Dialect: The Smart Messaging Standard

March 02, 2022 | 5 minute read

Today I’m excited to announce that we are co-leading a $4.1M seed investment into Dialect with our friends at Jump Crypto, with participation from Solana Ventures, Tiger Global, Joe McCann and several other prominent angels.

Dialect is a smart messaging protocol that powers seamless, on-chain messaging experiences, starting with wallet-to-wallet chat and dapp notifications. In addition to the core protocol, Dialect has also open-sourced a blockchain monitoring toolkit and web component libraries for notifications and chat, which together makes it ridiculously simple for projects to drop composable, on-chain messages directly into their applications for the first time.

We’ve long believed that address-to-address communication will be a critical Web3 primitive. The ability to communicate directly or among addresses expands the purpose of a blockchain beyond simple asset transfer and unlocks an exciting new design space. The limiting factors until recently have been speed, cost, and composability.

For DeFi users or on-chain gamers, not all of them want to dox their emails or cell phone numbers to receive notifications, so an on-chain communication mechanism solves that problem. On-chain messages could also bring positive economic externalities that were not possible before having such communication capability.

We first met Chris Osborn, the founder of Dialect, at Solana’s Breakpoint conference in Lisbon. He’s a serial entrepreneur and a Y Combinator alumnus. Over the past few months, we have worked closely together and thought critically about the design space for messaging.

Dialect is a smart messaging standard. It’s “smart” because it’s both composable and interactive. Composable notifications are the quickest implementation of Dialect, giving protocols and dapps the ability to communicate with their users. As simple as this may sound, this UX is missing from the vast majority of crypto products—despite being one of the most valuable growth loops in Web2. For example, through integrating Dialect’s monitoring toolkit, a DeFi protocol or DEX can send notifications directly to users about interest rate changes, collateral top-up requests, liquidation alerts, or maturity reminders. These notifications are critically important—especially when money is involved. What’s more, because Dialect’s notifications are composable, they can be delivered natively in a dapp’s UX—e.g., in a notification center like the ones you see in a centralized exchange—or straight to the user, wherever that may be, whether that’s another DEX, a mobile app, email, or SMS—or all of the above. And, because they are interactive, developers can also decorate messages with dynamic, actionable capabilities or information previews through Dialect’s SDK, such as the ability to look through an address to see an asset or to sign transactions that involves two or more protocols. All of this is possible with Dialect, without ever leaving the notification center or chat dialogue.

Dialect is also generalizable beyond notifications. Anyone can also use it for wallet-to-wallet chat. We expect an explosion of specialized chat and messaging apps to emerge from this. It's now possible to build your own conversational DEX, chat app, or even a full-featured Web3 inbox. There’s a vast design space that is immediately relevant to crypto projects:

  • Pseudonymous Direct Messaging — an address gets pinged based on its past activity or credentials by someone offering a paid task or quest. The party that offers the opportunity is willing to pay for the message because it helps reach the right person and get the job better done; the person may also be willing to indirectly pay for such messages if he/she wants to continuously receive these paid tasks. This on-chain message unlocks a brand-new value of matching a laborer with a job.
  • Verifiable Messaging — Wallet-linked messages are verifiable on-chain, which means users can confirm the origin and authenticity of messages they receive for the first time.
  • Conditional Cross-dapp Actions — X protocol monitors the change of some parameters, and notifies the user to do A if B happens (e.g. to move funds from X protocol to Y protocol), and the actionable items can be attached as a button to the message in the notification UI.
  • Campaign Activity Monitoring — When a game or a product wants to test out a new feature for a period of time, it may have some criteria on who’s eligible for testing. The game can monitor the on-chain activity or credentials of addresses using Dialect and send an exclusive trial access once an address becomes eligible.
  • Bounty Hunting — Using a labor marketplace similar to Earn.com (e.g. Community Gaming), users looking for work can sign up for paid quests / tasks and receive actionable messages or lead generation links in their notification UI.
  • Twitter Bots — Dialect’s blockchain monitoring toolkit can also be used to monitor protocols for conditional events and customize when, where, and how they want notifications received. A perfect example of this is the Saber Wars Bot, which is powered by Dialect.
  • DAO Management — As any management tool (e.g. Squads) integrates Dialect, DAOs can broadcast actionable notifications to their sub-DAOs. For example, a DeFi protocol can broadcast a snapshot voting link to its sub-DAO of core contributors, and separately a staking link to the general body
  • On-chain OTC Desk — When hedge funds look to short long-tail assets on chain, they often couldn’t source the liquidity. If people could sign up to a portal for the on-chain OTC bids and asks, they can get notifications from this portal like how they receive OTC messages from those Telegram OTC channels.
  • One-click in-game Asset Financing — Today, the loan and rental process for the in-game assets can often be manual. Through integrating with a NFT rental protocol / a single-vault lending pool or simply with a guild management system that offers these functionality, guilds can easily manage their assets they lend / rent to the players. The guild management tool can also incorporate the expiry notification with an action to extend or a smart-contract enforced revoke.
  • Social Trading — The “aping” experience can be much smoother when a chat room configures Dialect together with the NFT marketplaces and token swaps, and allows participants to make the purchase locally in the chat from the embedded link in the message. This is a natural demand as people often want to buy an asset when others talk about it in the middle of a chat.

There have been several attempts at crypto-native chat and notification services but all of them have stopped short of the opportunity of 1) putting (verifiable) messages on-chain, and 2) making those messages natively composable across dapps and other endpoints. For those projects, notifications are the product. For Dialect, notifications are a means to weave smart messaging into the fabric of crypto.

Before founding Dialect, Chris received his Ph.D. in atomic physics, was a tech lead at a quantum computing company, and founded a startup for creating custom consumer stock indices. Chris’s background in deep tech and consumer products makes him a perfect candidate to build a smart messaging tool-suite for the developers. The Dialect team is hiring - if you’re interested in exploring more, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Special Thanks to John Robert Reed for providing feedback to the blog post.

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