Introduction to Unlock

Unlock is an access control protocol that enables creators to monetize their work directly - without relying on a middleman.

Consumers manage all of their subscriptions in a consistent way, as well as earn discounts when they share the best content and applications they use.

Access permissions on the blockchain

Unlock is an open protocol for payments on the web.

Creators place a lock on their content. (This could be an article, or a software app, a whole site, a mailing list, or anything where taking a payment could be appropriate.) Consumers can then purchase a key to access that content. Creators can decide how expensive keys to their locks are, how many keys can exist, and how long they last for. Creators can create an unlimited number of locks.

The blockchain allows us to store the ledger of who owns a lock and who owns keys in a decentralized place that nobody owns. It also allows creators to prove that they own a particular lock, and consumers to prove that they own a key for that lock. These facts are stored in the open, and don't require proprietary software to determine. Therefore, it's easy for any software application to integrate the Unlock protocol, free from licensing or restrictions.

A decentralized protocol vs a centralized product

While the open source code in this project is designed to set the standard for what the protocol can do, nobody is forced to use our code in order to use the protocol. It would be perfectly reasonable for someone else to build a completely different codebase that uses the protocol. Think of this project as both a reference implementation and the first service to use the open Unlock protocol for payments.

Why do we need to remove middlemen?

Traditional, closed software products aim to "own the market" for a particular task. A proprietary version of Unlock might want to provide the sole service offering a payment gateway where people make money for their work. That single service gains enormous value, but also becomes a single point of failure: its corporate policies decide who can make money for their work. For example, it might not support payments from a particular country. In contrast, the Unlock Protocol project aims to create a completely open ecosystem for payments.

On the modern web, only a handful of companies act as the gatekeeper for almost all content published online. Their policies dictate who can and can't be heard. Sometimes those policies are positive - like removing hate speech. But sometimes they silence minorities and prioritize harmful speech.

We want to return to an era of openness, where a wide gene pool of ideas is supported by a genuinely collaborative ecosystem, where many companies and services can operate - just like the web itself.