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Announcing the Block Protocol

Naturally structuring unstructured data

One of the biggest blockers to effective and widespread agent-based simulation is the difficulty non-technical users face converting their knowledge and understanding of systems into simulation models. Today, domain experts require both software engineers and data scientists to support them in creating simulations. That process is both slow and time-consuming.

For the last 2 years at HASH we’ve been focused on building out deep simulation tech. Now, we’re working on tools to help users create, edit and engage with structured information as easily as they capture unstructured thoughts and notes in Word and Google Docs today.

We believe this superpower will open the door to making simulation an everyday tool for decision-making. But it’s also incredibly valuable for other reasons, supporting analytics applications and machine learning efforts more broadly.

Developing the Block Protocol

As part of our work we’re developing a new open standard for building blocks of the sort you might find included in editing applications like Notion or Almanac, as well as content management systems like WordPress.

A standardized Block Protocol will make information captured across a wide range of common applications both accessible and suitable for use in agent-based models, as well as other analytics use cases.

The protocol provides standardized, guaranteed methods of bidirectional communication between blocks (user-interactable components) and embedding applications such as web-based, desktop, or mobile apps – in a secure, permissioned fashion. By making it easy to extend functionality for different data types, it allows users to edit data in one block and have the update reflected in other blocks (or applications), each providing useful functionality.

Our team has nearly doubled in size, from 10 to 18, as we embark on this new challenge. Amongst those joining us this month to work on the standard in public-facing roles are:

  • Saku Panditharatne, to work on our developer advocacy and education efforts. She previously founded AR/VR startup Asteroid, and worked at Andreesen Horowitz and Oculus.
  • Maggie Appleton, to head up our design and communication efforts. As the Head of UX and Design at Egghead, she was responsible for improving the technical education of thousands of developers, and recently co-authored the Just Javascript online course with React’s Dan Abramov.

Get Involved

Block developers

You can develop blocks that can automatically be used in a wide variety of contexts across the web, and integrated with zero overhead into an ecosystem of embedding applications.

Whether you’re a user who’s frustrated with the default blocks that ship with an app like Notion (“why isn’t the Kanban board as featureful as Trello? Or the table block as good as AirTable?”), or a third-party provider of a best-in-class solution looking to attract and upsell users, the Block Protocol will let you extend any embedding application with more rich functionality.

Interested in building blocks? We’d love to hear from you.

Embedding applications

Why integrate with the Block Protocol?

  • You can extend your application’s functionality to allow users to embed blocks of any arbitrary type.
  • You no longer have to maintain libraries of blocks and aren’t locked in arms-races with the providers of best-in-class full applications.
  • You or your users can operate an allow or deny list of specific blocks and/or block providers. Reference code will also be provided to support safe sandboxing of third-party blocks.
  • Where the logic is self-contained within blocks, you effectively get ‘integrations’ with external services for free (improving engagement and stickiness as your application becomes a focal point for accessing those tools).

Working on a potential embedding application, or want to contribute to the standard? Get in touch.

Join our team

If you’re interested in joining us, you can apply to one of our open positions or drop your resumé in our general pool. Our open-source efforts are being spearheaded from our London offices, but HASH’s wider team is today distributed across Europe, the US, Africa and Asia.