Facebook? Nope. I am more of a ‘Meta’ person. Rebranding is one of the oldest tricks in the book to signal a strategic shift in focus. For example, Dunkin Donuts changed to Dunkin’ to showcase that they’re equally good in other segments. But this one is NOT about food.
It is about a web3 protocol. Yes. EPNS or Ethereum Push Notification Service has evolved to Push Protocol.
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What does this change signify though? More importantly, what is the future of this protocol given this change? How does it work and stands against its competitors? And finally, I would touch upon a debated theory I have been chasing for a while: Fat App Thesis and how this move by Push Protocol, just proves my point. But first, let me bring you onboard on what is (was) EPNS after all.
What is EPNS?
What is the one thing that drives you toward your phone? Something so inevitable that its absence might render a lot of apps plain useless? I am sure you would have been taking it for granted so far. Yes. It’s the notifications. The plain old on your phone that craves your attention.
Try to imagine your life without notifications. You post a photo on Instagram in a bid to get social validation (read likes).
What if you’d only know about it when you open the app? I am sure a lot of you would have been stuck on the app forever.
A more serious use case? What if you take a trade and your target price is hit? If there were no notifications, you’d probably never know!
From reminding you to drink water to driving your engagement, notifications have changed the world that we live in.
But as there’s a yin to a yang, these notifications are centralized. This means Apple or Android takes a call on what kind of notifications can be delivered to you. To top it all, they are purely a mobile play. Have you ever got notifications from a ‘desktop-only’ app?
When was the last time your Windows reminded you to restart for updates on your phone?
And the current state of web3 is hovering around laptops alone. There are little to no decentralized platforms that live on your cellphone.
To solve this legitimate problem, we have EPNS. EPNS is a decentralized communication protocol for Web3! Using which any dApps, smart contracts, backends or protocols can send comm (starting with on-chain / off-chain / gasless notifs) tied to user wallet in an open, gasless, multichain and platform-agnostic fashion. The open comm layer allows any crypto wallet/frontend to tap into the network and get the comm across.
Too jargony? Think of EPNS as a one-stop application that ties the web2 mobile interface with the web3 decentralized world. Any dapp can now integrate with EPNS and send notifications to you on your phone via EPNS app so that you stay informed.
What’s worse than getting rekt? Not knowing that you got rekt!
– Yours Truly
What is Push Protocol then?
Now that explanation is out of the way, let us move to the new Avatar of EPNS aka Push Protocol. Why do brands change their name anyway? Well, it is often when they outgrow their previous proposition. And this is best defined by Push Protocol. The Push protocol stands out from the former EPNS in two ways:
A. Moving beyond Ethereum to other L1s and L2s
B. Moving beyond push notifications to other forms of communication.
Communication has always been the backbone of human evolution. We as a society have yearned for novel ways to connect with each other. Push protocol believes that this evolution will continue until the existence of mankind and they are preparing themselves to be ready for this.
Push protocol enables flexible and decentralized middleware that serves as a public good to solve the communication problem of web3 protocols.
Key Features of Push Protocol:
Yeah. We just discussed how EPNS has decided to go cross-chain. But what does it mean for the protocol and general audience? What features can you expect?
Get it? Why isn’t it ETHEREUM push notification system anymore? This is because you can now expect Push Ecosystem to be leveraged by all Blockchains alike. Interested in getting price feeds from Mango Markets on Solana? Or wanted to know if there are any bids on your Rarible NFT on BSC? What about getting the best opportunities to yield from Yield Yak on Avalanche? You get the drift.
We are definitely heading towards a multi-chain universe and it is prudent for a protocol to cater to audience across the bandwagon.
2. Different Modes of Communication:
Ever transferred funds to the wrong address? While there is no guarantee of retrieving them, a fair opportunity to at least talk to the receiver might be a game changer. Currently, web3 has no user-friendly way of doing this.
So, with this shift, Push protocol should be able to add a lot more tools to enable communication in web3. This is not restricted to push notifications alone.
In fact, this version will encapsulate an entire stack of communication which will enable decentralized brands to interact with their users in ways that never existed before. Think chat, streaming and instant messaging etc.
Let us talk about each of these elements in detail:
2.1 Push Notification
Push Notifications directly connect applications to individual users, enabling secure and personalized communication in response to customized on- and off-chain activity.
We have talked about the key benefits of this use case above. Let us see it in action now.
Pre-requisites include the following:
– Metamask Wallet (I believe Phantom integration for Solana will be out shortly)
If you are not aware of the process of setting up a Metamask wallet, this guide can help. Once you are done, do not take a break yet. To truly leverage the core functionality of push protocol, you need to install Metamask for your mobile as well. (Android or iOS).
Do not forget to set it up the exact same way you did for your browser.
With Push Protocol and Metamask installed on your phone, we are good to start.
Open the Push Protocol app to find a UI like this 👇
Let us quickly go through the three options mentioned here:
Wallet connect will allow you to connect with multiple wallets out there. Metamask being one of them.
