If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve probably heard about Grass, the flagship product from Wynd Network. Grass is an upcoming browser extension that lets users monetize their internet connection by selling unused network resources — by selling their “view of the internet.” But what exactly are these network resources, and what does “your view of the internet” mean?
Think of it like this: Grass enables you to sell a product you didn’t even know you have. Today we’ll explain exactly what that product is.
First, we’ll discuss why your internet connection is valuable, and why other people are willing to pay for it.
Then we’ll look at how the market for these resources works today, and how centralized proxy providers are already selling your network space without paying you for it at all.
Finally, we’ll introduce Grass: a decentralized residential proxy market that uses token rewards to upend the traditional business model for these networks and compensate its users fairly.
Grass has the potential to revolutionize this industry and create a more equitable, secure, and ethical marketplace for network resources. So let’s take a closer look and see how it all works.
1. Defining Residential IP Proxies
It all revolves around data.
Say there’s an airline who wants to know what all of their competitors are charging for plane tickets. This data exists on public websites, but how can they gather it all, particularly when it could vary based on the location of the viewer?
Or what if the same company paid for web advertising, and they want to see if their ads are showing up in all of the markets they paid to target?
To capture this information from the public web, they need to access the internet from the public’s point of view — from as many sources as possible, in as many locations as possible.
That’s where you come in.
Every time you access the internet, you do it from a unique IP address, and a lot of what you see is tailored to your location. When you act as a residential IP proxy, it simply means that someone routes their internet traffic through your IP address, so they see the internet from your point of view. Then, they can use this view to scrape the web for whatever public data they may need.
What does this look like in real terms?
It looks like sharing your internet connection with someone else. Say you pay for a connection with a maximum download speed of 100 MB/s. If you’re only using 30 MB/s to download a file, that leaves 70 MB/s of “idle” bandwidth that isn’t being used at that moment. This is the bandwidth that companies will use to scrape the web from your IP address, and this is the resource you are already giving away, without knowing it.
As tends to be the case with big data, this might not seem like much at first. How much would someone possibly pay to check a website from your IP address? Yet these numbers add up, as companies scrape ever more massive amounts of data in the name of market research each year. So if the acquisition of public web data is only becoming a larger and larger part of the business world, why are none of us seeing any rewards when our internet connections are the ones facilitating it?
2. The Residential Proxy Market Today
Today, the market for residential IP proxies is dominated by a small number of highly centralized service providers. These companies function by creating massive proxy networks using residential IPs from all over the world, then selling their unused bandwidth to buyers like our airline from above. Typically, these networks will have a list of authenticated IP addresses that are whitelisted to be used by purchasers. Unfortunately, this is where the arrangement stops being fair to all parties.
In the best case scenario, the addresses on this whitelist are added with the full consent of their owners. Permission is granted in exchange for some type of payment, and residential internet users can voluntarily sign up to sell their network resources (the unused bandwidth from the residential internet connection tied to their IP address.)
Here’s the thing: even when residential internet users consent to participation, and even when they are compensated for their resources, the network is incentivized to pay them as little as possible to maximize their own profits. There’s very little competition to provide these proxy networks, and buyers and sellers have no possible way of connecting outside of them. Thus, the networks dictate the terms by which buyers and sellers engage with each other, universally deciding to charge buyers as much as possible and pay sellers as little as possible.
In the worst case scenario, everyday internet users like yourself are cut out of the equation entirely. Whether you know it or not, many of the free apps you download have lines in their terms and conditions that sign you up to donate your unused bandwidth to proxy networks. This may help developers to monetize their products, and help proxy companies to recruit unwitting internet users, but you can bet that you’ll never see a penny of the proceeds.
The end result? You are paying for a certain amount of bandwidth, and then when you don’t use it all, your ISP doesn’t refund the money. Instead, it is sold to someone else, and they don’t even cut you in on the deal!
Obviously it’s not unfair to say that the existing landscape of the residential proxy industry falls somewhere between vaguely exploitative and outright unethical. But what can be done to address these problems and put network resources back in the hands of their rightful owners?
3. Introducing Grass
Simply put, Grass is a decentralized alternative to the networks described above. It is a network sharing application that allows users to sell their unused bandwidth. Where existing networks are operated by exploitative middlemen who extract value from the parties exchanging resources, Grass is an equitable solution in which both sides have an active stake in the network.
To individuals, it will appear as a web extension that is downloaded, left on, and forgotten about. It will do its work behind the scenes, helping others to acquire public web data in exchange for payment in the protocol’s native token.
Through this token, two things will happen. One, tokenholders will accrue a portion of the fees collected by the network. Two, it will function as a governance token, allowing users to vote on important decisions about the direction of the protocol. By this system, individuals who were disenfranchised and exploited by centralized proxy networks will be given a stake and a say in the Wynd network.
Compared to its centralized counterparts, Grass is:
- Ethical. These resources are already being sold out from under you, so Grass simply transfers the proceeds to their rightful owners.
- Democratic. By paying in tokens, Grass doesn’t just compensate you for your unused network resources — it compensates you with ownership of the network itself.
- Secure. There is an inherent danger in having a small number of companies control this infrastructure, which is mitigated by decentralization.
Ultimately, Grass takes a more principled approach to this industry than the bad actors who lead the pack today. Like many use cases of blockchain technology, it creates a more equitable distribution of resources by doing away with the centralized control of networks, making the world more fair in the process.
We’ll be releasing more details about the network over the next few months, and beta will launch in June. So stay tuned for more information and sign up now for early access. Before long, your internet will be back in your hands, and we can all finally touch grass.