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Introducing Mask Network (Maskbook) — the future of the Internet

In short, we want to bridge the New, Open Internet right on top of the current one.

TL;DR🗞️

Mask Network (originally named Maskbook) is a portal that allows users to seamlessly send encrypted messages, cryptocurrencies, and even DApps (Defi, NFTs, DAO) over the top of social networks without migrating, and thereby creating a decentralized Applet(DApplet) ecosystem. In short, we want to bridge the New, Open Internet right on top of the current one.

An Overview 🔍

Instead of creating a new platform, Mask Network aims to bridge Web2 (the current web) and so-called Web3, to empower the general public to use the better web within the current mainstream platforms, without using any API or centralized server.

Our Vision 🚩

People live on the Internet. The current version of the internet consists of big techs after big techs where people essentially have to give up control of their own autonomy and cannot even get a breathing room in between the platforms. Many want to overthrow them by starting new ones.

We don’t — We want to create something above them. Cryptography and Web 3 technology (including blockchain, decentralized storage, and peer to peer networks, etc) is enabling us to pull off the job.

The historical reference is the Operating system vs Web browser. Microsoft Windows used to be the ‘evil’ dominant player, taking over 90% of the OS market share. But the Internet (more specifically, Web) changes everything. Everyone still uses operating systems, but the pie has been significantly diluted by the Internet. The web browser is built inside the operating system and sucks in most of the operating system usage gradually and effectively — became the operating system. Microsoft had to preinstall IE to fight back against Netscape — finally leading to DOJ’s action against Microsoft.

Now onto the social networks. Some 90% of the global Internet users are social network users. Social networks have become the infrastructure that few can bypass. Directly competing against those giants seems infeasible. What if we can create something over-the-top of them that people want? Lots of problems have arisen in social networks. They can barely do cross border payments, no space to permanently store files, no real secure encryption. They monetize based on our data and labor and we have little bargain power to stop that.

Is there something that can fix all those problems? The rise of peer to peer networks, blockchain, decentralized storage, collectively denominated as Web 3, are giving us a silver lining. We want to piece them together and give ordinary users a whole new Internet inside the existing one.

What Have We Done and How Has it Been Received

Mask Network has been up and running for almost a year. In the earliest version back in July 2019. The basic function it provides is sending and receiving encrypted posts (tweets/fb posts) with access control. This is achieved without having a centralized server. We also kept UI consistency with platforms to reduce on-boarding costs.

Text is a form of information, if you can send a text through the dialogue box, then you can send other things too, picture, code, contracts, apps, etc. So in the next major version released in February 2020, we enabled payment. Specifically, we launched the Lunar New Year Red Packet campaign with MakderDAO and Vitalik Buterin also sent his 1st ETH give-away red packets using Mask Network. We were able to add 2000+ active non-bot Dai holders in a matter of 3 days(10% of non-bot DAI holders back in Feb!). With the payment enabled, we launched a feature that makes it simple to send crypto via Gitcoin Grants to Ethereum-based startups and support crypto for black lives. See the decrypt article for details.

On the entry point front, Mask Network has multiple versions to fit into different parts of the web ecosystem. We have a first-party Chrome/Firefox extension, first-party Android & iOS app. We are also looking for third party social network clients to integrate Mask Network and help existing users enter the new internet. We were thrilled to see that we were warmly welcomed by the users of Twidere, the largest 3rd party application of Twitter/Mastodon with more than half-million installations as one of our major third-party client partners. We also maintained Mstdn.jp and Mastodon.cloud, the 3rd & 5th largest Mastodon instance, with roughly 300k users and supporting the development of Federated social networks(Fediverse).

We have also received critical acclaim and have been selected as a member of ECMA/TC39 (one of the only 3 from the blockchain community), setting up standards of JavaScript and pushing the limit of the new Web alongside giants like Apple/Google, and alliances like MetaMask.

How are we going to grow it

The Infrastructure

The infrastructure itself is usable but far from complete. A few caveats that must be resolved before mainstream adoption of the DApplet ecosystem

1. ETH’s Sky-high gas fee and sluggish transaction.

2. Smart wallet to eliminate the private key hassle.

3. Fiat onramp to allow users to freely pay for crypto goods or financial apps. Different service providers have different coverages.

With the basic infrastructure ready, it becomes obvious that we can develop an ecosystem full of apps from the Web3 world. This resembles the Chrome web apps and WeChat mini-programs ecosystem a bit. Now, the two most significant categories of the web 3 apps are finance and e-commerce.

Personal Finance

Going along the payment line, we are tapping into the personal finance business and want to change how people manage their money. We are now launching the Twitter trading widget enabled by CMC and Uniswap. We will further introduce a full suite of Decentralized Finance apps to platforms like Facebook and Twitter to comprise a next-generation personal finance experience. Users will be able to send payments, trade tokens, borrow, follow best traders, participate in public offerings, issue personal tokens, bet on current events, and enjoy pro-grade portfolio analysis without leaving the social networks. Although there are still a lot of problems en route to mass adoption, we are solving them step by step.

