Bancor, the world’s largest decentralized crypto exchange, is launching a network of blockchain-based community currencies in Kenya aimed at combating poverty
Bitcoin.org launched a new website design on and has removed references and links to certain partners, including BitPay, Coinbase, and Blockchain. The removal of the companies occurred most on the resources pages, namely the exchanges page. The argument for removing these large players, who have helped with increasing adoption for new users, is that … Continued
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In a Reddit AMA, Binance Labs prioritizes decentralization, and takes a long-term perspective on choosing projects in which to invest
“Decentralization shaming” is a popular way for cryptocurrency tribes to laud their anointed altcoin at the expense of the rest. The degree to which a cryptocurrency is free from control by any one entity has become a stick with which to beat projects that don’t measure up to bitcoin, which is all of them. Such arguments are fallacious though, because when you look closely, it becomes evident that all cryptocurrencies are centralized to some degree.
Decentralization: Easy to Define, Hard to Achieve
When the UK’s Visa network shut down on Thursday, it provoked snickers from bitcoiners. The BTC network has worked faithfully since its inception nine years ago, with neither governments nor regulators nor hardware failures capable of halting its progress. It is bitcoin’s censorship-resistance, achieved through its decentralized design, that has lent the digital asset so much of its value. True, most of the investment in cryptocurrency right now is speculative. But the reason why BTC is trading at close to $8,000, and BCH at $1,100, is because the ability to store digital wealth in a manner that can’t be seized is huge.
We know that bitcoin can’t be seized, hacked, or confiscated because attackers have been trying their utmost to do so since day one and have failed. We don’t have to like their intentions, but we can appreciate the fact that their efforts have contributed to bitcoin’s rise in value, with each failed attack adding to the faith invested in the inviolability of the network. Newer blockchains, in comparison, have yet to be battle-tested, which is reflected in the value of their native cryptocurrency. With two of the most hyped blockchains of all time, EOS and Tezos, launching this month, the decentralization debate has returned with a vengeance.
All Cryptocurrencies Start Out Centralized
Just as a newborn needs its mother to survive those precious early months, a blockchain needs its creator on hand in the beginning. Bitcoin was heavily centralized to begin with; with no one other than Satoshi around to oversee the mining, it was unavoidable. But as more users joined the network, bitcoin transitioned to a decentralized model, and within a year it was no longer Satoshi’s plaything – it was now the world’s. Every blockchain that’s came since has also started out heavily centralized, with its creators intending to remedy this “as soon as possible”. Unlike bitcoin, however, many of these chains have struggled to make much headway in that regard.
NEO: Chinese blockchains are notorious for being over-centralized, with NEO a prime example. It was meant to have been decentralized months ago, but it remains under the control of the company, who have the power to reset the network in the event of the Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance system failing to achieve consensus.
IOTA: Technically a DAG rather than a conventional blockchain, IOTA is even more centralized than NEO. While it is likely that NEO will eventually reach a degree of decentralization, it is doubtful whether IOTA works in its current incarnation without a central coordinator to rest things every time there’s a glitch.
Cardano: Charles Hoskinson’s Cardano will use a Proof of Stake algorithm called Ouroboros, but it’s yet to be rolled out, and thus for the past 12 months or so the cryptocurrency has been heavily centralized. Once Ouroboros is implemented, Cardano will be more distributed than at present, but whether that constitutes “true” decentralization is a matter of debate. Like EOS, Cardano’s consensus mechanism will place control in the hands of a few whales whose coins and votes will dictate decisions.
EOS: The decentralization, or lack thereof, that comes with EOS has been fiercely debated in a network that is less than one week old. 21 block validators – trusted entities such as Bitfinex – serve as delegates who control the network. EOS’ delegated Proof of Stake algorithm places a lot of control in the hands of a few. A two thirds majority is required to reach consensus.
Decentralization Is More Than Just a Consensus Mechanism
While debates about the merits of consensus mechanisms such as PoW, PoS, dPoS and dBFT, and their role in decentralizing a network rumble on, there are other centralization concerns to address. Almost 50% of all EOS tokens, for example, reside in just 10 addresses. Then there’s the issues of mining centralization, leadership cults, and the risk of low hashrate PoW blockchains being susceptible to 51% attacks. In other words, there’s no such thing as perfect decentralization.
All cryptocurrencies start life in the hands of a single entity. The measure of whether that coin deserves to be called a cryptocurrency lies in the swiftness and willingness of that entity to relinquish power. Time and successfully thwarted attacks are the true tests of a network’s mettle. Decentralization is a scale not a switch.
Do you think decentralization is the most important characteristic of a blockchain? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, and Twitter.
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A while back, a blockchain startup approached me with their pitch, a decentralized social media application in which users can earn money by simply doing what they already do on other platforms, such posting updates, photos and videos.
I would have been intrigued had they sent me the message a couple of years ago. But not so much after observing the space for more several years.
Several blockchain applications profess to enable users to monetize various resources, whether it’s their unused storage and CPU power, or the tons of data they generate every day.
Regardless of whether they will succeed to deliver on their promises or not, these projects highlight one of the problems that haunts the centralized internet. Users are seldom rewarded for the great value they bring to platforms such as Facebook, Google and Amazon .
Blockchain applications suggest that decentralized alternatives to current services will give users the chance to collect their fair share of the revenue they generate with their participation in online ecosystems. It’s an enticing proposition since it doesn’t require users to do much more than what they’re already doing: send emails, browse websites, watch ads, keep the computer on…
But what exactly do you earn from monetizing your resources on the internet, and how accessible and reliable are your earning? Here’s what you need to know.
What can you sell?
A handful of blockchain platforms enable you to rent your unused storage, idle CPU cycles, and internet bandwidth with those who are in need. The premise is simple: You list your resources along with your payment terms on the application and get paid in the proprietary crypto-token of the application when others use them. Purchases are arranged, performed and paid peer-to-peer through smart contracts, bits of code that run on blockchain without the need for a centralized application server.
Examples include Golem and iExec, two decentralized marketplaces for computing power. Users can earn the platforms’ proprietary cryptocurrencies, GNT and RLC tokens respectively, by renting their CPU cycles to developers and users who want to run applications on the network. Golem and iExec aim to replace centralized cloud providers such as Amazon and Google, in which the service provider sets the rates and rakes in all the profits.
Storj and Filecoin are two distributed storage networks where users can earn cryptotokens for sharing their free hard drive space with the network. Both platforms are designed to provide infrastructure for various applications such as web hosting and streaming services. Gladius, a decentralized content delivery network (CDN) and DDoS mitigation solution, enables users to monetize their internet bandwidth to serve content from websites and services running on the network.
These applications provide a good opportunity to turn the hours that your computer sits idly in the home or office into a side income.
Other blockchain platforms enable you to monetize your data. An example is Datum, a decentralized marketplace for user data. Datum enables users to earn DAT tokens by choosing to share it with other organizations. Other players in the domain include Streamr, a real-time data-sharing platform geared toward the Internet of Things (IoT). With Streamr, users can earn DATAcoin tokens by sharing the data their connected devices generate with other devices that need it to carry out their functions and companies that use them for analytics and research.
