There’s Something About Web3—And Mailchain

There’s Something About Web3—And Mailchain

February 15, 2023

An Interview with Mailchain CTO, Rob De Feo

Question: Why Web3? Why are you here?

I believe Web3 is the future. Web2 has been a huge step forward when you compare it to the early days of the Internet, especially for the everyday user. But people have lost ownership along the way. Web3 is the promise of ownership with the same spirit of connectedness.

With Mailchain, for example, you can have fractional ownership—we will cut the protocol into decimal-sized pieces, and anyone who wants to run a part of the protocol can and will be rewarded. That wasn’t possible in Web2.  

As users within Web3, we’ll also have control over identity, data, information. It’s groundbreaking and very exciting.

Question: Let’s talk about privacy. Why does privacy matter to you and to Mailchain?

Here’s the thing about privacy and tech—when I talk about it, it tends to feel quite abstract. But it’s a highly personal, real thing.  

What if I asked you this question: How much money would you charge me to borrow your phone for an hour and give me the passcode? The question itself is uncomfortable. It feels inherently violating.  

None of the applications we use in Web2 are free. We pay for them with our data, which the companies sell directly or indirectly to advertisers or third parties. This is a violation of privacy that we agreed to. Everything is outlined in Terms and Conditions.  

But it’s an invasion that has been hidden behind a beautiful, free application often with a very useful piece of functionality. I myself use these free apps—that monetize my data—I knowingly and uncomfortably make this compromise every day.  

My view of privacy is that the exchange of data for free use isn’t an exchange any of us should have to make. And that doesn’t have anything to do with the sensitivity level of the information—more valuable information, or less valuable information; more private information, or less private. It’s the inherent human right to privacy. My data is mine, and mine alone. Unless I choose to share it with you.

Question: Let’s talk about security. What does security really look like in the world of Web3, good security?

Security has two parts:

  • Authentication—proving who you are who you say you are
  • Authorization—granting the correct level of access  

Web 2.0 applications commonly use login systems that authenticate you using a username and password. Both your username and password are sent to their authentication server. From a technical perspective, the company in control of the server has control over your account and data. How they deal with your account and private data is a matter of security policy and business goals.  

At Mailchain we do it differently. We admire the UX from Web2, so we’ve built a login experience that feels similar. However, you own your private key,  your password is never sent to us. We will store your encrypted data for your convenience, but we can’t read it..Mailchain makes it easy for you to have full ownership.

Question: What about Mailchain, as a product, are you most happy with?

I’m happy with how close we’ve gotten to the community’s expectation of messaging. It’s native Web3 addresses which send and receive across all protocols quickly. It happens fast, just like your regular email. It’s an inbox you’re used to. You can trust the origin and content of messages that come through. And you feel right at home.

I’m also proud of the level of privacy for users—for example, when you add a blockchain address, you do not have to use your private key; you sign with your address instead.  

There’s also the way our login system is this beautiful blend of Web2 experience and Web3 security; the way the password you enter never goes across the wire. There’s this elegant user experience and strong privacy to match. (Have to give a hat tip to the initial creators of Opaque protocol for that.)

I believe with Mailchain we’ve taken another big step forward in the evolution of communication. And most of all, it’s just so useful.  

The first time I went online, I remember I sent an email. It’s a great first experience. When you enter a new world—kind of like when you walk into a party--you say hi; you introduce yourself to that room, first. I send emails still, communicating for me is one of the few constants. We’re giving people a way to start a conversation with a whole new world.

Question: What is the thing that excites you the most about the launch of Mailchain?

As a Mailchain enthusiast, I’m excited to see it being used by the people in Web3 who I see are just plain stuck right now without this critical communication layer.  

Web3 users can’t do basic things we take for granted in Web2. Mailchain gives a user’s multiple blockchain identities a home, a unified inbox.  

When you import those identities, we can’t see any of that information. We protect that even from ourselves. Web3 users can then communicate blockchain address to blockchain address—contact that NFT owner, or that DAO voter, or that token buyer-- identity to identity, and know for sure it’s that recipient.  

When people from different backgrounds and experiences communicate, innovation exponentially increases. We’re going to have more vibrant, thriving communities and more exciting tech as a result.

This communication standard is also going to help remove a lot of the concerns and increase the trust levels around Web3, too. And when trust is high, people can make decisions more confidently and move faster.  

Question: What in your professional background do you feel has contributed to your ability to get Mailchain off the ground?

I’m naturally curious and try to say yes often, and as a result I’ve worked with people from different backgrounds, in many industries, and on lots of different problems.  

In Web3, there’s so much we all don’t know. When you’re new in a new space, the best skill you can have is the ability to adapt, listen and unlearn. I see now there’s a lot I need to unlearn, which is the most difficult skill. But this unlearning is vital; it helps me embrace new ideas, evaluate them and see if they are better.  

Question: If you had to sum up the state of Web3 today in one quote, what would that quote be? Why?

“Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This… this is history.” That’s from an Indiana Jones movie. I feel like Web3 right now feels a lot like that. There are rumors of great things, but we don’t know where we’re going exactly, or if we will get them. There’s some danger of the unknown but so much excitement and, adventure. We’re all making history, and I’m not sure how it will read yet, but I do feel we are living it, not just letting it pass us by.

Meet the writer

Rob, who has over 15 years’ experience in development and software architecture, worked as a Senior AWS Startup Evangelist. He specialized in AI and blockchain and provided mentorship to more than 500 startups.
Rob De Feo
CTO Mailchain