little to no posting history, which insist on making blanket blaming statements that infer all new decentralized technologies are somehow linked, inexplicably, to crime.

What can you actually do with this, other than chat and send payments? There's only 2 apps in the recommended section and they're both basic.

This is an early release of something intended to be a platform on which independent developers can build applications. Everything on there is meant to be illustrative of what you can do. Currently it only operates on the test network so it's a toy for the time being.

I think the token economy will growth and growth. We can expect good and really bad news because anyone can participate.

My company is receiving many inquiries oriented to managing funds and trading. Also, In the context of YC Startup School we are building an API for multiple cryptocurrencies, tokens, and smart contracts. We are even disassembling smart contracts to gather more metrics about the blockchain usage. If you are interested on using it instead of building your own infrastructure please contact me via my company page.

Token's client is a lot faster (and much less buggy) than status.im.

This would be a huge thing in places where there isn't a good free bank account-to-bank account money transfer app. which I assume is why facebook is also eyeing such things.

Only if they have easy access to Ethereum tokens, which is doubtful. Bitcoin is a lot easier to obtain than Ethereum is, usually people have to buy Bitcoin to buy Ethereum, that's a lot of effort just to use an app.

No you don't 'have' to buy bitcoin to buy eth. Coinbase, which is known as the largest fiat-> btc/eth platform allows fiat -> eth directly. But yes, I agree that easy access to eth or btc is not available at the moment for those outside the US or outside the neckbeard community

It's just as much about the liquidity/depth of the ETHUSD market, which is abysmal compared to BTCUSD. Crypto currencies are a great idea, but without liquidity it's fairly useless as a value transfer system, as you'll lose significant sums to slippage when exchanging.

Maybe I am not getting it but ethereum is way to complex to make it successful - and because it is decentralised it looks deeply fragmented. As I said, I am probably not getting it.

It is indeed looking very complex, but that's because (as others have pointed out) it is still rather young. Ethereum itself is being implemented with a phased roadmap: Frontier, Homestead, Metropolis, Serenity. We're still in the Homestead phase, and Metropolis (the next phase) will, for example include "a relatively full-featured user interface for non-technical users" [1]. But even this is probably still years away from simple usability for an average user.

Also, remember that understanding happens in layers. The web with all its components also once looked very alien to all of us (DNS, REST, Server, Client, Browser, FTP, Gopher, P2P, HTML, Javascript, the list goes on). We just take it all for granted because we grew up while layers were piled on top. But if you can't even tell a client from a server, then understanding how a modern web app works will also take a long time and will look way too complex.

This is not to say that ethereum will be as revolutionary as the web, just that simplicity can easier grow out of complexity than complexity can grow out of simplicity

[1] https://blog.ethereum.org/2015/03/03/ethereum-launch-process...

Not to be dense, but don't understand your argument.

You just listed how Ethereum is a sizable tech stack and still growing and then suggest that it will eventually get simpler - after it has more users, after there is technical lock-in.

That seems contradictory to many working projects. Perhaps it is complex? It's a reinvention of almost the entire web stack.

Sorry, I could have been more elaborate. Let me try to give some examples of what I mean:

- A computer is quite complicated: It requires electricity, gates, transistors, boolean logic, a CPU, machine code, a machine code low level boot loader, an operating system, a windowing server, an application framework. And finally, within the application framework we can build something like Notepad that is really trivial and simple to understand for the average user. A calculator is much simpler (given the whole tech stack), but trying to enter text there (like in notepad) would be much more difficult (if it had a stack, you could enter the hex value of each char, making up words). In this case, the beautiful simplicity that defines modern computing can only work because we first had to build and invent all the layers below it.

- A web browser / server is also, again, really complicated. The end result is that users go to google.com, enter a search term, and receive the results. Without the additional complexity of MapReduce, millions of servers, AI, etc, Google search wouldn't be so simple.

Ethereum is still in the phase where complex technology is added so that finally simple layers can be put on top. Raiden [1] is an example of that: As a user, I want to pay something immediately. Looking at a block explorer after payment with a transaction ID to see when there're enough blockchain confirmations is very complex. At some point this will be the technology under the hood as transactions will happen in near-realtime. Then, no user has to even understand the transaction, transaction time and confirmations.

Ethereum is indeed re-inventing much of the current web stack, but this happens, of course, in the context of decentralised, trustless, open computing.

[1] https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/lightning-fast-raiden-n...

I realize this is pedantic, but your list of "Web" technologies doesn't reflect understanding. The Web is "just" HTTP. HTML and JavaScript come in to play as formats delivered by the Web, but you can also have HTML email which doesn't need the Web at all. DNS, FTP, and Gopher are other protocols that work over the Internet (TCP/IP, and, in DNS's case, UDP/IP). Server, Client and P2P are architectures for protocols built on top​ of the Internet. The Web, and the other protocols you listed, uses a client-server architecture. REST is an architecture for applications built on top of the Web. A browser is a Web (or Gopher) client.

Sure, from a technical perspective, absolutely. But the context here was an average user. If an average user talks about "web" he means his Email account, various protocols. Basically those actions enabled by layers on top of Arpanet.

I'll add some color here.

The complexity you're referring to may be the runtime? It is more complex than, say, Bitcoin because it has for most purposes a Turing complete language baked into the protocol.

Bitcoin is a blockchain that forms consensus on the state of a specific implementation of a data structure (somewhat arbitrarily, a list of transactions) and it has a very limited set of operations to manipulate that data.

