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Proposal: The Sia Foundation
A common sentiment is brewing online; a shared desire for the internet that might have been. After decades of corporate encroachment, you don't need to be a power user to realize that something has gone very wrong. In the early days of the internet, the future was bright. In that future, when you sent an instant message, it traveled directly to the recipient. When you needed to pay a friend, you announced a transfer of value to their public key. When an app was missing a feature you wanted, you opened up the source code and implemented it. When you took a picture on your phone, it was immediately encrypted and backed up to storage that you controlled. In that future, people would laugh at the idea of having to authenticate themselves to some corporation before doing these things. What did we get instead? Rather than a network of human-sized communities, we have a handful of enormous commons, each controlled by a faceless corporate entity. Hey user, want to send a message? You can, but we'll store a copy of it indefinitely, unencrypted, for our preference-learning algorithms to pore over; how else could we slap targeted ads on every piece of content you see? Want to pay a friend? You can—in our Monopoly money. Want a new feature? Submit a request to our Support Center and we'll totally maybe think about it. Want to backup a photo? You can—inside our walled garden, which only we (and the NSA, of course) can access. Just be careful what you share, because merely locking you out of your account and deleting all your data is far from the worst thing we could do. You rationalize this: "MEGACORP would never do such a thing; it would be bad for business." But we all know, at some level, that this state of affairs, this inversion of power, is not merely "unfortunate" or "suboptimal" – No. It is degrading. Even if MEGACORP were purely benevolent, it is degrading that we must ask its permission to talk to our friends; that we must rely on it to safeguard our treasured memories; that our digital lives are completely beholden to those who seek only to extract value from us. At the root of this issue is the centralization of data. MEGACORP can surveil you—because your emails and video chats flow through their servers. And MEGACORP can control you—because they hold your data hostage. But centralization is a solution to a technical problem: How can we make the user's data accessible from anywhere in the world, on any device? For a long time, no alternative solution to this problem was forthcoming. Today, thanks to a confluence of established techniques and recent innovations, we have solved the accessibility problem without resorting to centralization. Hashing, encryption, and erasure encoding got us most of the way, but one barrier remained: incentives. How do you incentivize an anonymous stranger to store your data? Earlier protocols like BitTorrent worked around this limitation by relying on altruism, tit-for-tat requirements, or "points" – in other words, nothing you could pay your electric bill with. Finally, in 2009, a solution appeared: Bitcoin. Not long after, Sia was born. Cryptography has unleashed the latent power of the internet by enabling interactions between mutually-distrustful parties. Sia harnesses this power to turn the cloud storage market into a proper marketplace, where buyers and sellers can transact directly, with no intermediaries, anywhere in the world. No more silos or walled gardens: your data is encrypted, so it can't be spied on, and it's stored on many servers, so no single entity can hold it hostage. Thanks to projects like Sia, the internet is being re-decentralized. Sia began its life as a startup, which means it has always been subjected to two competing forces: the ideals of its founders, and the profit motive inherent to all businesses. Its founders have taken great pains to never compromise on the former, but this often threatened the company's financial viability. With the establishment of the Sia Foundation, this tension is resolved. The Foundation, freed of the obligation to generate profit, is a pure embodiment of the ideals from which Sia originally sprung. The goals and responsibilities of the Foundation are numerous: to maintain core Sia protocols and consensus code; to support developers building on top of Sia and its protocols; to promote Sia and facilitate partnerships in other spheres and communities; to ensure that users can easily acquire and safely store siacoins; to develop network scalability solutions; to implement hardforks and lead the community through them; and much more. In a broader sense, its mission is to commoditize data storage, making it cheap, ubiquitous, and accessible to all, without compromising privacy or performance. Sia is a perfect example of how we can achieve better living through cryptography. We now begin a new chapter in Sia's history. May our stewardship lead it into a bright future.
Today, we are proposing the creation of the Sia Foundation: a new non-profit entity that builds and supports distributed cloud storage infrastructure, with a specific focus on the Sia storage platform. What follows is an informal overview of the Sia Foundation, covering two major topics: how the Foundation will be funded, and what its funds will be used for.
The Sia Foundation will be structured as a non-profit entity incorporated in the United States, likely a 501(c)(3) organization or similar. The actions of the Foundation will be constrained by its charter, which formalizes the specific obligations and overall mission outlined in this document. The charter will be updated on an annual basis to reflect the current goals of the Sia community. The organization will be operated by a board of directors, initially comprising Luke Champine as President and Eddie Wang as Chairman. Luke Champine will be leaving his position at Nebulous to work at the Foundation full-time, and will seek to divest his shares of Nebulous stock along with other potential conflicts of interest. Neither Luke nor Eddie personally own any siafunds or significant quantities of siacoin.
The primary source of funding for the Foundation will come from a new block subsidy. Following a hardfork, 30 KS per block will be allocated to the "Foundation Fund," continuing in perpetuity. The existing 30 KS per block miner reward is not affected. Additionally, one year's worth of block subsidies (approximately 1.57 GS) will be allocated to the Fund immediately upon activation of the hardfork. As detailed below, the Foundation will provably burn any coins that it cannot meaningfully spend. As such, the 30 KS subsidy should be viewed as a maximum. This allows the Foundation to grow alongside Sia without requiring additional hardforks. The Foundation will not be funded to any degree by the possession or sale of siafunds. Siafunds were originally introduced as a means of incentivizing growth, and we still believe in their effectiveness: a siafund holder wants to increase the amount of storage on Sia as much as possible. While the Foundation obviously wants Sia to succeed, its driving force should be its charter. Deriving significant revenue from siafunds would jeopardize the Foundation's impartiality and focus. Ultimately, we want the Foundation to act in the best interests of Sia, not in growing its own budget.
The Foundation inherits a great number of responsibilities from Nebulous. Each quarter, the Foundation will publish the progress it has made over the past quarter, and list the responsibilities it intends to prioritize over the coming quarter. This will be accompanied by a financial report, detailing each area of expenditure over the past quarter, and forecasting expenditures for the coming quarter. Below, we summarize some of the myriad responsibilities towards which the Foundation is expected to allocate its resources.
