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Mercury Protocol - Communication Platforms Built with Ethereum

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Frequently Asked Questions

Mercury Protocol

What is the Mercury Protocol?


The Mercury Protocol is a decentralized, transparent, and soon-to-be open-source protocol built on the Ethereum blockchain. It allows applications to integrate Global Messaging Tokens (GMT) as a way to measure and reward user participation within communication platforms, and facilitates a trustless mechanism to exchange GMT tokens. The protocol will be used to implement tokens that reward the timeliness, quality, and reach of communications, among other valuable metrics. 

The first application to implement this protocol is Dust, soon to be followed by Broadcast. For more details, check out the whitepaper.


What problem does the Mercury Protocol solve?


Blockchain technology enables us to shift from privatized silos of applications and data to a public, decentralized and trustless digital community. Dust aims to use blockchain technology to replace the current industry standard of messaging that uses a centralized advertising based model that extorts user data for profit, to one that trustlessly incentivizes users for their participation and attention within the platform. The Mercury Protocol and the GMT token is how Dust plans to achieve this.

We believe that if implemented correctly, tokens can solve any number of problems with communication platforms, including online harassment and trolling. There are countless potential implementations for a token system within messaging applications (e.g. rewards for watching ads, fines for abusive behavior, etc.), but the commonality between all of them is that tokens are designed to provide a secure, measurable way to encourage positive behavior and discourage destructive behavior within a decentralized ecosystem of any size. 

Additionally, the protocol will enable decentralized and platform agnostic communication. This means it becomes possible to send communications from one Mercury Protocol integrated platform to another, thus expanding the ecosystem to include all users across all Mercury Protocol integrated platforms, as opposed to a single platform’s users. 

We intend for this protocol to enable a token ecosystem that is completely scalable within communication platforms of any size, and one that continues to increase in utility for every new platform that comes on-board.


How is the Mercury Protocol different from centralized token systems like those found in WeChat or other messaging apps?

  • The Mercury Protocol is decentralized and trustless. Token-like mechanisms within WeChat and other applications are centralized and proprietary systems that are not transferable across communications platforms. Mercury Protocol, on the other hand, provides utility across every messaging application that adopts it.
  • Unlike centralized alternatives, the Mercury Protocol will be open-source and free for any application to use to build user-facing messaging applications on top of the protocol.
  • The token system built on the Mercury Protocol benefits from network effects -- if a new platform accepts a token already integrated into other platforms all of them will benefit from the expanding user base.

What prevents someone from forking the Mercury Protocol?


We realize that similar to the Ethereum and Bitcoin open-source protocols, the Mercury Protocol is also subject to the risk of being forked. However, we think this risk is mitigated for a few reasons: 

1) Users will have no incentive to switch over to a clone network if the original one has strong network effects. In other words, if the Mercury Protocol becomes widely adopted, then the utility it serves within the communication applications will continue to grow with each new feature that gets implemented in the protocol and each new application that integrates with the protocol.

2) If the application developers or end-users perceive an inequality in the Mercury Protocol implementation, it could provide an incentive to fork the original protocol’s codebase in order to eliminate that inequality. We hope to prevent this type of event from occurring by maintaining strong ties with the external community, including application developers, protocol developers, content consumers (i.e. end-users), content creators, service providers and other key influencers within the ecosystem, and ensuring that only the most valuable and useful features get integrated into the Mercury Protocol.

3) In the future, we will utilize a decentralized governance solution where anyone who has stake in the system can vote on and influence decisions made within the protocol.

Overall, the highest risk for a fork is when the network is still nascent, before strong network effects have built up. However, this is an inescapable risk that exists for any decentralized and open platform. If we can garner a decentralized governance approach that aligns the incentives of all the parties in the ecosystem, we believe the risk of such a fork is reduced.


How will decentralized governance work?


Decentralized governance on blockchain technology is an ongoing area of research and experimentation within the Ethereum community. We are making a deliberate effort to carefully and thoroughly think through our implementation of decentralized governance policy for the Mercury Protocol. Ultimately the solution will maximize the benefits provided to all parties in the ecosystem, including application developers, protocol developers, content consumers, content creators (i.e. end-users), and service providers, while also maximizing the protocol’s ability to innovate and improve. Once the governance structure is formalized, we will release a whitepaper and/or blog post that provides detailed specifications. Please subscribe to our email list here to stay up to date.


When will the Mercury Protocol be open-source?


We will be deploying an alpha version of the Mercury Protocol onto our private test network prior to the token launch. After we perform security audits and quality assurance testing, we will update Dust and release Broadcast with GMT integrated features built on the protocol. We will launch version 1.0.0 of the Mercury Protocol onto the main Ethereum blockchain and open-source the codebase in early Q1 2018.

Explain how the Mercury Protocol works

Specifications for the Mercury Protocol are currently under development. We will release a whitepaper that thoroughly describes the technical architecture underlying the protocol, the various features and functionality it enables, and instructions on how to integrate it within an application. Please subscribe to our email list here to receive updates.


What is the development roadmap and timeline for the Mercury Protocol?


Please check out the roadmap here


Global Messaging Token (GMT)

What is a token?


Broadly speaking, a token is a custom digital asset that is built on top of a blockchain technology. The token can be owned by anyone and be transferred to someone else if there exists a digital currency exchange that lists the token on its platform. A token can represent any digital asset, such as paid credits, IOUs, points within a gaming application, property rights, and so on. Overall, tokens are valuable because the blockchain provides a mechanism for creating and using a digital asset that is immutable, decentralized, and impossible to counterfeit.


What is GMT?


Global Messaging Token (GMT) is an ERC20 standard token built on top of Ethereum. GMT is designed for various utilities in messaging apps. Dust is the first application to use this token, followed by Broadcast. For further information on the token, please refer to our whitepaper.


Why not just use Ether or another existing cryptocurrency?


Primarily, the native units of exchange on any given blockchain network (Bitcoin, Ether, etc.) are not intended to be valued for communication related activity. They are designed to be used as the metric of participation in the blockchain network. If a communication platform were to implement Bitcoin or Ether as the primary metric of communication participation, it is possible for the value of the cryptocurrency to fluctuate for a reason unrelated to the platform. This inconsistency makes it difficult to accurately reward a user for participating in the communication platform. If a user spends one Bitcoin to send a premium message to a friend, for example, and the price of Bitcoin skyrockets for an unrelated reason, that user arguably just lost that increase in value because of market instability. 

That’s where the blockchain-based token comes in. By disassociating from the blockchain parent network and implementing the token specifically as incentive for communication platform participation, it creates a more stable token value as determined only by the behaviors of the token’s network. In the above example, if a user were to spend one token to send a premium message to a friend, and the price of Bitcoin were to skyrocket, it would have no bearing on the value of the token or the cost of the premium service. This stability makes it possible to properly calibrate the token cost of a platform's premium services, and consistently promote positive network behavior while discouraging negative ones.


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