Over the past decade, the digital town squares where we’ve gathered online — to communicate, create, and share — have been stuck in walled gardens owned by landlords who are not us.
Many communities can cryptographically prove ownership of every single part of their experience aside from one key aspect, their base layer of conversation and coordination, which they rent from companies with self-serving business models built on the backs of users’ content.
We want to be the owners of our online experience and feel a true sense of belonging to our online communities.
That’s why we’re introducing Towns, a group chat protocol and app designed for online communities to build better hometowns on the internet. Towns allows a community’s members to truly own their town squares— and communicate freely—with a fully decentralized, end-to-end encrypted chat protocol owned by the people.
Towns empowers communities to create programmable, self-governed gathering spaces to communicate. Any group can use Towns to assemble and chat freely in a space designed to their needs— without ever having to worry that some organization will change the rules, profit off their activity, or take away their rights.
Towns gives you the building blocks to create your ideal community. Ownership of each Town lives on-chain, so they can be transferred, sold, or even held by another smart contract like a DAO or a multi sig, giving you complete control to delegate in the best interest of your community.
Towns is a playground for creativity. Programmable smart contracts let you control settings like administration, reputation, privacy, and roles. Any community can build new clients or APIs on the Towns Protocol and keep complete control and customization.
Towns unlocks entirely new support models for your community. Community owners can create unique experiences such as selling access keys to specific channels, rewarding members for their contributions, or allowing users to trade NFTs directly in the chat—the possibilities are endless.
Towns is an Ethereum-based system of smart contracts that puts you in control of your online space. The contracts are extensible, composable, and upgradeable, enabling communities to write their own rules for moderation, access, and monetization.
The Towns network is an end-to-end encrypted near real-time communication system governed by the Towns smart contracts and powered by a decentralized, distributed proof-of-stake network of nodes.
The Towns app takes all the technical things the protocol implements and makes them available in an open-source, end-to-end encrypted delightful chat experience. The experience ties together user identity and Town ownership through smart contracts representing access, moderation, privacy, and reputation. Tight integration with the web3 ecosystem directly in-app allows for new opportunities for users to interact with their communities in ways that weren’t previously possible. Everything from participating in DAO governance to on-chain game interactions to trading NFTs can occur directly in a community's Town where the communication is already happening. While this will be the first Towns app, it will be one of many as anyone can build clients against the Towns protocol to fit their specific needs.
Towns will be governed and stewarded by the Towns DAO, a group dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the protocol. The DAO makes important decisions for the platform, such as voting on the core development roadmap, technical upgrades, and managing the treasury. The DAO will represent key stakeholder groups in the Towns ecosystem, like users, node operators, space owners, and core contributors.
The Towns protocol and app are the work of the members of HNT Labs. HNT is a small group of world-class engineers and product people that believe in framework-driven value creation through open and direct communication.
The future of Towns is bright. We’re thrilled that today HNT Labs announced $25.5 million in Series A funding led by a16z crypto, and continues to be backed by leading investors such as Benchmark and Framework.
While HNT Labs will be stewarding Towns initially, governance and control of Towns will be transitioned to the Towns DAO progressively as we move towards decentralization of the network.