FLO and the Open Index Protocol (OIP)

This is the third article in a series casting a spotlight on the FLO Blockchain ecosystem. In article 1, I highlighted the little-known connection between tZERO and the FLO Blockchain. In article 2, I presented an in-depth overview of how tZERO utilizes FLO for its state of the art DLR technology. If you wish to learn more about FLO, come visit the FLO Telegram Channel.


The internet is becoming an increasingly closed and censored place. Platforms like YouTube and Patreon have been in the news recently for demonetizing and censoring individuals promoting views that they do not agree with. While the internet may seem like free and public space, the reality is that the internet is increasingly defined by massive, closed platform applications, that are entirely under the control of a select few large corporations. While the spaces that these corporations offer, such as Twitter or YouTube, may feel like public spaces, they in actuality represent a return to the walled garden model, where every element of the application is at the complete mercy of their every whim. These closed systems are becoming increasingly problematic and antithetical to the desired open and decentralized internet, and that is where the FLO blockchain and the Open Index Protocol (OIP) step in to address this growing problem.

What is the Open Index Protocol?

Think for a moment about how the internet as we know it works today. We have agreed upon protocols that make up a few layers of the internet, but the vast majority of what we interact with is centralized and proprietary. The Open Index Protocol shifts the majority of the web from the centralized and proprietary application layer, to the decentralized protocol layer. The graphic below contrasts the structure of the current internet, with how it would look in an OIP world.

How it works now vs. how it works in a world with OIP

Understanding how exactly the Open Index Protocol operates can be a little overwhelming at first, but it can be broken down into components to make it more palatable.

Shared Data Layer

At the very bottom of the OIP tech stack, we have the FLO Blockchain. The FLO Blockchain serves as the index of the system, and it accomplishes this thanks to the ability to publish metadata transaction comments to the blockchain. On its own, the ability to store metadata isn’t all that special, but when paired with the Open Index Protocol, an infinite number of doors are opened. The best way to think of the OIP, is as a sort of decentralized analogue to Google search. The Open Index Protocol implements a set of standards with which metadata is stored to the FLO Blockchain. By utilizing a standardized format, metadata on the blockchain can be reliably queried, effectively operating as a blockchain search engine.

An example of OIP formatting

Interoperable Transport Layer

On top of the shared data layer, we have the interoperable transport layer. This layer is composed of distribution and payment networks. Currently, OIP utilizes IPFS for peer to peer file sharing. When sharing a file with the world using OIP, the application the user interacts with would seed the file using IPFS, and then the IPFS hash would be included in the metadata transaction. All of this would be done via the application GUI. Applications wishing to display this content would then call back to standardized OIP metadata stored on the FLO Blockchain. Payment for content is handled by the inclusion of cryptocurrency addresses within the OIP metadata. Support for as many cryptocurrencies as possible, such as BTC, FLO, or RVN, is desired in order to best scale the system, and maximize the matches between creators and consumers. Regardless of which payment options the creator decides to accept, the application will call back to the cryptocurrency addresses within the OIP standardized format, and display those payment options to the consumer. The utilization of OIP at the interoperable transport layer shifts data storage and payments away from centralized data networks and credit cards or PayPal, to decentralized protocols for peer to peer file storage and blockchain payments.

Competing Front Ends Layer

This is the layer that the end-user consciously interacts with. In the OIP system, this layer is where your applications live, and this is the only layer which still consists of proprietary content. So what does this look like? The next section will be entirely devoted to some applications already utilizing OIP and the FLO Blockchain, but we can take a look at a specific example.

Above is an example of a blockchain property registry, built by Medici Land Governance. Behind the scenes, the name, description, and documents are all being formatted to OIP metadata standards. How this operates can be seen in this presentation by Medici Land Governance, starting roughly at 14:55. Ultimately, the end user can seamlessly interact with the application without having any idea that they are utilizing an OIP blockchain based system, rather than the traditional centralized model. It’s important to note that OIP is not incompatible with current applications, such as YouTube or iTunes. Current applications could simply implement the OIP standard, and use IPFS for data storage, and almost effortlessly transition to a more decentralized model, while simultaneously cutting costs.

How OIP is already being used:

A number of applications built on the Open Index Protocol are already seeing real-world usage, and utilizing blockchain technology to achieve outcomes previously impossible without it. Below are some of the most promising applications in detail.

Alexandria

Alexandria could perhaps best be described as the window into the Open Index Protocol. Alexandria is a decentralized and peer to peer application built by the developers of the Open Index Protocol, that allows for content creators to directly reach consumers, and get paid directly by those consumers. The efficiency of this system compared to the centralized approach, results in higher earnings for content creators, and increased savings for consumers. In the following video, Alexandria co-founder Amy James goes through the process of publishing content on the Alexandria platform.

For a more detailed explanation on how Alexandria and other content distribution platforms would operate on OIP, I recommend watching 06:32–09:05 of this presentation by Alexandria co-founder, Devon James

Medici Land Governance

Medici Land Governance (MLG) is a subsidiary of Overstock that is building a property rights registry by utilizing OIP. Property rights, or rather, the lack of formal property rights, is a huge problem in the developing world. Roughly 5 billion people have no access to formal property or land rights, with some estimates as high as $170 trillion in unrecognized property value due to the lack of formal land rights. MLG has been working diligently and building key strategic partnerships in order to bring formal property rights onto the FLO Blockchain by utilizing OIP. In August, MLG announced they were partnering with the Zambian government in order to bring land title registries onto the blockchain. On December 28, it was announced that Teton County Wyoming, home of Jackson Hole, would be partnering with MLG in order to put its land registry onto the blockchain. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne himself, penned a beaming letter of support for OIP to the Wyoming Blockchain Task Force. For more information on how Medici Land Governance is utilizing OIP, I highly recommend watching the video below, which is a presentation by MLG senior software engineer, Chris Chrysostom.

Caltech

The California Institute of Technology is one of the top universities in the world, and it also happens to be one of the pioneers in applying blockchain tech to real-world use cases through OIP and FLO. The Jensen Lab at Caltech has published the Electron Tomography Database (ETDB) using the Open Index Protocol. Per the ETDB website,

The Electron Tomography Database is a public repository featuring 11293 electron tomography datasets of intact bacterial and archaeal cells, representing 85 species.

In choosing to use OIP to publish scientific data on a blockchain based distributed database, numerous advantages are gained over a traditional centralized approach. Some of these advantages include wider dissemination of information, the elimination of centralized points of failure restricting access to data, as well as the ability to save large amounts of storage space thanks to IPFS utilization. For more information on what ETDB is, and how it was built using OIP, I recommend watching the video below, which is a presentation by Caltech post-doc scholar and core FLO team member, Dr. Davi Ortega.

The Future of the Internet

The Open Index Protocol aims to usher in Web 3.0, the next era of the internet. By moving away from proprietary, walled garden models, numerous benefits are bestowed upon both creators and consumers, all while simultaneously creating a truly open space on the internet that is censorship resistant.

With this article intended as a primer, the next article in line will take a targeted look at what OIP can do for a specific and growing movement, a movement known as the Intellectual Dark Web