The forthcoming app aims to give users full control of their communities and private communications.
Web2 was founded on the idea of linking people, and social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, now Meta, established global empires based on this notion. However, the connectivity that these companies provided came at a significant cost, as users were exploited to sell advertisements. Towns, a new initiative by Here Not There Labs, aims to change this by shifting messaging on-chain. The project recently received a $25.5 million investment, led by Andreessen Horowitz.
According to Ben Rubin, co-founder of Here Not There Labs, the issue communities face is coordinating and collaborating while unlocking their collective mindshare. In an interview with Decrypt, Rubin said that the majority of the tools they use are owned by other organizations, such as Discord, WhatsApp, or Telegram. The team’s objective, as stated by Sriram Krishnan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, is to establish a digital town square where members can delineate borders, establish rules, and create the world they desire, which is an ambitious goal that can be uniquely achieved through decentralization and web3.
Benchmark and Framework Ventures are among those who will join Andreessen Horowitz in the Series A funding round. Rubin, the former CEO and co-founder of Houseparty and Meerkat, and Brian Meek, former CTO for STRIVR Labs and former general manager of engineering at Skype, established Here Not There Labs in 2020. They describe Towns as a group chat protocol and app designed to enable online communities to create better “hometowns” and communicate freely using end-to-end encryption.
According to Ben Rubin, co-founder of Here Not There Labs, the Towns app intends to bring the town square concept to the Ethereum blockchain by leveraging smart contracts, similar to how a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) operates. Through this, communities can exchange NFTs and participate in games.
In addition to providing end-to-end encryption, Rubin explained that the project aims to provide portability, as everything is open-source. He also believes that on-chain communication represents the next logical step in blockchain technology’s potential.
DAOs function using blockchain-based smart contracts that enable participants to use governance tokens to vote on proposed actions. While DAOs can technically function on any messaging platform, most are hosted on Discord, making them subject to Discord’s terms of service.
Towns are part of a growing trend among Web3 projects to move away from centralized platforms like Discord and Telegram. Other projects that share this vision include Dragonchain’s Den, Matrix, Console, and Nansen Connect from the analytics platform Nansen.
Towns, a new project by Here Not There Labs, has secured a $25.5 million investment in its Series A funding round, led by Andreessen Horowitz. The project seeks to address the issue of coordinating and collaborating among communities, by moving messaging on-chain. The goal is to create a digital town square where users can define the borders, set rules, and build the world they want. The project is designed as a group chat protocol and app, which will enable online communities to build better “hometowns” and communicate freely using end-to-end encryption.
The founder of Here Not There Labs, Ben Rubin, believes that Towns will provide greater portability to communities beyond offering end-to-end encryption. He plans to achieve this by taking the town square concept and putting it on the Ethereum blockchain using smart contracts, which will allow communities to trade NFTs and play games.
Rubin sees on-chain communication as the next logical step in what is possible with blockchain technology, and the evolution of what can be done with the ideas behind any blockchain technology. By starting with storing value, moving to computation, and now entering the idea of how to secure coordination and collaboration, Rubin believes that Towns will be at the forefront of these advancements.
Similar projects, including Dragonchain’s Den, Matrix, Console, and Nansen Connect from the analytics platform Nansen, are also moving Web3 projects away from platforms such as Discord and Telegram. The idea is to give users greater control and ownership over their data, rather than being commoditized for targeted ads.