Introduction to Oyster – The Future of Web Monetization
Online advertisements are obnoxious, intrusive, and irrelevant. They are also many website owners only means of revenue – but with adblockers and many advertisers pulling their ads, site owners are struggling to stay afloat. The Oyster Protocol solves all of these problems with a single line of code that allows site owners to generate revenue by using a small portion of the CPU power of their site’s visitors.
In addition to revenue generation, the Oyster Protocol system functions as a decentralized, fully-anonymous data storage system. These components act in conjunction to form a data ecosystem that benefits all parties involved.
The Oyster Protocol won’t just store data, however. The Oyster team plans to release another token known as Oyster Shell. Based on the Oyster network, Shell tokens will be used to access a decentralized internet. This network will bypass ISP’s and centralized infrastructure.
What is Oyster Pearl?
The Oyster Protocol is a network of information and data that can be used by online content creators to easily earn revenue. It also allows users to upload data to the Oyster network by paying with Oyster Pearls.
When a user uploads a file to the network, the Pearls that they use to pay are embedded into the data file. When a content creator adds a specific line of code to their website, visitors automatically mine for Pearls in the background.
While mining, users unintentionally attach data files to the network. Whenever embedded Pearls are found, they are given to the website owner. This efficient data network benefits all parties involved.
In July 2017, the team studied IOTA’s Tangle and conducted talks with IOTA developers. They made arrangements to adapt FrozenJar to utilize the Tangle.
On September 18th, 2017, the Oyster Pearl whitepaper was published. On October 5th, the Oyster Contract was reviewed and audited.
On October 21st, the team held an ICO that ran through November 14th. Contributors received 5,000 Oyster Pearls (PRL) for one Ethereum, which equates to approximately $.06 per Pearl.
How it Works
To accomplish its dual goals of data storage and revenue generation, the Oyster Protocol utilizes an innovative dual-ledger system. Oyster Protocol combines the Ethereum blockchain with IOTA’s Tangle to create a digital data economy.
The Oyster Protocol consists of six main components: storage users, broker nodes, website owners, web nodes, the IOTA Tangle, and Ethereum’s blockchain.
Storage users spend Pearls to upload their data in an anonymous, decentralized manner. They provide the initial revenue stream into the network.
Broker nodes are devices that run the Oyster Protocol and maintain the databases of both the Ethereum blockchain and the IOTA Tangle. Broker nodes are automatically compensated for hosting with a portion of the spent Pearl. In addition to physically retaining user data, broker nodes provide ledger access to storage users and web nodes.
Website owners add one line of Oyster code to their website to begin generating revenue. Site owners create and curate content that website viewers want to see.
A web node is just a browser that a website visitor uses. These web nodes perform proof of work that generates revenue for the website owner. This revenue allows the site owner to continue creating and hosting content.
IOTA’s Tangle is a block-less ledger that requires each transaction to verify two previous transactions through proof-of-work. This system is uniquely different from blockchain ledgers because its proof-of-work system creates a “tangle” as opposed to a single chain.
When a storage user uploads data, it is split into parts and uploaded to the Tangle. Data uploaded through the Oyster Protocol is physically retained across broker nodes and IOTA nodes.
The Ethereum blockchain provides the framework for the smart contracts Pearl tokens use. These smart contracts give the tokens specific attributes, namely the bury and claim functions that are vital for the functioning of Oyster Pearl.
These components all have an important function, but the most crucial component of the Oyster Protocol is the Oyster Pearl token itself.
When users visit a website with Oyster Protocol enabled, their web browsers automatically begin “treasure hunting” for Pearls embedded across the IOTA Tangle.
Storage users who upload files will have their spent Pearls embedded into the file’s encrypted data structure. The Pearls are embedded by adding the private key of an Ethereum address holding the Pearls into the files. The Ethereum address is needed due to the fact mentioned above that Ethereum’s smart contracts are what allow the Pearls to be embedded, or “buried”, then later claimed.