It is going to give you multiple options as shown above. Since we started off with installing Metamask, let us go with that for now.
On a side note, you can also login through push chat (more on it in the next section) and scanning your wallet address (which is the OG way of sharing your address). In either case, you would have to go through Metamask application to sign these transactions. Your efforts of setting up Metamask mobile didn’t go to waste.
Once you have selected Metamask in the screen shown above, you will be switched to the Metamask app wherein you will sign a transaction. It should look something like this:
Viola. Give yourself a pat on the back. You have successfully connected the app with your wallet. All that is left now is to choose what notifications you would like to receive.
You can do this by browsing the ‘channels’ section as shown below:
You can always search for your favourite dApp from the search bar.
Once you pick a dApp and decide to opt-in for notifications, you need to sign a simple transaction and that is it. Now you can be well aware of getting rekt.
In my opinion, one should still use desktop to opt-in to their favourite channels through app.push.org. It is much faster and snappy through that route considering there will be multiple channels and hence multiple transactions that need to be signed.
2.2 Push Chat
Now that you have established a communication channel with the other side (web3). Why stop at information only? Why not talk to people in a similar pseudonymous fashion?
Enter Push Chat.
To enable push chat, you need to have an access to a desktop. That is where you will find the QR code this screen is asking for 👇
Simply tap on the link push chat button and you will be asked to scan a QR code.
In parallel, head over to the chat section of app.push.org and tap on the link mobile app as shown in the image below 👇
You will shown a QR code, scan it from the app and let the games begin.
I tested it with two different wallets and the chat looks pretty smooth. Although the features are limited to chat and GIFs as of now, I am hoping this will improve in the future.
To avoid spam, the receiver needs to approve your chat request before you could slide into their DMs aimlessly. Pretty good eh?
2.3 Push Group Chat
And if we can have a 1-to-1 conversation, what stops us to have a many-to-many conversation right? The process of setting up a group chat is pretty simple.
You need a desktop to setup a group chat currently. Tapping on the ‘new chat’ icon on application only allows you to enter a single address only.
In the chat section on desktop, you will find a cute little button that says create a group 👇
After this, it is a pretty standard process of entering the group details and selecting the members. Once again, only the members who have accepted the request to join the group will be added.
WhatsApp was launched in 2009 and they introduced encryption in 2016. However push protocol gives users the ability to encrypt their conversation from day zero. The downside of encrypting the conversation is a that late comers will not be able to see the past conversations. Not a deal breaker right?
What did I miss?
Well, it is still early in the day in the crypto wild west but it seems like Push Protocol is slightly late to the party. Given the community built around dialect, a similar competitor, Push Protocol has some ground to cover.
Two key features that are missing right now from Push Protocol and killing it for Dialect are:
At best, Push Protocol is a read-only-ish kind of application. There is no interaction within the chat or notifications. This makes it a hyper-basic version of early days of messaging.
On the other hand, Dialect allows you to drive actions through messages like sending crypto to your peers.
At the same time, you could also take actions on your positions through dialect and not only ‘learn’ about them.
This may be the law of diminishing marginal utility at play here.
From a novelty, NFTs are soon becoming a hygiene factor. Just like web2 had loyalty programs, NFTs are an evolved version of it.
Dialect recognized this early on and enable NFT stickers on the platform.
Push Chat on the other hand, feels vanilla right now!
Fat App Thesis:
So what is happening in the industry? We are witnessing a trend play out yet again.
You see, the internet is built on protocols like SMTP, HTTPS etc. These protocols are a set of rules or standards on which apps like Facebook/Gmail are build. If you look closely, these protocols haven’t accrued much value for the investors. It is rather these apps which are extremely valuable.
They say that web3 or Blockchains can flip this completely. Why? Two main reasons:
A. Shared data
You cannot move your assets from Zerodha to Groww because both these apps work in siloes with their walled data sets. Same goes between Facebook and say Snapchat.
However, since Blockchain enables ownership, it is easy to move your assets between WazirX and CoinDCX.
Therefore, building on the same protocol (Blockchain) has its own merits and makes the protocol layer valuable.
Conventional protocols were boring. Most of us didn’t even know that the web is running on them. However, web3 protocols have a native token attached to them. This gives them a speculatory significance. If more dApps are built on a protocol, higher the value of a network. Higher the value, it attracts even more dApps.
Therefore, the value of an app can never exceed that of a protocol.
Fat Protocol Theory Depiction (R) and Fat App Theory (L)
Now there are some contrarian views to this theory as well.
In fact, a bang opposite of this is called the fat app thesis where people believe that the application layer >>> the protocol layer.
Since Push Protocol now starts to go cross-chain, it is definitely an opportunity for them to generate more revenue, appreciate $PUSH and extract the most out of web3. Hence validating the belief that Fat App Thesis will have the final laugh.
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