Maintain and enhance core Sia software
Arguably, this is the most important responsibility of the Foundation. At the heart of Sia is its consensus algorithm: regardless of other differences, all Sia software must agree upon the content and rules of the blockchain. It is therefore crucial that the algorithm be stewarded by an entity that is accountable to the community, transparent in its decision-making, and has no profit motive or other conflicts of interest. Accordingly, Sia’s consensus functionality will no longer be directly maintained by Nebulous. Instead, the Foundation will release and maintain an implementation of a "minimal Sia full node," comprising the Sia consensus algorithm and P2P networking code. The source code will be available in a public repository, and signed binaries will be published for each release. Other parties may use this code to provide alternative full node software. For example, Nebulous may extend the minimal full node with wallet, renter, and host functionality. The source code of any such implementation may be submitted to the Foundation for review. If the code passes review, the Foundation will provide "endorsement signatures" for the commit hash used and for binaries compiled internally by the Foundation. Specifically, these signatures assert that the Foundation believes the software contains no consensus-breaking changes or other modifications to imported Foundation code. Endorsement signatures and Foundation-compiled binaries may be displayed and distributed by the receiving party, along with an appropriate disclaimer. A minimal full node is not terribly useful on its own; the wallet, renter, host, and other extensions are what make Sia a proper developer platform. Currently, the only implementations of these extensions are maintained by Nebulous. The Foundation will contract Nebulous to ensure that these extensions continue to receive updates and enhancements. Later on, the Foundation intends to develop its own implementations of these extensions and others. As with the minimal node software, these extensions will be open source and available in public repositories for use by any Sia node software. With the consensus code now managed by the Foundation, the task of implementing and orchestrating hardforks becomes its responsibility as well. When the Foundation determines that a hardfork is necessary (whether through internal discussion or via community petition), a formal proposal will be drafted and submitted for public review, during which arguments for and against the proposal may be submitted to a public repository. During this time, the hardfork code will be implemented, either by Foundation employees or by external contributors working closely with the Foundation. Once the implementation is finished, final arguments will be heard. The Foundation board will then vote whether to accept or reject the proposal, and announce their decision along with appropriate justification. Assuming the proposal was accepted, the Foundation will announce the block height at which the hardfork will activate, and will subsequently release source code and signed binaries that incorporate the hardfork code. Regardless of the Foundation's decision, it is the community that ultimately determines whether a fork is accepted or rejected – nothing can change that. Foundation node software will never automatically update, so all forks must be explicitly adopted by users. Furthermore, the Foundation will provide replay and wipeout protection for its hard forks, protecting other chains from unintended or malicious reorgs. Similarly, the Foundation will ensure that any file contracts formed prior to a fork activation will continue to be honored on both chains until they expire. Finally, the Foundation also intends to pursue scalability solutions for the Sia blockchain. In particular, work has already begun on an implementation of Utreexo, which will greatly reduce the space requirements of fully-validating nodes (allowing a full node to be run on a smartphone) while increasing throughput and decreasing initial sync time. A hardfork implementing Utreexo will be submitted to the community as per the process detailed above. As this is the most important responsibility of the Foundation, it will receive a significant portion of the Foundation’s budget, primarily in the form of developer salaries and contracting agreements.
Support community services
We intend to allocate 25% of the Foundation Fund towards the community. This allocation will be held and disbursed in the form of siacoins, and will pay for grants, bounties, hackathons, and other community-driven endeavours. Any community-run service, such as a Skynet portal, explorer or web wallet, may apply to have its costs covered by the Foundation. Upon approval, the Foundation will reimburse expenses incurred by the service, subject to the exact terms agreed to. The intent of these grants is not to provide a source of income, but rather to make such services "break even" for their operators, so that members of the community can enrich the Sia ecosystem without worrying about the impact on their own finances.
Ensure easy acquisition and storage of siacoins
Most users will acquire their siacoins via an exchange. The Foundation will provide support to Sia-compatible exchanges, and pursue relevant integrations at its discretion, such as Coinbase's new Rosetta standard. The Foundation may also release DEX software that enables trading cryptocurrencies without the need for a third party. (The Foundation itself will never operate as a money transmitter.) Increasingly, users are storing their cryptocurrency on hardware wallets. The Foundation will maintain the existing Ledger Nano S integration, and pursue further integrations at its discretion. Of course, all hardware wallets must be paired with software running on a computer or smartphone, so the Foundation will also develop and/or maintain client-side wallet software, including both full-node wallets and "lite" wallets. Community-operated wallet services, i.e. web wallets, may be funded via grants. Like core software maintenance, this responsibility will be funded in the form of developer salaries and contracting agreements.
Protect the ecosystem
When it comes to cryptocurrency security, patching software vulnerabilities is table stakes; there are significant legal and social threats that we must be mindful of as well. As such, the Foundation will earmark a portion of its fund to defend the community from legal action. The Foundation will also safeguard the network from 51% attacks and other threats to network security by implementing softforks and/or hardforks where necessary. The Foundation also intends to assist in the development of a new FOSS software license, and to solicit legal memos on various Sia-related matters, such as hosting in the United States and the EU. In a broader sense, the establishment of the Foundation makes the ecosystem more robust by transferring core development to a more neutral entity. Thanks to its funding structure, the Foundation will be immune to various forms of pressure that for-profit companies are susceptible to.
Drive adoption of Sia
Although the overriding goal of the Foundation is to make Sia the best platform it can be, all that work will be in vain if no one uses the platform. There are a number of ways the Foundation can promote Sia and get it into the hands of potential users and developers. In-person conferences are understandably far less popular now, but the Foundation can sponsor and/or participate in virtual conferences. (In-person conferences may be held in the future, permitting circumstances.) Similarly, the Foundation will provide prizes for hackathons, which may be organized by community members, Nebulous, or the Foundation itself. Lastly, partnerships with other companies in the cryptocurrency space—or the cloud storage space—are a great way to increase awareness of Sia. To handle these responsibilities, one of the early priorities of the Foundation will be to hire a marketing director.
The Foundation Fund will be controlled by a multisig address. Each member of the Foundation's board will control one of the signing keys, with the signature threshold to be determined once the final composition of the board is known. (This threshold may also be increased or decreased if the number of board members changes.) Additionally, one timelocked signing key will be controlled by David Vorick. This key will act as a “dead man’s switch,” to be used in the event of an emergency that prevents Foundation board members from reaching the signature threshold. The timelock ensures that this key cannot be used unless the Foundation fails to sign a transaction for several months. On the 1st of each month, the Foundation will use its keys to transfer all siacoins in the Fund to two new addresses. The first address will be controlled by a high-security hot wallet, and will receive approximately one month's worth of Foundation expenditures. The second address, receiving the remaining siacoins, will be a modified version of the source address: specifically, it will increase the timelock on David Vorick's signing key by one month. Any other changes to the set of signing keys, such as the arrival or departure of board members, will be incorporated into this address as well. The Foundation Fund is allocated in SC, but many of the Foundation's expenditures must be paid in USD or other fiat currency. Accordingly, the Foundation will convert, at its discretion, a portion of its monthly withdrawals to fiat currency. We expect this conversion to be primarily facilitated by private "OTC" sales to accredited investors. The Foundation currently has no plans to speculate in cryptocurrency or other assets. Finally, it is important that the Foundation adds value to the Sia platform well in excess of the inflation introduced by the block subsidy. For this reason, the Foundation intends to provably burn, on a quarterly basis, any coins that it cannot allocate towards any justifiable expense. In other words, coins will be burned whenever doing so provides greater value to the platform than any other use. Furthermore, the Foundation will cap its SC treasury at 5% of the total supply, and will cap its USD treasury at 4 years’ worth of predicted expenses. Addendum: Hardfork Timeline We would like to see this proposal finalized and accepted by the community no later than September 30th. A new version of siad, implementing the hardfork, will be released no later than October 15th. The hardfork will activate at block 293220, which is expected to occur around 12pm EST on January 1st, 2021.
Addendum: Inflation specifics The total supply of siacoins as of January 1st, 2021 will be approximately 45.243 GS. The initial subsidy of 1.57 GS thus increases the supply by 3.47%, and the total annual inflation in 2021 will be at most 10.4% (if zero coins are burned). In 2022, total annual inflation will be at most 6.28%, and will steadily decrease in subsequent years.
We see the establishment of the Foundation as an important step in the maturation of the Sia project. It provides the ecosystem with a sustainable source of funding that can be exclusively directed towards achieving Sia's ambitious goals. Compared to other projects with far deeper pockets, Sia has always punched above its weight; once we're on equal footing, there's no telling what we'll be able to achieve. Nevertheless, we do not propose this change lightly, and have taken pains to ensure that the Foundation will act in accordance with the ideals that this community shares. It will operate transparently, keep inflation to a minimum, and respect the user's fundamental role in decentralized systems. We hope that everyone in the community will consider this proposal carefully, and look forward to a productive discussion.
