About Tonk

What's the mission?

Tonk exists to liberate the web.

We do so by migrating our trust infrastructure away from the legacy web of platforms, using advanced disintermediation technologies to create a cheaper, more reliable, less user-hostile web of proofs.

What does that mean?

You can think of "trust infrastructure" as the tools we use as individuals, institutions and intelligences to cultivate trust, so that we may coordinate towards our mutual flourishing.

Today, much of our trust infrastructure is embodied by trusted third parties - the banks, two-sided marketplaces, social networks, corporations, governments and more, that cultivate common context between strangers and provide a social space for fruitful interactions.

So what's wrong with it?

The dominant socioeconomic model that scaled these platforms during the second era of the web - private network effects - are a double-edged sword. Network effects guarantee strong and stable growth, but platforms with too-powerful a network effect demonstrate unassailable moats that actually inhibit competition and innovation.

Over time the incentives are set up such that - despite the best efforts of well-intentioned tech executives - platforms stagnate, extracting rather than creating value. This results in systems that are unreliable, expensive, user-hostile and light on privacy. We see this manifest in exorbitant creator take rates, unaccountable moderation algorithms that meddle with elections and mental wellbeing, unmanageable platform risk and more.

In the end, these platforms buckle under the weight of their own success. That is why we call this dominant pattern the legacy web of platforms.

So what's the solution?

Tonk is here because we can skip all that. Powerful new cryptographic and game-theoretic innovations can sweep all that aside and forge authoritative peer-to-peer attestations that disintermediate legacy platforms. We call such innovations "advanced disintermediation technologies", and examples include digital signatures, oblivious compute, zero-knowledge proofs, blockchains and local-first software.

These technologies can provide a social space for strangers to come together and build common context, without relying on trusted third parties, instead relying on the pure mathematical power of peer-to-peer proofs.

The result will be a "web of proofs" that has widespread ramifications for how we communicate - across media, finance, commerce and our social lives.

Notably, this is the same supercharged pattern that powered the first era of the web. The network effects that powered the early growth of the web were public, not private - such as the hypertext transfer protocol, simple mail transfer protocol and public key infrastructure. We're returning to style, but this time our tools are far stronger.

Who needs a web of proofs?

In the short run, proofs will facilitate new experiences that were impossible before, such as hyperproductive, high-context social spaces, cheaper onboarding, and programmatic micro-oracles for expressive blockchain smart contracts.

In the long run, the web of proofs will create new markets and a standard for web communication that is interoperable, expressive, cheap, private and self-sovereign. Eventually this will cannibalise existing trust infrastructure and make problems like fake news, data siloes and platform taxes look like a cringe 2010s fad.

What progress have you made?

Our flagship product is Speakeasy, a social auth tool that uses proofs to help communities grow. Speakeasy filters group members into private wikis and are designed to be the first social space of their kind on the web, with a uniquely cosy vibe that's only possible because it brings together strangers based on hyperspecific shared behaviours, who otherwise would never meet online or offline. Advanced cryptography lets people express the full richness of their digital footprint without relying on external platforms.

Speakeasy is already in private beta with select design partners. You can apply to join the beta here.

Who's behind it?

We're a team of ambitious engineers, designers and schemers that straddle the dynamic space between code and media theory. Some of the work we're responsible for includes the Gribi SDK, Dappicom, Tonk Attack, Snarky Monsters, the Privacy Playgrounds Wiki and much else besides. Most work (but not all) is documented at our blog. Others cover it too.

Between stints as dancers, poets and graphic novellists, members of the team have completed sidequests at Epic Games, Yahoo, Airbnb and the University of Cambridge. At various times we have enjoyed collaborations with Aztec, Scroll, Polygon and Ethereum PSE.

Baz is generally happy to speak.

Who's supporting this?

Tonk Labs is backed by some of the world's best investors, cryptographers and entrepreneurs. Our latest financing was led by Electric Capital, with participation from Bankless Ventures, Entrepreneur First and a community of angels with representation from leaders at Eigen Labs, Axelar, Succinct, Aleo, Polygon, Magic Eden, Ledger, Gensyn, Voltz & many more amazing projects.

Are you hiring?

Yes! For now, we're a London-based team and prioritise in-person relationships. You can see open roles here.