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Put Gmail in the Ground

March 30, 2022

According to Statista, more than 300 billion emails were sent every single day last year.

The Problem

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Email is great. It lets us communicate with almost anyone in the world. But, there are two key problems with it.

Problem 1: Spam. I would love the data behind what percentage of emails sent in a day are spam. I'd guess over 100 billion. The problem is that there is literally no cost to sending an email, so spammers can send emails literally by the million and still be profitable.

Problem 2: Centralization. You need to have all your private correspondences stored on Google's servers, combed through by their robots, and vulnerable to attack. You also are completely on your own when it comes to switching providers. Have you ever tried switching email hosts? Even if you're using a custom domain it is very hard. You need to change your DNS, you need to setup email forwarding, and you probably still will never get access to all of the old emails that you received on the old host. Plus, if they ever decide to increase your rates, there is nothing you can do.

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The Solution

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On the Ethereum blockchain, you can send $0 transactions with a message attached. So, your existing ETH wallet can actually be used very much like a mail server.

The business ideas is a web app that acts as a mail client overlaid on messages received by your ETH wallet. Here's how it would work from a technical perspective.

1. You connect to our mail platform using your ETH wallet.
2. We publish a public encryption key on your wallet.
3. We give you your secret encryption key.
4. When you want to send someone an email, you use our platform and click compose just like normal. Then you write out your email.
5. We look at their wallet, encrypt the message with their public encryption key, and send a transaction from your wallet to theirs with the message.
6. When you receive an encrypted message, we use your secret key to automatically decrypt it and display it to you just like a regular email service.

From a customer perspective, the experience is almost identical to Gmail or any other provider. However, you own all of your data, since it's stored in your ETH transaction history.

How this solves the problems:

1. Spam: Spammers are able to exist because sending emails is really cheap. If they need to pay a gas fee every single time that they send an email, they would not be able to do it profitably. So, by sending every message on a transactional chain, you will eliminate most spammers.

2. Centralization: By the very nature of this solution, your messages would be decentralized. They'd be stored on the blockchain, and never on our servers. If you want to switch to a different provider? Just connect to them using your wallet and secret key and all of your messages would be right there waiting for you. No need to switch DNS records, do anything technical, or even talk to anyone. Your messages are never stored on anyone's server, so you don't need to worry about your private information being stolen. And if the provider does violate your trust, it's very easy to switch.

Some problems with this business:

1. Monetization: Monetization is hard in decentralized marketplaces. By reducing the switching cost so drastically, you increase the rate at which competition drives prices down to equilibrium (0 economic profit) levels. You can obviously charge for having the nicest user experience, but you can't hold their data hostage. But that's probably a good thing.

2. Privacy: With this, all of your messages, regardless of the level of encryption, will be publicly available to anyone who wants to look. And they will be able to see with whom you correspond by looking at the transacting wallets. So without proper encryption there could be issues with prying eyes.

3. Gas costs: The reason that spammers won't be able to infiltrate this is that every message will require a gas fee to be sent. This might not necessarily be a problem, but it will mean that people are a lot more choosy with their messages. This will probably decrease over time, but right now it's still a very real problem.