It’s about security.
Graphite is a decentralized application. It is also a security-focused application. The former drives the latter, but the latter is the feature. What I mean is that decentralization itself is not a feature. It’s not the thing that will cause users and businesses to start using your application.
I was fortunate enough to figure this out early on. I think Blockstack, the underlying protocol that helps drive Graphite, understands this concept as well. They’re built for it. Yet, so many other decentralized applications throw on “decentralized” as if it were the feature that was going to drive mass adoption.
We could go through all the examples of apps that are not building the momentum they need to survive because they are selling decentralization and nothing else. But it’s more important, in my opinion, to focus on what the value-adds need to be to drive the adoption of decentralized apps. Every app is different, but we’ll use Graphite as a baseline example.
With Graphite, the entire goal was data ownership. In fact, the app was never supposed to be public. It was just supposed to be a writing app that allowed me to own my writing. So value-add number one was data ownership.
Data ownership, you might argue, is inherently tied to decentralization. But is it? On IPFS, if you don’t encrypt the data, you don’t actually own your data. Why? Because IPFS is immutable and all data stored in the network is owned by all of the peers that host it. You cannot remove the content you previously posted because you don’t actually own that content. I’d argue the same is true of any blockchain ledger. With Graphite, you choose your own cloud storage provider (or choose many) and store your data on the traditional cloud infrastructure. This gives you ownership over your data because you have access controls and revocation options.
Now, that alone is probably not enough to set Graphite apart. Unhosted applications have been around for a while now. These apps are simply apps that allow a user to host their own backend and serve up content through APIs. So, Graphite’s second value-add was collaboration. This is a feature necessary for productivity apps, but it may not apply to all decentralized apps. Yet, in the decentralized web space at the time, there were few, if any, collaborative apps. Graphite introduced basic collaboration (think: sending a file via email, waiting for someone to edit the file, then waiting for them to send it back via email). After that came real-time collaboration. This propelled Graphite into primetime. It gave the app its killer feature. It’s so exciting, in fact, that you should read the full story on it here.
Like any application, Graphite didn’t just stop with a couple features that add value to end-users. The third value-add was security. There are plenty of decentralized apps that don’t (and probably don’t need to) secure your data. Social apps are totally public, so your data is out there in the open for everyone to see. But, when you’re trying to get work done (whether personally or for your job), you don’t need your data exposed to the public. You don’t need it exposed to anyone but you and your team. So, Graphite introduced encrypted files from the start and encrypted collaboration early on. In fact, Graphite was the first decentralized app to enable encrypted collaboration on Blockstack’s protocol. Every user owns their own encryption keys and data is stored in their storage hub. So, each user gets a level of security generally only available to the biggest enterprise apps in the world.
This leads me into the last value-add I’ll touch on here. Ownership of keys. While many apps, decentralized or not, promise security. Not all of them provide users with true ownership over their encryption keys. Graphite does. When you create an account, you are creating a master key that you own (this is why it’s so important for you to store your secret key/master passphrase somewhere safe). Behind the scenes, additional keys are derived from your master key and are used to encrypt your data. I believe that if you don’t own your encryption keys, you don’t own your data.
You’ll notice that these value-adds may have been made possible via decentralization, but decentralization itself is not one of the value-adds. Your users might care about decentralization, but do they care enough to use your app? Do they care enough to pay you for your app? When building for Web 3.0, it’s important to build for your users, not just for the technology.
If you’re ready to make the move to Graphite, it’s ready for you. Take it for a spin today.