Today, cloud apps like Slack
, and Paypal
own the hearts and minds of the masses because they solve important collaboration, storage, and payments problems with good design and a delightful user experience. But the good UI/UX comes at the expense of the privacy and security of users– these companies have complete control of user data.
I believe the long-term winners for collaboration, storage, and payments will find a better tradeoff between privacy/security and UI/UX. While I’m not sure what the winning approach will be, there are a number of promising approaches emerging. Here’s a few of the most promising systems of user control:
Full stack (Hardware + software)
Full stack solutions allow people to host their own servers (and in turn, store data locally) via hardware and run software on these self-hosted servers. This approach is surprising to some who have seen cloud hosted solutions displace on-premise solutions over the past few decades. “On-prem” solutions could see a resurgence though as companies ship quality software and hardware that’s cheap and easy to set-up (which has ever been seen before on-prem).
Protonet offers SMBs a hardware box as well as a suite of collaboration and storage software tools that provide users a better UI/UX than has ever been seen before in on-prem solution. Businesses take comfort in Protonet, knowing that they have full control of their data.
21 offers the Bitcoin Computer, a full stack bitcoin solution that comes with a bitcoin mining chip as well as a micropayments server. The 21 solution gives developers permissionless access to the bitcoin network and the privacy and security that comes with that.
The challenge the full stack solutions will have in reaching mass adoption is that there’s more friction when purchasing and using hardware than there is when purchasing pure software (and it’s also more expensive to buy hardware + software).
End-to-end encryption (software)
End-to-end encryption is an approach that utilizes public-key cryptography and distributed databases to allow for secure, private communication and data-storage.
Copay is a mobile multi-signature bitcoin wallet that stores private keys locally. Copay has the best combination of UI/UX and privacy/security that I’ve seen from a bitcoin wallet to date.
Storij is a decentralized file-sharing system that allows users to store files in a distributed database and rent out their unused HD space. This project has gone under the radar and is still not fully functional, but went live in beta just yesterday.
The end-to-end encryption based solutions are generally still fairly difficult to use for an average consumer. But I expect these solutions to improve over time as more talented engineers enter the space and combine knowledge on cryptography with knowledge on designing beautiful products.
If you are working on a system of user control (either full stack or end-to-end encryption based), I’d love to hear from you!