In today's world with information being pushed from all sides, people's attention span in online space decreased to minutes, sometimes even just seconds. Providing the right amount information of information with combination of gamification and/or network effects can raise attention of people with goal to get the desired information across. We believe that Decred team is building incredible technology, but due to increasingly competitive cryptocurrency market with millions of USD thrown into marketing, Decred has been shadowed in last period. In 2017, the ICO craze took majority of consumer attention and in 2020 is the year where DeFi with Yield Farming and [increasingly] governance tokens are taking the front pages of crypto news outlets. We believe that we need to find a scalable approach how to onboard new users to Decred community by applying proven strategies to find which one will yield scalable results.
We built a new website https://withDecred.org with one single goal - to provide an onboarding portal in a form of series of articles in a structured "funnel". We wrote 4 articles about most important aspects of Decred. These articles are organized into a sequence - afunnel with one specific goal → make a person purchase a few $DCR. The content structure
Staking & Governance
What's next (DEX, LN, private staking, ..)
How to get $DCR (not an article, rather a "call-to-action" page)
While working on the content, we worked with a "Target Persona" - a person somewhat familiar with crypto market, at least familiar with Bitcoin. We used this approach to write a content "shallow" enough for users to understand terminology but "deep" enough to understand Decred strengths. The content in the shape how it's written may not be suitable for everybody and will not make all the people purchase $DCR. It's the 1st iteration (1st version). We will work on improving the content to increase conversions - by measuring if people read the content, how they interact with the content and if they read through the whole funnel. Based on this data, we can objectively asses if the content does what was intended. We will follow a simple, but important strategy:
Write content based on assumptions
Publish, bring attention of users
Measure data for certain period
Evaluate results, identify weak spots
Adjust assumptions → back to Step 1
Proposal is coming later today. From now on, it is important for us to get feedback from people who are new to Decred - newcomers. We need to know how they "feel" after reading this information, which parts are good, which part are bad or confusing. --- Last point (and I can't stress this enough): Decred has already amazing pieces of content, eg. u/exitus'es videos, Ammarooni's articles, u/Checkmatey's and u/permabullnino's on-chain research resources, etc.. All of us can and should interact with them, like them, add comment on Youtube, clap 50x on Medium, share with his/her network. If every one of us doesn't like, comment & share every good piece of content, the algorithms in Youtube, Twitter, Medium will never push the content to many people. If we don't want to pay ads, we have to be the evangelists, the PR team, the spoke person of Decred. List of content is also here: https://decredpower.com/
The effects of the web by a number of companies have seduced a large number of users as these companies keep their data to prevent them from searching for alternatives. Likewise, these huge platforms have attracted applications to build their highest ecosystems before either severing access or actively opposing their interests when the applications became so successful. As a result, these walled gardens have effectively hindered innovation and monopolized large sections of the web. After the emergence of blockchain technology and decentralized cryptocurrencies, the need for applications to support decentralization has emerged. Several blockchain-based companies, applications and platforms have appeared in decentralization. In this research report, we will explain the approach adopted by the NEAR decentralization platform in designing and implementing the basic technology for its system. Near is a basic platform for cloud computing and decentralized storage managed by the community, designed to enable the open web for the future. On this web, everything can be created from new currencies to new applications to new industries, opening the door to an entirely new future.
The richness of the web is increasing day by day with the combined efforts of millions of people who have benefited from “innovation without permission” as content and applications are created without asking anyone. this lack of freedom of data has led to an environment hostile to the interests of its participants. And as we explained in the summary previously, web hosting companies have hindered innovation and greatly monopolized the web. In the future, we can fix this by using new technologies to re-enable the permissionless innovation of the past in a way, which creates a more open web where users are free and applications are supportive rather than adversarial to their interests. Decentralization emerged after the global financial crisis in 2008, which created fundamental problems of confidence in the heavily indebted banking system. Then the decentralized financial sector based on Blockchain technology has emerged since 2009. Decentralized Blockchain technology has made it easy for decentralized digital currencies like Bitcoin to exchange billions of dollars in peer-to-peer transfers for a fraction of the price of a traditional banking system. This technology allows participants in the over $ 50 billion virtual goods economy to track, own and trade in these commodities without permission. It allows real-world goods to cross into the digital domain, with verified ownership and tracking just like that of the digital. By default, the Internet where freedom of data enables innovation will lead to the development of a new form of software development. On this web, developers can quickly create applications from open state components and boost their efforts by using new business models that are enabled from within the program itself rather than relying on parasitic relationships with their users. This not only accelerates the creation of applications that have a more honest and cooperative relationship with its users, but also allows the emergence of completely new business built on them. To enable these new applications and the open web, it needs the appropriate infrastructure. The new web platform cannot be controlled by a single entity and its use is not limited due to insufficient scalability. It should be decentralized in design like the web itself and supported by a community of distributors widely so that the value they store cannot be monitored, modified or removed without permission from the users who store this value on their behalf. A new decentralization technology (Blockchain), which has facilitated decentralized digital currencies like Bitcoin, has made billions of dollars in peer-to-peer transfers at a fraction of the price of the traditional banking system. This technology allows participants in the $ 50 billion + virtual goods economy to track, own and trade in these goods without permission. It allows real-world goods to cross into the digital domain, with verified ownership and tracking just like that of the digital. Although the cost of storing data or performing a calculation on the Ethereum blockchain is thousands and millions of times higher than the cost of performing the same functionality on Amazon Web Services. A developer can always create a “central” app or even a central currency for a fraction of the cost of doing the same on a decentralized platform because a decentralized platform, by definition, will have many iterations in its operations and storage. Bitcoin can be thought of as the first, very basic, version of this global community-run cloud, though it is primarily used only to store and move the Bitcoin digital currency. Ethereum is the second and slightly more sophisticated version, which expanded the basic principles of Bitcoin to create a more general computing and storage platform, though it is a raw technology, which hasn’t achieved meaningful mainstream adoption.
1.1 WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PAY THE EXTRA COST TO SUPPORT DECENTRALIZATION?
Because some elements of value, for example bits representing digital currency ownership, personal identity, or asset notes, are very sensitive. While in the central system, the following players can change the value of any credits they come into direct contact with:
The developer who controls the release or update of the application’s code
The platform where the data is stored
The servers which run the application’s code
Even if none of these players intend to operate with bad faith, the actions of governments, police forces and hackers can easily turn their hands against their users and censor, modify or steal the balances they are supposed to protect. A typical user will trust a typical centralized application, despite its potential vulnerabilities, with everyday data and computation. Typically, only banks and governments are trusted sufficiently to maintain custody of the most sensitive information — balances of wealth and identity. But these entities are also subject to the very human forces of hubris, corruption and theft. Especially after the 2008 global financial crisis, which demonstrated the fundamental problems of confidence in a highly indebted banking system. And governments around the world apply significant capital controls to citizens during times of crisis. After these examples, it has become a truism that hackers now own most or all of your sensitive data. These decentralized applications operate on a more complex infrastructure than today’s web but they have access to an instantaneous and global pool of currency, value and information that today’s web, where data is stored in the silos of individual corporations, cannot provide.
1.2 THE CHALLENGES OF CREATING A DECENTRALIZED CLOUD
A community-run system like this has very different challenges from centralized “cloud” infrastructure, which is running by a single entity or group of known entities. For example:
It must be both inclusive to anyone and secure from manipulation or capture.
Participants must be fairly compensated for their work while avoiding creating incentives for negligent or malicious behavior.
It must be both game theoretically secure so good actors find the right equilibrium and resistant to manipulation so bad actors are actively prevented from negatively affecting the system.
