This is a transcript of the Podcast – The Future of Adoption and Internet Censorship with Brad – You can listen the audio here
Nye : What is going on everybody? What is going on? It is your boy Nye and welcome another episode of Evolvement, the financial podcast where we talk about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and the future of our financial systems.
Nye : I want to give a shout out to our sponsors and the first sponsor is Veracity. Veracity helps solve the lack of transparency around advertisers abusing users data. Right now video ads are intrusive for viewers and ineffective for advertisers. Veracity aims to solve this by allowing creators, viewers, advertisers and brands to directly interact with one another. Learn more at veracity.io.
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Nye : Today I’ve got a really special guest on the line. I have Brad the co-founder of Unstoppable Domains. We’re gonna sit down today, we’re gonna talk a little bit about Bitcoin, about cryptocurrency, what it’s going to look like in 15, 20 years.
Nye : But really what we want to focus on is adoption and what are the main barriers to adoption right now, what is that adoption, how do we fix those barriers to adoption, how do we overcome them, and what does that all look like.
Nye : But, before we do, Brad welcome. How you doing my man?
Brad : I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Nye : Glad that you’re here, man. glad to have you on. Can you just start off by giving the audience a little description of yourself. What what’s your background? what were you doing before cryptocurrency and what got you into this whole blockchain crypto industry?
Brad : Sure. Sure. So my background, I’m an entrepreneur from Atlanta. I started in the real estate world doing a real estate investing company during the boom in the mid-2000s and then buying up houses out of foreclosure, built up a portfolio during the crash in 2010-2011. Moved to San Francisco in 2012 to run a software company called Talkable. So I spent the past six years doing that.
Brad : Stepped back to the board to go and focus full-time on crypto towards the end of 2018. Then started working on this. The way that I got into crypto was I was actually quite fortunate. When I moved to San Francisco I moved to a house called 20 Mission which was a hacker house with maybe 20 different early Bitcoin enthusiasts living there.
Brad : So pretty much everybody I met was already like a hardcore Bitcoin hacker. We had meetups in the basement where a lot of the early enthusiasts came. [inaudible 00:02:50] gave one of his talks in our courtyard.
Brad : So I just was sort of surrounded by it. Consumed it, read the white paper, went down the rabbit hole and it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. So I had a hard time not thinking about it ever since.
Nye : That’s fucking awesome man. That sounds like a cool fucking house.
Brad : It was wild.
Nye : I bet. I bet. That’s awesome. How has that led into what you’re creating today with Unstoppable Domains? What is unstoppable domains? and we’re gonna talk about it more close to the end of the episode but I want to give like the audience a brief description.
Nye : What is it and what problems are you aiming to solve with it?
Brad : Yeah. So Unstoppable Domains is building domains on block chains. The idea is that a block chain domain will do two main things at once. One is that it will replace your cryptocurrency addresses with human readable names.
Brad : so basically the way it’ll work is you’ll have Michael Nye.zil and when I want to pay you you’ll just tell me that. I’ll type that into my wallet and pay. I no longer need to know what your Bitcoin address is or your Ethereum address or your litecoin address or whatever because you can attach all of your cryptocurrency addresses to this one name.
Brad : Then that’s all I need to know and then I can just select which crypto I want to pay you in and pay. So that is use case number one and we think that’s actually also going to be the first use case. We’re talking about like like things that we think will work in blockchain really short term.
Brad : human readable names for payments seems really obvious, seems really easy, seems like a way to get my mom to start paying in crypto for example. So that’s number one. Then number two is censorship resistant websites. So your blockchain domain can also work for your website in the same.
Brad : so it can be Michael Nye.zil, when I open up a wallet I can pay you. When I open up a browser and type in Michael Nye.zil I can see your censorship resistant website. I can see a website that can’t be taken down by anybody.
Nye : Interesting. Very interesting. That’s cool. I want to dive into that a little bit later but let’s get around to why you created something like this. I can kind of envision it and but I want to hear from from your perspective.
