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 “So, how does blockchain work?”

If you are a regular visitor to our blog, you probably aren’t asking that question, but chances are, you’re hearing. A lot. One way to approach the question is to look at one blockchain application and get a sense of how it works.
What better way for us to open the hood than to look at an application we were involved in. So let’s start exploring!

Venmo on Steroids

We worked with Blockmason to build a mobile blockchain application for expense sharing and bill splitting. It’s called Lndr (pronounced lender): Think Venmo functionality, a bit of Facebook’s social networking and the power and security of the blockchain.

Lndr is a peer-to-peer debt-tracking app that uses the Ethereum blockchain to record, track, and verify credit agreements among acquaintances. Lndr can be used to split and settle bills with, for example, friends, roommates, and travel companions.

But–and this is crucial–the beauty of it is that users don’t need to create an Ethereum wallet. In fact, if you didn’t know it was a blockchain DApp, you wouldn’t know it’s a blockchain DApp. That’s the point: Through Lndr–and future applications–Blockmason wants to lower the barrier to entry for owning cryptocurrency. (We’ll talk more about this later.)

DApp, not App

Lndr is a decentralized application, or DApp (pronounced d-app, like e-mail). Traditional apps, in contrast, generally run on centralized servers. Perhaps the most significant advantages to running apps on a decentralized blockchain network are that it’s tamperproof, and there are no intermediaries who could hold up–or decline–payment.

DAapps typically use smart contract technology. A smart contract defines the conditions and obligations of an agreement, but unlike a traditional contract, it can automatically enforce those obligations. In contrast, Venmo uses the PayPal system; it’s not truly peer to peer and in some cases, PayPal could interfere with the “contract” between two users.

There’s another notable difference: Settlement doesn’t have to happen in real time. It’s a ledger, even in the conventional sense of the word. From the credit protocol whitepaper:

“Existing apps that claim to alleviate such problems, such as Venmo, Wechat/Alipay, and various cryptocurrency wallets, only work for on the spot settlement—a surprisingly limited functionality when contextualized against the various complex debts and payments that can occur in a large social network. These platforms feature no way to settle debts at a later date […]”

Lndr will allow users to create, track, and settle debts in all major currencies on top of standard Ethereum wallet functionality, dramatically expanding the pool of possible users and use cases. In doing so, Lndr effectively creates a platform for decentralized money issuance on the blockchain, only executed via a user-friendly, wallet-like interface that encourages widespread adoption.

Through Lndr, Blockmason set out to create a new user-friendly system of social borrowing for cryptocurrency.

And we helped.

Perfecting the POC

After building a proof of concept (POC) and establishing demand, Blockmason was eager to launch Lndr, but there were a few kinks that needed to be worked out, including latency and user-experience issues.

Blockmason recognized the problem and decided to bring more developers on board. But it needed to be sure the new additions to the team could get up to speed quickly; it couldn’t afford any delays.

So Blockmason engaged Very to help with blockchain development. We’ve worked on countless blockchain applications, and we heavily invest in training our senior product engineers on dApp development. We were ready for the challenge.

Very Gets Down to Business

(Note to readers who aren’t programmers or developers: This next section gets a bit into the weeds, but bear with us. You’ll learn something new, and we’ll get back to the cool stuff in a few paragraphs.)

Our development team began by analyzing the existing React Native codebase and Blockmason’s blockchain API. It then identified areas for improvement and worked with Blockmason to make those changes.

Our design team tackled the user experience (UX) side of things. By creating wireframes and user flows, the team envisioned how Lndr would work in an ideal real world. They then set about prioritizing and executing the changes. UX was particularly important for this project. Remember how we mentioned that this isn’t obviously a blockchain-based app? That’s because Lndr hides the complexities of blockchain technology behind an intuitive consumer-grade application.

Although it’s an Ethereum dApp, Lndr uses the BlockMason Foundation protocol. Here’s how Blockmason explains it:

Unlike typical Ethereum DApps, Lndr employs the BlockMason Foundation protocol (see Foundation Whitepaper), which unifies login and identity credentials across multiple devices and platforms (iOS, Android, and Web). Our Foundation protocol frees users from the difficulties of switching between multiple devices and platforms or passing private keys from one wallet to another, essential components of our plan to enhance user interface and increase widespread adoption.

Again, that gets back to the consumer experience; Lndr just feels like a mobile app. And that, Blockmason believes, is crucial for widespread adoption. In fact, that’s part of the pitch: “Are you a blockchain enthusiast and cannot wait to start using cryptocurrency in your everyday life?”

We're proud of our work on this project. "By combining deep blockchain expertise with years of product development experience, Very uniquely met our needs. Their team delivered working blockchain applications on time and on budget," Blockmason’s then-CEO Rich Halverson said.

(If you want to see the final product for yourself, download Lndr for iOS on the App Store and Lndr for Android on the Google Play Store.)

A Gateway App

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know we’re committed to making blockchain less esoteric and dispelling the myth that blockchain=Bitcoin=the dark web. Lndr helps advance that cause.

Credits and debts may be stored on a blockchain, but actual users don’t have to worry about having Ethereum. As Blockmason said when it announced Lndr, “This means that average users can start using Ethereum and the blockchain without even knowing they’re doing it. As more and more people use Lndr, more and more people are using the Ethereum network.”

Lndr is just one example of a platform using Blockmason’s Credit Protocol. Think of it as the next step toward democratizing the creation of credit. The Credit Protocol allows individuals and businesses to securely record and permanently store mutually confirmed debt or credit obligations on the blockchain.

Its current iteration (Lndr v1.1), released in June, allows users can settle these obligations across various currencies as they travel between countries.

Blockmason calls Lndr its “crypto Trojan horse.” It’s certainly a gateway app. As Blockmason explains, “By leveraging smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, we invite the other 99 percent of the world to use blockchains for real, active, daily purposes—and to suddenly find themselves the proud owners of their first bits of cryptocurrency.”

Intrigued? Are you ready to move forward? If you’ve decided that blockchain is right for your project, the next step is to figure out which blockchain technology best fits your needs. Download this whitepaper to find out.