When we tell people that we’re minting phone numbers as NFTs, the response is almost always the same. Frens usually say “I don’t want phone numbers — I just want to message people with a wallet” or, “what does minting a phone number as an NFT do?”.
This article answers these great questions.
Minting a phone number as an NFT solves problems in 2 primary categories:
1. Current problems associated with phone numbers (SMS Fraud, Smishing etc.)
2.Challenges around building the future of web3 messaging in a way that is easy and accessible for everyone
Let’s start by looking at “why phone numbers” in the first place:
In Web3, we talk extensively about identity and identifiers. When it comes to messaging and communication, phone numbers are the primary identifier used by over 5.1 billion people. This makes phone numbers the largest decentralized “social graph” in existence. I think we can all agree that bringing these users and infrastructure into web3 will be good for humanity in general. But crossing that chasm is not done by ditching the old paradigm entirely, it’s done by securely providing an upgrade path to the new world of web3.
Security and Functionality Benefits
Even if we weren’t focused on “bringing users into web3”, minting a phone number as an NFT makes existing numbers and SMS dramatically better.
1. Say Goodbye to SIM Swapping
Without going too deep into the technical weeds, managing a phone number the same way you manage your crypto will put an end to SIM swapping- full stop. By minting a number as a NFT, we can always verify ownership while executing complete control over said number with a wallet and private keys, preventing the type of socially engineered attacks that lead to SIM swapping in the first place.
2. A Number That Doesn’t Dox You
We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right, period. Unfortunately, existing phone numbers are basically a gateway to doxing. If you do a quick search for “phone number lookup” you will find an endless number of tools that expose user data, all by way of a phone number. Addresses, family members, job information — all findable by a reverse phone number lookup. A phone number that is minted as an NFT is perfect for pseudonymity, as it can be minted with a fresh wallet, and paid for with a privacy coin like ZCash. Our numbers require zero KYC information when minting, making them the perfect number for everyone, especially those concerned with privacy.
3. 2 for 1 Factor Authentication (Wallet Based SMS Auth)
There is nothing worse than going to a website, putting in a phone number and getting sent some code that you need to input to login. Not only is this process cumbersome, it’s dangerous. SMS based 2FA is one of the main reasons hackers attempt to SIM swap users in the first place, because it reroutes incoming messaging traffic, allowing them to intercept 2FA codes that provide access to important websites, like a banking site, for example. When you mint a phone number as an NFT, and possess the keys to said number, it becomes self verifying. This means that you can securely use our number minted as an NFT for trusted SMS based authentication without inputting a pesky code. Said another way, you can enjoy 1 factor authentication that is more secure than existing 2FA.
4. Preventing SMS fraud
When you get a text containing a link from a number you don’t recognize, it is always best practice to not click on the link. Oftentimes this is a smishing link, (a phishing link sent via SMS). Clicking the link can lead to a number of serious problems, including having your passwords compromised or credit cards stolen. By minting a number on-chain, a user can verify the sender, making it much easier to protect against these types of attacks.
5. Stopping SMS Spam
When paired with our messaging service, users will have far greater control over incoming messages, meaning we can put an end to annoying and dangerous SMS spam. This works thanks to built in “sender verification” features that ensures the sender of a message is in fact a “valid sender” and not just a bot trying to send spam. The mechanism for how this works is similar to recaptcha. Additionally, users will have control over who can send them messages all together, configurable to their liking.
7. End to End Encrypted Messaging
Regular phone numbers and SMS are incapable of providing secure messaging. Because a 3NUM is a cryptographically secured "end point" it can be used to initiate a receive end to end encrypted messages.
7. Data Only Cost Cutting
3NUMs turn traditional phone numbers into a web3 native one, meaning that with our service, you can message both legacy telco numbers, and web3 native secure endpoints by only needing data access. With the advent of decentralized wireless providers offering lower cost data-only plans, users can expect to dramatically reduce their costs with 3NUM.
8. A Number You Can Trust
At the end of the day, you are going to need a phone number for the foreseeable future. Given this is the case, you should have a number that is created and secured the same way you secure your Bitcoin — with cryptography.
Web2 + Web3 = ? (No, Not Web5)
Let’s talk about the future. The future of communication is decentralized. We’re on a mission to bring everyone into this future. Here’s how we think that will play out.
A Universal Messaging Identifier
If we had a time machine, and were able to go 10 years in the future where everyone is using “web3 messaging”, what would that look like? We think it will mirror some of the paradigms that exist today. One of those being where users have a dedicated messaging identifier, used solely for communication, and is owned as part of your digital identity. Our approach is to create a non-fungible messaging endpoint, that is a dedicated identifier used for messaging, that can also extend messaging capabilities to other identifiers you might want to use for messaging. For example, you could associate your messaging NFT with your web3 domain name (like ENS) to extending controlled communication to that identifier. The same logic applies to wallets as well.
While you could just use an ENS name as your messaging ID, we think separating the two and extending functionality from one to the other gives users greater control over their communication (it also helps bridge identifiers to other communication mediums… more on that next).
Another important concept around these messaging identifiers is that they must work universally. We have an article that spells out the requirements of a Universal Decentralized Messaging Identifier here. In order for a messaging identifier to work universally, it must extend beyond a single chain, or even a single “communication medium”. By minting a number as an NFT, you instantly enable this, by having a web3 address that can message the world, whether that be another wallet, web3 name, email address, phone number or a NFT.
Given that we don’t live 10 years in the future, our approach has been to make these new messaging identifiers work with existing messaging identifiers like phone numbers and email addresses. This functionality means you can message your friends and family from your favorite wallet messaging app.
What’s the bottom line here…
The bottom line is that by minting a phone number as an NFT, you essentially create the ultimate web3 messaging identifier that works with everything. It just so happens that it’s also a “better, faster, stronger” version of the world’s most commonly used communication identifier- a phone number.
We think this pragmatic approach will bring the next huge wave of users into web3 (by solving problems existing phone users experience), while simultaneously giving existing web3 users a more robust identity, by building something they can own and use for trusted communication.
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