Coming to distributed consensus on a transaction ledger is ultra-useful, as we have come to know. But there may be other data structures that may be useful for distributed consensus as well. Rather than building a blockchain for each one, why not build that flexibility into one protocol so the developer can choose?

Ethereum is a blockchain that forms consensus on the state of a more general set of data types, with a Turing complete language to operate on the data.

More complex? Yes. But the hope is that this flexibility drives a rich developer ecosystem, where innovation can happen within the network, rather than having to build your own network from scratch.

As for decentralization leading to fragmentation? This is a feature, not a bug. It is the feature that allowed Ethereum to grow in tangent with a thousand other blockchain mechanisms. Maybe fragmentation will bring its demise, but it as breath of fresh air from our rapidly consolidating tech industry.

It is very complex, but also very, very early. No one is pretending that any of this is production ready or user friendly. These are just glimpses into what is being worked on for over the next 5-10 years

I can tell you that I'm building a proof-of-concept medical provider registry on ethereum right now for a US state in my free time and the entire registry with a rather deep security model and tons of functionality is a total of 230 lines of smart contract code (this represents the "server side" of the registry) It'll probably be around 500 lines if it reaches production.

I bet you the next smallest state-level medical provider registry right now is probably 50,000 lines of server-side code.

How does this make ethereum too complex to be useful?

I would love to see that. Is it public?

See also Status, which is very very similar and open-source: https://status.im/

This is huge ! So many new Ethereum project out there : Token, Status.im, Augur, Golem, Aragon ... It's amazing to see such an ecosystem growing so fast.

I'll bite. Why do I need this?

You know how twitter killed off all those nice third-party twitter clients a while ago? With this tool, even the creators of the app can't stop people from creating alternate UIs for chat/payments/etc.

You know how AWS went down a while ago and github (and a zillion other sites) stopped working? With this tool, you could log into a repo manager (several are in the works) and there is no single point of failure that can take it offline.

You know how you wanted to send money from Taiwan to the US and the bank wire was declined despite repeated attempts and without any clear explanation and your money was trapped in a bank account in Taiwan? (might not have happened to you, but is happening to me at the moment) with this tool the exact rules for how a particular currency can move around is specified ahead of time in clear turing-complete computer code.

>You know how twitter killed off all those nice third-party twitter clients a while ago? With this tool, even the creators of the app can't stop people from creating alternate UIs for chat/payments/etc.

The only reason Twitter can stop that now is because the force of law stands behind their admonitions. How would Ethereum stop Twitter from suing a big alternate app vendor? The barriers that exist to prevent this are already non-technical.

>You know how AWS went down a while ago and github (and a zillion other sites) stopped working? With this tool, you could log into a repo manager (several are in the works) and there is no single point of failure that can take it offline.

Ethereum is an append-only system such that data inserted cannot be revoked? I know how btc works but have only glanced at Ethereum. I know programs are registered as parts of the blockchain, but all data and assets? If not, how do you ensure there is no point of failure for an interface like GitHub, or do you just mean the code to run it will always be available since it will be in the chain?

>You know how you wanted to send money from Taiwan to the US and the bank wire was declined despite repeated attempts and without any clear explanation and your money was trapped in a bank account in Taiwan?

Again, this is not a technical limitation. The banking system has every ability to move those numbers around. They are declining to do so without disclosing the reason. In this case, Ethereum/Bitcoin are not functionally different than using any other non-seized liquid asset. Someone could refuse to honor your ETH/BTC transfer just as easily as they could refuse to accept your USD transfer.

Great explanation! I would also add that the code does not necessarily have to be turing complete. There is a new language that complies to EVM bytecode that is decidable (not turing complete) https://github.com/ethereum/viper

It's a little less expressive, which makes it safer. Easier to reason about the code, for example)

I tried using it. It works like a charm. May be I felt good because I have been following the Ethereum ecosystem. I am fine if someone would have felt otherwise.

I asked the first time this was mentioned on the Status thread:

Is this an end run around Apple's 30% of IAP?

Is reputation a single number associated with an identity, or is there a network element to it?

Yo can I get a copy of the Apps source code?

Open Whisper Systems source is GPLv3.

Searching for 'whisper' on the page lead me to https://github.com/tokenbrowser

Imagine, if Signal supported federation then Signal users could talk to Token users!

There's a link to the source in the article.

I also like how they are adopting existing standards (planned interoperability with uPort) instead of a NIH syndrome.

How is whatsapp using it then?

By running its own network, based on Signal's protocol. Same thing goes with "private conversations" in Facebook's Messenger, or whatever it's called.

It's all the same protocol, but three different networks running that protocol. You can't communicate between these networks, and you'll need three accounts in order to communicate to people using these networks.

In fact, Whisper Systems has actively killed every third party app that tried plugging into Signal's network. While there's nothing stopping you from making a client, expect a lot of hostility from them if you decide to do so.

WhatsApp contracted the Whisper folks to implement the protocol. It's not using Signal libraries directly.

Did anyone else register a bunch of 'leet' usernames?

I wonder if they will reset the usernames when it gets put on livenet because it kind of seems unfair.

Who sends tips like that? Hopefully there are better use cases.

Watching how WeChat is used in China was very eye-opening: https://youtu.be/leFuF-zoVzA?t=546

See WeChat in China.

I applaud the effort the coinbase team has put into this project. Yet I'm sceptical if this will be the breakthrough for cryptocurrencies.

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