Here's a heartwarming story involving the often murky world of initial coin offerings (ICOs). Status, a decentralised messaging app which last year tokenised to the tune of about $100m, has sunk $5m into non-blockchain decentralisation technology Matrix.
It's worth mentioning that Status went to some lengths to try and ensure smaller investors and blockchain developers got access to their token sale.
The support shown to Matrix demonstrates the mentality of Web 3.0 builders generally: they're not in competition with each other because the common goal is challenging massive institutions of centralisation.
Carl Bennetts, a co-founder of Status, said: "I think a big part of this movement is all about open source software. So if we are building a tool that's aimed at bringing decentralised communications to the masses and Matrix protocol is working on something somewhat similar, it makes complete sense for us to be able to support them.
"I think Matthew (Hodgson) and Amandine (Le Pape; the co-founders) have built a really strong team and they are building a pretty interesting product. I feel quite lucky that we are in a position that we can help foster this decentralised ecosystem," he said.
Matrix, which has bases in London and the French technology hub of Rennes, has an interesting back story. The London part was doing old-school telecoms and video over IP stuff back in 2005 and worked with likes of Big Brother and the Beeb. The French side was doing mobile OS stuff pre-iPhone and Android. Both were acquired by Israeli giant Amdocs, and what followed was a profitable but "soul destroying" business of supplying centralized, proprietary messaging apps to telcos.
By this time the team had realised the only way to ever provide an alternative to monopolies like Facebook or Google is by a complete step-change in technology. They were allowed to hive off into a non-profit, decentralisation technology builder within Amdocs – and Matrix was born. The team since spun out of Amdocs to form an independent startup to support Matrix called New Vector in July 2017.
Matrix co-founder Matthew Hodgson said his team has probably got further ahead than most others in the decentralised communications space. "We have always been laser focused on communication: whether that is instant messaging, group chat, voice or video calling, or sharing data over IoT devices, or even within VR.
"Typically it's all very low latency, real time stuff. We never got sucked into more sophisticated ledger consensus systems like blockchain or any other Byzantine, quorum protocols out there. Matrix has always had pragmatism as one of our main tenets. We weren't in this to build sexy technology for the sake of innovation. It's really about trying to keep it as simple as possible."
Matrix is modelled to be a kind of real-time version of Usenet, the large network of news groups from back in the day, where conversations get replicated over all of the servers in a group.
"Matrix is an unashamedly inspired in part by Usenet," said Hodgson. "When I was at Cambridge I wrote a Usenet archiving system, back before Google took it over."
Matrix uses cryptography and a Merkle Tree to assert the integrity of the conversations and to stop people spoofing or lying or rewriting history. Hodgson said it employs a simple form of consensus which is all you need for conversations, "because in practice it doesn't matter if we talk over the top of one another, but obviously that's a problem for financial transactions.
"What is important is if I kick you from a room then you should stop talking in that room immediately. So we do a consensus algorithm which is optimised for these kinds of problems and solutions."
The system's simplicity is also obvious on the client side, where Matrix uses a standard HTTP API that allows clients to send and receive messages with a Matrix server, so very familiar to any web developer out there.
"They don't need to understand any blockchain voodoo," said Hodgson. "They can treat it almost like any random web APIs they have been using for last 10 years."
However, there are some areas in which Matrix's developers can be said to experience token envy. But it's got nothing to do with all the millions being swiped off the table by ICO merchants.
"The idea that they have tokens built in and the ability to reward people for keeping data around at the fringes of the network, is an interesting one," said Hodgson.
"It's certainly something we have been a bit envious of. Tokens can also be very useful as a way to secure the network. We are up at about four million users right now; there are spammers, trolls and god knows what else on the network. One really obvious way to combat spam is if you require people to spend some money before they talk to strangers.
"That's something you get for free with Ethereum or IPFS/Filecoin, whereas it's missing on our side. So that's an instance where we are looking to plug into some payment systems.
"Again, from a pragmatic perspective, you have one protocol, Matrix, which is optimised for communications, and you've got another protocol, Ethereum, which is pretty good for transferring value around the place. Plus it's got an extensible scripting language, and we go and plug the two of them together and get the best of both worlds, rather than us trying to convert Matrix into being a blockchain."