NEAR is a global community-run computing and storage cloud which is organized to be permissionless and which is economically incentivized to create a strong and decentralized data layer for the new web. Essentially, it is a platform for running applications which have access to a shared — and secure — pool of money, identity and data which is owned by their users. More technically, it combines the features of partition-resistant networking, serverless compute and distributed storage into a new kind of platform. NEAR is a community-managed, decentralized cloud storage and computing platform, designed to enable the open web in the future. It uses the same core technology for Bitcoin and Blockchain. On this web, everything can be created from new currencies to new applications to new industries, opening the door to an entirely new future. NEAR is a decentralized community-run cloud computing and storage platform, which is designed to enable the open web of the future. On this web, everything from new currencies to new applications to new industries can be created, opening the door to a brand new future. NEAR is a scalable computing and storage platform with the potential to change how systems are designed, how applications are built and how the web itself works. It is a complex technology allow developers and entrepreneurs to easily and sustainably build applications which reap the benefits of decentralization and participate in the Open Web while minimizing the associated costs for end users. NEAR creates the only community-managed cloud that is strong enough to power the future of the open web, as NEAR is designed from the ground up to deliver intuitive experiences to end users, expand capacity across millions of devices, and provide developers with new and sustainable business models for their applications. The NEAR Platform uses a token — also called “NEAR”. This token allows the users of these cloud resources, regardless of where they are in the world, to fairly compensate the providers of the services and to ensure that these participants operate in good faith.
2.1 WHY NEAR?
Through focus, we find that Platforms based on blockchain technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have made great progress and enriched the world with thousands of innovative applications spanning from games to decentralized financing. However, these original networks and none of the networks that followed were not able to bridge the gap towards mainstream adoption of the applications created above them and do not provide this type of standard that fully supports the web. This is a result of two key factors:
System design is relevant because the technical architecture of other platforms creates substantial problems with both usability and scalability which have made adoption nearly impossible by any but the most technical innovators. End-users experience 97–99% dropoff rates when using applications and developers find the process of creating and maintaining their applications endlessly frustrating. Fixing these problems requires substantial and complex changes to current protocol architectures, something which existing organizations haven’t proven capable of implementing. Instead, they create multi-year backlogs of specification design and implementation, which result in their technology falling further and further behind. NEAR’s platform and organization are architected specifically to solve the above-mentioned problems. The technical design is fanatically focused on creating the world’s most usable and scalable decentralized platform so global-scale applications can achieve real adoption. The organization and governance structure are designed to rapidly ship and continuously evolve the protocol so it will never become obsolete.
2.1.1 Features, which address these problems:
1. USABILITY FIRST The most important problem that needs to be addressed is how to allow developers to create useful applications that users can use easily and that will capture the sustainable value of these developers. 2. End-User Usability Developers will only build applications, which their end users can actually use. NEAR’s “progressive security” model allows developers to create experiences for their users which more closely resemble familiar web experiences by delaying onboarding, removing the need for user to learn “blockchain” concepts and limiting the number of permission-asking interactions the user must have to use the application. 1. Simple Onboarding: NEAR allows developers to take actions on behalf of their users, which allows them to onboard users without requiring these users to provide a wallet or interact with tokens immediately upon reaching an application. Because accounts keep track of application-specific keys, user accounts can also be used for the kind of “Single Sign On” (SSO) functionality that users are familiar with from the traditional web (eg “Login with Facebook/Google/Github/etc”). 2. Easy Subscriptions: Contract-based accounts allow for easy creation of subscriptions and custom permissioning for particular applications. 3. Familiar Usage Styles: The NEAR economic model allows developers to pay for usage on behalf of their users in order to hide the costs of infrastructure in a way that is in line with familiar web usage paradigms. 4. Predictable Pricing: NEAR prices transactions on the platform in simple terms, which allow end-users to experience predictable pricing and less cognitive load when using the platform.
2.1.2 Design principles and development NEAR’s platform
1. Usability: Applications deployed to the platform should be seamless to use for end users and seamless to create for developers. Wherever possible, the underlying technology itself should fade to the background or be hidden completely from end users. Wherever possible, developers should use familiar languages and patterns during the development process. Basic applications should be intuitive and simple to create while applications that are more robust should still be secure. 2. Scalability: The platform should scale with no upper limit as long as there is economic justification for doing so in order to support enterprise-grade, globally used applications. 3. Sustainable Decentralization: The platform should encourage significant decentralization in both the short term and the long term in order to properly secure the value it hosts. The platform — and community — should be widely and permissionlessly inclusive and actively encourage decentralization and participation. To maintain sustainability, both technological and community governance mechanisms should allow for practical iteration while avoiding capture by any single parties in the end. 4. Simplicity: The design of each of the system’s components should be as simple as possible in order to achieve their primary purpose. Optimize for simplicity, pragmatism and ease of understanding above theoretical perfection.
2.2 HOW NEAR WORKS?
NEAR’s platform provides a community-operated cloud infrastructure for deploying and running decentralized applications. It combines the features of a decentralized database with others of a serverless compute platform. The token, which allows this platform to run also, enables applications built on top of it to interact with each other in new ways. Together, these features allow developers to create censorship resistant back-ends for applications that deal with high stakes data like money, identity, assets, and open-state components, which interact seamlessly with each other. These application back-ends and components are called “smart contracts,” though we will often refer to these all as simply “applications” here. The infrastructure, which makes up this cloud, is created from a potentially infinite number of “nodes” run by individuals around the world who offer portions of their CPU and hard drive space — whether on their laptops or more professionally deployed servers. Developers write smart contracts and deploy them to this cloud as if they were deploying to a single server, which is a process that feels very similar to how applications are deployed to existing centralized clouds. Once the developer has deployed an application, called a “smart contract”, and marked it unchangeable (“immutable”), the application will now run for as long as at least a handful of members of the NEAR community continue to exist. When end users interact with that deployed application, they will generally do so through a familiar web or mobile interface just like any one of a million apps today. In the central cloud hosted by some companies today like: Amazon or Google, developers pay for their apps every month based on the amount of usage needed, for example based on the number of requests created by users visiting their webpages. The NEAR platform similarly requires that either users or developers provide compensation for their usage to the community operators of this infrastructure. Like today’s cloud infrastructure, NEAR prices usage based on easy to understand metrics that aren’t heavily influenced by factors like system congestion. Such factors make it very complicated for developers on alternative blockchain-based systems today. In the centralized cloud, the controlling corporation makes decisions unilaterally. NEAR community-run cloud is decentralized so updates must ultimately be accepted by a sufficient quorum of the network participants. Updates about its future are generated from the community and subject to an inclusive governance process, which balances efficiency and security. In order to ensure that the operators of nodes — who are anonymous and potentially even malicious — run the code with good behavior, they participate in a staking process called “Proof of Stake”. In this process, they willingly put a portion of value at risk as a sort of deposit, which they will forfeit if it is proven that they have operated improperly.
2.2.1 Elements of the NEAR’s Platform
The NEAR platform is made up of many separate elements. Some of these are native to the platform itself while others are used in conjunction with or on top of it. 1. THE NEAR TOKEN NEAR token is the fundamental native asset of the NEAR ecosystem and its functionality is enabled for all accounts. Each token is a unique digital asset similar to Ether, which can be used to: a) Pay the system for processing transactions and storing data. b) Run a validating node as part of the network by participating in the staking process. c) Help determine how network resources are allocated and where its future technical direction will go by participating in governance processes. The NEAR token enables the economic coordination of all participants who operate the network plus it enables new behaviors among the applications which are built on top of that network. 2. OTHER DIGITAL ASSETS The platform is designed to easily store unique digital assets, which may include, but aren’t limited to:
Other Tokens: Tokens bridged from other chains (“wrapped”) or created atop the NEAR Platform can be easily stored and moved using the underlying platform. This allows many kinds of tokens to be used atop the platform to pay for goods and services. “Stablecoins,” specific kinds of token which are designed to match the price of another asset (like the US Dollar), are particularly useful for transacting on the network in this way.
