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What is Mainframe? | A Beginner’s Guide

mainframe logo

Mainframe is a blockchain-based platform designed to be used by applications and networks to implement encrypted messaging systems. The first prototype application built for Mainframe is Onyx, a messaging application launched in December, 2017, now in its alpha phase (early testing), that uses Mainframe’s decentralized protocols to demonstrate enterprise level, secure messaging that integrates identity verification tools.

Reasoning for the creation of the project can be seen in Mainframe’s white paper, which notes, “… communication and financial data are increasingly controlled by fewer organizations. Only three companies, Google, Apple and Microsoft, power the email clients receiving over 85% of the trillions of emails sent globally each year. In many instances, these companies’ interests conflict with the well-being of their customers.”

The white paper goes on to share the company’s concerns over the security challenges and other dangers of centralized communications, revealing that Mainframe’s goal is not simply to create a decentralized messaging system, but to create a whole suite of protocols for more secure, decentralized data transfer over the Internet.

It aims to do this by creating a “web 3.0 communications layer” built on five main principles: encryption, dark routing (hiding message pathways), incentivization (paying people to run the network), and a peer-to-peer architecture (decentralization of services). We’ll take a closer look at Mainframe through exploring these and other topics:

All communications through the Mainframe network use the latest end-to-end encryption technology, which means it would be nearly impossible to intercept and read messages between users.

The system uses public encryption keys to allow parties to communicate with each other, exchanging keys beforehand that are then used to unlock the data sent between the two parties. Messages can also be sent using shared group keys, making it possible to send messages between groups (e.g. between two enterprises).

Mainframe is built not only to hide messages, but to hide the path that messages take between two points in the network. Regular encrypted messaging apps and other encrypted services may hide data, in other words, but the fact that the two parties are sending information back and forth can often still be tracked. According to Mainframe, identifying and monitoring communication between parties is pretty much impossible in their network.

This is accomplished through what they call “dark routing”, which involves the use of non-addressed messages that are sent through groups of nodes (computers) in the network, but can only be read by nodes with appropriate access.

“Because communication patterns can’t easily be discerned in this mode of operation, the network is highly resistant to surveillance attempts, as well as attempts to target specific nodes for denial of service,” their whitepaper explains.

Nodes that provide services for the network will be incentivized through payments of Mainframe tokens (MFT). There will essentially be a service marketplace, then, where network participants can sell their bandwidth, data relay, and storage capacity to the network.


Nodes on the network will be given a credit score using a credit scoring system that can be customized by users to add different criteria of their own. Nodes with limited or no history will be given a moderate score that will increase as they pay their bills and fund their accounts reliably. Nodes will then be able to choose their threshold credit scores for other nodes they are willing to connect to, which will in turn incentivize the network towards more reliable, credit-worthy nodes.

Data services in the Mainframe network all rely on a distributed, redundant network, making it extremely censorship resistant, since many of the nodes would have to be compromised in order to bring down the network. This also makes it cheaper to operate applications on the network, since companies can do so without paying for a centralized infrastructure, instead paying as they go to access resources efficiently and competitively. Think self-deployed cloud services for mailboxing and directory management, for example, that are virtually indestructible and highly reliable.

The Mainframe protocol is designed to be compatible with any app or blockchain, with development kits and an Application Programming Interface (API) for developers to use to connect their apps to the network to use Mainframe protocols. The platform will also have smart contract support, starting with support for Ethereum, RSK, and Tezos blockchains and their smart contracts.

Onyx is the first application built on Mainframe and is a good example of what’s possible with the network. The application is a decentralized workplace messaging tool for internal communications within and between organizations. It will have versions for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS and Android.

The messaging application, which as mentioned, already has a prototype version, provides both individual and group chat, allowing users to store contacts, search conversations, navigate between conversations easily, use file attachments, polls, task assigning and various other tools. Users can also set up Profiles with their verified identities, which can remain private until shared with specific contacts or groups.

The company is currently exploring ways to comply with US security laws to sell its tokens, but it’s likely they will sell them through private sales of some kind. To get on a white list to become an investor, you’ll have to sign up to their email list, or keep tabs on their Telegram group, Twitter and blog for forthcoming details.

In the meantime, if you really want to get your hands on some MFT, Mainframe is distributing free tokens, which started with a “live airdrop” in Hong Kong on March 20, with exploding balloons raining physical MFT tokens from above.

At the same time as similar air drop events throughout Asia in the following two weeks, Mainframe is holding what they call a “Proof of Freedom” contest, which is giving away more than $1 million in tokens to the people who can best answer the question, “Why does Mainframe and its mission matter to you?”

This will be followed by a “Proof of Heart,” which the company has not yet described, as of writing.

Update: Mainframe has since announced plans to have a three phase public crowdsale.

Although Mainframe is in its early stages of development, it looks like it has a pretty strong team made of up successful entrepreneurs and developers, with a solid white paper and an interesting marketing strategy that seems to be attracting a lot of attention.

Since the platform hasn’t yet launched, however, only time will tell whether it will function without issue and catch on as a useful protocol for private, secure messaging that can be used at scale.

If they are successful at implementing their vision, however, there is no doubt that with the current surveillance states growing in the US, China and elsewhere, combined with frequent security breaches on centralized platforms, there will be an important place for technologies like Mainframe’s in the emerging Internet landscape.

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