Data is a huge market that is currently dominated by a few big players such as Google and Facebook. These companies hoard user data in their walled-garden silos and use them to make huge profits. Blockchain platforms give users the choice and power to claim their share of that market by giving them back the ownership of their data.
Matchpool is a decentralized social network that enables users to monetize their groups and online communities. Matchpool provides the decentralized equivalent of Facebook groups and provides tools for administrators to earn GUP tokens by setting fees on membership and access to content. And there’s Brave, the blockchain-based browser developed by the former CEO of Mozilla. Brave removes ads from websites and instead gives users the choice to earn Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) by opting to view ads.
How much do you earn?
It’s difficult to measure earnings on blockchain applications because most of them either haven’t launched yet or are in their early stages. Few of the companies I reached out to could provide stable numbers or average figures.
Also, the value of the resource you share on these platforms is often subject to supply-and-demand dynamics. For instance, iExec leaves it to the users to determine the price of their computational resources and doesn’t take any cut from their earnings. If there’s a large demand for decentralized CPU power, you’ll earn more from participating in the network.
Storj, the decentralized storage network, had the most accurate information to share. The platform provides a formula to calculate the monthly earnings of “farmers,” the users who share their free storage space with the network. Storj charges $0.015 per gigabyte of data stored and $0.05 per gigabyte downloaded, 60 percent of which goes to the farmers.
Several factors affect the final earnings, including whether the farmer nodes store primary or mirror copies of data, how long they participate in the network, and how well they perform in terms of up-time, bandwidth and response times. “If someone stored 1TB of data for the entire month, and that entire TB of data was downloaded once that month, they could potentially make $39,” said Philip Hutchins, CTO at Storj Labs. But the current average monthly payment for a Storj farmer node is around $2, according to the network data the company shared.
Storj has also launched partnerships with FileZilla, Microsoft and other companies to build decentralized apps on top of its network, which could increase demand for Storj space.
On Datum, the decentralized data market, users earn between $0.50 and $5 in DAT tokens for each promotional email they opt to open, according to Roger Haenni, the company’s CEO, though he did not share the details of how earnings are calculated. Currently the network supports monetizing email inboxes, but in the future, the company plans to provide users with the option to get paid for sharing various categories of data, such as the location data their phone collects, apps, services and websites they use, data that their smart gadgets collect and others.
That last bit sounds a bit invasive on user privacy. “This [data] is currently widely tracked by cookies from various ad networks,” explains Haenni. “However, the user is not asked to explicitly opt in to share this data nor does he get paid when this data is monetized.” Datum will give the chance to claim the money that’s already being made from their data.
The Datum network currently has 80,000 users, and since the launch of the Datum App in late December, users have collected 1.5 million DAT tokens, amounting to around $75,000.
Gladius, the decentralized CDN, doles out $0.03 in GLA tokens per gigabyte of bandwidth of data streamed through a node (however, the company’s website states that this is an estimate based on favorable market conditions). An internet connection with a 30 mbps upload speed shared with the network for eight hours a day could earn its owner around $49 per month.
What are the costs and risks?
In most cases, you’ve already paid for the resources you’ll be sharing on the blockchain, whether it’s your hard drive space, your CPU or your bandwidth (unless you’re on a metered connection, in which case sharing it would be unwise). However, you’ll have to factor in electricity costs of keeping your computer on, which varied depending on the region you live in.
Social and data-sharing platforms won’t have any extra costs, but you’ll be responsible for keeping the balance between sharing your data and preserving your privacy.
One of the real risks of earning cryptotokens is the constant price fluctuations. The value of what you earn today could double overnight—or drop by half in the same manner. This means you’ll have to choose between holding your tokens or cashing out.
And there are always the risks of scams and failed projects that will absorb users’ funds and resources only to disappear and leave them out in the cold.
“Resource-sharing projects on top of the blockchain that allow users to control and profit from their own data will be the most profitable and successful projects in the future,” says Jared Tate, blockchain expert and the founder of DigiByte. However, Tate also notes that many of the current resource sharing platforms are PR projects that will never scale.
“The majority of projects out there won’t be around in 5 years. Most of the projects don’t even have working software, just a white paper and some fancy graphics on a website,” Tate says. Some users evaluate projects by examining the market cap alone, which Tate believes is the absolute worst way to gauge a projects long term viability. “So many market caps are artificially inflated by developer pre-mines or deceptive coin counts,” he warns.
How do you deal with the liquidity problem?
Another challenge users will have to overcome is what to do with the tokens they earn from monetizing their resources. For instance, if you earn Storj tokens from renting your free hard disk space, the only thing you can do with your earnings is, well, rent storage from other users, which doesn’t make sense since you already had an excess of it to begin with.
Some platforms have multi-faceted economies that enable users to use their earned tokens for various purposes. For instance, in Flixxo, a decentralized streaming service, users can earn FLIXX tokens by sharing their free disk space and bandwidth to host content on the network. They can then use their earned tokens to consume videos published on the platform. But that is still a limited use case and might not be the problem they want to solve with their earnings.
Digital currencies and tokens have a liquidity problem. There are very few retailers and online services that accept Bitcoin as a method of payment, and even fewer that accept other cryptocurrencies. Users often must find some online exchange which matches buyers and sellers of various digital and fiat currencies. The process is slow and complicated and involves fees at different levels.
An alternative is Bancor, a decentralized liquidity network built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. Supported by its own token, BNT, Bancor enables users to convert between tokens supported on its network without the need to find a buyer or seller. So, for instance, if you’ve earned an amount of RLC tokens from renting your idle CPU time on iExec, you can instantly trade it on Bancor for, say, MANA, the token that will let you purchase VR experiences on Decentraland.
Bancor already lists several dozen tokens on its network and plans to add more in the future.
“The aim of this mathematic liquidity solution is to allow the long tail of tokens to emerge, by allowing any user generated currency to be viable on day one without needing to achieve massive trade volume in order to be listed and thus become liquid,” says Galia Benartzi, the co-founder of Bancor. “Great tokens will still rise, bad ones will fail, but all will have a chance to try.”
Given all the hype and noise swirling around crypto and decentralized network projects, which runs the full gamut from scams and stupidity, to very clever and inspired ideas, the release of yet another whitepaper does not immediately set off an attention klaxon.
But this whitepaper — which details a new protocol for achieving consensus within a decentralized network — is worth paying more attention to than most.
MaidSafe, the team behind it, are also the literal opposite of fly-by-night crypto opportunists. They’ve been working on decentralized networking since long before the space became the hot, hyped thing it is now.
Their overarching mission is to engineer an entirely decentralized Internet which bakes in privacy, security and freedom of expression by design — the ‘Safe’ in their planned ‘Safe Network’ stands for ‘Secure access for everyone’ — meaning it’s encrypted, autonomous, self-organizing, self-healing. And the new consensus protocol is just another piece towards fulfilling that grand vision.
What’s consensus in decentralized networking terms? “Within decentralized networks you must have a way of the network agreeing on a state — such as can somebody access a file or confirming a coin transaction, for example — and the reason you need this is because you don’t have a central server to confirm all this to you,” explains MaidSafe’s COO Nick Lambert, discussing what the protocol is intended to achieve.
