Sure, Portal Network would like to become a P-Rep. If nothing else, it would allow the Taiwan-based blockchain development company to work more closely with ICON and its community.
But if there’s something the team really wants to do, it’s to make ICON one of the most approachable networks in the blockchain space by making it simpler — one hash at a time.
“We don’t want to simplify everything,” says Christopher Shen, Portal Network’s team leader. “But we want to simplify at least one part — to turn something that is very unfriendly like hashes into something people can read and memorize. And we can build connections from there.”
Complete and responsive
Portal Network has been building services on ICON since last year, having been introduced to the platform by their advisor, Hong Kong-based venture firm Kenetic Capital. Though the team builds on 12 different blockchains, they are impressed by how ICON felt finished. Christopher says, “I think ICON is one of the most complete and ready to be built on top of.”
He also praised ICON’s straightforward development environment and responsive support team.
Unlike some projects, ICON doesn’t go out of its way to annoy developers. “[Some other chains] ask you to send a tweet or leave a comment to get a TestNet token,” he says. “That’s when you get annoyed. ‘I’m using my free time to develop on top of this chain, and now they’re asking me to tweet to get a TestNet token?’ I think those are things that really frustrate developers.”
Likewise, the support team is always on hand to help out on ICON’s developer Telegram channel. “We’re in Taiwan, so sometimes we send questions at 2 or 3 a.m.,” he says. “They just respond, very quickly.”
Details like this are what set ICON apart, he says.
“These are small things for any tech startup, but you’d be surprised that a lot of blockchain projects are not as responsive as ICON. I think that alone is the strongest advantage.”
Simple names in a decentralized world
The team’s particular area of interest has been blockchain name services, a crucial step in promoting mass adoption of blockchain technology. Christopher explains that in Web 2.0, users connect through IP addresses and domain names. IP addresses pinpoint web servers. They are hard to remember, however, since they are just numbers. Domain names, on the other hand, allow users to access websites by typing in easy-to-remember names such as “Google.com” or “Facebook.com” that resolve to the IP addresses.
In the decentralized world of Web 3.0, we have hashes instead of IP addresses. And if you thought IP addresses like 18.104.22.168 (Facebook.com’s IP address) was difficult to memorize, it’s child’s play compared to a hash like hx7563e2514a0865630216903c5fd166ec0fdb217a, a hexadecimal string few could memorize, let alone would memorize. Such complexity turns off many would-be users.
What Portal Network does is put a name to those hashes, much like how a domain name puts a name to an IP address. Christopher cites the example of a decentralized website stored on a system such as IPFS. Instead of a hash, you could name the site “yourwebsite.icon,” and a smart contract deployed to the ICON chain takes you straight to it.
Likewise, you could create a public wallet for donations, giving it a simple-to-remember name such as “yourwallet.icon.” You could change the underlying address anytime without having to change the name, or create a different wallet if anonymity is important to you.
This straight-forwardness is exactly what the blockchain space needs, says Christopher. “Most people don’t understand how a website works,” he says. “But they use it because they want to use its functions.”
Vote for them if you like what they’re doing
Portal Network has already deployed three working products to ICON’s network: ICON Name Service, ICON node manager and a resolver that resolves hashes into the correct websites. All three have been tested on ICON’s Yeouido TestNet.
Christopher certainly thinks the project’s qualified to be a P-Rep.
“Voters can see all the things we’ve built on top of ICON over the last nine months,” he says. “We’ve never really asked anything from the community. Users can pre-register these domain names, they can play around with them and deploy them on the TestNet. We’ve been maintaining the nodes locally, so that’s very similar to how we’re being asked to maintain a node now.”
He adds, “We think now is the perfect time for the community to vote for us to continue to build on top of ICON and encourage us that this is something the community wants to see.”
Christopher also points to the value Ethereum’s decentralized name market has brought to that network. Ethereum Name Service is currently worth about 33 million US dollars. Users pay for domain names in Ether. He says, “I think this is a crucial part for ICON to have it’s own domain market and to have its own domain ecosystem, not only for decentralized applications but for users.”
If ICON Name Service’s launch on the Yeouido TestNet is anything to go by, that solution has potential, too. Christopher says the 25 people who tested it out found it “super easy” to use. They could send and receive tokens simply by typing “theirname.icon.”
Portal Network wants voters to know, too, that they are just getting started.
“If you’re an ICON token holder, let us know anything you want us to improve,” says Christopher. “Not only the ICON Name Service, but anything you want to see on ICON. We can do it. We are here to help you turn whatever you imagine on ICON into reality.”