The open network for transaction requests
Analyzing feedback that you, the Request community, give us constantly, we realize that time flies fast. A lot has happened since the first launch. From a communication perspective, the bi-weeklies have become less effective in reaching their goal to keep anyone informed about what happens at Request. As a result, we are experimenting with a new format: themed content created by team members themselves.
In this first blog post in the new format, Etienne Tatur who is Chief Technology Officer at Request talks about the future vision of Request.
We refined our vision and you need clarity regarding what we are building now and later.
In this piece, we’ll look at
- How Request is one of the core pieces of the world financial infrastructure of tomorrow.
- How the financial world is already on its way toward this vision and why Request has unfair advantages over everything being currently built.
- What we have to achieve to reach this vision to be the biggest transaction request network.
- Where Request is in 5 years.
A core piece of the world financial infrastructure of tomorrow
We often describe Request as a giant database of invoices that stores everything from your restaurant receipt to the invoices of your company. Basically all transaction requests.
Request contrasts with the actual tendency to scatter this data in thousands of private databases, making it impossible to easily access the information. Take a manufacturer’s warranty for example. One is expected to keep and provide a receipt that exists somewhere else, in a closed place.
Request is the infrastructure that allows invoicing data to be more accessible to the concerned actors of its network. It is a common protocol for trading partners to store the status of their relationship, along with the traditional sales pipeline, from end to end. This protocol can then be used by accounting software, audit companies, payment processors and tax offices to interact in a common repository.
Request is at the source of the payment. By adding a mechanism for the detection of payments it can automatically reconcile invoices and allow synchronous purchase experience.
This vision, as we will see, does not only make sense to us but also to bigger institutions.
The financial world is on its way towards this vision
First, most governments are already setting up their own national database of invoices. In France, the solution is called Chorus-Pro and you can see the implementation details for every EU member here.
Singapore just released their project at the beginning of this year.
For Italians, the platform is mandatory since the 1st of January.
The idea for them is to have a better sense of their economy in real-time and to be sure to get their taxes, limiting the black market. Like Request, public institutions have a way to query securely closed systems, by centralizing the data on a platform.
Second, networks to request payments are also on the rise at the local stage. One example is PayNow, created in Singapore at the national level. It allows easy requesting and transfer of payments using a phone number between all banks in the country.
They aim to solve the interoperability problem where each financial institution only lets you easily request money within the same closed system. As an illustration, requesting money from the bank Revolut only works seamlessly if the recipient is also a client of Revolut. Same thing with Venmo, Wechat, Facebook and other systems.
Governments and financial institutions are working around different issues with different solutions. Without a common standard, these fragmented solutions will result in complex, national and closed systems based on local constraints that will:
- Rely on trust for your data security, in a system that can change the general conditions and have no immutability.
- Be exclusive and you need an agreement to join.
- Be geolocalized while finance is now fully international.
We are working on being ahead by having a system that is international, robust, private and inclusive of all parties from the beginning.
While this is harder to set up and implies to work with technology still in the development phase, this is the best way for the long term.
What do we have to achieve to become the biggest transactions request network
Let’s look at how we envision the ideal system to look like.
Create requests instantly for a fraction of a penny. This will always be a challenge, and it has been our focus for the past months. The second version of the protocol is a result of this.
This point is very important as we do not aim to store 100 000 invoices. We aim to document several billion transactions a year.
Detecting payments for all currencies and payment networks
On one side the infrastructure is currency agnostic and not bound to any locality (for example tax systems).
On the other side, the layer to detect the payments depends on the payment network.
Example of payment networks: Visa, Swift, ACH, Wire transfer, Bitcoin, Lightning networks (state channels)
For legacy payment networks, this is as much a technical challenge as it is a challenge for acceptance. We cannot plug Request to the latter if they do not develop and maintain interfaces.
Easy to integrate
Integrating Request in an application has to be straight forward. Creating a request should be easier than creating a charge on Stripe.
This is a challenge as simplicity and decentralization have trouble to go hand in hand.
It requires abstraction layers on top of the protocol because different software providers will need different levels of abstraction.
The strength of Request is in the interoperability between the apps built on the network. A strong and vast ecosystem simplifies processes and gives business advantages to the one who joins.
Robust and secure
- Commerce data is sensitive. The underlying infrastructure has to secure its access for the long term. Storing encrypted data on an immutable blockchain trigger questions. How would you feel if, a hundred years from now, quantum computers can decrypt and read everything about what you consumed today?
- The system is strongly decentralized to ensure immutability, censorship resistance and to avoid a takeover.
Entirely private, GDPR compliant and able to adapt to new policies. Request is before everything a technology that should protect the user. Our personal data is far more valuable than we realize as individuals today and it is currently up to the systems to ensure that we are protected by default.
So, what does Request look like in 5 years?
Two weeks ago we’ve introduced our focus of 2019 in this blog post.
As a disclaimer, we recognize that the team has been surprised in 2018 by the scaling roadmap and privacy aspect of Ethereum that led us to change the roadmap. While we could have communicated better at those times, we feel confident that we will deliver a very strong technical product with our current team.
In 5 years, technically speaking, we are aiming for the characteristics in the “What do we have to achieve” part above.
From an adoption perspective, here is the ambitious picture of what success for Request entails:
- Two to three countries have decided to move on with the Request Network invoicing infrastructure nationally. They use a real-time dashboard, gaining in-depth insights into their economy and their taxes.
- As a consequence, more than 10 billion requests a year are being processed through the Request Network.
- 80% of the market of accounting platforms, invoicing software and e-shop creators are covered by easy to install Request Network plug-ins. In specific areas, Request acts as the back-end of these platforms.
- The protocol is strongly decentralized through governance. This metric is harder to quantify at the moment, though frameworks will appear.
- The Request ecosystem is decentralized, with hundreds of apps built by other entities than the foundation.
- Several large institutions use Request as a transparency framework.
- Anyone can trace everything he consumes and can adapt his habits to consume better, more ethically, more local or more environment-friendly.
- Accounting, auditing and tax duties are automated. The Request infrastructure asks for minimum manual inputs and provides more analysis for different actors.
And 5 years is still the beginning. While the future is unpredictable, all our decisions take into account the need for the network to survive through time and new emerging technologies.
Can Request network still be used a hundred years from now? That will be a challenge.
– Signed, Etienne Tatur.