The first version with a CMC price chart and Uniswap trading on Twitter is launching on Sept 24th. A second version with Initial Twitter Offering, yield aggregator, and portfolio analysis is also coming in 45 days.

E-commerce(NFT, subscribing, digital content)

The other major part of the new web is decentralized storage. Bringing decentralized payment and storage together, along with privacy control and anti-censorship factors could permanently change how multimedia content is distributed and E-commerce is conducted throughout the internet. The multimedia contents, artworks, which will likely be turned into NFTs, will be stored on the decentralized storage solutions. Right now Arweave has already given us some grants and the Arweave integration is live. You can send files to your friends via Twitter and Facebook. We are still working on payment + storage.

The primary focus on the E-commerce front could be unlocking multimedia contents or donating to projects/creators. Onlyfans, the largest platform for premium adult photos, took a commission of 10%, revenue was more than $100 million in 2019. However, on the whole, the market is strongly skewed towards top-tier producers and influencers. If we could solve the problem of anti-censorship and facilitate spread, it could bring new life to mid-tier content creators. Further, decentralization means no one could take the blame, essentially dodge the bullet from regulation. We remain neutral.

Recently Crypto art NFTs are gaining traction. Native NFT e-commerce platforms will gain recognition along with those NFT assets. We are also working on partnerships with major content providers.

How does it work

The major functions it provides behind the scene are encryption for information transmission and interpretation of information. Info transmission could include text, pictures, cryptocurrency, decentralized data storage, or even smart contracts, therefore it could create an entire DApplet ecosystem. Now let’s break it down.

Encryption

In Mask Network, each user can generate unlimited ‘personas’ and each persona represents a secp256k1 key pair. One can post their public key onto their social network profiles or create a public post containing the public key. Other users can retrieve this public key and create a pubkey-username mapping in their local Mask Network database.

The message encryption procedure involves this public key. Each post is encrypted by an AES256 key in GCM mode so only one unique cipher post can be posted onto the social network. Then this AES key will be encrypted asymmetrically with all the designated recipients using ECIES (Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme) with the post creator’s private key and all the recipients’ public keys. All the encrypted AES keys are synced to GunDB nodes. This procedure is completely end-to-end encrypted and decentralized(thanks to GunDB!). We don’t support perfect forward secrecy yet but we will upgrade to support that soon.

Interpretation

Each cipher message/post is injected into the social platforms user interface, along with all the Mask Network components. We inject all these components into the original UI to reduce the strangeness to the existing users.

Upon seeing a cipher post on both Twitter and Facebook, Mask Network will decode the message and detect if the user is among the list being able to decrypt the message. If so, Mask Network will query the GunDB to get the encrypted AES key and decrypt it with the user’s private key. Once done, the actual plain text will show up on the User Interface.

Further Tampering with the Web for Better User Experience

Mask Network is not just limited to be an encryption tool. What’s more important and inspiring is the ability to allow users to interact with the web more easily with fewer restrictions. Thanks to our Holoflows-kit, our ability to play with the web is beyond imagination. We have already integrated a blockchain wallet into Mask Network for blockchain-related features.

We have created a few “applets” in Mask Network the past year, including an Ethereum red packet, with which one can wrap any crypto tokens into an Eth smart contract and post this red packet in a Tweet so that users with Mask Network and the proper access can claim the red packet all in one click!

Another applet example is the Gitcoin grant funding. Mask Network will detect all the Tweets containing a gitcoin.co URL and inject a UI into that Tweet, where users can directly fund the grant mentioned in the Tweet within one click!

As for our latest trading widget, Mask Network would detect if there is a token symbol hashtag starting with the dollar sign($). If so, by hovering the mouse over the hashtag, one can see the market trending, exchanges that have the corresponding token, and even a Uniswap interface where one can directly trade with this token if it is on Ethereum. All these features are directly unlocked for all the Mask Network users with no extra installations.

We are still working on more applets to unlock more imaginations on our network to make users surf on the existing Internet with more joy and freedom.

End

We have come a long way to build this portal to bridge Web 2 and Web 3. Both the decentralized infrastructures and applications are leaping forward at a magnificent pace. It will soon be ripe for the general public to have a dose of the new, open Internet. We hope we can be a pivotal and unique part of the process.

Here we will wrap up this article with some words from the great pioneers and leaders. May we carry on their spirits and may the light shine upon the Cyberspace.

Two score and four years ago our pioneers brought forth on this space, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, on the Internet, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that governance of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Cyberspace.

Additional

The browser extension can already be obtained here.

Soon we are going to release a series of articles detailing the following subjects

  • Mask: Work under the hood
  • Mask Finance: change the way you manage your money
  • Mask E-commerce: build an e-commerce ecosystem inside social networks

Follow us on Twitter or join our chat groups on Telegram and Discord!

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The Portal to the New, Open Internet.

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