Billions in One Database

(Update: This essay has been chosen as one of the winning submissions.🏆)

I.

These are my thoughts on Jon Stokes’ post here. Read that first, and then come back and read this. In this essay, I’ll try to integrate some of Jon’s ideas into things which are already here, and try to peek into the future in order to get a slightly accurate estimate of where we are heading to.

The concept of a single-user-table has floated around the blockchain space ever since ETH arrived on the scene. Whenever any disruptive technology shows up, we all like to collectively hallucinate on what possibilities it will bring. It happened with computers, smartphones, and it is happening with blockchain tech. Computers changed the world, and smartphones changed the world, and in a way, you could already say that crypto has changed the world. But crypto is still at its infancy. The phase we’re all in, this like the 90s of the computer revolution. Blockchain tech is still an infant, showing glimpses of being a giant, and no one outside this space seems to understand the intricate ways how this will change everything.

Jon’s essay explores one such intricate way- the billion-user-table. When every thing is public, everything is decentralized, and every user is accessible, what would the world look like? It is hard to imagine because neither the market nor guys like us have figured out many use-cases of such a thing, but one thing is for sure- the database of everyone will make databases of big tech firms seem incomplete.

Jon says that silo-ed away databases of tech firms are going to be a thing of the past. That every start up will some day have the capacity to not just reach a few users, but billions, starting from scratch. Every product’s most important metric- it’s user table, will be interchangeable and query-able. What kind of future awaits us, where this is a reality?

II.

In a way, if we compare wallets to user accounts, that future is almost here. And one major way crypto companies are leveraging this is through airdrops. Everyone wants free stuff. If you have to like, retweet and follow a twitter account and get free crypto that might appreciate in value over time, doing the minimum necessary things to do that seems like a no brainer. For example, if you got the Uniswap airdrop of $UNI tokens and didn’t sell it, you’d be $ 10,000 richer right now.

Leveraging airdrops, small projects get free marketing, and among the receivers who do their due diligence and hold through the initial sell-off will get disproportionately rewarded for holding through.

Another way existing user-tables are working themselves in through cross-chain DeFi services like farming and staking. If you’ve got an ETH wallet account, you also have a Matic account at the same address. You even have a Binance Smart Chain account and a Harmony account on the same address. If you have more than one account with the same seed phrase, all these different accounts are connected to the same public keys. That’s infinite accounts on multiple DeFi platforms. Right now, this leverages the fact that people want to keep their portfolios separate, but soon, I believe this will enable the pseudonymous creators for different things.

The same person will be able to maintain multiple accounts on social platforms, one or many for their businesses, one or many for their hobbies, one or many for their political affiliations. And none of these will require a password, and no one can take away your account from you in future decentralized worlds.

The possibilities are endless in gaming, and already in place in games like Axie Infinity and Cryptoblades. How this will evolve is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain- it will help the entire tech sector move away from siloed databases and embrace open source user tables.

However, like all good things, there’s a dark side to this.

Let’s stop and take a step back, while I tell you a personal story.

III.

A few weeks ago, I was checking my farms on a DeFi dashboard, and I saw that I had received 950,000 Flux coins. I had no idea what coins they were and thought they were an useless airdrop, when I noticed that it was worth 130,000 dollars.

Surely, this was a mistake. I followed the contract address and noticed that thousands of users were airdropped the same amount of flux coins, which meant that everyone was 130,000 dollars rich.

This meant that there’s a madman out there airdropping millions of dollars to random wallet addresses. Usually, things like these are scams, and this was an obvious scam too. A few weeks before that, people were airdropped a strange token (I don’t remember the name of the token), but those who tried to sell that token, lost their RUNE. How?

The contract of Rune apparently had a bad code which allowed any other protocol to call their TXn, and take the rune from their wallets away.

I didn’t hold $RUNE in my wallet, and I was sure that the coins that I did have, none of them had code vulnerabilities like this. Still, it is a bad idea to mess with tokens such as these. Usually, the advice is to leave them alone.

But being a contrarian who likes to live on the edge, I decided to dig deeper. I read its smart contract, and noticed that it specifically disabled transfer of its token. That meant that I couldn’t sell them. But then, what’s the catch?

How did this scammer plan to make money?

The answer was suddenly staring at my face. The token’s name had a website attached to it. I went to the website. It had a “Get Airdrop” button. I clicked on it, and a fake pancakeswap-like interface popped up. I tried to trade it to see what it asks for, and viola- the website wanted to spend the USDC on my Metamask wallet. I rejected the permission request and closed the site.

I also found the actual flux blockchain project, which was offering no airdrops, but their website looked identical to the scam site I went to. Whoever made this, clearly had a lot of time on their hands, and they clearly spent a lot to.

They found every wallet address on the current implementation of the billion user table- the etherscan/bsccan site, and they decided to take advantage of that.

(I do not recommend interacting with such tokens unless you know what you’re doing. Don’t be like me.)

IV.

In a world where everyone is on-chain and accessible, such activities will soar when incentives are high. Every bull run brings starry-eyed people to the cryptosphere and almost of them end up buying the top, thinking they’d be rich tomorrow. Such people would’ve definitely fallen for the scam I was talking about.

There will be endless noise if such tables are not optimised, and perhaps something will pop up to filter away the signal from the noise. Just like Email in it’s early stages, but more active and accessible, the on-chain identity will become the new normal.

The billion-user-table would ensure global participation, and a freedom from algorithms. If everyone can reach out to you, and everyone will, there will inevitably be that one thing that you’ll discover that will end up changing your life. We all have stumbled through something on Reddit or some obscure internet forum that ended up changing the way how we think. The possibility of that encountering on the billion-user-table will be far greater.

Of course, there will be noise. There will be scams. But that doesn’t take away the different ways markets will leverage this. Name services, domains, and accounts, all these things are about to be connected in the greatest integration the world has ever seen.

And like all great things- all of these are happening right under our noses with skilled and creative people working on them every day. As long as we keep working, the future will be different, and hopefully better than today.


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2 Comments

  1. Great post. One of the thing this user table could accomplish is identity, access, and preference mgmt. You would have the right to publicly delete your SSN, phone, email, whatever, and have that hard coded into the blockchain. This could actually mesh well with consumer protections, the “right to be forgotten”, etc. But will proprietary databases remain? It seems we currently have little recourse to combat robo-callers, senior citizen scammers, and of course the creeps at the NSA. Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that can be a very useful implementation of this. In a country, governments have the loudest megaphone as they leverage existing information of their citizens to reach them, while internationally, tech companies like social networks have a global microphone that they leverage using ads. Decentralization at the user level will disrupt this process.
      Like how apps like Truecaller auto-block scammers on the phone, we’d (hopefully) have the ability to do that with something similar when we’re a part of a global public database.

      Like

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