Unique Digital Assets: Similar to tokens, digital assets (sometimes called “Non Fungible Tokens” (NFTs) ranging from in-game collectibles to representations of real-world asset ownership can be stored and moved using the platform.
3. THE NEAR PLATFORM The core platform, which is made up of the cloud of community-operated nodes, is the most basic piece of infrastructure provided. Developers can permissionlessly deploy smart contracts to this cloud and users can permissionlessly use the applications they power. Applications, which could range from consumer-facing games to digital currencies, can store their state (data) securely on the platform. This is conceptually similar to the Ethereum platform. Operations that require an account, network use, or storage at the top of the platform require payment to the platform in the form of transaction fees that the platform then distributes to its community from the authentication contract. These operations could include creating new accounts, publishing new contracts, implementing code by contract and storing or modifying data by contract. As long as the rules of the protocol are followed, any independent developer can write software, which interfaces with it (for example, by submitting transactions, creating accounts or even running a new node client) without asking for anyone’s permission first. 4. THE NEAR DEVELOPMENT SUITE Set of tools and reference implementations created to facilitate its use by those developers and end users who prefer them. These tools include:
NEAR SDKs: NEAR platform supports (Rust and AssemblyScript) languages to write smart contracts. To provide a great experience for developers, NEAR has a full SDK, which includes standard data structures, examples and testing tools for these two languages.
Gitpod for NEAR: NEAR uses existing technology Gitpod to create zero time onboarding experience for developers. Gitpod provides an online “Integrated Development Environment” (IDE), which NEAR customized to allow developers to easily write, test and deploy smart contracts from a web browser.
NEAR Wallet: A wallet is a basic place for developers and end users to store the assets they need to use the network. NEAR Wallet is a reference implementation that is intended to work seamlessly with the progressive security model that lets application developers design more effective user experiences. It will eventually include built-in functionality to easily enable participation by holders in staking and governance processes on the network.
NEAR Explorer: To aid with both debugging of contracts and the understanding of network performance, Explorer presents information from the blockchain in an easily digestible web-based format.
NEAR Command Line Tools: The NEAR team provides a set of straightforward command line tools to allow developers to easily create, test and deploy applications from their local environments.
All of these tools are being created in an open-source manner so they can be modified or deployed by anyone.
Primarily economic forces drive the ecosystem, which makes up the NEAR platform. This economy creates the incentives, which allow participants permissionlessly organize to drive the platform’s key functions while creating strong disincentives for undesirable, irresponsible or malicious behavior. In order for the platform to be effective, these incentives need to exist both in the short term and in the long term. The NEAR platform is a market among participants interested in two aspects:
On the supply side, certification contract operators and other core infrastructure must be motivated to provide these services that make up the community cloud.
On the demand side, platform developers and end-users who pay for their use need to be able to do so in a simple, clear and consistent way that helps them.
Further, economic forces can also be applied to support the ecosystem as a whole. They can be used at a micro level to create new business models by directly compensating the developers who create its most useful applications. They can also be used at a macro level by coordinating the efforts of a broader set of ecosystem participants who participate in everything from education to governance.
3.1 NEAR ECONOMY DESIGN PRINCIPLES
NEAR’s overall system design principles are used to inform its economic design according to the following interpretations: 1. Usability: End users and developers should have predictable and consistent pricing for their usage of the network. Users should never lose data forever. 2. Scalability: The platform should scale at economically justified thresholds. 3. Simplicity: The design of each of the system’s components should be as simple as possible in order to achieve their primary purpose. 4. Sustainable Decentralization: The barrier for participation in the platform as a validating node should be set as low as possible in order to bring a wide range of participants. Over time, their participation should not drive wealth and control into the hands of a small number. Individual transactions made far in the future must be at least as secure as those made today in order to safeguard the value they modify.
3.2 ECONOMIC OVERVIEW
The NEAR economy is optimized to provide developers and end users with the easiest possible experience while still providing proper incentives for network security and ecosystem development. Summary of the key ideas that drive the system:
Thresholded Proof of Stake: Validating node operators provide scarce and valuable compute resources to the network. In order to ensure that the computations they run are correct, they are required to “stake” NEAR tokens, which guarantee their results. If these results are found to be inaccurate, the staker loses their tokens. This is a fundamental mechanism for securing the network. The threshold for participating in the system is set algorithmically at the lowest level possible to allow for the broadest possible participation of validating nodes in a given “epoch” period (½ of a day).
Epoch Rewards: Node operators are paid for their service a fixed percentage of total supply as a “security” fee of roughly 4.5% annualized. This rate targets sufficient participation levels among stakers in order to secure the network while balancing with other usage of NEAR token in the ecosystem.
Protocol treasury: In addition to validators, protocol treasury received a 0.5% of total supply annually to continuously re-invest into ecosystem development.
Transaction Costs: Usage of the network consumes two separate kinds of resources — instantaneous and long term. Instantaneous costs are generated by every transaction because each transaction requires the usage of both the network itself and some of its computation resources. These are priced together as a mostly-predictable cost per transaction, which is paid in NEAR tokens.
Storage Costs: Storage is a long term cost because storing data represents an ongoing burden to the nodes of the network. Storage costs are covered by maintaining minimum balance of NEAR tokens on the account or contract. This provides indirect mechanism of payment via inflation to validators for maintaining contract and account state on their nodes.
Inflation: Inflation is determined as combination of payouts to validators and protocol treasury minus the collected transaction fees and few other NEAR burning mechanics (like name auction). Overall the maximum inflation is 5%, which can go down over time as network gets more usage and more transactions fees are burned. It’s possible that inflation becomes negative (total supply decreases) if there is enough fees burned.
Scaling Thresholds: In a network, which scales its capacity relative to the amount of usage it receives, the thresholds, which drive the network to bring on additional capacity are economic in nature.
Security Thresholds: Some thresholds, which provide for good behavior among participants are set using economic incentives. For example, “Fishermen” (described separately).
Best Potential Moonshot Hands Down; TRUSTSWAP (SWAP) Full DeFi Suite, Simple P2P Trustless Escrow, and Great Tokenomics!