Nye : We’ve seen so many struggles. I mean, not so many, I don’t want to blow it out of proportion. But we see a lot of struggles with adoption right now and for me in my opinion I think what you guys are tackling is probably the first major, major barrier to adoption besides education.
Nye : I think that education comes first. People need to become educated on why cryptocurrency matters, why it’s relevant to society and why it may or may not be relevant to them. But then I think the second really big thing is domain addresses, man.
Nye : The the fact that I have to copy a 20, 30, whatever it is letter and number phrase, make sure that it’s absolutely perfect, post it into a address bar and do double triple checks just to make sure that I don’t lose all of my funds, it’s a major, major issue.
Nye : Is that kind of the idea in the realm of why you guys started to create this or what do you think is the major barriers to adoption?
Brad : Yeah, that’s right. That’s where we became much more from the crypto side than from the domain side initially and we started with this is not a simple irrational way for people to pay. If you think about the internet like back in 1994, 1995 when we started when human readable web addresses started replacing IP addresses.
Brad : That’s when people started using websites. When I could just be sitting there in a coffee shop and tell you about this cool website that I went to. If I had to copy and paste a long string of numbers maybe the internet wouldn’t have even taken off. So that was like the really big kind of realization for us.
Brad : This idea of human readable names has been going around in crypto for quite a while. There’s been a lot of attempts. I think the difference is is that now that we have these great smart contract platforms like Ethereum and others it’s easy for companies like us to go and make it.
Brad : So that was the real big mind melding moment was this is gonna make crypto payments so much easier.
Nye : That’s awesome, man. That’s awesome. What do you see are some other major barriers to adoption that we need to tackle? I think that that’s a major one but what else? Is it like technology related or what else do you think that the industry or that we as a whole as creators and innovators need to improve on before adoption can happen on a massive scale?
Brad : I think there’s a lot of user tools that are missing. That’s kind of why we started is we were like well you know there’s so many different things that people are gonna need in order to make this easy.
Brad : And that’s part of the focus of unstoppabledomains.com what we’re building there and that’s also part of what we’re doing with wallets to integrate them to make it so all of this stuff works.
Brad : But I guess a very simple answer to your question of what else is missing I think it’s easy custody stuff, easy private key management stuff. We’re building some tools there because we don’t think that the tools are good enough yet.
Brad : Every single time you introduce somebody to crypto you have to explain to them that hey this is different than your regular money. If you lose it there’s no one to call. You have to take responsibility for your own keys and there’s not a good backup systems out there yet.
Brad : There’s not good friend backup systems where like if you and I are best friends and I lose my keys you’re my absolute backup person. All that sort of stuff doesn’t really exist yet, and that’s gonna slow us down too.
Nye : Yeah, that in itself is a huge issue because most of the time, and I won’t say all the time, but most of the time simplicity does not- is not parallel to high levels of security. Especially with private keys, there’s a huge, huge need for security as well as simplicity.
Nye : But I would argue that security is probably priority before simplicity. A great example is I think it was what two months ago or something now Coinbase announced that they will allow their users to store their private keys in the cloud. It was something that was very … There was a negative response by the community.
Nye : It’s like oh wow that’s a real great idea. You’re gonna get your private keys hacked if they’re stored in the cloud. It’s really, really not a smart idea. But at the same time for someone who doesn’t have the technical knowledge or the crypto knowledge in general about storing private keys, it would be a very simple option for you. What do you think about all that?
Brad : We definitely land … I would say we land more on the side of trying to provide self custody options for users. Things like putting it in the cloud would probably not be the type of thing that we would see as ideal. So the types of things that we’re looking at are … So one thing that we’re building is essentially it’s like a two device authentication.
Brad : So you’ll have our mobile authentication app and you’ll have a desktop app. So because we can validate you on both of those there’s some added security there. You’re essentially have your keys on your phone. Then there’s some other things that we can do where you can interact with a smart contract that are storing your keys.