“So you need all these decentralized nodes all reaching agreement somehow on a state within the network. Consensus occurs by each of these nodes on the network voting and letting the network as a whole know what it thinks of a transaction.
“It’s almost like consensus could be considered the heart of the networks. It’s required for almost every event in the network.”
We wrote about MaidSafe’s alternative, server-less Internet in 2014. But they actually began work on the project in stealth all the way back in 2006. So they’re over a decade into the R&D at this point.
The network is p2p because it’s being designed so that data is locally encrypted, broken up into pieces and then stored distributed and replicated across the network, relying on the users’ own compute resources to stand in and take the strain. No servers necessary.
The prototype Safe Network is currently in an alpha testing stage (they opened for alpha in 2016). Several more alpha test stages are planned, with a beta release still a distant, undated prospect at this stage. But rearchitecting the entire Internet was clearly never going to be a day’s work.
MaidSafe also ran a multimillion dollar crowdsale in 2014 — for a proxy token of the coin that will eventually be baked into the network — and did so long before ICOs became a crypto-related bandwagon that all sorts of entities were jumping onto. The SafeCoin cryptocurrency is intended to operate as the inventive mechanism for developers to build apps for the Safe Network and users to contribute compute resource and thus bring MaidSafe’s distributed dream alive.
Their timing on the token sale front, coupled with prudent hodling of some of the Bitcoins they’ve raised, means they’re essentially in a position of not having to worry about raising more funds to build the network, according to Lambert.
A rough, back-of-an-envelope calculation on MaidSafe’s original crowdsale suggests, given they raised $2M in Bitcoin in April 2014 when the price for 1BTC was up to around $500, the Bitcoins they obtained then could be worth between ~$30M-$40M by today’s Bitcoin prices — though that would be assuming they held on to most of them. Bitcoin’s price also peaked far higher last year too.
As well as the token sale they also did an equity raise in 2016, via the fintech investment platform bnktothefuture, pulling in around $1.7M from that — in a mixture of cash and “some Bitcoin”.
“It’s gone both ways,” says Lambert, discussing the team’s luck with Bitcoin. “The crowdsale we were on the losing end of Bitcoin price decreasing. We did a raise from bnktothefuture in autumn of 2016… and fortunately we held on to quite a lot of the Bitcoin. So we rode the Bitcoin price up. So I feel like the universe paid us back a little bit for that. So it feels like we’re level now.”
“Fundraising is exceedingly time consuming right through the organization, and it does take a lot of time away from what you wants to be focusing on, and so to be in a position where you’re not desperate for funding is a really nice one to be in,” he adds. “It allows us to focus on the technology and releasing the network.”
The team’s headcount is now up to around 33, with founding members based at the HQ in Ayr, Scotland, and other engineers working remotely or distributed (including in a new dev office they opened in India at the start of this year), even though MaidSafe is still not taking in any revenue.
This April they also made the decision to switch from a dual licensing approach for their software — previously offering both an open source license and a commercial license (which let people close source their code for a fee) — to going only open source, to encourage more developer engagement and contributions to the project, as Lambert tells it.
“We always see the SafeNetwork a bit like a public utility,” he says. “In terms of once we’ve got this thing up and launched we don’t want to control it or own it because if we do nobody will want to use it — it needs to be seen as everyone contributing. So we felt it’s a much more encouraging sign for developers who want to contribute if they see everything is fully open sourced and cannot be closed source.”
MaidSafe’s story so far is reason enough to take note of their whitepaper.
But the consensus issue the paper addresses is also a key challenge for decentralized networks so any proposed solution is potentially a big deal — if indeed it pans out as promised.
Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus
MaidSafe reckons they’ve come up with a way of achieving consensus on decentralized networks that’s scalable, robust and efficient. Hence the name of the protocol — ‘Parsec’ — being short for: ‘Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus’.
They will be open sourcing the protocol under a GPL v3 license — with a rough timeframe of “months” for that release, according to Lambert.
He says they’ve been working on Parsec for the last 18 months to two years — but also drawing on earlier research the team carried out into areas such as conflict-free replicated data types, synchronous and asynchronous consensus, and topics such as threshold signatures and common coin.
More specifically, the research underpinning Parsec is based on the following five papers: 1. Baird L. The Swirlds Hashgraph Consensus Algorithm: Fair, Fast, Byzantine Fault Tolerance, Swirlds Tech Report SWIRLDS-TR-2016-01 (2016); 2. Mostefaoui A., Hamouna M., Raynal M. Signature-Free Asynchronous Byzantine Consensus with t <n/3 and O(n 2 ) Messages, ACM PODC (2014); 3. Micali S. Byzantine Agreement, Made Trivial, (2018); 4. Miller A., Xia Y., Croman K., Shi E., Song D. The Honey Badger of BFT Protocols, CCS (2016); 5. Team Rocket Snowflake to Avalanche: A Novel Metastable Consensus Protocol Family for Cryptocurrencies, (2018).
Bitcoin’s use of a drastically energy-inefficient ‘proof of work’ method to achieve consensus and write each transaction to its blockchain very clearly doesn’t scale. It’s slow, cumbersome and wasteful. And how to get blockchain-based networks to support the billions of transactions per second that might be needed to sustain the various envisaged applications remains an essential work in progress — with projects investigating various ideas and approaches to try to overcome the limitation.
MaidSafe’s network is not blockchain-based. It’s engineered to function with asynchronous voting of nodes, rather than synchronous voting, which should avoid the bottleneck problems associated with blockchain. But it’s still decentralized. So it needs a consensus mechanism to enable operations and transactions to be carried out autonomously and robustly. That’s where Parsec is intended to slot in.
The protocol does not use proof of work. And is able, so the whitepaper claims, to achieve consensus even if a third of the network is comprised of malicious nodes — i.e. nodes which are attempting to disrupt network operations or otherwise attack the network.
Another claimed advantage is that decisions made via the protocol are both mathematically guaranteed and irreversible.
“What Parsec does is it can reach consensus even with malicious nodes. And up to a third of the nodes being malicious is what the maths proofs suggest,” says Lambert. “This ability to provide mathematical guarantees that all parts of the network will come to the same agreement at a point in time, even with some fault in the network or bad actors — that’s what Byzantine Fault Tolerance is.”
In theory a blockchain using proof of work could be hacked if any one entity controlled 51% of the nodes on the network (although in reality it’s likely that such a large amount of energy would be required it’s pretty much impractical).
So on the surface MaidSafe’s decentralized network — which ‘only’ needs 33% of its nodes to be compromised for its consensus decisions to be attacked — sounds rather less robust. But Lambert says it’s more nuanced than the numbers suggest. And in fact the malicious third would also need to be nodes that have the authority to vote. “So it is a third but it’s a third of well reputed nodes,” as he puts it.
So there’s an element of proof of stake involved too, bound up with additional planned characteristics of the Safe Network — related to dynamic membership and sharding (Lambert says MaidSafe has additional whitepapers on both those elements coming soon).
