Yours.org is one of the first platforms to integrate micropayments using on-chain transactions. The Bitcoin network had in recent times become prohibitively expensive, but the rise of Bitcoin Cash has made such transactions a possibility again. Heidi Hecht spoke to Yours.org founder Ryan X. Charles regarding the project and the decisions made so far.
HH: What would an elevator pitch for Yours.org sound like?
RC: Yours is like Medium with a pay wall. It’s a social blogging platform where users can write articles with embedded video, images and audio, with a twist […] Furthermore, the pay wall is just the beginning. Now that we have a payment system built in to a social platform, we can try many monetization options that have never been tried before. For instance, Yours is the only social platform in the world that lets authors set a price for comments. High-profile authors that get many low quality comments can increase the price of comments to ensure high quality.
We also have an innovative voting model. Instead of free upvotes like all other social platforms, upvotes on Yours.org cost 10¢. The payment is distributed evenly across all earlier upvoters. This means you can profit by upvoting good content early. This provides an incentive to be good at curating content. If you upvote something popular early, you will profit.
We are also the only social network in the world that charges 10¢ to post content. By charging a small amount, the quality of content posted to Yours is significantly higher than the average quality on other social platforms.
It’s a myth that people won’t pay for things on the internet. On Yours, people pay to post, they pay to comment, and they pay to vote. Yours.org is a pioneer of a new way of doing content on the internet that isn’t funded by third-party advertisers. On Yours, users pay each other for good work.
HH: How far is Yours.org influenced by the abortive cryptocurrency project at Reddit?
RC: I joined Reddit as a cryptocurrency engineer in the summer of 2014 to work under the then-CEO of reddit Yishan Wong. Unfortunately, Yishan resigned only a month and a half after I joined Reddit, and the new leadership had their hands full with other projects and shelved the cryptocurrency project.
Yours.org is very influenced by my brief time at Reddit. While there I saw the deep need for new monetization options on the internet. Ads don’t work for most content types and they lead to clickbait, spam, and fake news. We need peer-to-peer monetization. Yours is a manifestation of that idea.
HH: What do you see as the path forward for bringing Yours.org out of beta?
RC: We launched our beta in late August. We are working on a number of improvements to exit beta. First of all we are developing a new UI that is designed to appeal to a mainstream audience by solving the onboarding and offboarding problem. Our users won’t even know they are using cryptocurrency.
Furthermore we are working with our users to identify their top needs, such as an improved editor and other basic features. The most important thing is to add additional payment models where we hand control over to the users to pick what payment models work well for them and their audience. We believe by giving flexibility to our users, Yours will become useful to everyone in the world.
HH: How do you plan to compete with established services like Steemit?
RC: We’re big fans of Steemit and have learned a lot from their project. We are doing a number of things different that distinguish us from Steemit. Most significantly, we are not inventing a new token, and therefore the value of our platform is not derived from the rising speculative value of a new token, but rather on the value of honest peer-to-peer payments from one user to another. We believe this strategy more strongly aligns our interests with genuinely getting people paid for good work rather than on raising the value of a new token.
We consider our top competitors to be the large social media apps like Medium, Reddit and Facebook. We are the only social app that includes peer-to-peer payments and believe this gives us an order of magnitude improvement over those services.
HH: Why did you decide not to go with an open-source model like you originally planned?
RC: Our project was open-source for the first six months of development starting in late 2015. We noticed the contributions we got from the open-source world were very small and not worth the cost of maintaining the open-source project. It is much faster to develop things in a closed-source manner. We plan to open-source pieces of our infrastructure over time when it is appropriate to do so, similar to large tech companies like Facebook and Google.
HH: What inspired the decision to go with Bitcoin Cash instead of Litecoin?
RC: We are very pro-Bitcoin and developed all of our technology on top of Bitcoin. When our project was founded in 2015, all other options were far smaller and worse in every way than Bitcoin.
After spending a year and a half developing payment channel technology on Bitcoin in order to make micropayments possible, fees on Bitcoin got so high that even with payment channels the cost of merely onboarding a user became cost prohibitive at more than $10 per user.
By that time, in May 2016, the Litecoin economy had improved significantly and it had far lower fees than Bitcoin. Because Litecoin is technically similar to Bitcoin, we were able to pivot our technology to use Litecoin relatively easily. That allowed us to launch our alpha.
However, with the launch of Bitcoin Cash in August 2017, we reconsidered this decision because Bitcoin Cash has fees that are so low (about 30 times lower than Litecoin) that we didn’t need payment channel technology at all. We were able to reduce the complexity of our code base by 10 times and remove 10,000 lines of code. This has allowed us to move far faster developing our product.
By launching our beta on Bitcoin Cash, we have been able to move about 10 times faster and are able to spend almost all of our time developing our product instead of on fixing payment channel usability problems.