For almost two years, John Carvalho has kept his company in “stealth mode”. He dropped some hints about his vision during his July 2020 interview with Jeff from Fulmo, he made a few brief mentions about it during S6 E10 of the Bitcoin Takeover Podcast, he tweeted about hiring developers, and he subtly implied that his The Biz podcast is the result of regular business calls.
But as of November 16th 2021, we finally know the name of John Carvalho’s company: Synonym. During the Adopting Bitcoin conference in El Salvador, the former Xotika CEO and Bitrefill CCO has revealed his plan for hyperbitcoinization – a phenomenon that he doesn’t consider to be “inevitable” without the development of peer to peer applications and protocols that facilitate it.
This is the philosophy which gave birth to Synonym, a British Virgin Islands- based company whose ambitions extend towards creating peer to peer applications and protocols on top of Bitcoin’s Lightning network.
Synonym’s launch product is Slashtags: a Chrome-compatible wallet whose ambitions extend beyond transacting bitcoins. With it, users can sign up to different websites without a password and through an ecosystem which puts them in control of all data. John Carvalho has been speaking about solving internet centralization and the identity problem, so this might just become part of the solution. More information about the Slashtags extension and the core application can be found in the corresponding GitHub repositories.
John’s podcast, “The Biz”, also uses Synonym’s development. And according to the available data, the code which enables listeners to unlock every minute of the recording through a microtransaction will be open-sourced sometime in the third quarter of 2022. This can be a game-changer for content creators who have already built an audience that’s willing to pay, as monetization can be made directly, interactively, without the need for custodians, and without ads.
On the Synonym roadmap we can also see a Bitcoin wallet which seeks to integrate advanced features (such as boosting transactions that’s stuck in the mempool through RBF or CPFP) in the most basic and comprehensive user interface. This wallet will also enable the use of Lightning network tokens, including Tether (USDT). Under the hood, there’s also a free encrypted backup service – and though I understand the target audience for it, it is not something I would personally use.
Perhaps the biggest and boldest claim of the Synonym wallet is “Web 3 without shitcoins”. The app will make use of the account, identity, contact book, and feeds that you also access in Slashtags.
On the long terms, the ambitions extend towards enabling the monetization of files, the creation of social networks and publishing platforms, as well as the creation of a “web of trust”.
Given Lightning’s elegant design and excellent scalability via client-side validation (only the parties involved in a transaction verify the data, there’s no need for the entire network to do it as in the case of blockchains), all of these seem doable. However, the scope of Synonym’s ambitions is great enough to architecture a new internet that’s built on top of Lightning.
Previously, we’ve had similar but singular attempts to solve centralization, privacy, monetization, and scalability issues with Lightning. Examples include Joule for identity, Y’Alls for publishing, Breez for a simple non-custodial experience, and RGB Spectrum for tokens. What Synonym aims to do is to unify all of these ideas under a decentralized and open source umbrella, for the purpose of making the user onboarding process more intuitive.
What is still unclear is the ways in which Synonym is going to monetize its operations. As of November 16th 2021, the team consists of six people (interestingly, Bitfinex and Tether CTO Paolo Ardoino also acts as CTO in Synonym) and seeks to hire four more. It’s going to be interesting to see how the operations scale and to which extent there are return of investment expectations from Tether Holdings and Fulgur Ventures.
A way through which Synonym can become profitable is Blocktank – a Lightning Service Provider (LSP) which allows businesses, apps and platforms to purchase LN liquidity. But at this early stage, it’s hard to tell if all revenue can be guaranteed by this service.
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