An Interview with Textile

Some thoughts on where we are, and where we’re headed

Photo by Smart on Unsplash

IPFSFirst.com has recently launched a new “Pioneer Dialogue” (先锋对话) interview series that aims to discuss ideas and concepts with folks from industry working with IPFS and other decentralized tools/platforms. Textile had the honor of being interviewed recently, so we thought it would be helpful to post the original (English version) questions and our answers here for those who want to learn a bit more about where Textile is coming from, and where we’re headed:

Could you briefly tell us the origin of the Textile project? Specifically, how did your team come up with the idea and when and why did you choose to apply IPFS technology in this project?

Textile came out of a desire to change the way personal data was used and collected on the web; we want to put people back in control of their data. Photos were a natural first step, but our long-term ambition is to enable thousands of developers to help us reinvent our mobile experiences in a decentralized and secure way. Our belief is that first, we need to re-design the primitives of a mobile application — things like login, identity, data ownership, media transfer, contacts and communication. Building on top of IPFS is helping us quickly develop solutions to a few of those primitives in ways that mobile developers will be able to easily reuse, to build the next 1000 decentralized apps.

How do you think about applying IPFS on mobile devices, considering that this may require a quite strict balance between performance and system overhead? Does the Textile project have any unique ways to achieve the balance?

Mobile presents all sorts of conditions that aren’t typically present in say, a laptop. But we also think that the success of the decentralized web requires making it easy for mobile developers to develop in this space, while at the same time being invisible to end users. We are working hard to make IPFS run really well in those mobile environments, but we aren’t alone. The core IPFS developers share an interest in making IPFS work well on mobile devices and we are so close!

In your project introduction, you mentioned that Textile will be our digital wallet for our photos (and data), could you further explain a little about this? Specifically, we are wondering how Textile will play the role as a wallet? And why do you decide to start with storing photos for users, instead of including other files such as music or videos?

Personal data is a just another digital asset and it’s an asset we think belongs to the individuals creating it. Digital wallets are a perfect way to think about individuals storing, owning, and controlling their data, forever. Textile Photos already runs on an internal Textile Wallet. The basic concept is that any user who downloads the app will be issued a new wallet generated from a secure private key (generated directly on the device and never leaving the device). Inside that wallet, users store the encryption keys to all their private photos, encryption keys for shared photos, and their social graph. The Wallet is a collection of open code and open protocols that, as we test and finalize, we’ll be sharing with the world. In the future, another app could use the Textile Wallet and enable simple authentication and one-step on-boarding; we’ll be publishing more about this over the Fall. We settled on photos because they are a unique form of personal data that doesn’t require too much explanation to users as to why privacy, ownership, and storage are valuable. They also gave us a number of clear use-cases to build around while developing the building blocks for a decentralized mobile experience.

We have noticed that Textile has been a very active project. And […] you have not only published a series of articles introducing IPFS in very interesting ways, but also developed courses for DApp development using IPFS. So, we have the impression that you are a vigorous team. Would you mind briefly introduce the Textile team members to us?

Textile is a small (there are currently 4 of us) remote team, with team members in San Francisco/Palo Alto, Mexico City, and Victoria, BC, Canada. We’re all passionate about privacy, personal data, and a better Internet for everyone. Andrew Hill (@andrewxhill) bounces between engineering, communications, and helping to define the longer-term strategy to decentralize the mobile web; Sander Pick (@sanderpick) focuses on architecting solutions and engineering; Aaron Sutula (@asutula) works on designing and implementing engaging user experiences; and Carson Farmer (@carsonfarmer) spends most of his time building ĐApps and running Textile outreach activities. Feel free to get in touch with any one of us, we’d love to share what we’re Working on with your readers.

Could you share with us about the development plans for Textile in the near and further future?

We are working to reinvent the mobile primitives in a decentralized way. We are building and testing things like login, accounts or profiles, storage, contacts, communication (voice, text, videos) etc, and thinking about how to make them work on mobile devices, and how to we make these available to other developers. Once we have these primitives, how do we use them to build new applications? Solving this piece is critical. So in short, Textile’s future is as a laboratory for exploring decentralized mobile technologies for the future of the decentralized web. In order to bring all of the world’s users to a new decentralized future, we need to figure out how to do that on mobile devices. This is all about scale. How do we help those apps find users and users find those apps? How do we remove that centralized bottlenecks along the way? How do we ensure that the benefits of the decentralized web make it to our most connected hardware, our phones. Answering these questions is key to Textile’s future development, both in the near, and long term.

Textile’s future is as a laboratory for exploring decentralized mobile technologies for the future of the decentralized web…
Is there anything more that you want to share with your fans in China?

Just that we are extremely excited to see such a vibrant decentralized web community developing in China, and that we hope to continue to interact with the folks in the IPFS.Fund community moving forward. Please keep in touch, and we’ll try to do the same. You can find out more about Textile on our website (https://textile.io/), and you can follow along as we develop Textile Photos and its underling technologies on GitHub (https://github.com/textileio/).