“Those two papers, particularly the one around dynamic membership, will explain why having a third of malicious nodes is actually harder than just having 33% of malicious nodes. Because the nodes that can vote have to have a reputation as well. So it’s not just purely you can flood the Safe Network with lots and lots of malicious nodes and override it only using a third of the nodes. What we’re saying is the nodes that can vote and actually have a say must have a good reputation in the network,” he says.
“The other thing is proof of stake… Everyone is desperate to move away from proof of work because of its environmental impact. So proof of stake — I liken it to the Scottish landowners, where people with a lot of power have more say. In the cryptocurrency field, proof of stake might be if you have, let’s say, 10 coins and I have one coin your vote might be worth 10x as much authority as what my one coin would be. So any of these mechanisms that they come up with it has that weighting to it… So the people with the most vested interests in the network are also given the more votes.”
Sharding refers to closed groups that allow for consensus votes to be reached by a subset of nodes on a decentralized network. By splitting the network into small sections for consensus voting purposes the idea is you avoid the inefficiencies of having to poll all the nodes on the network — yet can still retain robustness, at least so long as subgroups are carefully structured and secured.
“If you do that correctly you can make it more secure and you can make things much more efficient and faster,” says Lambert. “Because rather than polling, let’s say 6,000 nodes, you might be polling eight nodes. So you can get that information back quickly.
“Obviously you need to be careful about how you do that because with much less nodes you can potentially game the network so you need to be careful how you secure those smaller closed groups or shards. So that will be quite a big thing because pretty much every crypto project is looking at sharding to make, certainly, blockchains more efficient. And so the fact that we’ll have something coming out in that, after we have the dynamic membership stuff coming out, is going to be quite exciting to see the reaction to that as well.”
Voting authority on the Safe Network might be based on a node’s longevity, quality and historical activity — so a sort of ‘reputation’ score (or ledger) that can yield voting rights over time.
“If you’re like that then you will have a vote in these closed groups. And so a third of those votes — and that then becomes quite hard to game because somebody who’s then trying to be malicious would need to have their nodes act as good corporate citizens for a time period. And then all of a sudden become malicious, by which time they’ve probably got a vested stake in the network. So it wouldn’t be possible for someone to just come and flood the network with new nodes and then be malicious because it would not impact upon the network,” Lambert suggests.
The computing power that would be required to attack the Safe Network once it’s public and at scale would also be “really, really significant”, he adds. “Once it gets to scale it would be really hard to co-ordinate anything against it because you’re always having to be several hundred percent bigger than the network and then have a co-ordinated attack on it itself. And all of that work might get you to impact the decision within one closed group. So it’s not even network wide… And that decision could be on who accesses one piece of encrypted shard of data for example… Even the thing you might be able to steal is only an encrypted shard of something — it’s not even the whole thing.”
Other distributed ledger projects are similarly working on Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant (AFBT) consensus models, including those using directed acrylic graphs (DAGs) — another nascent decentralization technology that’s been suggested as an alternative to blockchain.
And indeed AFBT techniques predate Bitcoin, though MaidSafe says these kind of models have only more recently become viable thanks to research and the relative maturing of decentralized computing and data types, itself as a consequence of increased interest and investment in the space.
However in the case of Hashgraph — the DAG project which has probably attracted the most attention so far — it’s closed source, not open. So that’s one major difference with MaidSafe’s approach.
Another difference that Lambert points to is that Parsec has been built to work in a dynamic, permissionless network environment (essential for the intended use-case, as the Safe Network is intended as a public network). Whereas he claims Hashgraph has only demonstrated its algorithms working on a permissioned (and therefore private) network “where all the nodes are known”.
He also suggests there’s a question mark over whether Hashgraph’s algorithm can achieve consensus when there are malicious nodes operating on the network. Which — if true — would limit what it can be used for.
“The Hashgraph algorithm is only proven to reach agreement if there’s no adversaries within the network,” Lambert claims. “So if everything’s running well then happy days, but if there’s any maliciousness or any failure within that network then — certainly on the basis of what’s been published — it would suggest that that algorithm was not going to hold up to that.”
“I think being able to do all of these things asynchronously with all of the mathematical guarantees is very difficult,” he continues, returning to the core consensus challenge. “So at the moment we see that we have come out with something that is unique, that covers a lot of these bases, and is a very good use for our use-case. And I think will be useful for others — so I think we like to think that we’ve made a paradigm shift or a vast improvement over the state of the art.”
Paradigm shift vs marginal innovation
Despite the team’s conviction that, with Parsec, they’ve come up with something very notable, early feedback includes some very vocal Twitter doubters.
For example there’s a lengthy back-and-forth between several MaidSafe engineers and Ethereum researcher Vlad Zamfir — who dubs the Parsec protocol “overhyped” and a “marginal innovation if that”… so, er, ouch.
Lambert is, if not entirely sanguine, then solidly phlegmatic in the face of a bit of initial Twitter blowback — saying he reckons it will take more time for more detailed responses to come, i.e. allowing for people to properly digest the whitepaper.
“In the world of async BFT algorithms, any advance is huge,” MaidSafe CEO David Irvine also tells us when we ask for a response to Zamfir’s critique. “How huge is subjective, but any advance has to be great for the world. We hope others will advance Parsec like we have built on others (as we clearly state and thank them for their work). So even if it was a marginal development (which it certainly is not) then I would take that.”
“All in all, though, nothing was said that took away from the fact Parsec moves the industry forward,” he adds. “I felt the comments were a bit juvenile at times and a bit defensive (probably due to us not agreeing with POS in our Medium post) but in terms of the only part commented on (the coin flip) we as a team feel that part could be much more concrete in terms of defining exactly how small such random (finite) delays could be. We know they do not stop the network and a delaying node would be killed, but for completeness, it would be nice to be that detailed.”
A developer source of our own in the crypto/blockchain space — who’s not connected to the MaidSafe or Ethereum projects — also points out that Parsec “getting objective review will take some time given that so many potential reviewers have vested interest in their own project/coin”.
It’s certainly fair to say the space excels at public spats and disagreements. Researchers pouring effort into one project can be less than kind to rivals’ efforts. (And, well, given all the crypto Lambos at stake it’s not hard to see why there can be no love lost — and, ironically, zero trust — between competing champions of trustless tech.)
Another fundamental truth of these projects is they’re all busily experimenting right now, with lots of ideas in play to try and fix core issues like scalability, efficiency and robustness — often having different ideas over implementation even if rival projects are circling and/or converging on similar approaches and techniques.
“Certainly other projects are looking at sharding,” says Lambert. “So I know that Ethereum are looking at sharding. And I think Bitcoin are looking at that as well, but I think everyone probably has quite different ideas about how to implement it. And of course we’re not using a blockchain which makes that another different use-case where Ethereum and Bitcoin obviously are. But everyone has — as with anything — these different approaches and different ideas.”
“Every network will have its own different ways of doing [consensus],” he adds when asked whether he believes Parsec could be adopted by other projects wrestling with the consensus challenge. “So it’s not like some could lift [Parsec] out and just put it in. Ethereum is blockchain-based — I think they’re looking at something around proof of stake, but maybe they could take some ideas or concepts from the work that we’re open sourcing for their specific case.
