The excitement surrounding Web3 is palpable — and undeniable. Projects are flooding into the space to build cutting-edge versions of the sites and apps served up by centralized Web2 rivals, covering every sector imaginable.
But at this point, it's worth taking a step back and reflecting on the challenges that the Web3 world still needs to tackle. This technology isn't inherently private — and the transactions bouncing around on blockchains are mostly transparent.
Privacy coins, and the anonymizing blockchains they're normally based on, are normally viewed with suspicion by critics. They point to how cryptocurrencies like Monero are increasingly being demanded by ransomware attackers, and argue these digital assets only have a use case for people who are up to no good.
However, this doesn't tell the whole story. It's easy to forget that we already have privacy coins in the fiat world — that is, the banknotes in your pocket. If you give $10 to a friend, it's impossible for governments to track. Some crypto enthusiasts fear the shift to digitization risks eroding rights we've taken for granted over decades.
A consumer demanding anonymity isn't necessarily doing something illegal — and for a potent example of why privacy needs to be protected in Web3, let's turn our attention to the world of online dating.
Love and crypto
It's inevitable that entrepreneurs will attempt to build a decentralized answer to Tinder and Grindr — indeed, tongues were wagging when the Lonely Ape Dating Club was proposed… despite the fact it turned out to be a prank.
If it had turned out to be real, there would be some huge issues to address. There are very real dangers associated with doxxing your ETH address to strangers on a niche dating app in a largely unregulated industry. And that's before we've considered how this would be blended with other attributes such as NFT profile pictures, Twitter handles and selfies.
You could argue that the Ethereum blockchain hasn't been built for such infrastructure — and that a totally different network is required to launch a dating app that blends the benefits of Web3 with the protections that users deserve. This would help eliminate incidents where people using these tools have seen their identities and locations exposed, and tackle the privacy concerns surrounding phone numbers and social media.
It could also help mitigate the romance scams that have become endemic on dating sites — with fraudsters creating fake profiles and deceiving unsuspecting victims who are looking for love, often stealing their hearts and their life savings.
Privacy first, use cases later
Perhaps the best approach to take is to establish a privacy-focused blockchain first — creating a safe environment where singletons can communicate.
Such a network should have a secure, private place where prospective partners can message each other — and ideally, that decentralized app shouldn't require a phone number to sign up. This can help reduce the risk of cyberstalking and harassment.
It would also offer a compelling alternative to messaging on social media. While many major centralized platforms do offer privacy settings, they can be difficult to find and activate. And without them, the people you come into contact with on dating sites could end up seeing the content you post, who your friends and family are, and your movements — all without your consent.
Session is an open-source, encrypted messenger that's powered by the Oxen blockchain. It's free and offers all of the features that we've just been talking about: a private platform for one-on-one conversations and group chats where phone numbers aren't required. And it's a tool designed for everyday users — meaning it'll be easy to pick up for those who might be more familiar with the likes of Signal and Telegram.
Oxen's chief technology officer Kee Jefferys told Cointelegraph: "The way that the internet operates isn't conducive to user privacy. Social media has changed how we share information about ourselves. But this is a problem which crypto has the potential to solve — and Session is a shining example."
Session aims to tackle the pitfalls of websites and decentralized applications — and protects a user's metadata by onion routing messages via the Oxen Service Node network, which boasts over 1,600 decentralized nodes. This crucially eliminates the need for centralized servers, and ensures there's no single point of failure.
Think about the last time you changed your phone number — it was probably years ago. The social media profiles you use probably date back to when you were a teenager, too. This is understandable; not only is it a hassle to add your loved ones all over again, but your account will have a rich history of messages and photos that you won't want to lose.
Session says it gives singletons a compelling alternative — now, they can give a love interest their Session ID instead of a phone number or social media account, keeping those personal details private until they want to move to the next step. This can prevent potential abuse from unsuccessful or even overenthusiastic suiters.
It's just one use case that shows how privacy can be a force for good in the hands of law-abiding citizens.
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