Status is self-described as a tool that “brings the power of Ethereum into your pocket by combining a messenger, crypto-wallet, and Web3 browser”. Not only is there so much packed into its functionality, but there’s also a deeper purpose behind why Status was founded — it’s on a mission to protect individuals’ privacy, combat mass surveillance and violations of trust, and bring a new sense of accessibility to decentralized communication systems.
Kicking off our team’s Cryptonatives interview series, Jarrad provided a fantastic overview of his personal take on some of the real-world use cases mentioned above — and much more. Let’s dive in.
PWN: What do you think defines a cryptonative?
JH: One of the most important things to understand about crypto is that it's fundamentally a political act. I think of Albert Hirschman's ultimatum called Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. It introduces three choices related to one’s relationship with the state: Exiting (which, in practical terms, means traveling to another country), using one’s voice (protesting), and staying loyal to the existing system. For me, crypto is really about a peaceful way of opting out of these existing systems.
Another way to view the concept of being a cryptonative is when you live out your entire daily life within crypto systems. This could mean having a vision of a future in which you don't need to rely on a bank account or an intermediary or a central bank digital currency; instead, you can just use your crypto wallet connect to these networks without any intermediaries and pay for anything from your coffee to your living expenses or house.
PWN: Status uses the Waku protocol for peer-to-peer (P2P) communication. Do you have goals to further engage with P2P going forward?
JH: Oh, definitely. Waku is a protocol that we design, specify, and create in multiple implementations and different languages. It originally came from a 2014 vision of Ethereum in which Ethereum wasn’t just the blockchain — it also included Whisper, which is a P2P communications protocol, and Swarm, which is decentralized file storage. Our idea is to have the “Holy Trinity” of protocols that allows us to create decentralized applications that are truly unstoppable and immutable.
We’re now seeing more and more developers using Waku (a good example is Swarm City) as well as several Layer 2 systems that are now implementing it. So yeah, we're seeing a lot of interest in that protocol.
PWN: How are you personally using Status? Which portions or features of the network are you most proud of?
JH: I use our messenger as my primary instant messenger and Status Wallet on a daily basis. I also like the convenience of using our Keycard, which is a hardware wallet that you can keep in your regular wallet. Any communications that I really care about being private and not being easily detected by a passive adversary, I do through Status.
What I'm proud of the most is the fact that our team has managed to create a decentralized communication tool while balancing it with usability and user experience. This is actually very difficult because decentralized projects are fundamentally different to the way that centralized projects work. I think that we've done a really good job achieving a user experience that is familiar to a user who might not be completely aware of how it works behind the scenes.
PWN: One of Status’ company principles is censorship resistance. As we look further into 2022 and beyond, how do you see the issue of censorship evolving?
JH: Censorship resistance is so important because it’s one of the fundamental organizing principles of Western society. To pursue truth or even just have a functioning democracy, people need to have the capacity to think, and any incursion into this ability (such as censorship) is actually shaping people's minds. This is because as soon as you become aware that you're living in a digital panopticon, you begin to modify not only your behaviors but also how you think.
In today’s world, certain topics are completely taboo or banned. We’re seeing a rise of “Ministries of Truth” which are straight out of 1984. We’re also seeing governments put more and more pressure on censoring content on social media platforms.
Another recent development is the newest version of the EU’s chat control. It’s currently being decided whether this plan will become mandatory, and while I think these kinds of tools are generally well-intentioned, they often get misused almost immediately.
So we're living in a very tenuous time. Fighting against censorship and doing what's morally right is the only way that we're going to be able to survive and have a civilization that's worth living in.
PWN: The security of messaging apps has become an increasingly prominent issue during the past few years. Through the inception and growth of Status, how has your relationship changed with online security and privacy?
JH: I’ve always admired liberal Western democracies and the freedom and openness associated with these societies. During the past handful of years, though, there have been some things that I’ve seen on the horizon that made me concerned. When starting Status, I felt that providing a private communications tool had become especially important with the rise of intelligence agencies and mass surveillance. It’s more relevant than ever, since what was historically very expensive for governments to do has now become the complete inverse — it’s now possible (and incredibly cheap) for individuals to basically monitor millions of people.
Regarding traditional messaging apps, anytime you give your phone number up to one of these applications, what you're actually doing is you're creating a social graph on the application’s server. That becomes a very valuable data source to potentially sell. Even if you have a secure messenger, you still have a massive issue if your hardware platform is insecure.
To protect my own online security, I've moved to Qubes, which is a more secure operating system. I don't really interact with most social media websites anymore, or certainly not through their predominant interfaces.
In an effort to boost our users’ security and privacy, we’re currently working on a project named Fluffy, which is an ultra-light client that allows Status, for example, to access networks without having to trust anyone and without having to synchronize the whole blockchain.
PWN: What’s an industry initiative or concept that you’re personally excited about right now? How does it tie to the future of Status?
JH: I’m excited about building up a concept called a network state and the technology to make it a reality. Network states are zones that nation states will create in order to test out new economic ideas, particularly with the goal of increasing the population’s tax base.
Network states excite me because they’re a pathway for individuals to be able to enforce their own property and privacy rights. They can do this through trustless transactions and trustless communication, which becomes really interesting when you start thinking about consent.
My future vision is to find a destination (or island resort) to actually build out a cryptonative, autonomous community that uses crypto to support and implement public administration. If you can create these decentralized trustless institutions and a national currency for them that’s backed up globally, then individuals can coordinate at a larger social scale and actually build their civilization. This is a very compelling idea to me.
PWN’s Cryptonatives is an interview series with some of the brightest minds within the Web3 and DeFi space who are building and making active use of the services that today’s crypto ecosystem has to offer. Through shedding light on their experiences and lessons learned throughout their careers, it’s our team’s goal to educate the masses and further spread our guests’ wealth of knowledge.
Have someone that you’d love to see featured in the series? Reach out to us on Discord and let us know.