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    Houseparty’s founder launches Cities, an open supply group chat internet app and protocol

    Latest News

    After launching a pair of well-loved however finally star-crossed social apps, Ben Rubin goes all-in on decentralization.

    Rubin beforehand based Meerkat and Houseparty — apps that pioneered cellular livestreaming and group video chat, respectively — shaping large social traits of their earliest phases. After engaged on Slashtalk, an “anti-meeting software” for the office, Rubin is now again to engaged on shopper apps, albeit in a roundabout manner.

    Lately, Rubin’s imaginative and prescient for social media bears little resemblance with the colourful, user-friendly apps he’s identified for popularizing. He’s clearly internalized the teachings of Meerkat’s unlucky demise and Houseparty’s untimely pre-pandemic death-by-acquisition through Epic Video games. Rubin is one thing of a Web3 true believer now, completely happy to climate the frenzied speculative funding cycles and Sam Bankman-Frieds whereas holding out hope that the underlying applied sciences can nonetheless unlock a greater future for some points of the net.

    Rubin is at the moment working Right here Not There Labs — “a staff of web3 creators dropping tasks as we go.” Brian Meek, a longtime former Microsoft worker who labored on Skype’s cellular app, serves as the corporate’s co-founder and CTO.

    Their new challenge is Cities, a protocol and a web-based chat app designed to facilitate self-owned, self-governed on-line communities. As a result of web3, there’s additionally a crypto element, so Cities will possible initially enchantment far more to lovers in that group than the common app store-goer like his previous tasks.

    Out of the gate, Right here Not There Labs has picked up a $25.5 million Sequence A spherical from a16z Crypto, which joins its current backers Benchmark and Framework Ventures. It’s additionally picked up the Cities.com area (for the low, low worth of a pair hundred thousand {dollars}), a degree of delight for Rubin and a mark of his plans for a protracted sport.

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    “This isn’t only a crypto challenge — this can be a new mind-set about social networking as a community that’s owned and operated by its constituents,” Rubin informed starcrypto. “And I believe that’s very thrilling to me, particularly coming from the expertise I had with Meerkat after which Houseparty, the place a variety of us didn’t need to promote… However we didn’t govern our personal product at [that] level and that’s a product that acquired to 150 million customers.”

    The Cities protocol will supply customers an Ethereum-based sensible contracts system (assume miniature applications that stay on and are executed by the blockchain) and end-to-end encrypted chat. Right here Not There Labs says Cities’ sensible contracts which might be “extensible, composable, and upgradeable” and can finally empower communities to draft their very own guidelines for who will get to take part, what’s allowed and the way and in the event that they’ll monetize. The Cities backend will run on a comparatively centralized proof-of-authority algorithm initially whereas the staff builds out the protocol and can then transfer to a proof-of-stake system à la Ethereum 2.0 in time.

    Towns web app interface

    If the interface seems to be acquainted, it’s not simply you. Picture Credit: Cities

    For customers much less within the wonkier crypto points however nonetheless intrigued by the promise of decentralization, Cities can even manifest as a set of apps, beginning with an invite-only alpha internet app that’s stay right now. As the corporate explains it, “The Cities app takes all of the technical issues the protocol implements and makes them obtainable in an open-source, end-to-end encrypted pleasant chat expertise” — an expertise extra interesting for customers whose eyes glaze over on the point out of NFTs and DAOs.

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    A broader beta launch that can let anybody create their very own group with the protocol is slated for September with a cellular internet app on the best way within the coming months and native apps thereafter. Down the street, Rubin expects there to be many user-created Cities apps constructed utilizing the challenge’s protocol.

    For now, the earliest customers must log in to city with their crypto pockets — a touchdown web page that your common non-crypto individual is more likely to discover complicated at finest — however Cities plans so as to add help for Passkeys, Apple’s next-generation login expertise.

    Cities needs communities to “actually personal their city squares,” although notably the challenge plans to take a lower of the crypto that will get traded round in these communities to maintain itself. These specifics shall be ironed out because the governance construction will get arrange, in line with Rubin. Right here Not There Labs says it should solely run the present to start with and decentralize over time, handing the reins over to a Cities-specific DAO (decentralized autonomous group) that can oversee its governance and make selections.

    “It’s form of humorous, there’s one one that’s controlling one platform that everyone makes use of, which is Fb, after which now there’s one other one that’s controlling the opposite platform that everyone makes use of, which is Twitter,” Rubin mentioned, noting his unease with consolidation in different industries, like Nestlé’s huge bottled water play in North America.

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    The consumer expertise of the Cities internet app bears a hanging resemblance to Discord and it appears apparent that the challenge plans to lure disenchanted members of that extra conventional chat app’s crypto group. Cities could be impressed by Discord’s design and utility, however when you ask Rubin, Discord isn’t a group mannequin that ought to encourage its customers. “They lease — they’ve a landlord referred to as Discord they usually lease from them,” he mentioned.

    What’s much less clear is that if Cities might have extra mainstream enchantment to the type of people that’ve grown uncomfortable with Twitter’s Elon Musk period and are prepared to decamp for decentralized however nonetheless fairly user-friendly social areas like Mastodon. Mastodon takes extra after Twitter — Cities could be very a lot a chat software — however the ethos is analogous, even when the emphasis on crypto isn’t shared.

    Because the challenge continues to be in its early days and does have a heavy crypto tie-in, Cities appears designed to enchantment strongly to Rubin’s fellow web3 true believers for now. If that can change in time stays to be seen, however there’s actually a rising urge for food for on-line social experiences that aren’t topic to the whims of the mercurial billionaire du jour.

    “I believe there’s one thing actually thrilling about securing that the flexibility of people to coordinate and collaborate,” Rubin mentioned. “The concept that it’s censorship-resistant, that it’s encrypted and is owned and operated by the customers.”

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