Oyster Protocol: a Different Crypto Take on Data Storage, Web Revenue?

Oyster Protocol: a Different Crypto Take on Data Storage, Web Revenue?

There are numerous decentralized data storage plays in the cryptoverse, e.g. Siacoin, Storj, and MaidSafe. Yet one of the space’s smaller and quieter projects uses storage to tackle the web’s “ad problem” and is thus unique in its structure: the Oyster Protocol. Leveraging both Ethereum and IOTA’s Tangle, the project bills itself as the “future of website monetization and distributed storage.” Can the ambitious upstart gain ground on its more entrenched but dissimilar competitors? 

Update 10/30/2018: Oyster Protocol founder Bruno Block, or someone using his Telegram account, has admitted to committing a PRL exit scam. Oyster CEO William Cordes and other team members maintain the con took them by surprise and that they intend to try and salvage the project. Bitsonline will track the situation as it continues to develop.  

Also read: Moving Toward Closure: Mt Gox Saga Sees Civil Rehabilitation Granted

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The Pitch? ‘Revenue, In One Line of Code’

The Oyster Protocol is designed to generate a unique synergistic relationship between decentralized storage and website monetization. Why? To tackle the “ad problem” — content websites having to rely on jarring and invasive ads to generate revenue — through cryptoeconomic incentive.

“Website visitors contribute a small portion of their CPU and GPU power to enable users’ files to be stored on a decentralized and anonymous ledger,” the project’s site reads, referring to IOTA’s Tangle. “In return, the website owners get paid indirectly by the storage users and website visitors can enjoy an ad-free browsing experience.”

The idea is that website owners place the Oyster Protocol script into their site’s HTML, after which they are paid in the project’s native Ethereum-based token — Oyster Pearls (PRL) — whenever users upload files to the Tangle for distributed safe-keeping. The project’s mission, then, is to provide an alternative revenue stream for sites beyond web ads.

Several dynamics arrive from this structure. First, as far as storage goes, the possibility of data loss is to be sidestepped thanks to file redundancy, i.e. many duplicates of any Oyster-uploaded file permeating within the Tangle’s network topology. Such files are thereafter verified by Oyster nodes’ Proof-of-Work (PoW). To that last point, another resulting dynamic is that particular Oyster nodes called “Web Nodes” (there are “Broker Nodes,” too, which provide access to the Tangle) are set to engage in what’s called “Treasure Hunting” — the PoW process of committing files to the Tangle due to searching for Oyster Pearls, i.e. time-based, not per-view, revenue.

Moreover, the project is accordingly account-less in nature, having no platform where usernames and the like are required, and instead simply relies on its underlying decentralized processes. Uploaders receive a “handle” in the vein of a private key upon paying for their upload to the Tangle. The handle is then used to access the file at will. And the ensuing market valuation of storage prices helps to peg the value of PRL, which is designed to generate revenue for sites and is supposed to keep the whole project spinning ’round in theory.

As it stands, the project is unsurprisingly still very much so a work in progress, as the web monetization aspect of the protocol is still being tested. A few nonce and gas-limit bugs have just been cleaned up, too, according to the project’s latest development update.

Mainnet Just Went Live, New CEO Comes Aboard

A few recent developments have seen the Oyster team keeping their eyes on the horizon. Though temporarily delayed due to a “sudden issue” in the project’s private Tangle, Oyster’s mainnet went live shortly thereafter on May 30th, 2018.

The launch has brought the storage aspect of the project online. Furthermore, the Oyster team also recently brought in a new CEO, William Cordes, to begin pivoting the project to a more public-facing approach.

What Is Oyster Shell?

PRLs aren’t the only tokens in the Oyster ecosystem. A few weeks ago, the Oyster team airdropped Oyster Shell (SHL) tokens 1:1 for PRL hodlers. So what is SHL?

The SHL logo.

It’s a decentralized meshnet play to be folded into the Oyster ecosystem. As Oyster Protocol creator Bruno Block said during February’s announcement:

” … the operation of the core Oyster network inadvertently creates a latency-optimized meshnet of nodes, which becomes the perfect environment for fostering decentralized communications.

[Thus] 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. Shell is not pegged to storage like how Pearl is. In the future you will be able to use Shells to access the decentralized web, connectivity that entirely bypasses ISPs and centralized infrastructure.”

Ambitious, to be sure.

Competitors? And Other Things to Keep an Eye On

Since the Oyster Protocol simultaneously attacks distributed storage and web monetization, it has indirect competitors in aforementioned storage plays like Siacoin and Storj, as well as in ad-buster projects like Brave’s Brave Attention Token (BAT).

Even these comparisons are a stretch, however, insofar as Oyster’s structure is idiosyncratic, i.e. relying on Ethereum and the Tangle, compared to these peer projects.

If Oyster was more conventional or singular in its structure, it’d be more straightforward to make such comparisons. The project’s proponents say its uniqueness is its great strength, setting itself  apart from the pack through creativity and innovation. On the flip side, skeptics may be inclined to think Oyster’s vision is overly ambitious.

Only time will tell in that regard. But there are a few other considerations that are worth scrutinizing as far as Oyster’s future goes.

One is whether the GDPR’s “Copyright Directive,” if passed in Europe, causes European regulators to increasingly look at the cryptoverse, and perhaps Oyster, for jurisdictional copyright violations, i.e. materials spread without permission. Such a “look” would seemingly be impotent to a degree, however, as said regulators would have no  way to directly mitigate most crypto project’s operations, including the one at hand.

Also, another takeaway is that Oyster’s success is tied to the success of the Tangle. Thousands of files have already been uploaded through Oyster, though, but it is a theme to watch. The same can be said about Ethereum, in extension.

Another apparent consideration is whether Oyster Protocol’s HTML script might be flagged by virus scanners, like in the case of Malwarebytes Labs banning the CoinHive web miner. However, leaders in the Oyster community reason that this won’t be a problem for Oyster, in that Malwarebytes said the ban came specifically after some sites weren’t asking users’ permission to run CoinHive. The idea is for sites that run the Oyster Protocol to use explicit user consent agreements.

All food for thought, in the very least.

What’s your take? Are you with the proponents or skeptics on Oyster? Be sure to sound off in the comments below.


Images via Oyster Protocol, Pixabay

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