“If you get other blockchain-less networks like IOTA, Byteball, I think POA is another one as well. These other projects it might be easier for them to implement something like Parsec with them because they’re not using blockchain. So maybe less of that adaption required.”
Whether other projects will deem Parsec worthy of their attention remains to be seen at this point with so much still to play for. Some may prefer to expend effort trying to rubbish a rival approach, whose open source tech could, if it stands up to scrutiny and operational performance, reduce the commercial value of proprietary and patented mechanisms also intended to grease the wheels of decentralized networks — for a fee.
And of course MaidSafe’s developed-in-stealth consensus protocol may also turn out to be a relatively minor development. But finding a non-vested expert to give an impartial assessment of complex network routing algorithms conjoined to such a self-interested and, frankly, anarchical industry is another characteristic challenge of the space.
Irvine’s view is that DAG based projects which are using a centralized component will have to move on or adopt what he dubs “state of art” asynchronous consensus algorithms — as MaidSafe believes Parsec is — aka, algorithms which are “more widely accepted and proven”.
“So these projects should contribute to the research, but more importantly, they will have to adopt better algorithms than they use,” he suggests. “So they can play an important part, upgrades! How to upgrade a running DAG based network? How to had fork a graph? etc. We know how to hard fork blockchains, but upgrading DAG based networks may not be so simple when they are used as ledgers.
“Projects like Hashgraph, Algorand etc will probably use an ABFT algorithm like this as their whole network with a little work for a currency; IOTA, NANO, Bytball etc should. That is entirely possible with advances like Parsec. However adding dynamic membership, sharding, a data layer then a currency is a much larger proposition, which is why Parsec has been in stealth mode while it is being developed.
“We hope that by being open about the algorithm, and making the code open source when complete, we will help all the other projects working on similar problems.”
Of course MaidSafe’s team might be misguided in terms of the breakthrough they think they’ve made with Parsec. But it’s pretty hard to stand up the idea they’re being intentionally misleading.
Because, well, what would be the point of that? While the exact depth of MaidSafe’s funding reserves isn’t clear, Lambert doesn’t sound like a startup guy with money worries. And the team’s staying power cannot be in doubt — over a decade into the R&D needed to underpin their alt network.
It’s true that being around for so long does have some downsides, though. Especially, perhaps, given how hyped the decentralized space has now become. “Because we’ve been working on it for so long, and it’s been such a big project, you can see some negative feedback about that,” as Lambert admits.
And with such intense attention now on the space, injecting energy which in turn accelerates ideas and activity, there’s perhaps extra pressure on a veteran player like MaidSafe to be seen making a meaningful contribution — ergo, it might be tempting for the team to believe the consensus protocol they’ve engineered really is a big deal.
To stand up and be counted amid all the noise, as it were. And to draw attention to their own project — which needs lots of external developers to buy into the vision if it’s to succeed, yet, here in 2018, it’s just one decentralization project among so many.
The Safe Network roadmap
Consensus aside, MaidSafe’s biggest challenge is still turning the sizable amount of funding and resources the team’s ideas have attracted to date into a bona fide alternative network that anyone really can use. And there’s a very long road to travel still on that front, clearly.
The Safe Network is in alpha 2 testing incarnation (which has been up and running since September last year) — consisting of around a hundred nodes that MaidSafe is maintaining itself.
The core decentralization proposition of anyone being able to supply storage resource to the network via lending their own spare capacity is not yet live — and won’t come fully until alpha 4.
“People are starting to create different apps against that network. So we’ve seen Jams — a decentralized music player… There are a couple of storage style apps… There is encrypted email running as well, and also that is running on Android,” says Lambert. “And we have a forked version of the Beaker browser — that’s the browser that we use right now. So if you can create websites on the Safe Network, which has its own protocol, and if you want to go and view those sites you need a Safe browser to do that, so we’ve also been working on our own browser from scratch that we’ll be releasing later this year… So there’s a number of apps that are running against that alpha 2 network.
“What alpha 3 will bring is it will run in parallel with alpha 2 but it will effectively be a decentralized routing network. What that means is it will be one for more technical people to run, and it will enable data to be passed around a network where anyone can contribute their resources to it but it will not facilitate data storage. So it’ll be a command line app, which is probably why it’ll suit technical people more because there’ll be no user interface for it, and they will contribute their resources to enable messages to be passed around the network. So secure messaging would be a use-case for that.
“And then alpha 4 is effectively bringing together alpha 2 and alpha 3. So it adds a storage layer on top of the alpha 3 network — and at that point it gives you the fully decentralized network where users are contributing their resources from home and they will be able to store data, send messages and things of that nature. Potentially during alpha 4, or a later alpha, we’ll introduce test SafeCoin. Which is the final piece of the initial puzzle to provide incentives for users to provide resources and for developers to make apps. So that’s probably what the immediate roadmap looks like.”
On the timeline front Lambert won’t be coaxed into fixing any deadlines to all these planned alphas. They’ve long ago learnt not to try and predict the pace of progress, he says with a laugh. Though he does not question that progress is being made.
“These big infrastructure projects are typically only government funded because the payback is too slow for venture capitalists,” he adds. “So in the past you had things like Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet — that was obviously a US government funded project — and so we’ve taken on a project which has, not grown arms and legs, but certainly there’s more to it than what was initially thought about.
“So we are almost privately funding this infrastructure. Which is quite a big scope, and I will say why it’s taking a bit of time. But we definitely do seem to be making lots of progress.”
The Satoshi Revolution: A Revolution of Rising Expectations
Section 3: Decentralization
Chapter 8, Part 4
Crypto and the Impossibility of Knowledge in Planning
Bitcoin…is better understood using the conceptual lens of the Catallaxy: participants in Bitcoin spontaneously form a decentralized monetary and financial ecosystem, collectively choosing Bitcoin as a medium of exchange and store of value. Bitcoin is…an irrefutable demonstration of spontaneous order in action.
Cryptocurrency is a perfect example of catallaxy and of a remedy for its polar opposite: central planning. The opposites are at war, of course.
The concept of “catallaxy” is similar to that of “spontaneous order,” but the latter concept can be broadly applied to most areas of life. Catallaxy applies specifically to how economic order emerges in a system through the uncoordinated and diverse actions of individuals who pursue their own self-interests. The social theorist Friedrich Hayek defined it as “the order brought about by the mutual adjustment of many individual economies in a market”.
The obscure term captures a dynamic that is essential to the creation of civilization: cooperation. If human beings are to rise above the level of Robinson Crusoe or savagery, then they must interact to mutual advantage. Historically, the “cooperation” is usually orchestrated by a central authority-a government, a tribal leader, a religion-that negates the voice of the individual. One reason people agree to be silenced is because they worship the authority, which makes them willingly or unthinkingly sabotage their individualism.
And yet, human beings are conflicted. Most hope to be the type of person who would stand between a lynch mob and the black man it is hunting. There is a yearning to be heroic and unique, even if it is expressed by standing in a crowd in which everyone yells, “I am unique!” This is not always hypocrisy. It is often a conflicted but honest response to two antagonistic urges: worship of authority; and, the need to feel real as an individual.