Brad : But all of these things are basically around … So we’re focusing on security first, as you said, and then gonna try to make it easier over time. Right now it’s security first and we think that it’s doable. Our flow is not that hard. You do need to download a mobile app as part of it so it’s not just using the desktop app.
Brad : So that’s maybe like a little bit more friction. But I think that at least for the next you know couple years worth of adopters people are gonna that’s fine. People will understand I’m taking on this security responsibility. If we can build out some more user interface tools so it becomes easier over time then that’s the goal.
Brad : Right now I worry that I still can’t get my mom or other people to use this stuff because the security- the steps around security are just too on risk.
Nye : Agreed, man. A hundred percent agreed. Grandma can’t use it yet. If grandma can’t store her private keys without knowing what a private key is then I think we still have a ways to go.
Brad : But I’m also not one of those people that thinks that like oh yeah we need to figure out how to get outside of the 30 million crypto users in order to move forward. Right now, there’s 30 million crypto users and they’re not paying using human readable names. So we already have 30 million customers that aren’t being served.
Brad : So, we got plenty to do over the next couple of years just getting adopted amongst the existing community. But I also think that this will grow the community a lot.
Nye : I love it. I absolutely love it. I think that’s a good way to look at it you’re serving the people that are already in the community rather than trying to force it out. You said something in that last statement that was really interesting. You said you’re looking or you’re working on the potential of storing private keys with smart contracts. How does all that work?
Brad : I wouldn’t be the best person to actually explain how it works. But the basic idea is that you will be interacting with a contract that can provide backup related features for you. So, it wouldn’t be … It’s kind of like … It’s almost like having us as an account backup but instead you’re just interacting with a smart contract directly.
Brad : It’s something a little bit further off, so maybe I probably maybe I shouldn’t go too far down that road yet since it’s not an early release.
Nye : Still sounds super fucking cool. I like it. I like it. Sounds like there’s some cool innovation going on. I dig it.
Brad : The one thing that I can say that’s really soon is essentially is like a mobile authentication app which we’re building which is called Unstoppable Backup that you’ll be able to download and you’ll be storing your private keys on your phone.
Brad : So it’ll be a kind of a similar security model for your domains as you would have for like a blockchain.com or any of those other self custody mobile wallets.
Nye : Interesting. Interesting. How do you feel about phone security? I think that that’s … I like the concept. I think there’s a lot of people that are skeptical out there about phone security. What’s your opinion on all of that? And obviously you’re building something for phones and for mobile apps but how is this secure, why is it secure?
Brad : The security model is that you can maintain control over your phone. That’s basically the security model and then you also have a lock on your phone. So, we would encourage people to have … If you can have a longer key code for your phone like instead of four characters do six or more, that type of thing would increase your security.
Brad : There is no perfectly secure option. But, so far I think that the phones look like something that so far the way that they’ve been functioning in the market, I feel pretty good about those solutions. I would feel comfortable having my money on blockchain.com. I used to have custody solutions.
Nye : That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
Brad : With an iPhone … IPhones are slightly more secure as well.
Nye : That’s cool. That’s sweet. So, when going back to the crypto address/domain thing, how do you even build something like this man? I know I’m maybe not on the technical side of things but on the basic side of things, how can you change someone’s 15, 20 digit numerical address into let’s say Michael Nye.zil Michael Nye.eth? How does something like that even work?
Brad : So the way it works is you have your domain asset which is part of a registry which is launched on a blockchain. So we have a registry smart contract launched on a blockchain it has all of these domain assets in it. So you have Michael Nye.zil.
Brad : You control Michael Nye.zil with your private keys and then all you’re doing is you’re writing to the blockchain. You’re saying I control Michael Nye.zil, my BTC address equals this, my Ethereum address equals that. That’s all you’re doing as the user and that’s what our app makes it really easy for you to do.
Brad : Then our software that we’re integrating with wallets allows wallets to go and do a public look up on the blockchain. So I type in Michael Nye.zil into the wallet, the wallet goes and does a lookup on the blockchain. It says okay Michael Nye.zil and I select your Bitcoin address.
