A conversation with Head of Product Development, Georg Greve
Today we’d like to bring to your attention Vereign, a company that successfully utilizes the æternity blockchain and its unique advantages. Vereign uses advanced protection technology that integrates with existing inbox infrastructure to provide authenticity, security, and trust to the entire email communication process. It also has a showcase implementation on how to sign, share, and verify sensitive documents all the while being fully eIDAS/ZertES compliant. Vereign has been prototyping a Self Sovereign Identity wallet and node solution with an extreme focus on usability and user experience – allowing anyone to manage their personal digital identity and decide who sees what by selectively sharing their data via their Vereign account.
Email is one of the oldest protocols on the internet, and the most successful. There have been numerous would-be “email killers” in the past decades, but email just continues to grow in importance and numbers. Today it is the most successful communication protocol with 4 billion users. It is also the only censorship-resistant and federated network for unverified identity. And the primary channel for communication of value – especially for professionals.
Vereign brings us the long-awaited evolution of email by utilizing the biggest advantages blockchain can offer in securing our communication.
We’ve spoken with Chairman and Head of Product Development at Vereign, Mr. Georg Greve about the company, its journey in the field of blockchain innovation, its future, as well as the reason they chose to build on the æternity blockchain.
As you’ve stated before, email is the primary choice for business and professional services and continues to be the dominant medium of communication through decades. Hence, you believe the first blockchain to really scale on top of email is going to be champion – and the first to see mass adoption.
Can you elaborate a little more on that? What is the future of email, and the benefits of utilizing blockchain for its improvement? How does it help mass adoption of blockchain technology?
Email is the most powerful communication network for professional purposes. It has a unique advantage that none of its potential replacements can offer: It is decentralized, federated, and censorship-resistant. Email will continue to grow, though its shape is going to keep evolving, and the large email platforms are going to continue increasing in market share.
But even if someone had something that was 10 times better than email, which right now is not in sight, email is so deeply integrated into so many companies, products, and solutions that replacing it is an almost insurmountable amount of work.
Blockchain on the other hand is a very young technology. Its most successful implementation to date is Bitcoin, with around 100 million users. So email is 40 times larger than Blockchain at this time. Only Microsoft 365 and Gmail together are 22 times larger in regards to the number of users.
That is the addressable market size of what we are doing with Vereign Seal.
Our add-in is installed with a single click in a couple of seconds. From that point on, each mail can be sent “sealed” with its own verifiable credentials against the blockchain. And each mail that is received will be verified against the blockchain to protect against tampering, phishing, and fraud.
Business Email Compromise, often referred to as “CEO fraud”, is the number one Cybercrime today. Email is part of almost any cyberattack. The damages are in the billions and growing fast. Our solution offers peer-to-peer protection against a lot of these scenarios and is better than anything else available today.
Anyone making use of the add-ins or even just launching the web verification app is ultimately making use of æternity. So I think it’s easy to see how this path can lead to the first billion users of blockchain.
In December of last year, you mentioned the potential of a partnership between Vereign and totemo which would mean that companies such as Deutsche Bank, UBS, Swiss International Air Lines, BASF, Swisscom & Co2 are likely to start using æternity blockchain from January 2021 onward.
What is the current situation with the partnerships, and are there any other in the works at the moment?
We’ve integrated Vereign Seal into the Totemo gateway. But these large institutions move slowly. Even more so in times of pandemics when they are even more inward-focused than usual. We know from many conversations over the years that the interest is there, though, and will let you know once the first users are happy to speak out in public.
In the meantime, smaller companies are more agile and can innovate faster even in these times. There is no reason any company would send out important mail, including contracts, offers, or invoices, without the additional security of Seal.
Being able to prove what was sent, when, and to who has been near impossible in the past. It is why so many companies and especially lawyers still use fax machines. But that is slow, cumbersome, expensive, breaks the media flow, and offers far less value than Vereign Seal.
Same for registered mail, which basically proves you sent a (possibly empty) envelope somewhere. Seal is faster, more convenient, and adds a lot more value – at a fraction of the cost.
So the only reason why companies might not be using it today is that they don’t know it exists. This is why we’d love everyone to help us spread the word in your circle of companies and professionals you know and work with.
With a Vereign account, you have total autonomy in managing your personal digital identity.
Can you shortly explain to potential users what benefits this brings them in their daily professional communication? Can they try the demo, and what will they experience with it?
When you are on the internet today, your identity isn’t yours. Almost always is it some kind of company acting on your behalf and in your name. Not even your signature is your own. It’s a company that has full signatory power for you. And because your government has enacted a law that says so, this signature made by the company binds you as much as your real-life signature.
To make matters worse, most of these digital identities are held by companies that are under US law, and your digital existence is entirely subject to their terms of service and goodwill.
This seems more like some dystopian science fiction than the kind of future we would like to see. Our identity must be in our own hands, we must be the sovereign of our own data, privacy, and interactions. That’s why Self Sovereign Identity is such an important topic, and perhaps the biggest issue we’re facing today when it comes to digital technologies.
But making such an identity usable for anyone, creating a user experience that works for people who are not technical by nature, is quite the challenge. We’ve accepted that challenge back in 2017. You can see for yourself how well we did by signing up at app.vereign.com and giving it a spin. In our view it’s not perfect (yet) but far better than other solutions we’ve come across. We hope you agree.
We’ll be reworking some of the underlying layers on top of Vereign Seal in order to connect it to the larger ecosystem that is evolving around this area. Help is always appreciated, and we’re always looking for good people.
As you’ve stated, in order to build and operate its Identity solution as well as Seal, Vereign not only holds æternity tokens, it has also invested quite a lot of resources into building an application that adds a use case with great market value to the æternity network.
Can you tell us more about Seal, and how your team came up with the solution? Also, what helped you make the choice to build on æternity blockchain?
Solving meaningful problems for large numbers of people in a good way that is fast, easy, convenient, cheap is the path to broad usage. There is no more meaningful problem than authenticity in email, as discussed above. Working on the proof of concept we had to realize that a Self Sovereign Identity is ultimately what people will want and need – but most people do not realize this yet.
So we had to simplify and simplify even more. With Seal we have the smallest possible product that solves the largest part of the problem. It’s simple to install, use and interact with. We deliberately stripped away onboarding, identification, and other obstacles for Seal. It just works and seals each message without requiring any kind of special knowledge from the user. We are convinced this is the kind of on-ramp for blockchain and SSI that has been missing.
Our choice for æternity was driven by a couple of factors. We needed a chain that worked well enough to develop on. We also were looking for a chain that would take a strong focus on being a seamless, micro-transaction friendly chain that can be connected with other chains. And finally, we know, appreciate, and like the technical team and the choices made.
Erlang has some great properties, and we believe that makes æternity one of the most promising technical platforms to build on. Æternity is a hidden champion with a lot of potential.
As it has become a custom in our In the Spotlight section, we talked with Georg about the beginnings of Vereign, as well as his own history in blockchain and innovation technology in general. Additionally, we asked him to share his advice to individuals and teams looking to start building on blockchain. Here’s what he had to say:
Keep an open mind.
The world is changing faster than most people comprehend and the right answers are changing along with them. There is no one that has all the answers and knows better than anyone. Keep evolving, keep thinking, keep learning and once you’ve been down this road for 10 to 15 years, do not assume that you automatically know everything better than someone with less experience.