The Mercury Protocol: The Future of Communication Platforms Built on the Ethereum Blockchain

Today we are pleased to announce the Mercury Protocol, a way to distribute messages and social media content on a blockchain.

Any communication platform that integrates the Mercury Protocol will be able to exchange messages and content across an application agnostic blockchain, increase user privacy by disassociating their identities from their behavioral data, provide stronger network security than any private system that has a single point of failure, and leverage tokens to encourage positive user participation.

What is the Mercury Protocol?

The Mercury Protocol is a suite of smart contracts and recommended best practices that enable a more secure, more private social network to form on the blockchain, instead of isolating the network in centralized servers.

Before we can delve into all the benefits of the protocol, it is important to first understand the underlying blockchain technology. While we will not discuss blockchain in depth in this article, you can find more information in these articles. In short, blockchain is a public, decentralized record of transactions.

Ethereum, one instance of blockchain technology, allows developers to write code on the blockchain that allows for the automation of complex exchanges. For example, if Alice wants to buy Bob’s car, the blockchain can not only transfer Alice’s funds to Bob, it could also do just about anything a normal program can do; like keep track of how much Alice owes Bob, store the interest rate on the loan Bob afforded Alice, or even manage a governance policy where ownership is automatically transferred back to Bob if Alice doesn’t make her payments on time. How these complex exchanges are configured is completely customizable by application use case.

Mercury Protocol technology stack

Because Ethereum allows platforms to deploy custom code by use case, it is a good fit for the Mercury Protocol, which addresses a variety of social media use cases. The protocol will bring the security, privacy, and trustless benefits of blockchain technology to everything from one-to-one private conversations, to publicly viewable announcements, to group discussions.

The Benefits of Blockchain Technology in Social Media

Communication platforms that integrate the Mercury Protocol will get access to all the advantages of blockchain technology, including the ability to send messages and content to other platforms, improved security, better user privacy, and increased leverage to encourage positive participation and discourage negative participation using tokens.

Since the blockchain isn’t contained within any single service provider’s platform, the data is accessible from any protocol integrated client. This means the Mercury Protocol network is platform agnostic, and shares a user base across all integrated clients.

Because the protocol is built on the blockchain, it receives the security benefits of a decentralized network. Unlike a centralized platform with a single point of failure, a malicious party would have to simultaneously compromise over 51% of all devices (i.e. computers or mobile phones) on the network to alter the state of the network.

While all transactions on the blockchain are public, users are protected through pseudonymity because nothing on the blockchain associates their real identity with their Ethereum account. This means it’s possible to still perform large scale analysis of transactions on the Mercury Protocol network while significantly reducing the risk of compromising any user’s specific activity history. This contrasts with the current industry norm of aggregating and selling user behavioral data to advertisers, directly tying their identities to their activities.

The Global Messaging Token

Mercury Protocol services on the blockchain cost Global Messaging Tokens (“GMT”). Users can earn GMT by performing various platform specific incentivized actions. For example, if a platform wants to encourage the consuming of content, and a user reads X number of posts, she might be rewarded for her time by receiving GMT. She can then use this GMT for premium services on any Mercury Protocol integrated platform. The more services available for GMT, the more incentive to earn it through participation.

Moreover, users’ blockchain accounts can earn reputation points for positive interactions. This reputation score can be leveraged to encourage positive activity and discourage negative activity by increasing or decreasing GMT cost of services based on a user’s reputation. Similar to a credit score or insurance claim history, users with weaker reputation score may be charged higher premiums while users with a stronger reputation will be charged a lower premium.

The Global Messaging Token will be covered in more detail in a future post.

Why We Built It

Our first application, Dust, will be the first platform to integrate the Mercury Protocol. Dust has two primary components: 1) A private messenger whose content is ephemeral and unrecoverable, and 2) Public “Blasts” that allow users to broadcast a message out to some or all of their contacts at once. Given that most communication platforms have some form of direct messaging and public posts, we believe that Dust is a prime candidate for demonstrating the benefits of the Mercury Protocol for the communication industry at large.

Public blasts (left) and private messaging (right)

We see Dust as more than just an app, we see it as the future standard of private communication. Because we believe sacrificing personal privacy shouldn’t be mandatory to communicate with someone digitally, we built Dust to take content ownership from the service providers and give it back to the user. Dust is a private messenger that utilizes an encrypted, all in memory storage system that renders data forensically-unrecoverable once deleted. This privacy gives users the freedom to say anything without fear of prying eyes.

Since Dust aims to replace the industry standard of messaging by giving content ownership back to the user, it is a natural fit to champion the switch to a decentralized blockchain-based ecosystem. Just as we seek to redefine the standard expectations of data ownership, bringing blockchain technology to social media represents the culture shift from privatized silos of applications and data, to a public, decentralized digital community in the pursuit of freedom from oligarchical corporate control.

Our Plans

Dust was initially launched in March of 2014, and has since acquired tens of thousands of daily active users exchanging hundreds of thousands of messages a day. With one application in market, another on the way, and a patent pending on our in-memory solution, our team has demonstrated the ability to deliver quality products with limited resources.

Since Dust is already in market, we will release an update with the protocol and token integrated features by the end of Q3 2017.

Following the integration of the protocol into Dust, we will integrate it into our new product, Broadcast, which will be released to market by end of Q4.

Once Dust and Broadcast are in market with the Mercury Protocol integrated, we will open source the protocol so that other forward thinking developers can join us in the decentralization of communications.

Conclusion

The web is changing. As tech giants consolidate their power and influence, the response from the masses is overwhelmingly trending to decentralization. Blockchain is the increasingly common method of choice for decentralization, and for good reason. By providing an open source protocol for decentralizing social media, we can build a better web together, starting with the way we communicate.

TL;DR

The standard communication platform model is outdated, so we built a blockchain protocol for others to join us in the decentralization of social media.

Connect

Learn more about the Mercury Protocol
Read the Mercury Protocol Whitepaper
Check out Dust
Join the slack community
Reddit
Twitter