Brad : it says okay this person wants to find Michael Nye.zil’s Bitcoin address. It does the lookup on the public blockchain which is free. It’s free for any app to do it, you don’t have to pay [inaudible 00:16:13] or anything to do a lookup on a blockchain. Then it scoops the address.
Brad : So it’s actually a really simple thing. You as Michael Nye are just declaring publicly here’s my Bitcoin address, here’s my Ethereum address and then the wallet is just going oh let me go find that address associate with that name.
Nye : Very interesting. So, this isn’t just like if I had a Michael Nye.zil or Michael Nye.eth, that’s not necessarily specific to the ZIL or the ETH address. You’re saying that like if I have Michael Nye.eth I can also put my Bitcoin address, my addresses for, for example, Tron and things like that in the background so that if the user, if my friend wants to send me TRX he can still send it to Michael Nye.eth.
Nye : Or if he wants to send me Bitcoin he can still send it to Michael Nye.eth but the system in the background, the blockchain in the background, recognizes which address or which coin is being sent to the address and is able to sort it properly?
Brad : Yeah. Yeah, and this is the weird thing is is that what domain with what blockchain your domain lives on is a completely different question. And what cryptocurrency you want to use to get paid you can have all 200 cryptocurrency addresses from all these different cryptocurrencies all attached to one domain.
Nye : Interesting, man. That’s really, really interesting. I like that. That’s fucking cool.
Brad : That’s what’s gonna make this so much easier because the problem actually isn’t just that you have a 40 character Ethereum address that’s long and complicated, it’s that you also have a Bitcoin address, and you also have a Light Coin address. Maybe I’m a Tron supporter and I don’t even have those three, so you want to accept my Tron instead.
Brad : There’s so many different currencies out there it’s unrealistic to have me as a person say I only want one. So all of our tools are very … We’re very focused on being blockchain agnostic. We want every cryptocurrency user to be able to use our stuff.
Nye : That’s fucking sweet. How does someone set something like this up? Is this like … Am i personally … Like if I set up something I got unstoppabledomains.com and I want to create a Michael Nye.eth account, for example, do I create that account?
Nye : And during the creation process do I put in my Bitcoin address, my Ethereum address, my Tron address and all of these other addresses? Or is this something where I create an Unstoppable Domains account, I create a Michael Nye.eth and these things are already created for me with wallets in the backend? Or how does that function?
Brad : So, they are two separate processes. You buy a domain and you set up a domain. So at unstoppabledomains.com you can actually already pre-order our first domain extension .Zil right now. So you could reserve a domain right now and then we have a management section inside the software inside the application where you go in and you say add my Bitcoin address, add my Ethereum address so on.
Brad : So it’s just a couple of clicks. There will be a couple of clicks to add your addresses from there. That’s the idea. We haven’t really focused on building a wallet ourselves. We’ve done sort of demo wallet so I guess we could theoretically make it so you auto have an address associated with it but that’s not how it is right now.
Brad : If that winds up being something that makes it easier for folks though we might add that. But the main idea is that we want you to be adding cryptocurrency addresses from other wallets and things like that you’re already using.
Nye : It’s fucking cool, man. I really like it. I really like it. What’s the process on this? how far away you guys are creating something like this? What does that look like? What’s the timeframe for release and things?
Brad : So .zil will be live on the public blockchain early June. It’s live, I’m testing it right now and there’s pre-orders underway on the site. There’s already been a few thousand dollars worth of pre-order purchases. You can also pre-order some top domains there. Over the next maybe in about three weeks or so you’ll be able to start doing the management stuff, be able to start configuring your domain.
Brad : It still won’t be live yet. It won’t be live on the blockchain until June but you’ll be able to see all the stuff basically.
Nye : Cool bro. That’s dope. Explain to me the domain part. So, I get the address part, I understand that I can put all my different addresses in behind here but from what I’m also catching I can also create a website that’s attached to it. Is that correct?