Recent centuries have given us a new paradigm of how cooperation creates civilization-a paradigm other than control from on high. Civilization rises from the grassroots. It arises through the uncoordinated and voluntary association of individuals and groups. It comes from catallaxy, which is sometimes called “catallactics.” The concept was a long-sought-after intellectual breakthrough that allowed free-market advocates to explain the evolution of society without a central authority.
In his masterpiece Human Action, Ludwig von Mises attributed the concept’s origin to the 19th century economist and academic Richard Whately who wrote, “A[dam] Smith, indeed, has designated his work a treatise on the Wealth of Nations; but this supplies a name only for the subject-matter, not for the science itself. The name I should have preferred as the most descriptive, and on the whole least objectionable, is that of catallactics, or the ‘Science of Exchanges’.” Whately sought what Mises called praxeology-the science of human action-but he focused on economics.
Digital currencies are the most fascinating example of economic spontaneous order that has occurred in decades. It may not seem to be grassroots economics because it is so technologically sophisticated, but it is as grassroots as it gets. As a practical matter, however, free-market crypto stumbles over an obstacle. Users still buy into the trickle-down version of organization, and they tend to surrender their independence to centralized exchanges that function as central banks. Like banks, the exchanges maintain control of deposits, which is de facto ownership, and they report all transactions to the government. People are free to choose for themselves, of course, but central powers inevitably violate the principle of free choice by banning anything that competes with them for power or money.
Thus, the ideological struggle within crypto is between centralization and decentralization. Governments need the first to control the economy; individuals need the second to achieve financial independence. There can be no compromise between the two because they are antithetical. But, as a matter of brute reality, both operate side by side within most societies because they each satisfy a competing urge within many human beings: a desire for authority, and a desire to be free. Authorities benefit tremendously, of course, and their motives are clear. But they could not prevail if a sufficient percentage of the population did not agree enough to go along.
Both government and the free market provide conflicting models for social order and civilization.
No one championed the free-market dynamic more vigorously than Hayek. He argued persistently against what he called “constructive rationalism”-the belief that social order should be constructed by a central authority. He argued that it should not be but also that it could not be constructed. All that could emerge was government-imposed order, which was the opposite of social order. Hayek’s definition from The Constitution of Liberty: “Order with reference to society thus means essentially that individual action is guided by successful forethought, that people not only make effective use of their knowledge but can also foresee with a high degree of confidence what collaboration they can expect from others.”
Hayek’s arguments differ from the usual crypto critique of trusted third parties because he does not dwell on the corruption of the system. He focuses on its disutility. Satoshi Nakamoto’s White Paper also touches on the practical flaws of the central banking system, but Hayek differs from Satoshi as well. Satoshi offers precise critiques of real practices; Hayek offers fundamental critiques of the inherent inability of the system to provide what it claims. Another way to state this: conceivably, the faults addressed by Satoshi could be corrected because they are practices. The faults attacked by Hayek are insurmountable because they form the ideological foundation of central planning.
Centralization Versus Decentralization
He knew first-hand the consequences of central planning, which he called rational constructivism. Hayek had witnessed the devastation of classical liberalism by two world wars, but especially by World War I, which broke the mold of the free market. Wartime governments clamped centralized control over the private sector to ensure the flow of armaments and other “necessary” goods. Governments inflated their monies to pay for massive military build-ups. And war strangled the flow of free trade that classical liberals considered to be a prerequisite to peace, prosperity, and freedom. In short, Hayek had watched as 20th century statism replaced 19th century classical liberalism. Central planning was the mechanism through which freedom had been destroyed.
In response, Hayek developed a sophisticated system of social theory to explain how the institutions of society naturally evolved from the bottom up, which meant they could evolve once more. He maintained that the natural institutions of society were the collective and unintended results of human action. Even complex social phenomena-such as religion, language, or money-were the unintended consequences of individual interactions. For example, no central authority decided to invent human speech, let alone to design a language as specific as English. Acting solely to achieve their own ends, individuals began making sounds to facilitate getting what they wanted from others, whether the goal was economic or more personal. Speech resulted from human action but not from human design, and it naturally evolved into language. The evolution may not have proceeded with scientific efficiency, but it was efficient enough to speed along the development of civilization. The efficiency of government programs suffer by comparison, to say the least.
Yet constructivists claimed that an unplanned society is chaos. With sufficient knowledge and a scientific approach, a perfectly efficient society could be engineered. No surpluses, no scarcities, no waste. Stock markets would not crash, and currencies would not fluctuate. Society could be designed so that its members walked in unison toward the same desirable social goals, just as they marched toward victory in war.
Hayek bluntly stated that the knowledge constructivists sought is unattainable. It is not possible to plan the dynamics of tomorrow based on yesterday; predictions may be possible but knowledge is not. It is impossible because people and circumstances are erratic. Even a small thing, like the price of bread yesterday, does not give knowledge of the price tomorrow or what a person will be willing to pay. The price of bread might skyrocket due to a shortage, or the person might value the loaf differently. Using yesterday to engineer tomorrow goes against a fundamental tenet of human action: the principle of inevitable change. Human beings are fundamentally different from the physical objects examined by the hard sciences. A scientist can learn everything he needs to know about the behavior of an object, and the information might not change over time. But human beings act on psychological factors and motivations that are hidden, often from themselves. Society does not consist of objects that can be neatly categorized and made to obey the laws of science. Society consists of unpredictable individuals who react to changing circumstances.
In Human Action, Mises commented, “Human action originates change. As far as there is human action there is no stability, but ceaseless alteration…The prices of the market are historical facts expressive of a state of affairs that prevailed at a definite instant of the irreversible historical process….In the imaginary-and, of course, unrealizable-state of rigidity and stability there are no changes to be measured. In the actual world of permanent change there are no fixed points…”
Throughout the work of Hayek and Mises, two closely related concepts emerge again and again: methodological individualism, and spontaneous order. The two concepts are an essential part of the ideological backbone that forms the structure of cryptocurrency. They also explain why the explosion of freedom brought by crypto was so unexpected. It sprang from individuals and from freedom of action.
Cryptocurrency resembles the lone-gunman theory. History stumbles along a fairly steady, though not necessarily salutary path. Then a lone gunman jumps out of nowhere and shoots Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, or some other prominent figure. In the case of Franz, the assassination sparked WWI. History changed forever.
The centralized financial world was stumbling along a path until crypto jumped out of the bushes and assassinated the banking system. Economic history changed forever, and it cannot be undone. But, to understand the power and potential of crypto, a clear sense of spontaneous order is necessary. The free-market model of freedom and the institutions it requires depend upon it.
[To be continued next week.]
Reprints of this article should credit bitcoin.com and include a link back to the original links to all previous chapters
Wendy McElroy has agreed to ”live-publish” her new book The Satoshi Revolution exclusively with Bitcoin.com. Every Saturday you’ll find another installment in a series of posts planned to conclude after about 18 months. Altogether they’ll make up her new book ”The Satoshi Revolution”. Read it here first.