Trustswap https://www.coingecko.com/en/coins/trustswap Okay guys I've spent the last two days learning about this token and I've come away very impressed. I think this token may be a serious contender for best performer this year. On the TrustSwap social platforms it feels like 2017. Here's some info about the company. TrustSwap is a DeFi project created by the founder and CEO of Uptrennd Jeff Kirdeikis. Most notably he has the largest cryptocurrency investing group on Facebook, and he is what Tom was to MySpace but for Uptrennd. He host The Bitcoin and Crypto Podcast which is actually very good, and he has a massive following on Twitteother social. Better yet, this guy is a marketing genius like a less annoying Justin Sun. He has a pipeline of good news lined up and knows when and how to release that information on the masses. Everything he does seems meticulously thought through. He continually affirms his commitment to get SWAP listed on high volume exchanges with MXC yesterday, Hotbit today, and Houbi/Bitmax tomorrow he is actually succeeding. He is also very responsive and has team moderators standing by in the social media channels to field questions/vanquish FUD. Here are the basics: TrustSwap is building a DeFi ecosystem that will start out as a simple P2P trustless escrow and payment platform and evolve into a fully decentralized exchange (DEX) with leverage and futures options all offered via non-custodial smart contracts. They will also offer multi-chain token wrapping as a service and on-chain governance using the native ERC-20 token SWAP. Imagine being able to wrap BTC, Monero, Digibyte, or any crypto and then trade it on uniswap, or have it interact with Ethereum compatible wallets, and applications. Through this, you can move funds cross-chain without ever having to sign up to a Centralized Exchange, allowing you to never have to KYC, staying fully anonymous across exchanges. Wrapping tokens also offers huge benefits to new blockchain projects that have their own chain, allowing them to save massively on listing fees, as well as instantly be connected to strong wallets and decentralized exchanges. This puts the ability to trust back in the investor's hands and might spark a new ICO boom as new projects eager to establish credibility rush to use it. So yes beautiful wrapping everything layer 3 solution my brothren. And highly incentivised holding economics, for example rewarding users from fees collected from the DeFi network! And staking; All fees paid to the platform will get split as follows: 80% goes back to holders as staking rewards 10% are burned forever (adding that value back to token holders) 10% goes to the dev fund which can be used as the community sees fit This project has massive potential and is already building a strong community foundation with big moves coming soon as more exchanges and markets come on board. The staking and deflationary tokenomics make this a long term HODL for me. Token Metrics: Total Supply: 100,000,000 SWAP Circulating Supply: 62,500,000 SWAP Market Cap: $3.6 million 60,000,000 SWAP Initial liquidity offering on uniswap about two and half days ago, price dropped at like $0.035. Volume bottomed out and rising again (same with holder count). 20,000,000 Team Supply 20,000,000 Marketing, development, legal, bounties, OTC investors, airdrops. LINKS: Website: www.Trustswap.org Discord: https://discord.gg/GNUrcK Telegram: t.me/TrustSwap Token address; https://etherscan.io/token/0xcc4304a31d09258b0029ea7fe63d032f52e44efe Uniswap; https://app.uniswap.org/#/swap?inputCurrency=0xc02aaa39b223fe8d0a0e5c4f27ead9083c756cc2&outputCurrency=0xcc4304a31d09258b0029ea7fe63d032f52e44efe Extra nugget from Jeff on Discord; "@everyone SwapLogo SWAP is listing on Hotbit this Monday! SwapLogo https://hotbit.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360051689713 This is the first step into TrustSwap's emergence in the Asian markets. We are going to be kicking off major marketing campaigns with an Asian marketing firm within the coming week to follow up this listing. We also have a couple more Top-50 listings lined up for this week as well When we had a vote to see which exchange you wanted to see SWAP listed on, Huobi was the winner by a massive margin, so we will be opening up the conversation with Huobi to get SWAP listed on there also in the near future." DYOR!! Godspeed! I'll see you guys on the other side! To address FUD about OTC investors dumping, yes they are dumping, it's my belief most weak hands have exited the market, they got in at $0.005 per SWAP.
Scaling Reddit Community Points with Arbitrum Rollup: a piece of cake
https://preview.redd.it/b80c05tnb9e51.jpg?width=2550&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=850282c1a3962466ed44f73886dae1c8872d0f31 Submitted for consideration toThe Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off Baked by the pastry chefs atOffchain Labs Please send questions or comments to [[email protected] ](mailto:[email protected]) 1. Overview We're excited to submit Arbitrum Rollup for consideration to The Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off. Arbitrum Rollup is the only Ethereum scaling solution that supports arbitrary smart contracts without compromising on Ethereum's security or adding points of centralization. For Reddit, this means that Arbitrum can not only scale the minting and transfer of Community Points, but it can foster a creative ecosystem built around Reddit Community Points enabling points to be used in a wide variety of third party applications. That's right -- you can have your cake and eat it too! Arbitrum Rollup isn't just Ethereum-style. Its Layer 2 transactions are byte-for-byte identical to Ethereum, which means Ethereum users can continue to use their existing addresses and wallets, and Ethereum developers can continue to use their favorite toolchains and development environments out-of-the-box with Arbitrum. Coupling Arbitrum’s tooling-compatibility with its trustless asset interoperability, Reddit not only can scale but can onboard the entire Ethereum community at no cost by giving them the same experience they already know and love (well, certainly know). To benchmark how Arbitrum can scale Reddit Community Points, we launched the Reddit contracts on an Arbitrum Rollup chain. Since Arbitrum provides full Solidity support, we didn't have to rewrite the Reddit contracts or try to mimic their functionality using an unfamiliar paradigm. Nope, none of that. We launched the Reddit contracts unmodified on Arbitrum Rollup complete with support for minting and distributing points. Like every Arbitrum Rollup chain, the chain included a bridge interface in which users can transfer Community Points or any other asset between the L1 and L2 chains. Arbitrum Rollup chains also support dynamic contract loading, which would allow third-party developers to launch custom ecosystem apps that integrate with Community Points on the very same chain that runs the Reddit contracts. 1.1 Why Ethereum Perhaps the most exciting benefit of distributing Community Points using a blockchain is the ability to seamlessly port points to other applications and use them in a wide variety of contexts. Applications may include simple transfers such as a restaurant that allows Redditors to spend points on drinks. Or it may include complex smart contracts -- such as placing Community Points as a wager for a multiparty game or as collateral in a financial contract. The common denominator between all of the fun uses of Reddit points is that it needs a thriving ecosystem of both users and developers, and the Ethereum blockchain is perhaps the only smart contract platform with significant adoption today. While many Layer 1 blockchains boast lower cost or higher throughput than the Ethereum blockchain, more often than not, these attributes mask the reality of little usage, weaker security, or both. Perhaps another platform with significant usage will rise in the future. But today, Ethereum captures the mindshare of the blockchain community, and for Community Points to provide the most utility, the Ethereum blockchain is the natural choice. 1.2 Why Arbitrum While Ethereum's ecosystem is unmatched, the reality is that fees are high and capacity is too low to support the scale of Reddit Community Points. Enter Arbitrum. Arbitrum Rollup provides all of the ecosystem benefits of Ethereum, but with orders of magnitude more capacity and at a fraction of the cost of native Ethereum smart contracts. And most of all, we don't change the experience from users. They continue to use the same wallets, addresses, languages, and tools. Arbitrum Rollup is not the only solution that can scale payments, but it is the only developed solution that can scale both payments and arbitrary smart contracts trustlessly, which means that third party users can build highly scalable add-on apps that can be used without withdrawing money from the Rollup chain. If you believe that Reddit users will want to use their Community Points in smart contracts--and we believe they will--then it makes the most sense to choose a single scaling solution that can support the entire ecosystem, eliminating friction for users. We view being able to run smart contracts in the same scaling solution as fundamentally critical since if there's significant demand in running smart contracts from Reddit's ecosystem, this would be a load on Ethereum and would itself require a scaling solution. Moreover, having different scaling solutions for the minting/distribution/spending of points and for third party apps would be burdensome for users as they'd have to constantly shuffle their Points back and forth. 