Brad : Yeah, and this is sort of crazy. So the best way to explain it to the audience is that your blockchain domain just so happens to be able to do two separate things at once. It can act like your payment address in a wallet, it can act like your website in a browser. The same name Michael Nye.zil can do both of those things at once.
Brad : This is just different than the way that a normal domain works. A normal domain can just be a website. A blockchain domain can be a website or a payment address. So the way it works is you have your domain.
Brad : I guess just to talk about the general internet industry, the DNS industry broadly, right now the way it works is there’s one centralized registry that is run by an international group called ICANN. And there are these groups of registrars, apps, GoDaddy and Google Domains that are custodians of domains and can update the register.
Brad : They can say like oh this person bought now this person owns and so on and so forth so they’re kind of … They have this special status. And as a result it means that they can take a domain away. So, if there’s a court order or something else, GoDaddy can take your domain away from you.
Brad : If you have a blockchain domain, your domain is in your wallet and it is controlled by you with your private keys. And if Unstoppable Domains got a court order to say take down a website, we’d say sorry you have to go get that person’s private keys. So, completely different security model.
Brad : The way it actually works is is that you can put your website on decentralized storage or whatever like IPFS or something like that and then just point your blockchain domain to that content. Then, we are working with browsers for them to treat our domains like they would regular domains.
Brad : So, we’re talking to all of the browsers that you would expect and working on Chrome extensions. But you should see towards the end of the year integrations that will allow you to open up your browser, type in Michael Nye.zil and then get sent to Michael Nye.zil your website which is held on decentralized storage.
Brad : So, now you have a domain that can’t be taken away from you and you have content on the storage network that can’t be shut down by anyone.
Nye : That’s fucking cool. That’s awesome. This is kind of opening up a whole new network of things that are possible in terms of everything. You know what I mean? This is kind of the evolution that I see.
Nye : And I think the very, very first steps of adoption is especially when my mom, when she needs to go check out my website or something maybe she wants to go to my podcast and she wants to go listen to a podcast. Instead of her typing in evolvement.io she would type in evolvement.zil or evolvement.eth or something.
Nye : First off, that would get her attention because she’s probably never seen or heard of that, she’d be interested in learning more about what that is. But second off, it brings it all into one centralized location. It’s fucking cool dude.
Brad : I think that the biggest use I think that market right there, censorship resistant websites, is probably the biggest piece of this altogether. Because most of the world experience as a heavily censored Internet. They are not free to see what they want to see.
Brad : Very soon we’re gonna have this, and this is true even in America but, right now it’s extremely easy to censor content. You go to AWS, Amazon Web Services, and you say take down this content or and/or you go to GoDaddy and you say take down this domain. Once these tools are out there they’re open source. Anyone in the world can use them.
Brad : It means that those two methods for taking down websites, taking down news sites, taking down political dissidents, all that stuff, all those tools that governments around the world are using, they go away.
Nye : Interesting. How are the people that you’re talking about this reacting to it specifically like the Safaris, the Chromes and things like that, like the the web browsers themselves? Is this something they’re actually open for? Is it something they’re a little hesitant on? What’s their reaction to that?
Brad : The sort of crypto oriented browsers and some of the smaller browsers are very excited about this and are trying to have already independently even outside of us have been trying to start working with blockchain domains.
Brad : So, a lot of interest on that side. On the larger browser side, we imagine they will be a little bit slower and so for now we’re building extensions, browser extensions so their website will work with browser extensions.
Nye : Oh, cool, cool. That makes sense. That’s super cool.
Brad : Yeah. So still not perfect. It would be better if you could just open up Chrome and type it in. But, I think that the thing about censorship resistant tools in general is that there’s some people that really, really want them and that it’s totally fine.
Brad : Then take a couple of extra steps if you really want them. And those are going to be the people that use them first anyway.
Nye : Yeah, can you touch a little bit about why this is important? I know you mentioned it a little bit earlier about the majority of the world is living in a censored world where the governments or some sort of entity controls what they see on the Internet.
