Project Review—Utopia

A little while back, 1984 Group asked me to review their beta version of Utopia, a new blockchain-based communication platform. Of course I said yes.

After fooling around with it for a bit, mining some tokens and thinking about how this project fits into the cryptosphere, I decided to share my thoughts about it.

(TL;DR—could be huge, like AOL in 1990, but may try to do too much.)

Integrated private everything

At its heart, Utopia is a peer-to-peer everything network.

It combines all your communications into one private interface. Think about it like Slack, Instagram, Discord, Outlook, Chrome, Gmail, and Snapchat rolled into one—except totally private and secure.

You also have panels for games, payments, invoices, voice messages, and file storage. And all the other benefits of a decentralized platform—anti-censorship, private key, no points of failure, no honey-pot databases for hackers to target.

Very interesting.

Also, Utopia comes with an out-of-the-box miner, meaning you do not have to configure your own or buy extra equipment. You earn “Crypton” tokens for lending your computer power to the network.

It has some other interesting features:

  • GPS-enabled channel finder that you could develop into a sort of meet-up or tinder service. Really anything that relies on geolocation. More on that later.
  • Mining bots to boost your rewards.
  • uVouchers, gift cards, and invoices for running a business.
  • Web hosting (create and manage websites within the system).

Work in progress

Utopia’s team has not yet built out some parts of the platform and most features are still in beta. It also uses a beta interface that looks like something out of a 1995 PC. As a result, I can’t tell you how the public version will look or act like.

Here’s the interface I tested:

Screenshot of the Utopia beta interface.

You can see other screenshots on its Visual Overview website.

Let’s assume it all works once Utopia comes out of beta. Right now, they aim for November 18, 2019 release, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them postpone it.

One platform to replace them all?

Is Utopia ambitious?

Absolutely.

If successful, Utopia could integrate pretty much every dApp into its ecosystem. This would result in the decentralized web many people envision for cryptocurrency.

Is that realistic?

Maybe. Let’s compare Utopia with AOL.

AOL combined web brower, email, bulletin boards, and instant messages into one service. Simply install the CD and you’re ready to roll.

By packaging the most important features into a single platform, AOL made the internet easy for everybody.

It didn’t fulfill a grand vision. It simply solved a problem: the internet in 1991 was very hard to use.

While many platforms do what Utopia does, I haven’t seen any that do it all at once. By combining communications, commerce, and web into a single, decentralized platform, it solves a problem with blockchain.

With Utopia, one download solves that problem with blockchain: when you use dApps, you need to switch from one blockchain to another, sometimes one system to another.

In solving this problem, Utopia could unlock the potential of blockchain technology—like AOL did for the internet.

Utopia’s interface even reminded me of AOL. Remember this?

AOL circa 2000, courtesy of LJWorld.

It’s an old AOL interface from around 2000.

I have some questions for the Utopia team:

  • How do they plan to use GPS if the user’s physical location is supposed to be anonymous? Will this increase the risk of doxing yourself?
  • Can they make the platform good enough to compete with traditional communications platforms that facilitate payments? Like Uber, WeChat, etc.
  • If not, will the “decentralized” benefits matter to enough people that they’ll switch?
  • Can they make the platform portable? Will people use it without a mobile version?
  • How do we know they’re not a Russian criminal syndicate?

All or nothing

I commend Utopia’s team for addressing two gaps in the cryptocurrency landscape.

  1. Nothing’s integrated. To get all the benefits of blockchain, you need to switch from one platform to another. Also, dApps native to one blockchain don’t work on another blockchain.
  2. Once somebody connects your real-world activity to your activity on the blockchain, you lose anonymity. You dox yourself. You could switch to a privacy coin like Monero, but your communications will still run separate from the transaction—meaning you will never have true privacy.

Utopia’s team knows it need to spend a lot of time developing the U/X and dumbing down the instructions.

The team may also want to hire some good English copywriters. I had a hard time reading its website and beta instructions.

Also, Utopia has lots of competition for the d-Web.

Steemit, for instance, already created a decentralized web interface. Telegram plans to release a cryptocurrency. EOS is doing everything. STORJ can handle a lot of the work Utopia’s doing. Further development on Ethereum could make Utopia obsolete.

Pretty much every blockchain platform has the capacity to develop everything Utopia has to offer.

Will they? We shall see.

For now, Utopia is a great first step in a very competitive field.

(Unless its team is a Russian criminal syndicate.)

I am continually amazed at all the activity going on with cryptocurrency. Brilliant minds and hard workers continue pushing the limits of technology.

You can count Utopia among them.

Learn more and see for yourself. Join the beta.

Mark Helfman is a top writer on Medium and Quora for cryptocurrency, finance, and bitcoin topics. His book, Consensusland, explores the social, cultural, and business challenges of a fictional country that runs on cryptocurrency. In a past life, he worked for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.