Introducing FIO — The Standard for Blockchain Usability
The Foundation for Interwallet Operability (FIO) is a consortia of wallets, exchanges, and crypto payment processors that was formed to support the development of the FIO Protocol. Our goal is simple — to ensure that the decentralized future of transferring value is simple and risk-free.
What are We Trying to Do?
In the context of blockchain, usability is a vague term that many have tried to claim. There are interoperability projects, atomic swap projects, and then a host of “user-friendly” applications. While progress is being made on many fronts, and in pursuit of many use cases, a lingering problem has existed:
The process of sending blockchain tokens and coins in a decentralized manner is simply too complex and risky for most non-technical people.
FIO is responsible for shepherding the development of the FIO Protocol, which is a decentralized, open-source solution that was designed as a fully blockchain agnostic, application-agnostic platform that can continually evolve and grow to help alleviate many issues that exist across all blockchains. The FIO Protocol is not a wallet, nor does it compete with any existing blockchains. Rather — the FIO Protocol makes them all better and easier to use.
What Problems Do We See?
In a survey that we conducted in late 2018, we asked users to identify common challenges in sending their crypto. This could either be to their own accounts (for those who likely only trade or hold), and for those who have attempted to send to another person or pay for something. In both cases, a few problems became clear:
1) Almost every user, regardless of length of time in crypto or the manner in which they use crypto, hates using public addresses.
2) Nearly 75% of users feel less than fully comfortable when sending crypto.
3) Almost 1 in 5 users have suffered a catastrophic error with crypto at least once, either in experiencing a failed transaction, or making a user error that resulted in loss funds.
4) Man-in-the-Middle attacks on public addresses are prevalent, with as many as 1 in 20 people having seen this attempted on them.
Simply put — using crypto is extremely stressful and requires an overly high-degree of vigilance.
How Have Others Try to Solve This?
At the highest level, there have been two categories of attempts to solve blockchain usability issues.
1) In-application solutions
2) Wallet naming-only solutions
In-application solutions fall short, often in their inherent design, due to their need to attract enough users to their platform to make the feature worthwhile. As it stands, as soon as a user is interacting with another party using a different product, then there is no alternative but to utilize the “lowest common denominator” in terms of functionality, which is usually just the default send-only functionality with traditional public addresses. Unless one application ends up dominating the entire crypto ecosystem, it is unlikely that a single solution will be sufficient for solving all critical usability issues.
There have also been several attempts at human readable wallet names, but none of them have achieved a large critical mass of users actually using them for their intended purpose. The challenges with previous attempts fall into one or more buckets:
1) “Walled-garden” approaches — for instance, blockchain-specific naming solutions will never solve the ecosystem-wide problem, as it would be akin to having different web addresses depending on what web browser you are using. In addition, some of these projects have centralized elements that create a hacking risk.
2) Plain-text attribution — many systems associate a name with a public address in a manner that outside parties can actually link multiple public addresses together to the same individual. This is a massive privacy concern, especially for systems that allow for the linking of public addresses across multiple blockchains to the same name.
3) Necessary but not sufficient — ultimately, the largest problem with these solutions is that human-readable naming is only one slice of the usability pie. While everyone agrees that a human readable naming system is needed, there are still too many risks associated with sending crypto for a limited solution to be effective.
How the FIO Protocol Solves This Differently
The FIO protocol didn’t invent new problems to solve, but we came up with a better way to solve them. The initial roadmap of the FIO Protocol will provide three primary features:
FIO Addresses — human readable names that will be tied to your FIO-enabled wallet. Unlike other “wallet naming” solutions, FIO Addresses work immediately with every blockchain and will be agnostically available to every wallet, exchange, and crypto payment processor. FIO Addresses won’t require any manual mapping from you since they are tied to your wallet, which can happen automatically and with full privacy controls using FIO’s unique counterparty encryption mechanism.
FIO Requests — you may not think of this often, but in the credit/debit-card driven world, almost every transaction begins with a request. When you go to buy something in a store, the cash register makes a request for your bill amount, which you then authorize to pay by swiping/inserting your card. For an e-commerce transaction, the request takes the form of the order cart that you see at checkout. Crypto has no mechanism like this — but FIO Requests will enable such a process, all done in-wallet and in a fully decentralized manner.
FIO Data — some blockchains have a “memo” field, but not all. When it comes to broad adoption of crypto, there needs to be a standardized metadata that can accompany transactions of any type. FIO Data is an encrypted method of storing simple messages to complex data structures (like an order cart or invoice) on-chain, readable by only the two counterparties.
The future roadmap for the FIO Protocol is extensive, including the potential of:
· Secure decentralized routing of multi-signature requests
· Enablement of recurring payments
· Reverse lookups of non-fungible tokens
· And much much more
Getting to Critical Mass
A usability project is only as useful as its ability to attract a critical mass of users
Imagine if Gmail only worked if you were sending/receiving emails from other Gmail addresses. It would be an absolutely nightmare of a user experience and would likely have never taken off.
Blockchain usability projects are similar. It doesn’t help to have a human-readable name to replace your public address if people have to question which naming system a specific user supports, and whether that naming system is supported by the wallet you’re sending from.
Usability, therefore, requires broad support across the multitude of choices that users want to pick from — whether it be their favorite blockchain, or their favorite applications.
FIO was started from the beginning with blockchain industry leaders, and the FIO protocol is being built with their direct involvement. In addition, the economic model of the FIO Protocol ensures that those companies that invest time, energy, and resources into integrating the protocol will be rewarded with a better user experience for their customers, in addition to receiving financial benefits from the protocol itself.
At the time of this writing, over 18+ wallets, exchanges, and crypto payment processors have already expressed their intention of integrating the FIO Protocol, and are helping us craft the best solution possible for their users. The list of industry leaders supporting the FIO Protocol is growing all the time. Soon we will be launching our FIO Address Pre-Sale and we are in alpha testing with a number of our FIO Members. Our goal is to be have full mainnet launch by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Our hope is that for all users, the FIO Protocol will become their default experience in using crypto, and they won’t even know it because the free and open-sourced SDKs and APIs will simply be integrated into every crypto application.
This article is #1 in a series of blog posts diving deeper into FIO and the FIO Protocol. We will posting a new article every Thursday over the summer — our next topic will be a deeper dive on the mechanics of the FIO Protocol.
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