When it comes to public blockchains that support decentralized apps (Dapps), you may think of much-reported projects such as Ethereum and EOS.
But despite the glittering media spotlight on these platforms, their user base is disappointingly tiny. Among over 300 decentralized apps on EOS, less than 20 have more than 1,000 daily active users, according to data compiled by DappRadar. Worse still, over 95 percent of Ethereum-based Dapps fail to obtain 100 active users per day.
“Most public chains are facing a vicious cycle: Users don’t want to come to a blockchain without high-quality Dapps, while Dapp companies don’t want to deploy their products on a blockchain that has few users,” said Steve Wei, CEO and co-founder of TOP Network, a Silicon Valley-based startup developing a public blockchain and multiple Dapps. “This is a chicken and egg issue.”
Blockchain evangelists, against the headwind of a prolonged crypto bear market, have been struggling to bring the nascent distributed ledger technology to mainstream adoption. However, the lack of users makes it tough for public blockchain platforms to generate sustainable revenue to impress traditional sectors and outcompete the current centralized systems.
But for TOP Network, an emerging player in the blockchain arena, gaining users is surprisingly easy. By using blockchain to satisfy real-world consumer demands for data privacy in the communication industry, the project is building a prosperous user community larger than Ethereum and EOS combined.
Blockchain, a disruptive champion of data privacy
Before dipping a toe into blockchain, Steve was running a fast-growing startup that developed three communication apps – social and online phone call app Dingtone, end-to-end encrypted messaging app CoverMe and virtual private network app SkyVPN. Those apps have attracted 50 million users worldwide and secured robust user growth.
But risks were lurking beneath these apps’ popularity. Had the apps stayed the same, in five to ten years their users would soon ditch them for better solutions powered by blockchain, Steve realized, after reading a report about the new technology in 2017.
A traditional app operates in a centralized manner, which means user data are processed and stored on a limit number of private servers controlled by a single company. The firm can easily track, access or manipulate any piece of information flowing through its servers without users’ awareness, explained Steve.
“On the contrary, a blockchain-based Dapp would run on a large decentralized public network,” Steve said. “Data are handled on numerous servers operating independently across a country or even around the globe. It’s impossible for a centralized organization to collect all the scattered data and do evils with them.”
Over the past few years, user data in the communication sector have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few centralized tech giants owning popular messaging tools and social media apps, triggering public anxiety about how to make sure corporations ethically handle individual information.
The anxiety could turn into severe trust crisis. In April last year, shortly after news media exposed that third-party company Cambridge Analytica had siphoned private user data through a Facebook loophole, the belief that Facebook was devoted to user privacy plummeted to 27% among survey respondents from 79% in 2017, according to a study by US think tank Ponemon Institute.
“Today’s users love privacy,” Steve said, “If an app not only offers powerful services but also uses blockchain algorithms to prevent centralized entities from tracking people’s online behavior or peeking at personal info on user phones, it would surely win public trust and gain an edge over its rivals.”
In winter 2017, sensing that most centralized communication apps, including his company’s existing products, could be obsoleted by the privacy-friendly blockchain technology, Steve launched TOP Network, a project aiming to create a decentralized cloud communication network on a public blockchain.
Similar to a decentralized version of Amazon Web Services, TOP Network offers a suite of cloud communication services, such as messaging, calling, live streaming and more, on a public distributed ledger. Developers can utilize these services to implement communication functions in their apps while tapping into blockchain user data privacy.
Given that all existing public blockchains are too slow to handle the large-volume transactions generated by real-world communication business, Steve’s team is building a high-performance public blockchain that can process several hundred thousand transactions per second (TPS) to support the cloud network.
The blockchain also offers a variety of service-level protocols tailored to the complicated business logic of communication services. The rich business-friendly infrastructures mark TOP Network out from most existing public chains, which provide developers with no tool other than the base-layer financial transaction function, Steve said.
TOP Network’s public blockchain is expected to be launched in Q2 this year, according to the project’s official roadmap. A testnet rolled out in Q3 last year has validated core technologies developed by the team to scale up the blockchain, such as two-layer sharding and two-layer Lattice-DAG, Steve said.
Getting both the chicken and the egg
Upon the public blockchain release, Dingtone, CoverMe and SkyVPN, along with their existing user base, will seamlessly migrate to the new platform, TOP Network said in its white paper.
Those apps will get rid of their centralized communication layer and start to operate on the decentralized cloud communication network, a shift that will make them the first pack of Dapps in the TOP blockchain ecosystem, the white paper read. TOP token, the native utility token on TOP Network blockchain, will replace fiat currencies and reward points as the tool of in-app payment and incentive plan.
The 50 million users on the three apps, far exceeding the total number of users on Ethereum and EOS combined, will kick-start sustainable business growth in the TOP blockchain ecosystem by generating colossal volumes of transactions immediately, Steve said.
“The key is not how large the [user] number is,” clarified Steve. “The figure is sort of intangible, but those users’ ability to stimulate mining activities, create business demand and boost token uptake, that’s real and meaningful.”
On TOP Network blockchain, miners can earn TOP tokens by verifying financial transactions and executing smart contracts or by providing Dapps with communication services on the decentralized cloud communication network. Either way relies on the ample amount of business generated by Dapp users.
For example, in the social and online call app Dingtone, alone, millions of users consume one billion minutes of voice calls annually, send billions of messages monthly and generate huge volumes of photos and videos. Those activities, once taking place on the blockchain-based cloud network, would create solid demand for calling, messaging and storage services as well as frequent transactions between service providers and Dapp operators, keeping miners busy doing their jobs and reaping big token rewards.
Thanks to those service-hungry users, contrary to the vicious circle troubling Ethereum and EOS, the TOP ecosystem would develop a virtuous circle that connects end users, Dapp developers and miners, Steve said.
“The initial 50 million users in the three Dapps would create strong, increasing demand for services and transactions in the first place, and then new miners would continuously join our ecosystem to serve users and earn TOP tokens,” Steve explained. “The more miners on the network, the larger and more decentralized the network will become, which means the overall service quality, as well as data privacy and security, would improve. As the cloud communication services get better and safer, more developers would be willing to deploy Dapps on our network, and this would attract more users to our ecosystem, and we would be on the right track to see more business demand, more miners, better and safer services, more Dapp developers…”
Steve said he would attribute his confidence in TOP Network to the team’s diligent pursuit of a valid business model.
“When we just launched TOP Network, we didn’t pay too much attention to token prices and crypto hypes,” Steve said. “We focused on the user base, Dapps and miners, and on finding the right economic mechanism and technological elements that link them perfectly with each other. The moment we launch the mainnet, you’ll see we have both the chicken and the eggs from day one.”
About TOP Network
TOP Network is a decentralized open communication network that provides cloud communication services on the blockchain. TOP offers secure, low-cost services such as messaging, calling, video, VPN, CDN, IoT data sharing and more.
TOP Network is also a high-performance public blockchain platform designed to handle real-world business of any size or volume. Powered by innovations including three-layer network, two-layer sharding, two-layer lattice DAG and PBFT-DPoS*, TOP can process several hundred thousand transactions per second on the blockchain.
The long-term mission of TOP Network is to build a public blockchain infrastructure for all Dapps. Our world-class team of over 100 developers is striving for this goal.
TOP Network was founded by serial entrepreneur Steve Wei and his colleagues in late 2017. Steve was one of the earliest employees of WebEx in the 1990s. After WebEx, he founded a successful video conferencing software company which was acquired by Huawei in 2010. In 2012, Steve co-founded Dingtone, a public listed company operating popular communication apps such as Dingtone, CoverMe and SkyVPN.