We’re updating the Safe Network lexicon for end users, and replacing the terms
Vault. I’ve prepared a video explainer, which sets out in detail why we need to do this, and what we are proposing to replace them with.
There’s a full transcript below (for those of you who just can’t cope with my ramblings ), so please feel free leave your comments, questions and observations below. We know you’ll have many!
Safe Network Tokens, and the term
Vault will be deprecated, and we’ll rely more on verbs such as earn in the end user UX, rather than the noun ‘node’.
Now hold up. I know you’ve just read that and perhaps it was somewhat jarring. But please, if you can spare the time, come with me as I walk you through these proposed changes, and paint the picture of how it all fits together…
Over the past few weeks and months, we’ve been discussing the domain model for the network; how we conceptualise, and put into words the elements and moving parts that make it work.
This has come alongside work to simplify, and refine code, making it more robust, flexible and easier to work with and understand.
While many of the changes so far have focused on the inner workings of the Network and how it is comprehended by developers, there is of course another half to the picture: how end users think about the Network, how they model it in their minds, and how this affects their experience, while they aim to get things done in real life. The UX.
There are some terms and metaphors within this UX that due to outside factors, we simply have to change—such as the name Safecoin—and others that haven’t, or won’t, keep up with the changes to the Network, and therefore will end up affecting the UX whether we like it or not.
While the existence of an individual term might not seem too much of a big deal, it makes sense to consider these terms together, and look at the language of the UX landscape overall, because it all works together and will be perceived together by end users.
So consider this a proposal, or an RFC, for updating the Safe Network lexicon, and an explanation of why we need to update the terms
‘Account’ becomes ‘safe’
Account is the term we currently use to describe the conceptual space where all a user’s data resides, their files, their funds, their identities, preferences etc. They ‘log in’ to access it from any device, and then they ‘log out’ to securely fold it all away. The terms Account, or Login, are familiar to users, they expect to need an Account for existing web services, and that that expectation is more or less met by the experience that can be provided by the Network…
…except it’s not quite right, is it?
This is a permissionless Network, there is no central authority keeping ‘accounts’, nor is there anything to log-in to.
In reality, the user has data dispersed across a the Network, but has access to it through virtue of the keys they hold: this is what connects this otherwise disparate data, nothing else.
But having a coherent metaphor of a container in which all this resides is mighty useful. What is the ‘root’ of all their data, how do they conceptualise it, and place it spatially? What term do we use to build nouns and verbs around in order to make the language of the UX function?
Account, or login, goes a long way to doing this job, and it’s easily grasped by users, as our testing has shown. However, it limits us, and the users in many ways. For example, there is nothing to log-in too. Data within this space could be created without an internet connection, even on paper! Likewise, there isn’t really something to log-out of. No online realm that I’m exiting. I’m merely securing my data by locking things up, and taking my keys with me.
So what term do we use for this concept? What metaphor do we use for this secure space, that I can open with keys and then lock shut, that can exist both online and offline, and that is synonymous with the Network itself, yet is controlled and accessible by me only?
You can of course use, browse and download from the Network without your own safe, but when you want to store files, communicate with others, or send and receive payments, then you create your own safe on the Network, and open it to secure all your personal data, and access it from anywhere.
Close it, and everything folds away, and it can only be unlocked again by the person with the keys: you, and only you.
‘Safecoin’ becomes ‘Safe Network Token’
This one might sting a bit as we all have quite a lot of history with this name, but for a couple of reasons we can no longer use the term Safecoin. While the headline reason is an unresolved trademark dispute, another consideration, and you could argue an even more important one, is its function within the network, and its status when it comes to regulation and taxation.
Safecoin is undeniably a network utility token: a unit that can be directly exchanged for network resources. It has many of the features long sought after by cryptocurrencies—rapid, private and cost free transactions—yet it is not a coin. It exists to allow people to access the underlying value of Network: secure, accessible, decentralised data.
Labelling it in a similar way to privacy coins—lumping it in with currencies that are feeling the regulatory pinch and that are being abandoned exchanges—would seem to be an unnecessary risk.
So what do we call it?
We’ve looked at this from a lot of angles, from emotive, to quirky, to utilitarian.
Just taking a look at all the various elements a new user may come across during their interactions with the Network… there first touch point could include any number of the following terms:
It’s a lot to digest.
