Even though some community members believe that Mass Network, a global advertising platform that’s about to launch, has a lot in common with Brave Browser or AdBlock Plus, the project’s developers seem to have a different opinion.
Firstly, the system employs bitcoin blockchain. However, in his interview with ForkLog, Alex Pankov, the project’s CTO, says there are more nuances to take into account.
FL: In a few words, what is Mass about? What’s its value for end users who aren’t too interested in blockchain in most cases?
Alexander Pankov: The purpose of Mass is to give an average user a chance to put a price on their attention, and to provide end-to-end protection of personal data from uncontrolled commercial usage.
The problem has been around for a long time, and all experts are aware of it. However, nobody has come up with a solution yet. Yes, ad blockers are popular now, but it’s a cul-de-sac in our opinion. We offer the market a new way, which is to find a balance between the interests of publishers and users.
FL: What are the technical and economic properties of Mass token? Are we right assuming that it is, in fact, a colored coin issued within bitcoin protocol?
A.P.: Mass token is like an old-fashioned subway pass. Mass ecosystem’s economy would be built on that token only, even though we can’t exclude the possibility that a regular user would be able to have automatic payouts using more popular e-money systems.
The demand for tokens will totally depend on popularity of Mass, as it will be the only way to buy an interested user’s attention. Skeptics would say that advertisers are to ignore Mass until there is a large amount of users. That’s true to some extent, but they told the same about regular ad blockers. These days, according to our calculations, about 40 per cent of all internet users have ad blockers of some kind, and the number is growing. Mass doesn’t create a new market, it only offers a flexible solution: users have them protected from ad garbage, while advertisers legally purchase user data and have an option of contacting the user.
In technical terms, we need the token to be protected and transparent for everyone. There’s no alternative for blockchain here, however, the exact solution is still a question. For now, a platform of colored coins based on bitcoin’s blockchain looks the most promising as it entails protection with the most powerful blockchain. On the other hand, we are also considering other promising platforms like Waves, though the latter is still under development.
FL: There is a plethora of projects somehow related to blockchain these days, even though expert communities are growing skeptical about the hype. Is creating this many new blockchain systems for different purposes really necessary? How do we distinguish blockchain and a regular database, which may be distributed but not decentralized?
A.P.: We’re not making another blockchain! We’re set to solve a completely different problem, and blockchain here is just a tool. Our development covers end-user software and server software for the RTB industry.
On user side, it’s about browser add-ins and customized alt-versions of browsers, including those for mobile platforms. On RTB side, it’s about an end-to-end DMP solution (Data Management Platform) which would allow users to sell their data to the market players in real time. Mass in this case would be protecting both parties, both the seller (user) and the buyer (advertiser).
FL: How Mass’s approach towards interaction between users and advertisers is different from AdBlock, Brave and other solutions of that kind?
A.P.: We don’t force any certain models of economic development on the market, and that’s our main advantage. There’s no blackmail or extortion on our side, we just provide a platform where parties may agree and find an optimal solution.
Take a look at AdBlock. They sell an opportunity to make it into the white list, which essentially is blackmailing. In our opinion, it is about deceiving users, as in this case all surveillance tools are back but the user gains nothing in return. They promised one thing, but then quietly made a substitution. AdBlock, at the same time, is a solution for major businesses only, while medium and small platforms have no chance to strike a deal.
Brave’s model is different, it’s way more honest with users. Brave intends to show ads itself, and then pay all market players. Technically, it seems utopian as the market incorporates thousands of companies and millions of advertisers. With dozens of different platform and targeting methods around, they just won’t be able to replace all solutions with their product. Additionally, they ignore the fact that it would require gathering user data; one can’t do without it as otherwise the ad will be unfocused and imprecise.
The approach that the Mass team has chosen is to get in the existing RTB market leaving all usual tools to publishers and platforms. However, they will have to consider users’ interests as well.
FL: Are we right to assume that blockchain involvement in MASS is limited to issuing a token, or the technology is about covering some other issues?
A.P.: Distributed technologies will be used in secondary issues as well. For instance, we’re going to make a completely open database with information on the advertisement load on websites. It’s about showing Mass is honest in the first place.
At the same time, we will indeed have a centralized system of servers for the RTB industry. The reasons here are mostly technical, as the intermediary covers scalability and productivity. Operation in modern-day ad systems is so fast that any interaction is only possible via superfast channels within data centers.
At the same time, we’re going to work as transparently as possible. In particular, centralized nodes of Mass DMP won’t be able to ‘peek’ on user data. Advertisers will only have encrypted data.