Unlocking the Potential of Ethereum and the Blockchain Last week, BlockMason released its first protocol for the Ethereum ecosystem: Foundation. I won’t get too technical ( you can read our Whitepaper for that), but Mama Mason and I thought it would be good if we all ate some pie down by the fireplace and had a casual chat about how Foundation works, why we believe in it, and our vision for its future.Right now, Ethereum is complicated. Despite relatively few usable applications, the network boasts an ever proliferating number of options for interacting with programs, executing transactions, and storing ether.Increasingly, people are entering the Ethereum universe hoping for quick financial gain — capitalizing on volatile markets and easy currency exchange — but they’re often stumped at the first question: which crypto wallet should you use? The slickly designed Jaxx Ice Cube, which boasts a hardware component, or Mist, which features direct integration of Dapps, or Coinbase, which boasts a built-in cryptocurrency exchange. The answer, of course, depends on your purpose — are you looking to trade crypto, store it, or use it to interact with the ecosystem? Each wallet, address, and browser has its own strengths and weaknesses, meaning the real answer is that you probably want several different choices for storing or moving your ether.This proliferation of options, besides being a barrier to entering the community, also decreases user flexibility when multiple wallets and and browsers are not compatible or effectively integrated. If a particular application relies on your Ethereum address to identify you, it locks you in to using that address in the future. Let’s say you’re signed into an app through Metamask on your computer, and you want to access the same application with a different account you own on your phone through Status. Right now, that type of simple switch between addresses you already own is impossible, greatly reducing the efficacy of individual actors within the ecosystem.The problem, as we see it, is one of unification. Wouldn’t it be simple to consolidate these different addresses and wallets under one master ID, and let it do the work?Well, yes, and no. Of course, we’re not the only ones to recognize this problem. A number of solutions have come out that combine various wallets, identities, and passwords, but their scope is limited. Firstly, people must rely on individual applications and wallets to integrate themselves into whatever new identity tracking system is introduced. If you keep your money in a wallet that is unsupported, or a specific application doesn’t allow you to integrate multiple wallets, you’re screwed. Furthermore, these solutions conflate storing money with completing transactions. They may solve some technical aspects of moving between applications and multiple wallets, but they fail to imagine an Ethereum network more advanced than our current universe, and their usefulness will plummet as the ecosystem continues to evolve. As we know (and discussed in our previous post) what’s really exciting about Ethereum is everything that’s not money.Those awesome not money applications, however, can’t progress in the current system. While you might have a handle on its operation (*slow clap*) the high barrier to adoption raises significant problems for any project or application that relies on widespread public adoption, i.e. basically anything cool that can positively impact society. Right now, people are bandying about truly world-changing ideas like global social security and blockchain voting, but it’s no good unless literally billions of people hop on the network (a technical hurdle we’ll save for later).The issue of unification and integration has also held the community back from developing dapps that track and develop identities over time. We believe this is an essential part of the future of Ethereum, because it will allow the blockchain to expand beyond the world of pure commerce. Large companies and institutions will begin moving processes to the blockchain that can currently just exist IRL, something possible only after the adoption of a verified identity protocol that allows all actors involved to communicate without threat of deception.One useful project is Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which allows users to create an online address associated with a name of their choice. This solves the problem of remembering difficult addresses, but it doesn’t actually create an associated identity from which people can use multiple addresses. Without full integration of multiple wallets, ENS doesn’t offer a bridge to interaction with any real world services (btw, foundation will be backwards compatible with ENS names). Another company, uPort, has opened up interesting conversations about long-term identity tracking and credentialing, but has similar failings when it comes to building platform that prepares Ethereum to integrate with the world beyond the blockchain.All this together clarifies our need: a solution that allows users to employ their current wallets and identities, but also links them, allowing people to build their online reputation while simultaneously developing a secure platform from which to interact with institutions and processes in the “real world.”Our Vision for FoundationFoundation does more than just solve these problems. It is a platform not only for integrating multiple wallets and addresses, but also for building a unified online identity, from which it will one day be possible to to carry out all of your sensitive and secure personal transactions. By allowing users to link their identity with valid, verified real world credentials, Foundation will bridge the gap to the world outside the blockchain, and become a port from which to launch our techno ships into the real world.This can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around. Why would someone need (or even want) a verified ID on the blockchain? Isn’t the whole point security and anonymity — after all, it was drug transactions that first put Bitcoin on the map!It is certainly true that there exist many people and companies interested in taking advantage of Ethereum’s decentralized nature to circumvent laws and enable illegal activity (see the open sex bazaar, ICOing now!)If you’re a libertarian technophile, this is great news:Most of the rest of the world, though, is probably wondering: how does this affect me?Rest assured, it will matter to you eventually, and probably sooner than you might think. Remember, building this sort of long-term, verified identity into the blockchain enables a lot of different really cool projects. Many people specifically focus on credit-building and reputation tracking — enabling non-trusted parties to complete transactions with each other without the need of institutions like banks or the government. But this also has other implications for much more interesting projects, be they silly and fun (verified dating apps that reduce deception on the part of users) or important vital and life saving (i.e. blockchain stored and verified medical records, which we’ll cover next week).A widespread, successful adoption of Foundation, or a similar protocol, opens up the possibility of dramatic changes to virtually all of our major institutions. With a secure, verified online identity, it would be possible to vote from home and without taking time off work, dramatically increasing participation in the democratic process. Immigration and green card applications, notoriously difficult processes that deal with highly sensitive personal information (that often gets lost) could be tracked through every step, allowing everyone involved to instantly know how the case is progressing. There are further implications for everything from copyright protection to scientific collaboration to civil rights, all of which rest on having a trusted, verified presence within the blockchain.We believe that presence is Foundation.