Interview with Status: A Mobile Light Client Ethereum Messaging App
Status is an open source light client that operates similarly to a messenger app. Unlike, Mist, which is targeted for desktop computers, Status aims to bring Ethereum to users’ mobile Android and iOS devices, with a built-in messaging platform (and Chat API on the way). ETHNews had the opportunity to interview Status about their mobile light client and “bringing Ethereum to users’ phones.”
Tell us about Status
We're a team of eight people with headquarters in Singapore. Our goal is to allow users to take Ethereum anywhere with them by using their smartphones. The first version will be built for the Ethereum developer community: A mobile light client that looks similar to a messenger app. We then plan to create a gateway for the mass market by allowing users to be able to easily access ÐApps.
What does your roadmap look like?
Our original idea was to create a mobile ÐApp browser but our team noticed that most of the time we were spending was on our own mobile devices, inside an instant messenger. We then began working on a mobile client after receiving a DEVGrant back in 2015 and at the beginning of 2016, we began creating Status.
Our goal is to have an Alpha release of Status before the end of the year, (November ideally), which will include instant messaging, wallet and send/request transactions, and Discover.
Discover is a hashtag-based search where users can find other Status users (and other ÐApps) to discuss ideas or exchange goods and services. We leave it up to the individual user to decide if they want their User profile public or private.
A Beta release will follow in Q1 2017. Our Beta release will provide one of our first flagship ÐApps, a P2P/local fiat-to-ether exchange, along with tools for ÐApp developers to integrate ÐApps within a chat context. A security audit will then follow as well as bug fixes.
Beyond this, and looking further into 2017, we'll be looking to integrate with other community projects, and working closely with ÐApp developers. We're particularly interested in identity and reputation systems, decentralized exchanges, lending and stable crypto-tokens - and depending on how development progresses, we hope to have more integrations over the course of 2017.
Will you offer a user-friendly means of developing smart contracts, or will it be up to the user to craft the contracts outside of Status?
The question of 'How do you code a smart contract on a phone?' is something we’ve been thinking about how best to answer. Typing is cumbersome and out of the question (via phone), and the solution also needs to be easy enough for even non-coders to be able to use. This is a feature we’re very excited to work on and introduce, but with the advent of The DAO and the focus on smart contract security, we decided to postpone and give this idea the careful consideration that it deserves before we allow end users to construct smart contracts on their own from a mobile device.
Do you have any concerns that mass adoption of light clients, due to their simplicity and user-friendliness, will create a state of partial, misleading or even inaccurate information being accepted as “truths” by the network?
The light client protocol, in its current form, downloads all block headers and relies on a fundamental data structure in Ethereum: the Patricia Merkle Tree.
In the block header lies the Merkle Root - which can be considered as a hash of all the transactions.This header allows the light client to pull down the state of the tree on-demand, and verify against the hash to determine a proof of a transaction; of course, this means we’re relying on the Merkle root in the block header to be trusted. The question for light clients then becomes, "How do we verify the blockchain headers?"
Light clients simply look for the longest chain of valid block headers. Thankfully, the cost for the attacker to produce a chain that is probably-valid-but-not-actually-valid would be comparable to running a 51% attack on the network. What this means is that any spoofing attack is going to be expensive for an attacker, and cheap to prove for light clients; the network won’t accept inaccurate information as “truths”.
Who will serve as the full node at Status and how will this node decide what information is included or omitted from the light client?
Status actually runs a full implementation of go-ethereum on the device, and just like geth, it connects to bootstrap nodes and through those, the rest of the Ethereum network. Currently, there are very few geth implementations supporting LES or Whisper so we will provide bootstrap nodes and surrounding peers. As the code matures and the network nodes upgrade their clients, this will no longer be a concern.
Who is your potential audience?
The first run of Status is built for the Ethereum and crypto-community around it. It's a communication tool for self-sovereign individuals - for people who want to make their own rules and move their lives onto the blockchain.
Do you see Status reaching mainstream adoption?
We see Status as a catalyst for the wide-scale adoption of Ethereum and feel our team’s background in software distribution will help us reach this goal. This hinges not only off of Status but also upon further development of the ÐApp ecosystem, underlying protocols and service layers, along with the scalability of the network in general.
It's worth noting that a mass-market product does require a slightly different direction in terms of development. While there is a growing interest in applications that provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, (and these people will likely be the next market segment beyond the community), the reality is the majority of people simply are unaware of the differences, and the advantages of using P2P and Blockchain technologies.
That said, as the ÐApp ecosystem matures, the value Status provides will continue to increase - allowing us to target larger sub-sections of the market accordingly. Future releases of Status will be more user-friendly and easier to use for the average smartphone user.
With some help from the community, Status will eventually reach a point where users can interface with a full suite of financial tools, and social smart contracts.
To learn more about Status, visit their website.