Nye : Can you share a little bit more in depth about what’s the issue that you saw there and why is this relevant to the large population of people in the world?
Brad : Yeah. This is the thing that I think motivates me the most. I think that the way that the internet works right now, I think we messed up. I think we did it wrong. I think it’s highly centralized. There winds up being a case where users don’t control data, very large companies controlled data, where there’s huge amounts of surveillance on the data and on the activity from governments and others. That wasn’t the right way to build it.
Brad : And we also have all of these gatekeepers. There’s no permissionless innovation. There’s all these different people you have to ask permission for in order to even get started, in order to build a website, in order to pay, in order to do all these things.
Brad : The internet works like this and we basically need to rebuild it. Rebuild it in a decentralized way where anyone can pay, where anyone can use the tools, where anyone can launch a website, where anyone can launch content, where there are none of these gatekeepers anymore.
Brad : That will just create way more innovation but also just create a more free world. I think that the way that the centralized internet developed is not to our benefit as a society. I think this is one of the things broadly that has motivated a lot of blockchain people and it’s definitely motivated me even before I got excited about blockchain domains in particular. But, this just seems like the avenue to fix the Internet.
Brad : This is what we should all be moving towards. We should all be moving towards an Internet that isn’t controlled by anyone.
Nye : I love that. I love that. But doesn’t it also have some negative implications to allow people to post anything they want and allow people to see anything they want?
Brad : Yeah, I think there’s definitely going to be some negative repercussions of that and I think we all need to be aware. So I think the first thought is that there’s no one person in this world that I think should decide what other people should do. There’s no one person that I trust with that much authority.
Brad : So I think that’s the first thing is that there isn’t anyone that we can trust. Sometimes we put Facebook in charge, sometimes we put the government in charge. But, none of those people are capable of actually deciding what we should see. So I think that’s the first thing.
Brad : The second thing is that the way I actually see this playing out is that browsers and other applications are going to have a vote on what they show. So a browser’s not going to show everything. A browser is gonna want to try to eliminate illegal content or content that they know that their users don’t want to see or things like that.
Brad : So what’s gonna happen is is there’s gonna wind up being a lot of competition amongst browsers and others for how they filter the Internet for you. So you get to choose your own internet based on … You get to choose based on your values, based on what you believe, what you see.
Brad : There’s always going to be an option to see everything. There’s always gonna be some open source opportunity out there that just doesn’t restrict anything. But will the wider world have to deal with a bunch of criminal and illegal and abhorrent content? I don’t think so. I don’t think they will. I actually think that we’ll get more choice here.
Nye : Interesting. That’s cool man. It goes along the general belief system of decentralization and why a lot of people are doing this. I think it kind of leads into a realm of self-governing, self regulation where the group or the individuals within the group decide what’s good for them versus some other person externally outside of them deciding what’s good for them.
Brad : Yeah, and it also means that you get to decide against the bad content too, you’re not forced in this new paradigm that everyone has to consume everything. That’s not what will happen.
Nye : I love it man. I absolutely love it. So where can people learn more about what you’re doing? Where can people get involved in what you’re building? Where can people sign up to start to get domains when the time is right? What’s the details, man?
Brad : Yeah. So I would say the time is right now. Unstoppabledomains.com, you can go into the search bar and start typing in domains and see what’s available. You can play around in the app and see some of the features that are coming.
Brad : Then the best thing besides that would be to follow us on Twitter at unstoppable web. That’s where we’re putting out all of our updates.
Nye : That’s awesome, bro. I absolutely love it. Hey man, I really appreciate you coming on the show. I really appreciate you sharing a little bit about adoption, about what all these things are doing and what you’re doing to aid the adoption. So thanks for joining.
Brad : Of course. Thanks so much for having me. It was great.
Nye : Of course, man. Of course. And everybody, as always, it’s your boy Nye. I’m really glad that you guys came on another episode of Evolvement podcast. Thank you guys so much for listening, and we will catch you next time. Peace.