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Does the decentralization unicorn really exist? 70 to 80 percent of the total hashrate of the Ethereum network belongs to just four or five of the most popular mining pools
Does the decentralization unicorn really exist? 70 to 80 percent of the total hashrate of the Ethereum network belongs to just four or five of the most popular mining pools
US transport giant Norfolk Southern Corp. has announced it is joining the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), which already has 250 members since its 2017 founding
“Travel is expensive, but we are at the cusp of a revolution that will democratize travel and leisure for everyone,” reads the breathless white paper for HoweyCoins. “The Internet was the first part of the revolution. The other part is blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”
“I’m all about HoweyCoins – this thing is going to pop at the top!” writes @boxingchamp1934, an official celebrity backer of the token. The website is full of beautiful beaches features a handsome team of international men and women and the technology is nowhere to be seen, buried under a sea of excitement. The white paper is complete and well-written, focusing on the upside that is to come. Riches await if you invest in HoweyCoin, the latest ICO opportunity from trusted folks.
Or do they?
They don’t. All that breathless optimism is a site created by US Securities Exchange Commission to warn investors of scams and issues associated with token sales. The site features all the trademarks of a scammy security token including tiered pre-sale pricing and an urgent countdown clock.
The site features a number of red flags that the SEC encourages users to watch out for including, most importantly, claims that tokens can only go up in value. They write:
Every investment carries some degree of risk, which is reflected in the rate of return you can expect to receive. High returns entail high risks, possibly including a total loss on the investments. Most fraudsters spend a lot of time trying to convince investors that extremely high returns are “guaranteed” or “can’t miss.”
The SEC also notes that “it is never a good idea to make an investment decision just because someone famous says a product or service is a good investment” and that it is never a good idea to invest with a credit card.
They also warn against pump and dump language found on many ICO pages. “Our past two pumps have doubled value for the period immediately after the pump for returns of over 225%,” wrote the HoweyCoin “creators,” a giant no-no in the world of investing.
You can read the rest of the red flags here.
While the site is fairly comical, it is sufficiently complete and would fool the casual observer. The SEC also posted a real-looking white paper which makes it clear that anyone can string together a few buzzwords can write a passable investment prospectus. That this is now a service available to anyone – for a price – makes things even scarier.
The site is part of the SEC’s outreach efforts to help investors understand ICOs.
“Strong investor protection is part of what makes American markets so strong…and striking the balance, [between innovation and investor protection] is very important,” said Chief of the SEC Cyber Unit Robert Cohen at Consensus this week. During the same panel the SEC claimed its doors were always open for questions.
Ultimately there is little separating the scams from the real token sales. This is a problem. The SEC is framing this problem in their own way based on decades of dealing with pink sheet pump and dumps and bogus get rich quick schemes. While HoweyCoins may not be real there are plenty of scammers out there and at least something like this bogus website makes it easier to spot the warning signs.
As we plunge into our baffling future, it is believed that, at some point, we will be trading in cryptographically secure kittens, monsters, and playing cards. While it is unclear why this will happen, Rare Bits and their new service, Fan Bits, is ready for the oncoming rush.
Founded by Daniel Lee, a former Zynga/FarmVille employee, the company trades in digital goods. Lee brought in a team of ex-Zynga and other digital platform creators to build a blockchain -based solution for buying and selling digital collectables. For example, on Rare Bits you can buy this monster and battle it against other monsters on the Blockchain. Further, with their new platform called Fan Bits, you can buy actual collectables that are tied to the Blockchain. For example, you can sell collectable cards and give some of the proceeds to to charity. If the new owner resells those cards then some of the resell price also goes to charity, an interesting if slightly intrusive use of smart contracts.
The team has raised $6 million in Series A. Fan Bits launches on May 17.
“To date, collectible content has only been created by developers for their own dapps – which I suppose could be considered our competition,” said Lee. “Fan Bits is the first to let anyone, especially people who are not technical, to create collectibles. It will create an abundance of supply that didn’t exist before.”
“We started Rare Bits to let people buy, sell, and discover crypto assets. We believe that assets on the blockchain mark a fundamental shift in how we own and exchange property. Our overall mission is to enable the worldwide exchange of online and offline property on the blockchain,” he said.
Lee sees this as a Trojan horse of sorts, allowing non tech-savvy creators sell digital art and designs online without having to understand the vagaries of blockchain.
“For creators, it’s a DIY platform to turn their content into unique collectibles and earn Ethereum on every sale,” he said. “For the first time, a creator can go from idea to published cryptocollectible on a live marketplace without having to have any technical knowledge.”
Given the popularity of other digital collectables – including in-game gear for many multi-player games – things look like they’re going to get pretty interesting in the next few years.
Economist Nouriel Roubini criticized crypto at the Milken Institute Global Conference yesterday, saying, “Talk Of Decentralization Is Bulls**t”
There’s a constant feud these days between Bitcoin Core (BTC) supporters and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) proponents right down to the nitty-gritty of nearly every topic in the space, and the arguments continue to this day, relentlessly. One such example is the Bitcoin Cash article hosted on Wiki has been page protected for a couple weeks now for “vandalism.”
Bitcoin Cash Wiki Article Gets Locked Down Due to Constant Vandalism
The Wikipedia website is a collaborative effort that allows anyone to edit and contribute additions to Wiki articles for the sake of documenting history online. So often times subjects are edited by anyone online but, if the subject is contentious, an ‘editing war’ can erupt. This means editors argue about the neutrality of the article and Wiki’s dispute resolution services come into play. Right now this is taking place at the Bitcoin Cash article found on Wiki and the page displays a warning about the contention.
“The neutrality of this article is disputed — Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page — Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met,” explains Wiki when you visit the page. Further investigation directs readers and editors to the talk section which states:
There have been attempts to recruit editors of specific viewpoints to this article. If you’ve come here in response to such recruitment, please review the relevant Wikipedia policy on recruitment of editors, as well as the neutral point of view policy. Disputes on Wikipedia are resolved by consensus, not by majority vote.
Most of the Edit Wars Are ‘Bcash’ Related
Going down the rabbit hole further points to an ugly situation where editors are battling about neutrality, and members of the general public are ‘vandalizing’ the page. For instance looking at the discussion on the editor’s ‘talk page’ and the Bitcoin Cash article’s revisions page many of the arguments and edits revolve around calling the cryptocurrency ‘Bcash.’
On April 20th a Wikipedia editor named ‘Foxyjim’ tried to change the name to ‘Bcash’ and argued the name was acceptable for the BCH-focused article and Wikipedia standards. ‘Bcash’ considered a derogatory term by a great majority of the BCH community, and many believe the term is used as an attempt to confuse people. On one occasion an editor and another contributor named ‘Toomuchtalk’ reverted an edit that was attempted by the user Foxyjim.
“Foxyjim obviously doesn’t understand what Wikipedia is — Just because a disagreeing faction created a derogatory name in an effort to obscure the truthful Bitcoin history and are upset that they are using the name Bitcoin does not make the use of Bcash a legitimate historical fact,” the editor explains.
In no way would a supporter of Bitcoin Cash supporter be ok with this!
