Plans for ‘Endorphin,’ a Free and Open Crypto OS for Smartphones and Other End-User Devices
Let’s extend the Internet Computer to end-user devices, freeing the entire stack.
One of the things I have been playing with for some time, is the concept of a new operating system for phones, laptops, and other user devices. The project has the code name “Endorphin.”
This work very much maps to the mission of the DFINITY Foundation, which exists to create technology that directly supports and extends the Internet Computer network, as well as the open crypto ecosystem of tomorrow. I am excited to tell you about it at a high level.
We know from the history of the internet that permissionless environments drive innovation and economic growth. They create richer ecosystems. They deliver freedoms. Yet today, our personal devices are controlled by the equivalent of AOL and Compuserve in the 1990s.
Whenever a developer wishes to publish a phone app, for example, they must apply to get it into the App Store on iOS or the Play Store on Android, and sign up for their terms and conditions. Apple and Google then decide whether the app gets put into their store and distributed or not, and if it does, thereafter they take a huge chunk of the revenues that it generates. Manufacturers of Android devices also have to sign up for Google’s terms and conditions. End users only get to see the options that they want them to see — i.e., users and developers are forced into a kind of walled garden.
This is almost uniformly the case, across more than three billion smartphone devices owned by individuals worldwide today. The situation is particularly oppressive for crypto, as dapps can be controversial, autonomous, and value flows can occur via tokens rather than the traditional financial system, making it difficult to satisfy the terms and conditions involved. Therefore, they must be loaded via URLs into browsers on those devices (although this can be very effective, as the NNS front-end dapp demonstrates, and you can create an icon for them on the desktop).
Frameworks like Flutter, which was used to create the NNS dapp, show what can be done. Apps and dapps created this way will work across all phones. It is the new way of doing things.
Rather than having to download apps through Big Tech’s app stores, end users will access apps and dapps via traditional URLs, just like websites. If they want, they will be able to create an icon on the device’s desktop for the app, dapp, or website, and it will load without frames. In fact, there will be no distinction between websites, apps, and dapps. Content will simply be transparently cached when it is accessed, and so there will be no need for a bothersome download and install process. Chromium (the framework used by Chrome, Edge, Brave, Opera, etc.), for example, is already blisteringly fast.
Of course, there will be a few extra APIs for developers — for example, relating to things like the camera — and power-saving modes, but mostly this will be based entirely on existing open web standards. For example, web technology already provides for things like notifications.
Why on earth would we be thinking about doing this?
The reasons relate to politics and freedom, and the enormous advantages it will provide to developers, end users, and device manufacturers.
This will create a permissionless environment on end-user devices, which will drive innovation, creativity, and growth, and which will be much better for the world and builders. Developers will become sovereign, and be able to keep all of the revenues that their work generates. Phone and other device manufacturers will no longer be in hock to a few mega monopolies. End users will gain an ever richer online environment.
Endorphin devices will be upgraded and managed by secure, open governance systems on the Internet Computer, i.e., a variation of the Network Nervous System, which provides an advanced form of liquid democracy in which end-users, developers, and manufacturers — the community — will exert their will, mediated through algorithms.
The sandboxing that is already provided for web content is incredibly strong, and this will augment the security provided by dapps running on the Internet Computer, which provides end-to-end blockchain security from smart contracts through to the content in web browsers.
Finally, both the end-user device, such as the phone, and the back-end logic and data will be running in completely free, secure, and permissionless environments. Users, developers, and device manufacturers will reclaim their sovereignty, end-to-end.
We are looking for ways to accelerate the program, and I’m hopeful announcements will be made shortly. Meanwhile, if you feel that you are a good fit for the the technical skillsets involved in this program — say, if you work with Chromium, WebAssembly, or the internals of mobile operating systems — please get in touch with DFINITY Foundation recruiters.
There will be more information soon.