2. Arbitrum at a glance Arbitrum Rollup has a unique value proposition as it offers a combination of features that no other scaling solution achieves. Here we highlight its core attributes. Decentralized. Arbitrum Rollup is as decentralized as Ethereum. Unlike some other Layer 2 scaling projects, Arbitrum Rollup doesn't have any centralized components or centralized operators who can censor users or delay transactions. Even in non-custodial systems, centralized components provide a risk as the operators are generally incentivized to increase their profit by extracting rent from users often in ways that severely degrade user experience. Even if centralized operators are altruistic, centralized components are subject to hacking, coercion, and potential liability. Massive Scaling. Arbitrum achieves order of magnitude scaling over Ethereum's L1 smart contracts. Our software currently supports 453 transactions-per-second for basic transactions (at 1616 Ethereum gas per tx). We have a lot of room left to optimize (e.g. aggregating signatures), and over the next several months capacity will increase significantly. As described in detail below, Arbitrum can easily support and surpass Reddit's anticipated initial load, and its capacity will continue to improve as Reddit's capacity needs grow. Low cost. The cost of running Arbitrum Rollup is quite low compared to L1 Ethereum and other scaling solutions such as those based on zero-knowledge proofs. Layer 2 fees are low, fixed, and predictable and should not be overly burdensome for Reddit to cover. Nobody needs to use special equipment or high-end machines. Arbitrum requires validators, which is a permissionless role that can be run on any reasonable on-line machine. Although anybody can act as a validator, in order to protect against a “tragedy of the commons” and make sure reputable validators are participating, we support a notion of “invited validators” that are compensated for their costs. In general, users pay (low) fees to cover the invited validators’ costs, but we imagine that Reddit may cover this cost for its users. See more on the costs and validator options below. Ethereum Developer Experience. Not only does Arbitrum support EVM smart contracts, but the developer experience is identical to that of L1 Ethereum contracts and fully compatible with Ethereum tooling. Developers can port existing Solidity apps or write new ones using their favorite and familiar toolchains (e.g. Truffle, Buidler). There are no new languages or coding paradigms to learn. Ethereum wallet compatibility. Just as in Ethereum, Arbitrum users need only hold keys, but do not have to store any coin history or additional data to protect or access their funds. Since Arbitrum transactions are semantically identical to Ethereum L1 transactions, existing Ethereum users can use their existing Ethereum keys with their existing wallet software such as Metamask. Token interoperability. Users can easily transfer their ETH, ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens between Ethereum and the Arbitrum Rollup chain. As we explain in detail below, it is possible to mint tokens in L2 that can subsequently be withdrawn and recognized by the L1 token contract. Fast finality. Transactions complete with the same finality time as Ethereum L1 (and it's possible to get faster finality guarantees by trading away trust assumptions; see the Arbitrum Rollup whitepaper for details). Non-custodial. Arbitrum Rollup is a non-custodial scaling solution, so users control their funds/points and neither Reddit nor anyone else can ever access or revoke points held by users. Censorship Resistant. Since it's completely decentralized, and the Arbitrum protocol guarantees progress trustlessly, Arbitrum Rollup is just as censorship-proof as Ethereum. Block explorer. The Arbitrum Rollup block explorer allows users to view and analyze transactions on the Rollup chain. Limitations Although this is a bake-off, we're not going to sugar coat anything. Arbitrum Rollup, like any Optimistic Rollup protocol, does have one limitation, and that's the delay on withdrawals. As for the concrete length of the delay, we've done a good deal of internal modeling and have blogged about this as well. Our current modeling suggests a 3-hour delay is sufficient (but as discussed in the linked post there is a tradeoff space between the length of the challenge period and the size of the validators’ deposit). Note that this doesn't mean that the chain is delayed for three hours. Arbitrum Rollup supports pipelining of execution, which means that validators can keep building new states even while previous ones are “in the pipeline” for confirmation. As the challenge delays expire for each update, a new state will be confirmed (read more about this here). So activity and progress on the chain are not delayed by the challenge period. The only thing that's delayed is the consummation of withdrawals. Recall though that any single honest validator knows immediately (at the speed of L1 finality) which state updates are correct and can guarantee that they will eventually be confirmed, so once a valid withdrawal has been requested on-chain, every honest party knows that the withdrawal will definitely happen. There's a natural place here for a liquidity market in which a validator (or someone who trusts a validator) can provide withdrawal loans for a small interest fee. This is a no-risk business for them as they know which withdrawals will be confirmed (and can force their confirmation trustlessly no matter what anyone else does) but are just waiting for on-chain finality. 3. The recipe: How Arbitrum Rollup works For a description of the technical components of Arbitrum Rollup and how they interact to create a highly scalable protocol with a developer experience that is identical to Ethereum, please refer to the following documents: Arbitrum Rollup Whitepaper Arbitrum academic paper (describes a previous version of Arbitrum) 4. Developer docs and APIs For full details about how to set up and interact with an Arbitrum Rollup chain or validator, please refer to our developer docs, which can be found at https://developer.offchainlabs.com/. Note that the Arbitrum version described on that site is older and will soon be replaced by the version we are entering in Reddit Bake-Off, which is still undergoing internal testing before public release. 5. Who are the validators? As with any Layer 2 protocol, advancing the protocol correctly requires at least one validator (sometimes called block producers) that is honest and available. A natural question is: who are the validators? Recall that the validator set for an Arbitrum chain is open and permissionless; anyone can start or stop validating at will. (A useful analogy is to full nodes on an L1 chain.) But we understand that even though anyone can participate, Reddit may want to guarantee that highly reputable nodes are validating their chain. Reddit may choose to validate the chain themselves and/or hire third-party validators.To this end, we have begun building a marketplace for validator-for-hire services so that dapp developers can outsource validation services to reputable nodes with high up-time. We've announced a partnership in which Chainlink nodes will provide Arbitrum validation services, and we expect to announce more partnerships shortly with other blockchain infrastructure providers. Although there is no requirement that validators are paid, Arbitrum’s economic model tracks validators’ costs (e.g. amount of computation and storage) and can charge small fees on user transactions, using a gas-type system, to cover those costs. Alternatively, a single party such as Reddit can agree to cover the costs of invited validators. 6. Reddit Contract Support Since Arbitrum contracts and transactions are byte-for-byte compatible with Ethereum, supporting the Reddit contracts is as simple as launching them on an Arbitrum chain. Minting. Arbitrum Rollup supports hybrid L1/L2 tokens which can be minted in L2 and then withdrawn onto the L1. An L1 contract at address A can make a special call to the EthBridge which deploys a "buddy contract" to the same address A on an Arbitrum chain. Since it's deployed at the same address, users can know that the L2 contract is the authorized "buddy" of the L1 contract on the Arbitrum chain. For minting, the L1 contract is a standard ERC-20 contract which mints and burns tokens when requested by the L2 contract. It is paired with an ERC-20 contract in L2 which mints tokens based on whatever programmer provided minting facility is desired and burns tokens when they are withdrawn from the rollup chain. Given this base infrastructure, Arbitrum can support any smart contract based method for minting tokens in L2, and indeed we directly support Reddit's signature/claim based minting in L2. Batch minting. What's better than a mint cookie? A whole batch! In addition to supporting Reddit’s current minting/claiming scheme, we built a second minting design, which we believe outperforms the signature/claim system in many scenarios. In the current system, Reddit periodically issues signed statements to users, who then take those statements to the blockchain to claim their tokens. An alternative approach would have Reddit directly submit the list of users/amounts to the blockchain and distribute the tokens to the users without the signature/claim process. To optimize the cost efficiency of this approach, we designed an application-specific compression scheme to minimize the size of the batch distribution list. We analyzed the data from Reddit's previous distributions and found that the data is highly compressible since token amounts are small and repeated, and addresses appear multiple times. Our function groups transactions by size, and replaces previously-seen addresses with a shorter index value. We wrote client code to compress the data, wrote a Solidity decompressing function, and integrated that function into Reddit’s contract running on Arbitrum. When we ran the compression function on the previous Reddit distribution data, we found that we could compress batched minting data down to to 11.8 bytes per minting event (averaged over a 6-month trace of Reddit’s historical token grants)compared with roughly 174 bytes of on-chain data needed for the signature claim approach to minting (roughly 43 for an RLP-encoded null transaction + 65 for Reddit's signature + 65 for the user's signature + roughly 8 for the number of Points) . The relative benefit of the two approaches with respect to on-chain call data cost depends on the percentage of users that will actually claim their tokens on chain. With the above figures, batch minting will be cheaper if roughly 5% of users redeem their claims. We stress that our compression scheme is not Arbitrum-specific and would be beneficial in any general-purpose smart contract platform. 