As web nodes hunt for Pearls, the proof-of-work they perform incidentally reattachs data files to the Tangle. Due to the Tangle’s structure, older files are occasionally pruned from the network, to save on space. The PoW performed by web nodes prevents this from happening and is entirely economically incentivized due to the web nodes treasure hunting.
The Oyster smart contract ensures that the uploaded files will remain on the Tangle for the length of time they were paid for by only releasing Pearl tokens from their embedded state gradually.
Some have expressed questions or concerns about storing files on the Tangle. While it may be functional, why go through the trouble when services such as Google Drive and Dropbox already exist and may be cheaper?
The most significant advantages of storing data on the Oyster network are privacy and security. Cloud data storages have frequently been hit by hackers, such as a recent incident where Tesla’s cloud was hacked to mine cryptocurrency.
The uptick in hacking has caused many users to look to privacy-focused cloud companies. Ultimately though, these companies use closed-source solutions, and users are unable to see what is executed on company servers.
However, Oyster has none of these shortcomings. According to the team:
Oyster is a fully decentralized solution for anonymous, secure data retention and operates purely on a node’s individual economic self-interests. The entire source code is auditable and data is encrypted in the browser before it reaches the tangle.
Other users are concerned about the cost of data storage. Initially, one Pearl was pegged to 1 GB of file storage. The data peg was done to eliminate the possibility of a red herring attack where a malicious user pretends to embed Pearl tokens but does not actually. However, some were concerned about the rising price of Pearl causing storage prices to soar.
Responding to concerns, Bruno Block wrote a blog post addressing the issue. The Oyster team changed the storage peg so that each Pearl will be pegged to at least 64 GB of file space. Additionally, they revealed that the storage peg would increase over time.
With the updated storage peg, Pearl became a much more competitive storage option by price.
Users are also uneasy about websites with the Oyster Protocol enabled using the CPU power of visitors. They questioned the ethics of borrowing processor power and speculated that visitors might use an ad blocker to prevent the browser from mining at all.
The Oyster team again has an answer to these concerns:
Users are presented with a discrete notice for consent and can easily disable the proof of work. Disabling the proof of work will, in turn, activate a website’s policy which may or may not block or limit the content.
When a user arrives at a website, they will be prompted to allow or disable the web node mining, preventing involuntary cryptojacking. However, users who disable or block the mining may or not be blocked from the site dependent on the individual site policy.
Additionally, the amount of processor power used will be very little, perhaps 1% or less. The Oyster team envisions that the majority of people will prefer to dedicate a small portion of their processor power to mining, rather than view invasive ads or pay a subscription fee.
The final significant concern of users involves the token supply. Due to a less-than-stellar ICO, nearly 43 million tokens remain in the developer fund. In the interest of transparency, the Pearl team wrote a blog post that explained their intentions for the tokens.
The first thing they announced was a massive 10 million coin burn. At nearly 10% of the total supply, the burn was no small announcement. It took place on March 1, burning almost a quarter of the tokens in developer wallet.
They then detailed how they planned to spend the remaining tokens, with most of them being used for operations, hiring, and development.
The Oyster team is led by CEO Bruno Block, the anonymous developer who was behind the FrozenJar project. While having an unknown leader developer may not be incredibly confidence-inspiring, the rest of the team is fully identified.
The Oyster team is consistently growing, with new members being added all the time. What started as a three-person operation now has well over a dozen members. These individuals have experience in programming, finance, engineering, communications, and other disciplines – among their ranks are former Amazon and Boeing employees.
Recently, Oyster began working with the Transform Group to improve public relations. Transform Group is a prominent blockchain PR, advisory, and marketing agency – they are involved with such projects as Ethereum and Dash.
Testnet, Mainnet, and Beyond
Since their ICO ended, the Oyster team has been hard at work developing the Oyster network. After launching the Oyster Pearl smart contract, the team laid out a rigorous roadmap that they have been following since.
The goals on their roadmap following the launch of the Pearl smart contract are the release of Testnet A, Testnet B, Mainnet, then finally a decentralized application platform.
