Building the Internet of Agreements: Peer-to-Peer Contracting with OpenLaw

OpenLaw will soon be releasing the OpenLaw Node, building out the first true Internet of Agreements.

Bitcoin changed the world by introducing the first peer-to-peer digital payments system. With the launch of Bitcoin, no longer did people need to rely on a centralized bank, company, or another intermediary to administer transfers of payment or value — they could rely on the Bitcoin network.

Bitcoin was radically different from other payment and digital asset platforms. It was open source, radically transparent, and available on an equal footing to all. These characteristics helped the Bitcoin ecosystem grow, over the past 10 years, moving from obscure mailing lists and chat rooms to corporate c-suites and the hallowed halls of universities and central banks. Yet, Bitcoin and more generalized platforms like Ethereum are only a piece of the technology needed to rebuild the commercial world. The task of rebuilding cannot be simply accomplished solely with a blockchain that manages and accounts for digital assets, supported by smart contracts to create a basic system of digital property rights.

Additional tooling is required — tools that do not just track, transfer, and account for digital assets, but also to structure those relationships in a way that works with the fuzzy logic that governs human relationships. Indeed, cypherpunks and other Web0 pioneers, like those who were a part of the Xanamix community, have long recognized this simple fact, postulating that the future of the Internet would not just require the world wide web, e-money, and an e-rights systems, but would also require a protocol to create Ricardian contracts or legal agreements that are both human and machine-readable.

These Ricardian contracts will help fill in the gaps for commercial transacting, acting as a form of dark matter to address contingencies that are not readily translatable into the cold logic of software. These machine and human-readable contracts create legal weight for digital assets and also enable parties add in fuzzy concepts like heightened responsibilities if used to create organizations (what lawyers roughly refer to as fiduciary obligations), future-looking promises (like representations and warranties) and have provisions that help structure and create enforceable dispute resolution procedures that may be needed if code goes awry or there is some other breach.

Over the past several years, OpenLaw has built the first fully robust Ricardian contracting system, helping to bring to life the vision of earlier smart contract pioneers. The OpenLaw protocol enables individuals to create, build and execute Ricardian contracts en masse.

But, OpenLaw was not conceived as a centralized Ricardian contracting system. Instead, much like Bitcoin, the team at OpenLaw has been building towards a release of the first peer-to-peer contracting system and the creation of the first true Internet of Agreements.

As a next step in the creation of the Internet of Agreements, OpenLaw will soon be releasing the OpenLaw Node, which will eliminate the need for parties to rely on a centralized data server. With the OpenLaw Node, individuals and organizations can send and execute encrypted versions of agreements without having that information pass through a centralized server. Each organization running an OpenLaw Node will be connected to a network, allowing for templates, signed contracts, and even potentially legal workflows to be rapidly shared with other members’ of the network.

By connecting OpenLaw Nodes, OpenLaw will create a resilient, open, and extensible network for the creation and management of agreements. If an organization’s server crashes, contractual data will still be accessible because it will have been saved and transferred collaboratively across multiple nodes. Organizations will also have the ability to manage the status of all of their agreements without the need to traverse multiple websites to access a document draft.

Check out the video below to see an example of how an organization can share an agreement on its own instance.

OpenLaw’s tools build dynamic processes to create networks between users. With OpenLaw, we’re reimagining the way parties can enter and execute a legal agreement. With our OpenLaw Nodes, we are creating a network of open-source agreements that are accessible in a peer-to-peer fashion, just like music files were back in the mid to late 1990s. Integration with secure scuttlebutt allows us to get closer to this vision.

OpenLaw is arranging the world’s commercial transactions. Using OpenLaw, anyone can more efficiently engage in commercial transactions, all while leveraging next-generation blockchain-based smart contracts. To learn more about OpenLaw, check out our site and documentation for an overview and detailed reference guides. You can also find us at hello@openlaw.io or tune in in our community Slack channel. Follow our Medium and Twitter for further announcements, tutorials, and helpful tips over the upcoming weeks and months

A commercial operating system for blockchains. By @awrigh01 and @bmalaus; a @ConsenSys spoke. https://openlaw.io/