Utility, Platform and Applications
Welcome to the third session of the convention! This is a Pi Speaker Session with initially the Pi Core Team talking about updates and plans for the Pi Apps platform and Core Team apps, followed by a few videos from third-party developers showcasing their apps or ideas and how they would like to integrate with Pi.
In the Core Team’s talk, we will discuss 1) some high-level directions for Pi Applications, 2) some product and tech updates and plans about the Pi Platform, and 3) the potential apps that the Core Team may build, or guide building, in the hope to hear what Pioneers think about these apps.
Importance of utility & direction of Pi applications
Applications of Pi are important to creating utility and real value in the Pi ecosystem. Applications can be built by the Core Team or third-party developers. The platform is one of the major strategies of the Pi Core Team to decentralize the development of Pi’s ecosystem and leverage the power of our global community to achieve the breadth and scale of traditional economies. For ecosystem building, there are two types of apps: 1) apps with economic incentives or a business model for developers and 2) apps without a business model but essential to the infrastructure and completion of the ecosystem.
Type 1: Apps with business models
Apps with business models mean that they can earn Pi from the business transactions inside their apps, for example charges of Pi for facilitating a purchase for goods or services or direct sales in Pi to Pioneers. These apps make their own independent product, technology and business decisions, e.g. what features or functionalities to include in the app and how much to charge.
What we’re looking for in this type are apps that create real utilities of Pi, boost the usage of Pi and contribute to the growth of the ecosystem. For example, apps that facilitate selling and purchasing goods and services, e.g. marketplaces, service exchange apps, apps that make direct sales of goods or virtual goods or social applications, apps that charge subscriptions for content or services they provide. For initial apps, we would also consider light-weight apps meaning that it’s simple and easy to understand by most Pioneers and have a simple integration mechanism into Pi, e.g fun games with in-game purchases, social apps or meme apps, influence apps where the value and resources exchanged in Pi stay in the realm of being transferable on the internet, while more heavy-weight apps will be onboarded into the platform later. Heavy-weight apps here refer to apps that, in addition to online exchange of value, also require physical-world activities, such as inventories, supply chains and logistics. The reason for the order falls in line with our interactive design process where the light-weight applications at first can help us debug any issues and make improvements in the online processes of how the platform, apps, and Pioneers interact with each other in terms of technical integrations, user experience and economics, before introducing and compounding these processes with physical-world coordination required by the heavy-weight applications.
Type 2: Ecosystem apps
Ecosystem apps are apps that may not have a business model but are essential to the infrastructure of the Pi ecosystem. The purpose of such apps are to complete insufficiencies, facilitate growth of the ecosystem and benefit the common good of the network. Such projects can be either developed by a specific third-party developer or led by the community or the Core Team through open-sourced projects with crowdsourcing from the community. Some of these apps are not necessarily having a business model in Pi, and will or should be free for the community, such as an auditable open-source KYC solution. The rewards for the contributions to such projects can be community-based support through Pi donations from Pioneers, bounty programs or Pi crowdfunding. The Core Team will continue designing concrete mechanisms with inputs from the community, to explore and implement ways to support this type of apps and to surface developers who will lead this type of apps. Due to the nature of ecosystem apps, such apps including its functionality, features, in-app economics, will not be solely decided by the leading developer but will be guided by Pi Core Team and community feedback to ensure it satisfies the needs of the ecosystem and are in line with the interests of the community.
Core Team’s Role
The types of apps mentioned above correlate with the depth of involvement by the Core Team. For Type 1 apps with their own business model, the Core Team’s involvement include providing the platform along with its necessary technical support, e.g. SDK and API, evaluating and making the decision on whether they will be listed on the Pi platform and keeping them always in line with Pi’s policies and interests of the ecosystem. By contrast, Type 2 ecosystem apps without business models, in addition to the same things as Type 1 apps, Pi Core Team’s involvement will also include giving advice and guidance, designing mechanisms and defining policies that incentivise these developers and facilitate such development, and when necessary, mobilizing the community to support their development.
Apps to avoid
Of course, in both types of applications, we want to avoid ingenuine apps that try to game the system or apps that are not compliant with law or Pi’s policies. For example, sham apps that do not really facilitate real goods-and-services transactions but are in essence a channel for malicious people to scam Pioneers for money or data, or speculative people to sell Pi for fiat and other cryptocurrencies, to organize unauthorized exchanges of Pi under the table or to hoard Pi. We also will stay away from any apps that will raise regulatory questions in some regions, e.g gambling apps or casino games.