On February 1st, 2018, the Oyster team announced the launch of Testnet A.
Testnet A launched the broker node half of the network in alpha status. With the broker nodes active, the team was able to demonstrate the file uploading/downloading system and interface.
According to the team:
As far as we know, this is the first time that encrypted file storage has been possible on the IOTA Tangle. We are able to slice, encrypt, and store any type of file on the Tangle and later retrieve and piece that file back together using only a hashed file handle.
After that, they released a further update that showed sizable advancements in upload times.
On February 28th, the team announced the release of Testnet B.
With Testnet B active, web nodes come online in alpha status and complete the test network. Broker nodes and web nodes establish communication. Testnet B is the first step towards implementing the one line of code that will allow website owners to generate Pearls.
Not long after that, the team made another massive improvement in upload speed to the Tangle.
Moving forward, the launch of the Mainnet is planned for April 2018, but no specific date has been set yet. The launch of the Mainnet will add a distributed reputation system and incorporate the Oyster Pearl payment systems.
These additions will allow the Oyster network to become fully functional and ready for use.
Oyster Shell — Decentralized Internet
While the Oyster Pearl network has been planned and in development for some time, the Oyster team recently dropped some unexpected news.
In a blog post on February 9th, Bruno Block announced a second token:
Today I am introducing Oyster Shell (SHL). Shells are used to pay for connectivity and Dapp operation across the Oyster meshnet, whilst Pearls are used for static data retention on the tangle.
Oyster Shell tokens will build on the existing Oyster network. While Pearl tokens are used for data storage, Shells will be used to access the decentralized internet through the Oyster network.
In the Shell whitepaper, the team envisions the Oyster network becoming an organic supercomputer, with PRL functioning as the hard drive, and SHL acting as the memory, CPU, and data transmitter.
Introducing Shell to the Oyster network completes a balanced ecosystem of data, revenue, and information that benefits all participants.
After introducing the new token, Bruno Block delivered more good news to project supporters. Any person holding Oyster Pearl tokens would be airdropped Shell tokens at a 1:1 ratio. Tokens would only be distributed through an airdrop, with no ICO.
On April 13th, the team announced that the Oyster Shell blockchain snapshot was completed, and the smart contract had been deployed. Anyone holding Pearl tokens in a personal wallet or on Kucoin will receive the same number of Shell tokens.
The introduction of a token for decentralized internet is a massive announcement, especially in the United States, considering the current situation involving ISP’s.
On December 14th, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal Net Neutrality in a contentious 3-2 decision. The decision means high-speed internet will no longer be regulated as a utility. For internet-freedom advocates, the decision was a severe blow.
While the ruling took place months ago, the repeal will only take effect on April 23rd. Many expect ISP’s to begin rolling back internet privileges soon after that.
With internet restriction and censorship rising around the world, Oyster Shell provides a way to access the internet fairly and anonymously.
Where is Oyster Pearl Trading?
Oyster Pearl can be bought on Kucoin, Cryptopia, IDEX, and CoinExchange.
Over 90% of Oyster trading occurs on Kucoin, which has a daily trading volume of over $700,000. Cryptopia has a volume of $38,000, followed by IDEX with a volume of $3,500. CoinExchange has just over $1,000 of volume per day.
At first glance, data storage and revenue generation might seem entirely unrelated. The Oyster network brings the two together to create a system that benefits website creators and viewers alike. The addition of Oyster Shell completes the Oyster network and introduces decentralized internet.
However, the project has had its share of struggles. An underwhelming ICO sent Oyster off on a rocky start. The anonymity of its lead developer was a concern to many. Users were concerned about the cost of data storage and the ethics of mining through a web browser.
The team has bounced back though, allaying concerns and answering questions. They have been working hard and releasing frequent updates. The release of the Testnet showed that the Oyster Network was functional. With the Mainnet release on the horizon, users will soon be able to spend their Pearls for data storage.
For more information about Oyster, including current price, market cap, technical information and social media links, please check out our Oyster coin profile.
Cover Photo by Tim Easley on Unsplash
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