“Example of email — gets pushed down to all devices. Change a contact? Gets pushed up to MobileMe, down to all other devices. The best part of this, it works over the air. Everything is up to date.” – Scott Forstall,ex-SVP Apple while announcing the world’s first push notification service in 2008.
“Apple is providing a push notification service to all developers,” announced Scott Forstall, then senior vice-president of iOS, at the WWDC 2008. But little did they know about the overwhelming response that would delay the rollout of Apple Push Notifications (APNs) from March 2009 to June 2009 due to the restructuring required for scaling.
“Isn’t that fantastic?… This is going to be great,” commented Steve Jobs, very much alive then.
That was the first-ever push notification, followed by the Android ecosystem in 2010, and it is now part of our life.
Explaining the importance of push notifications, Richa Joshi, cofounder of Mumbai-based EPNS, said that in early 2000, when Gmail, Orkut and other social platforms had just started off, users had to check updates on the service itself. (In simple terms, one would have to log in to mail to know they had mail.) But push notifications have changed the way services reach and communicate with users.
“It was a seamless web 2.0 experience. By 2019, Harsh and I (cofounders of EPNS) had started using Web 3.0 services, be it for loan liquidation updates related to Aave (an open-source DeFi protocol) or data on ENS (Ethereum Name Service) domains. But we did not come across any Web 2.0-like push notification service,” said Joshi.
That was how Ethereum Push Notification Service (EPNS) was born.
“We built the proof of concept and showcased it at the HackMoney 2020, a virtual hackathon organised by ETHGlobal, a consortium of ethereum communities. The idea was appreciated, and ETHGlobal supported us a lot and helped us raise initial funding. We were one of the 30 startups globally shortlisted for Massachusetts-based IDEO’s CoLab ( a venture studio that invests in early-stage distributed web startups and co-create new products and protocols). On the demo day, we landed $16,000 from Gitcoin Grants, an open source platform,” added Joshi.
Backed by more than 35 investors such as Binance Labs, Balaji Srinivasan (angel investor and former CTO of Coinbase) and Mariano Conti of Maker Foundation, EPNS raised $1.4 Mn in the past year. The startup is set to launch its first product in the next few weeks.
Decentralised Push Notifications: How It Works
Built on top of ethereum, EPNS is a fully decentralised middleware layer, enabling DApps (decentralised applications), smart contracts or traditional services to communicate with their users in a privacy-focused decentralised way.
As the blockchain protocol facilitating communication is decentralised in nature, it ensures the delivery of notifications irrespective of the nature of carriers. In short, it covers both decentralised and centralised carriers (iOS, Android, Firefox, Chrome, Telegram, user wallets and more).
The Idea Of Incentivised Notifications
Unlike the Web 2.0-based Apple Push notifications (or the Android services for that matter), EPNS incentivises users for getting notifications.
“Any service that wants to send notifications using the EPNS protocol will have to deposit a small amount, say 50 DAI, as a staking fee to activate its notification services. The stake then goes to a combined stake pool of channels and starts accumulating token incentives using the Aave protocol. The interest generated on a channel’s staking amount is distributed among its subscribers,” explained Joshi.
Projects Down The Line
Currently, the audit mechanism is underway and minor modifications are done accordingly. This will clear the launch of EPNS Protocol, enabling services to send notifications by adopting Web 3.0 tech.
The next big milestone coming up by the end of the year will be the push nodes, the retrieval and the dispatch protocol.
Besides the governance of EPNS protocol, the company is also working on front-end products such as dApp, mobile app and browser extension.