And I know many of you will be familiar with having to explain what MaidSafeCoin is, and how that relates to Safecoin, and then how the Safecoin relates to the Network itself. So let’s not create another layer of indirection.
Overall, there is most to be gained through making it instantly recognisable, and tightly coupled to the Network itself—where the value itself resides—rather than one step abstracted…
Safe Network Tokens.
What does a user need to have to add data to the Safe Network? Safe Network Tokens.
What do they earn when they offer resources to the Safe Network? Safe Network Tokens of course!
And where are those tokens redeemable? Well, you get the idea.
And when it comes to marketing the Network, it all happens as one: propagating the token, propagates the Network. They are directly bound together.
Picture, for example, visiting an exchange:
No confusion, no ambiguity, the token is the network, and the network is the token. Obviously, Safe Network Token is a bit of a mouthful for day-to-day use, an I’d expect another shorthand term to come out more naturally in the month/years after launch when it falls into regular use.
But perhaps we could help that along with our choice of ticker? Or, we grab the closest ticker we can SN (alas SAFE is taken), and then see where peoples natural use of the Network in day to day life takes us.
A slang term or a shorthand will undoubtedly emerge, and we can evolve and update the UX and interfaces as things progress.
And what of the the token symbol? For very similar reasons, I’d propose we have both the Network icon, and the token symbol be the same—or at least within the very same family of icons. This will mean a little work systematising, and reorganising, the various icons within the UX at the moment, and some might need a tweak—our example the browser icon—but having immediate recognition and synergy between all the users touch-points, will be a real advantage, particular in the early days of the Network.
A dedicated currency style symbol to easily use in the a run of text—or hand written—is desirable but also hard achieve in the short term. We can happily deal with things without it for the time being though, and use the ticker label as a useable alternative (e.g.
Pay @paul 500 SN).
‘Vault’ will be deprecated, but we’ll favour the verbs such as ‘earn’ rather than the noun ‘node’
As you’ll have noticed from recent dev updates, we’re deprecating the use of the name
vault in our code base. This is a decision based on accurately and effectively describing the function of a
node within the network to developers. Something that
vault wasn’t quite able to capture. So this leads us to the question of if we should continue to use this term on the front end of the network, and if end Users should be exposed to it.
If we using the term
safe to describe a users secure data space, then there is the potential for confusion, and ongoing headaches with using a synonym, such as
Vault to describe an almost opposite function.
node doesn’t merely store data, it has a more complex role than that, in future its functions may extend further still. So creating metaphor around a lockbox that holds other people’s personal data, could be both confusing, and limiting.
And again, looking at the myriad of terms that a user will be confronted with in their use of the network, are there adequate reasons for them to be introduced to and to learn the meaning behind another noun?
So do we need a noun at all? Perhaps we could avoid surfacing one in the UX, but instead primarily focus on the function of the software to user, and what it does for them.
A verb, like
So rather than a user requiring an understanding of what a
node is, and how it functions before then comprehending how it helps meet their goals, they need to simply respond to a call to action:
There may be requirements in deeper, and more nuanced, layers within the UX where we have to surface the term node—for example if a user ends up running more than one node on a single device, and they need to understand configure these separately—but this would be the exception and not the rule.
It also doesn’t preclude us using a noun more directly in future should it be required, but deprecating a term after the launch of the network is more problematic.
The new terms in action
So let’s take a look at some of these terms in use within UX designs…
So here we can see a first use view of the Safe Network App. I’ve deliberately dialled back the colour on these, to make things faster, and so we can focus on the words and structure.
Here we see how these terms start to form these metaphors…
Unlocking and locking a safe, creating your own safe, using your disk space to earn.
Here are some onboarding screens doing a similar job too.
Here we see how the function of a node to the end user determines how it is grouped within the app. I use it to Earn Tokens, therefore it lives with all things token. I can see my earnings, I can start using my device to earn.
Yet I still have multiple other paths to these functions… via the token screen, via the home screen (even if I don’t have a Safe, or if I have it locked).
And of course I can still go in a level deeper, to get richer information—including surfacing the notion of a node if required—and configure it too.
But it’s all built from the function of the software to the end user, the output, which is earning tokens.
So there you go. I imagine you’ll have questions, comments, and observations. You know what to do!