The procedure may involve evaluation by the Core Team, evaluation by the community committees and continued monitoring and auditing by the larger community, to ensure the compliance of law and Pi’s policies, alignment with Pi Network’s core values and strategies, and the benefits to the common good of the Pi community and more generally humanity.
Platform updates and plans
Q2 Platform Release
In Q2 2020, we introduced Pi Apps platform prototypes along with its first third-party app to the community. We had multiple iterations of the prototypes to fix bugs and improve scalability and user experience and finally announced the developer SDK and testing Sandbox at the end of May.
In Q3, we hoped that developers would be able to play with the released SDK and Sandbox and explore what could be built on Pi. We will see a few examples later in the developer demos after the Core Team talk.
The next steps for the Pi Platform
The next step for the Pi platform is to increase its functionalities for third party developers to develop fully functional apps with the ability to provide better user experience, while improving scalability, the security of the overall Pi system in relation to the Pi Platform and the protection of user privacy.
- First, we would like to provide SDK endpoints for developers to take advantage of the scalable database backend of Pi Network. We will build a user-state object in our SDK for third-party apps to provide continued user experience, e.g. ability to allow users to continue what they left off from previous visits. This is important for almost all apps to provide a coherent user experience. Providing this endpoint means that developers will be able to store the state for each of their users directly onto the Pi backend without needing to deploy their own servers or store data in frontend technologies, such as “cookies” and “local store”, that are unreliable when a user signs out or changes their device. While more complex apps will always require their own backend, this SDK functionality will enable a plethora of simpler apps to work without worrying about servers.
- Second, the platform will be able to allow authentication into using third-party apps without necessarily sharing their Pi usernames. In the current version of the platform, the access and use of third-party apps rely on the user’s willingness to share their Pi usernames. Even though the choice to share or not is completely in the hands of the user, not sharing the Pi username would mean inability to use the specific third-party app. In the next versions of the platform, we would like to make the authentication to use third-party apps more flexible to provide better protection of users’ privacy while maintaining their ability to use third-party apps. Eventually, the platform will enable third-party apps to request specific information about the user, and allow the user to accept or refuse each of them.
- The platform wants to provide more functionalities and accessibility for third-party apps to tap into the infrastructure of the Pi system and Pi community, for example, the ability for third-party apps to create their own Pi chat rooms through the SDK to interact with their users and engage other Pioneers to join their app.
- We will allow developers to generate custom links that would take users directly to the developer’s intended place in their app, a process called “deep linking”. This way they will be able to invite new users into their apps directly without having to go through the general workflow of the Pi App first. This way will also enable experiences where one user interacts seamlessly with another. For example, in a round-based game, a user gets a link that navigates them directly to the interface of the game where they need to make their move; in a marketplace, a user can go directly to a place to check out a specific item; in a meme app, a user can share a specific meme, and others can navigate directly to that specific meme when clicking on that link.
- The platform will also gradually release more functionalities for developers to integrate with the Pi currency. In the current version, developers can request payments from Pioneers. Later versions will provide the ability for the developers to pay Pioneers, completing the loop of bidirectional payments between app developers and Pioneers. The complete loop of transactions are important to enable certain apps. As we discussed in the Pi Phase 2 strategy announcement in March 2020, we will first focus on enabling third-party apps inside the Pi app itself, before enabling a Pi Payment system for completely external apps. Technically, this means that the availability of specific API endpoints will tailor to the needs of the in-app third-party apps based on reasons, such as efficiency and security, rather than enabling external applications to be able to run Pi Payments, which will come further down the line though. Thus, the API endpoints that we will make available next will be to validate payments to the app developer and to provide privacy control between a Pioneer and an app.
Core Team initiated apps
The Pi Core Team will develop and improve certain apps or guide a few ecosystem apps, to experiment and create Pi utility, build the ecosystem, and organize the community. We’ll introduce a few apps that the Core Team is considering improving and building ourselves or guiding ecosystem third-party developers to build, pending community input for us to prioritize. We’d like to hear what Pioneers think about these apps after watching this session, so we can decide how we will spend our time and resources next. Please express your thoughts in the Topic on the homescreen. Keep in mind that the Core Team’s Phase 2 mission is to achieve value creation through utility and decentralization while growing the community and building the ecosystem.
Apps to improve and build
Pi Chats has been the oldest and most used app inside Pi. This is the place where the Pi community’s global conversations are held, where old Pioneers discuss Pi and socialize, and where new Pioneers are helped by their peers when they get to know Pi. Over the past few months, we have added a new add-on feature, Topics, to facilitate forum-like and theme-based discussions. Next, we’d like to improve Pi Chats, including better moderation features, overall organization and usability, and a better spam control system either automatically or crowdsourced. The Core Team has been considering and exploring mechanisms to integrate the usage of Pi inside Pi chats for spam and troll controls and also for achieving more constructive conversations. If such experiments are successful, not only would it help experiment with the Pi utility, but it also benefits the community because Pioneers will enjoy the chats more, and more community activities can be organized through the Pi chats.