The New Cypherpunks
The ‘Bcash edit is a common attack made regularly on the article and disputed in Wiki edit warring discussions. Other issues with the page stem from reliable sources, arguments on how the fork was initiated, and debates regarding the Segregated Witness protocol. Throughout the revisions page, there are multiple debated edits every single day. Moreover, the neutrality template on the Bitcoin Cash article has been added and removed a few times over the past few months as well. Last week the lead developer of the BCH client Bitcoin ABC, Amaury Séchet, noticed the neutrality template on the article and made a remark about it to his followers on Twitter, stating:
Bitcoin Cash Wikipedia is now protected due to repeated vandalism — ‘Cypherpunks do Orwellian shit’ is the new ‘Cypherpunk Write Code.’
What do you think about the Bitcoin Cash Wikipedia being vandalized and suffering from edit warring? Let us know your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.
Images via Shutterstock, Wikipedia, and Bitcoin Cash
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“Let’s destroy Bitcoin”. MIT Technology Review published an article proposing three ways to bring down the world’s largest cryptocurrency. Here’s why it’s not as easy as it might sound. #FOLLOW_UP
Binance Labs leads a $30 mln fundraising round for new cryptocurrency MobileCoin, which reportedly could “enjoy priority consideration” for Binance listing. #NEWS
A new – and theoretical – system for blockchain -based data storage could ensure that hackers will not be able to crack cryptocurrencies once we all enter the quantum era. The idea, proposed by researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, would secure our crypto futures for decades to coming using a blockchain technology that is like a time machine.
You can check out their findings here.
To understand what’s going on here we have to define some terms. A blockchain stores every transaction in a system on what amounts to an immutable record of events. The work necessary for maintaining and confirming this immutable record is what is commonly known as mining . But this technology – which the paper’s co-author Del Rajan claims will make up “10 percent of global GDP… by 2027” – will become insecure in an era of quantum computers.
Therefore the solution is to store a blockchain in a quantum era requires a quantum blockchain using a series of entangled photons. Further, Spectrum writes: “Essentially, current records in a quantum blockchain are not merely linked to a record of the past, but rather a record in the past, one does that not exist anymore.”
Yeah, it’s weird.
From the paper intro:
Our method involves encoding the blockchain into a temporal GHZ (Greenberger–Horne–Zeilinger) state of photons that do not simultaneously coexist. It is shown that the entanglement in time, as opposed to an entanglement in space, provides the crucial quantum advantage. All the subcomponents of this system have already been shown to be experimentally realized. Perhaps more shockingly, our encoding procedure can be interpreted as non-classically influencing the past; hence this decentralized quantum blockchain can be viewed as a quantum networked time machine.
In short the quantum blockchain is immutable because the photons that it contains do not exist in the current time but are still extant and readable. This means you can see the entire blockchain but you cannot “touch” it and the only entry you would be able to try to tamper with is the most recent one. In fact, the researchers write, “In this spatial entanglement case, if an attacker tries to tamper with any photon, the full blockchain would be invalidated immediately.”
Is this really possible? The researchers note that the technology already exists.
“Our novel methodology encodes a blockchain into these temporally entangled states, which can then be integrated into a quantum network for further useful operations. We will also show that entanglement in time, as opposed to entanglement in space, plays the pivotal role for the quantum benefit over a classical blockchain,” the authors write. “As discussed below, all the subsystems of this design have already been shown to be experimentally realized. Furthermore, if such a quantum blockchain were to be constructed, we will show that it could be viewed as a quantum networked time machine.”
Don’t worry about having to update your Bitcoin wallet, though. This process is still very theoretical and not at all available to mere mortals. That said, it’s nice to know someone is looking out for our quantum future, however weird it may be.
California State Senator advances legislation to establish a secure method of processing corporate share certificates by means of Blockchain. #NEWS
Big money venture capitalists and law firms met in secret, roughly a month ago, with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to two major media outlets. The SEC has been particularly active this year, causing those with interest in pet coins and projects to lobby the agency for special protection. Top of the list was a push to provide “safe harbor” for Ethereum.
Big Money Lobbies for Ethereum in Secret
Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, along with powerhouse law firms Cooley, Perkins Coie, and McDermott Will & Emery, formed an ad hoc association, the Venture Capital Working Group. It appears to exist in an effort to influence what some see as inevitable, regulation. Almost weekly, the SEC has made noise about cryptocurrencies in one form or another, and the broader ecosystem continues to debate whether to go further underground or embrace government intervention.
Online political journal Politico broke the story, insisting a “group of venture capital firms with investments in digital currency-related companies has asked the SEC for a safe harbor from securities laws for certain projects.” Perkins evidently led the effort, flooding the SEC with a nearly 50 page note. The note “argues that while certain digital tokens sold to select investors before wider availability may qualify as securities, they should be granted protection from regulations once they are used for a non-investment purpose.”
It has been long thought if the SEC were to overtly designate a cryptocurrency coin or token a “security,” the weight of legal implications alone would probably kill it. Compliance would necessarily mean hoards of expensive lawyers, etc. The working group, therefore, wished to get ahead of that possible future by proposing safe harbor for some coins they feel are objectively not securities, hoping to secure what Politico refers to as “no action letters.”
Chief among the working group’s concern, evidently, is the second most popular cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Ethereum. Ether, the group’s plea to the SEC reads, “is a good example of this type of protocol token that has become so decentralized it should not be deemed a Security.” Saddling ether with the “security” tag, again, might sideline a great many future projects built on top of its network. Presumably, these are present and future companies the working group has heavily invested in.
Regulations for Thee, Not for Me
“Though many digital currencies run off code related to the Ethereum network that uses ether,” Politico was keen to point out, “the working group does not believe the safe harbor would necessarily apply to those tokens.” The key, then, just might be in what the term “decentralization” means, going forward. The document insists, “To remedy the uncertainty and confusion in this space, we are proposing a non-exclusive safe harbor to help provide guidance to the industry on what constitutes an ‘investment contract’ and how the investment contract law and guidance should apply to utility tokens.”
Ethereum has been credited/blamed for the boom in crowdfunding popularized with initial coin offerings, ICOs. The easy onboarding of ICOs has fueled a boom throughout most of 2017, and there appears to be little let up going into the second financial quarter. The SEC is on record as stating ICOs, to a project, are all securities, and so fall under the agency’s jurisdiction.
“Under the terms of the safe harbor,” Politico continues, “digital currencies would not be subject to securities law, including the so-called Howey test, once they achieve certain benchmarks centered on blockchain software functions. Pre-sales of tokens would continue to fall under securities law.”
The group, comprised of the two biggest venture capital funds within the ecosystem, “met with the S.E.C. in Washington on March 28 to present their idea for a safe harbor that would allow some tokens to be categorized as ‘utility tokens’ rather than securities,” according to the New York Times, who picked up the story a day later. Whereas coins such as bitcoin cash (BCH) did not arise from an ICO and have no central organizing body, they appear to be safe and sufficiently “decentralized.” Ethereum, however, is another matter altogether. It did sell ether initially through a primitive form of an early ICO. As of this writing, there is no word as to whether the SEC accepted the group’s definitions and requests.
Do you think it’s time for the ecosystem to embrace regulation? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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