We interviewed Justin Chiang, CEO of the new enterprise 'crowdEats.' He tells us what attracted him to the Internet Computer ecosystem and how he sees his new company as game-changing. He describes his vision as a 'tokenized Yelp,' a universalized social media for finding good local food.
- Please introduce yourself.
- My name is Justin Chiang, and I'm the CEO and Founder of crowdEats. I'm born and raised in Silicon Valley and have been around technology all my life. I've worked in cloud, media, and machine learning, most recently as a software engineer at Google.
2. What attracted you initially to blockchain?
- I've been hearing about blockchain and crypto on and off for the last five years, but I didn't take it seriously until earlier this year when I read Dom's Medium post about the Internet Computer. It completely blew me away.
- In particular, I was captivated by his vision about tokenized open internet services run by the community and whose success is shared with the community.
- Imagine a tokenized Uber, a tokenized Facebook, a tokenized Twitter. My mind started running through the possibilities. It was an exciting new space I had never known existed.
I applied for a DFINITY grant for crowdEats the very next week.
3. Of all the platforms you could have chosen, why did you decide to build on the Internet Computer?
- No other blockchain platform provides the unique combination of speed, cost, flexibility, and scale that the Internet Computer offers.
Ethereum was groundbreaking when it first launched in 2015. Computations could be stored and executed on a decentralized ledger for the first time, not just account balances.
However, it presents a couple of devastating limitations.
- For one, its cost is prohibitive; it costs millions of dollars to store a gigabyte of data in an Ethereum smart contract.
- It also requires every user to have a wallet to interact with its dapps, with volatile gas fees charged for every transaction. And, of course, its speed and scalability are widely acknowledged as huge problems.
While other blockchains like Solana and Avalanche improve speed and scalability, they don't fundamentally break from the Ethereum blockchain model. As far as I can tell, the Internet Computer is the only blockchain built from the ground up that solves the UX, cost, and performance issues that other blockchains face.
4. Would you mind explaining to the Dfinity community what crowdEats is all about?
- The easiest way to start thinking about crowdEats is as a tokenized Yelp.
Online review platforms like Yelp and Tripadvisor suffer from huge trust problems. There are many biased, fake, and unfair reviews, and on top of that, the incentives are completely misaligned.
- For example, Yelp has been repeatedly accused of filtering out positive reviews from restaurants that don't buy their ads. That isn't good, and that's just one example. At the same time, the vast majority of us use these platforms on an almost daily basis. It's crazy that we put so much trust in something that is so untrustable.
It's easy to blame one company, but as is often said, there's no such thing as a bad actor... only a flawed system. The Web 2.0 business model of online reviews is fundamentally broken.
- When a for-profit corporation has the unilateral authority to determine which reviews stay and which go, there's bound to be abuse. These companies also profit handsomely off the labor of its millions of review writers and users—but these contributors don't make a cent.
When I noticed this, I realized this would be a perfect use case for blockchain. Blockchain is about removing the need for trust—and that's crucial because trust in these platforms is at an all-time low.
Imagine a Yelp where you can get paid to write restaurant reviews—but also can finally trust other people's reviews. How is that possible? Enter crowdEats.
Here's the gist of it:
- when a user submits a review, it goes through community moderation, not some opaque (and untrustworthy) algorithm.
- A randomly selected panel of jurors will vote on whether to approve the review.
- They'll be given a set of guidelines on how to vote, including criteria like fairness and credibility, and access to a bunch of relevant information, including information about the reviewer, e.g., what other reviews they've written. (Of course, these guidelines can be changed by the community.)
- Only if a majority votes to approve will the review get published.
- The goal is to transfer the power of content moderation from a centralized, corruptible actor to a decentralized community.
5. How do we ensure that the jurors make an effort to vote correctly?
Token incentives. If a juror votes in the majority, they are rewarded with tokens; otherwise, they aren't.
- To prevent jurors from randomly voting in the hope of sometimes voting in the majority, they are required to stake a certain amount of tokens, which they lose if they are in the minority.
- As a juror votes more and more in the majority, their "credibility" will go up, and their subsequent rewards will go up. Their staking requirement will go down, further incentivizing them to try.
Another way to think of crowdEats is like a blockchain—jurors are the "validators" that are incentivized through tokens to verify "transactions" (i.e., reviews).
- Jurors get paid for voting in the majority, and review writers also get paid if their review gets approved and published. In essence, users get rewarded for contributing to a platform and making it more useful.
6. Why do these tokens have value?
- Besides governance, these utility tokens will be needed to perform various tasks, including juror staking and buying ads.
- The more people that are using the platform, the more these tokens will be worth. Like with ICP, early contributors will be given more significant token rewards to compensate them for the increased risk they take on for contributing to an early-stage platform.
As you can probably tell, tokens are not an afterthought for crowdEats. Without tokens, none of this would work. Blockchain solves a problem that is not solvable without it. Think about this for a bit.
7. What overall vision do you have? Do you have a roadmap?
- So far, I've described crowdEats as a tokenized Yelp. And that's true. But the long-term vision of crowdEats is to be *the* platform people use to find what and where to eat. Think of it as the universal social media for local food. No need to google "what to eat in Miami." No need to look at random pictures of food on Instagram, only to search up the reviews and business hours on Yelp. No need to spend 30 minutes scrolling through a long list of search results in Tripadvisor to find a burger place.
It's an ambitious goal, but I think there's a huge opportunity here. Nobody's that happy with the current ecosystem. Restaurants are pissed at review platforms. Users are fatigued looking for restaurants online—there's too much noise, and you don't know what you can trust. Review platforms like Yelp are bleeding revenue as they lose users' (and advertisers') trust. Something needs to change.
- Oh yeah, thanks to the Internet Computer, the vision is for everybody to use this platform, including people who have no idea what crypto is.
More details will be available soon—stay tuned! The current plan is to launch on iOS and Android sometime in 2022.
8. Do you have any token sales planned for the future?
- Yes, there will likely be a limited token sale a few months before launch. Please follow us on Twitter or join our Discord channel to get the latest information.
9. Any final thoughts?
- This decade will witness a meteoric explosion of Decentralized Social dapps, and I believe it will be when crypto finally goes mainstream. The groundbreaking technology the Internet Computer provides will be critical to making that happen.
- I'm so excited to see what this community comes up with within the coming years, and I'm extraordinarily grateful to be a part of the blockchain revolution.
If you have any thoughts on crowdEats or anything really, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to chat.
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