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Capsule gets $1.5M to build ‘super simple’ decentralized social media

Capsule‘s plan to launch a super simple decentralized social media platform which is safe from censorship by Big Tech has advanced another stage: The nascent startup has closed a seed round of funding ($1.5M) led by Beacon Fund, a dedicated crypto fund by Polychain Capital — which is itself focused on startups building on Dfinity’s decentralized network for next-gen ‘open’ apps (aka, the Internet Computer).

As we reported in January, the idea for Capsule started with a tweet that almost immediately pulled in a pre-seed raise of $100k. That’s now been topped up with seed financing to get a prototype to market later this month.

Mobile apps are also on the cards and the funding will be used to build out Capsule’s team as well (currently it’s around four people).

Capsule founder Nadim Kobeissi, a cryptography researcher who previously authored the open-source E2E-encrypted desktop chat app Cryptocat, says they’re on track to put out an MVP this month — once they’ve made a few tweaks to the infrastructure.

“The prototype is ready,” he tells TechCrunch. “We’re investigating switching some of the infrastructure from GUN to IPFS [InterPlanetary File System; aka a p2p hypermedia protocol], and improving the user interface. We could launch an MVP now but are choosing to hold off by a few weeks.”

Polychain Capital outted its Beacon Fund last September. The $14.5M investment vehicle is funded by Polychain, Andreessen Horowitz, and the Dfinity Foundation — and aims to support entrepreneurs and teams building on Dfinity’s the Internet Computer (TIC); aka a serverless architecture for natively hosting software and services (which it refers to as the “first blockchain computer that runs at web speed with infinite capacity”).

Kobeissi’s original concept for Capsule, meanwhile, was to create self-hosting microservices. He says that hasn’t changed — but sees potential for TIC to help solve some specific technical issues.

“The Internet Computer will hopefully be helping us build a ‘customized mini-blockchain’ to solve two issues with Capsule: Global authenticated timestamps for posts as well as a root of trust for user’s authentication keys for posts,” he says. “We were looking to solve these issues somehow before this investment and were already considering Dfinity as the potential solution given that it has a programming language that allows for building these ‘custom mini-blockchains’ as we see them.”

“The rest will still be a self-hosting, self-contained, precisely engineered micro-services concept, with IPFS (previously GUN) as a decentralized database/connectivity back-end,” he adds.

Given the intent with TIC is to hosts all sorts of decentralized apps it’s possible — indeed, likely — that a bunch of decentralized social media plays will emerge. Last year, for example, Dfinity launched a proof of concept for an ‘open’ version of the professional social network, LinkedIn — which it punningly called ‘LinkedUp’.

It went on to demo a TikTok clone — and to open TIC up to outside developers last summer. So there could soon be a bunch of apps built atop its network touting social networking services without the meddling hand of Big Tech. Where, then, does Kobeissi see Capsule’s USP — i.e. if/when there’s a sea of decentralized ‘mega-apps’ that can also claim resilience to censorship?

“We think Capsule’s value will lie in its exceptional user experience, quality, performance, ease of use and high quality engineering that draws on advanced technologies such as TIC and IPFS without saddling bloat,” he says. “Others may use the same technology but I think we can do a good job on building something simple that just works and that is a pleasure to use.”

“Ultimately, I think that Capsule will be to Facebook what healthy, vegetarian diets are to a McDonald’s diet,” he adds more generally of his intent for the service. “Capsule may be a social media service but its relationship with its users and developers will be fundamentally different than Big Tech platforms.”

Below are a few screenshots showing current mock-ups of the Capsule interface.

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