Home screen social media channel
So far, the Pi app’s home screen has been used by only the Core Team to make announcements and organize community activities. In a sense, the Core Team has been the only content creator on the home screen channel. However, we have plans to slowly open up the home screen channel for more content creators other than the Core Team itself to broadcast their content. For example, the home screen channel can be initially opened up to content created by chats moderators who may provide bite-size educational content about Pi for the community to address Pioneers’ questions in addition to answering them in the chats. Next, it can possibly be opened to good content creators on the internet even outside Pi Network, e.g. influencers on YouTube or Instagram, to bring more interesting content for Pioneers inside the app and to experiment with Pi utility. The type of content can expand from initially only about Pi to more general good quality content. Of course, the Core Team expects to integrate certain use of Pi to curate the content and organize non-core-team creators’ access to the home screen channel that reaches millions of Pioneers. This is not only part of the Pi utility experiment but also attempts to innovate on how quality content can be achieved and consumed in social media. Inside the Core Team, we call this idea: a scarce social media channel, as opposed to the currently abundant millions of social media channels where everyone can host, e.g. on Instagram, YouTube. Such abundance of channels also creates low signal-to-noise ratio, information overload, and information sinos caused by the machine-learning algorithm curation. The Pi scarce social media channel tries to solve such social media problems by providing high signal content through the moderation of a token mechanism and human crowd curation.
Apps to guide
Crowdsourcing-based Translation app
As Pioneers are from almost every corner of the world, the fact that our app is only in English has been an impeding factor for our users to understand the Pi vision, mission or generally how the app works, and it has been difficult for our existing users to explain to potential new users. The translation of the app into different languages has been something that the community has been asking for and we want to build. While the Core Team can build the translations of the app in a centralized way, the Core Team would like to guide third-party ecosystem developers to create a translation-crowdsourcing app. The crowdsourcing-based translation app will allow us to decentralize the burden of translations to an unlimited number of languages in the world and also provides agility on an on-going basis when new updates or interfaces are deployed to the app. This translation app will receive voluntary translations of all texts of the Pi app, including app actions, instructions or announcement content. It will also need to institute a mechanism for evaluation, selection and validation by other peer Pioneers to ensure the accuracy of the translation in specific languages. Then, it automatically plugs into the backend of the Pi app so that phones with the specific language setting can display our app in that language. This app will be primarily an ecosystem app for the benefits of the community.
Community KYC solutions
Pi has a strict policy of one account per person. This requires a high degree of accuracy to establish that members in the network are genuine human beings, in order to prevent individuals being able to hoard Pi through creating fake accounts unfairly. So KYC is an important and necessary procedure inside our ecosystem. Current Pi KYC is conducted by a third-party KYC provider. However, as mentioned multiple times, the ultimate goal is to enable every Pioneer in the network to pass KYC or prove their humanness eventually for the Mainnet. Due to cost, coverage and accessibility by Pioneers in different regions, we hope to develop a decentralized, reliable, low- to no-cost KYC process customized for the Pi community. We hope this project will be a Core-Team-guided and community-sourced project because all Pioneers care about how KYC is conducted, and also because third-party developers from different regions may be more aware of different regional challenges or issues in the KYC process. The Core Team will lead the project but welcomes Pioneers and developers who are interested in solving this problem, generally or specifically, for different regions to contribute ideas and engineering time. If the project is community-sourced, the code of the KYC project needs to be open-source so that it’s publicly auditable. We’ve received many KYC proposals from the community. This project hopes to gather such community enthusiasts and more to develop our community KYC solution together. One of such KYC proposals from community members will be demonstrated following this Core Team talk.
These are the apps that the Core Team have been considering improving, building or guiding, and we want to hear what you think.
After the Core Team Talks, there are talks by Third Party developers. Through the convention developer speaker applications, we received many application submissions and surfaced a few interesting ideas and thoughts by Pioneers about potential apps for the Pi platform. We selected a few of such developers who were able to articulate their app or idea, and present the demo in a video to showcase here. The later presentations also include an update from our first third-party app - FeverIQ, about what Pioneers’ contributions to their app has turned into.
Disclaimer: Selection of the apps to be presented at the convention does not mean acceptance of the app to be deployed in the Pi Platform. The selection of apps to be deployed will be a separate process later. The convention is meant to foster discussions and further inspire innovations.