Minds Raises $ 10 Million for Decentralized, Encrypted Social Network and Messaging App
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Spirits, the crypto social network focused on encryption and privacy, has raised $ 10 million from tech freedom organization Futo.
Owned by Eron Wolf, founder of Yahoo Games and original investor in WhatsApp, Futo is dedicated to the technology and policies that put people back in control of computers. While other social networks use your data for advertising purposes, Minds targets user privacy and is based on open source technology.
Minds, based in New York City, is a crypto social network with an instant messaging chat app that allows people to communicate with each other in real time. It has grown to over 14 million since receiving a roundtable in October 2018.
“We focused entirely on creating an encrypted and decentralized open source alternative to traditional social networks. It has always shocked me that none of them are open source, ”said CEO and founder of Minds, Bill Ottman. “And it seems that there is a model emerging with the lack of transparency and oversight and the abuse of user freedoms. So from the start, I always considered it inevitable that an open source and decentralized social network would emerge, similar to how open source dominated operating systems with Linux.
He added, “Based on everything we see in cryptography, even if you look at Mozilla, open source will eat software the same way software eats everything. And so I thought we might as well do it. I mean, if something has to happen, I’ll try to do it.
The new funding round capitalizes on previous funding from Medici Ventures, the wholly owned blockchain subsidiary of Overstock.com that recently partnered with Pelion Ventures. The funds will be used to support the company’s mission of building the world’s largest crypto social network and putting control back in the hands of users.
Many users are drawn to its gaming features which motivate participation and reward users with the Ethereum-minted Minds token. The gamification of the social network has led it to become particularly popular in the gaming, crypto, and anime communities.
In April, the network made a series of improvements to the Mind Token – highlighted by Decentralized Finance (DeFi) integrations – to help bridge the gap between traditional social media and decentralized Web3 infrastructure and provide users have greater ownership over their digital identity and data.
Earlier this month, Minds also introduced Minds Chat, an end-to-end decentralized encrypted global communications application with secure video conferencing and file sharing.
Minds CEO Ottman said in an interview with GamesBeat that Minds gives users control through its free and open source software, decentralization, privacy, and synchronized economic incentives.
To take a position
Right now, digital rights, freedom of speech and privacy are at risk due to secrecy, censorship and big-tech surveillance, Ottman said.
Wolf was a longtime programmer who started Yahoo Games in 1997 and spent 18 years in Silicon Valley working at tech companies. He found that the incentives for entrepreneurs are “completely out of whack” when it comes to doing things that are good for the company. At Futo, he prefers to invest in “the little guy competing with the big guy”, and that’s one of the reasons he invested in Minds.
On top of that, he said, “I really trust Bill and what Bill is. It is about being transparent towards the user, not to abuse the user. One of the things that’s important to me is that he’s not colluding, like he’s competing with Facebook and Twitter.
Wolf said his past ventures made him wealthy and able to give back to society through social purpose technology. He believes Minds can help people escape the technological oligopoly. And he doesn’t want Minds to sell to any of the tech giants because that would likely result in users being “thrown under the bus.”
“Every time this happens, users end up with worse quality products and they are more abused,” Wolf said. “So at the end of the day I try to identify” entrepreneurs with more integrity.
He said he was not happy with the “destruction” caused by technology monopolies and sold-out entrepreneurs. The world needs more companies like Minds dedicated to independence, transparency, user sovereignty and free speech, he said.
“We cannot let the technological oligopoly control us through the devices in our pockets,” Wolf said. “It’s kind of where we’re headed, or implanted in our brains or whatever, you know, wherever it goes. The individual must have sovereignty over his technology.
The MindsChat feature launched in May. MindsChat federates with the Matrix protocol, an open standard for secure, decentralized, real-time communication networks with built-in end-to-end (E2E) encryption.
Due to Matrix’s interoperability specifications, users can contact others both within and outside of its global ecosystem, via bridges, to networks such as Slack, Signal, Twitter, etc. MindsChat is currently available to anyone who has Canary Updates turned on.
Minds started in 2015, and it has grown alongside cryptocurrency. Because it focused on encrypting user messages, it became popular with people who valued their privacy, like those in the cryptocurrency crowd. You could say it was a magnet for drug addicts, criminals, terrorists and cyber hackers. But Ottman said the network was not designed for criminals. It is designed to ensure that people have the freedom and do not have to worry about mandatory back doors that could put everyone’s safety at risk.
“We would definitely be at the end of the spectrum that puts end-to-end encryption and privacy first by default,” said Ottman. “But I certainly don’t think that means we have a desire to help any kind of illicit activity. I don’t think that just because you put privacy first, that means you support that, because in fact if you compromise, if you allow backdoor encryption, or if you just don’t encryption, then you’re actually creating a likelihood of some other kind of crime happening. You make everyone less safe when you do this. “
In 2017, the company migrated to a gamified reward system, where users were rewarded for the more they used the social network.
The company is still a centralized business, but it is moving towards greater decentralization, Ottman said. It is not, however, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).
The company has many users in Thailand and Vietnam. Artists, photographers, filmmakers, and journalists use Minds in addition to crypto gamers and fans. One of the things that contributes to the popularity of Minds is that cryptocurrency is going mainstream, he said.
“The independent media are arguably our largest demographic, because we have a policy of free speech and we protect their privacy, which is very important to journalists,” said Ottman.
“It has similar functionality to Telegram, Discord, and Messenger. And it’s completely open source, decentralized, end-to-end encrypted, ”he said.
The company employs about fifteen people, not counting the developers of the open source community.
Instead of making money by mining user data and serving ads, Minds offers recurring subscriptions with its Minds Plus premium accounts, which come with bonus features. And he shares Minds Plus revenue with the content creators who produce the most popular content on the social network.
“We now have thousands of Minds Plus members, and it’s going really well this year,” Ottman said. “I think people really want to support networks that respect their freedom. And I think people are willing to pay for subscription products. We have advertising, but it is not the core of revenue and it is not surveillance advertising. “
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