8. Benchmarks and costs In this section, we give the full costs of operating the Reddit contracts on an Arbitrum Rollup chain including the L1 gas costs for the Rollup chain, the costs of computation and storage for the L2 validators as well as the capital lockup requirements for staking. Arbitrum Rollup is still on testnet, so we did not run mainnet benchmarks. Instead, we measured the L1 gas cost and L2 workload for Reddit operations on Arbitrum and calculated the total cost assuming current Ethereum gas prices. As noted below in detail, our measurements do not assume that Arbitrum is consuming the entire capacity of Ethereum. We will present the details of our model now, but for full transparency you can also play around with it yourself and adjust the parameters, by copying the spreadsheet found here. Our cost model is based on measurements of Reddit’s contracts, running unmodified (except for the addition of a batch minting function) on Arbitrum Rollup on top of Ethereum. On the distribution of transactions and frequency of assertions. Reddit's instructions specify the following minimum parameters that submissions should support: Over a 5 day period, your scaling PoC should be able to handle:
100,000 point claims (minting & distributing points)
75,000 one-off points burning
We provide the full costs of operating an Arbitrum Rollup chain with this usage under the assumption that tokens are minted or granted to users in batches, but other transactions are uniformly distributed over the 5 day period. Unlike some other submissions, we do not make unrealistic assumptions that all operations can be submitted in enormous batches. We assume that batch minting is done in batches that use only a few percent on an L1 block’s gas, and that other operations come in evenly over time and are submitted in batches, with one batch every five minutes to keep latency reasonable. (Users are probably already waiting for L1 finality, which takes at least that long to achieve.) We note that assuming that there are only 300,000 transactions that arrive uniformly over the 5 day period will make our benchmark numbers lower, but we believe that this will reflect the true cost of running the system. To see why, say that batches are submitted every five minutes (20 L1 blocks) and there's a fixed overhead of c bytes of calldata per batch, the cost of which will get amortized over all transactions executed in that batch. Assume that each individual transaction adds a marginal cost of t. Lastly assume the capacity of the scaling system is high enough that it can support all of Reddit's 300,000 transactions within a single 20-block batch (i.e. that there is more than c + 300,000*t byes of calldata available in 20 blocks). Consider what happens if c, the per-batch overhead, is large (which it is in some systems, but not in Arbitrum). In the scenario that transactions actually arrive at the system's capacity and each batch is full, then c gets amortized over 300,000 transactions. But if we assume that the system is not running at capacity--and only receives 300,000 transactions arriving uniformly over 5 days-- then each 20-block assertion will contain about 200 transactions, and thus each transaction will pay a nontrivial cost due to c. We are aware that other proposals presented scaling numbers assuming that 300,000 transactions arrived at maximum capacity and was executed in a single mega-transaction, but according to our estimates, for at least one such report, this led to a reported gas price that was 2-3 orders of magnitude lower than it would have been assuming uniform arrival. We make more realistic batching assumptions, and we believe Arbitrum compares well when batch sizes are realistic. Our model. Our cost model includes several sources of cost:
L1 gas costs: This is the cost of posting transactions as calldata on the L1 chain, as well as the overhead associated with each batch of transactions, and the L1 cost of settling transactions in the Arbitrum protocol.
Validator’s staking costs: In normal operation, one validator will need to be staked. The stake is assumed to be 0.2% of the total value of the chain (which is assumed to be $1 per user who is eligible to claim points). The cost of staking is the interest that could be earned on the money if it were not staked.
Validator computation and storage: Every validator must do computation to track the chain’s processing of transactions, and must maintain storage to keep track of the contracts’ EVM storage. The cost of computation and storage are estimated based on measurements, with the dollar cost of resources based on Amazon Web Services pricing.
It’s clear from our modeling that the predominant cost is for L1 calldata. This will probably be true for any plausible rollup-based system. Our model also shows that Arbitrum can scale to workloads much larger than Reddit’s nominal workload, without exhausting L1 or L2 resources. The scaling bottleneck will ultimately be calldata on the L1 chain. We believe that cost could be reduced substantially if necessary by clever encoding of data. (In our design any compression / decompression of L2 transaction calldata would be done by client software and L2 programs, never by an L1 contract.) 9. Status of Arbitrum Rollup Arbitrum Rollup is live on Ethereum testnet. All of the code written to date including everything included in the Reddit demo is open source and permissively licensed under the Apache V2 license. The first testnet version of Arbitrum Rollup was released on testnet in February. Our current internal version, which we used to benchmark the Reddit contracts, will be released soon and will be a major upgrade. Both the Arbitrum design as well as the implementation are heavily audited by independent third parties. The Arbitrum academic paper was published at USENIX Security, a top-tier peer-reviewed academic venue. For the Arbitrum software, we have engaged Trail of Bits for a security audit, which is currently ongoing, and we are committed to have a clean report before launching on Ethereum mainnet. 10. Reddit Universe Arbitrum Rollup Chain The benchmarks described in this document were all measured using the latest internal build of our software. When we release the new software upgrade publicly we will launch a Reddit Universe Arbitrum Rollup chain as a public demo, which will contain the Reddit contracts as well as a Uniswap instance and a Connext Hub, demonstrating how Community Points can be integrated into third party apps. We will also allow members of the public to dynamically launch ecosystem contracts. We at Offchain Labs will cover the validating costs for the Reddit Universe public demo. If the folks at Reddit would like to evaluate our software prior to our public demo, please email us at [email protected] and we'd be more than happy to provide early access. 11. Even more scaling: Arbitrum Sidechains Rollups are an excellent approach to scaling, and we are excited about Arbitrum Rollup which far surpasses Reddit's scaling needs. But looking forward to Reddit's eventual goal of supporting hundreds of millions of users, there will likely come a time when Reddit needs more scaling than any Rollup protocol can provide. While Rollups greatly reduce costs, they don't break the linear barrier. That is, all transactions have an on-chain footprint (because all calldata must be posted on-chain), albeit a far smaller one than on native Ethereum, and the L1 limitations end up being the bottleneck for capacity and cost. Since Ethereum has limited capacity, this linear use of on-chain resources means that costs will eventually increase superlinearly with traffic. The good news is that we at Offchain Labs have a solution in our roadmap that can satisfy this extreme-scaling setting as well: Arbitrum AnyTrust Sidechains. Arbitrum Sidechains are similar to Arbitrum Rollup, but deviate in that they name a permissioned set of validators. When a chain’s validators agree off-chain, they can greatly reduce the on-chain footprint of the protocol and require almost no data to be put on-chain. When validators can't reach unanimous agreement off-chain, the protocol reverts to Arbitrum Rollup. Technically, Arbitrum Sidechains can be viewed as a hybrid between state channels and Rollup, switching back and forth as necessary, and combining the performance and cost that state channels can achieve in the optimistic case, with the robustness of Rollup in other cases. The core technical challenge is how to switch seamlessly between modes and how to guarantee that security is maintained throughout. Arbitrum Sidechains break through this linear barrier, while still maintaining a high level of security and decentralization. Arbitrum Sidechains provide the AnyTrust guarantee, which says that as long as any one validator is honest and available (even if you don't know which one will be), the L2 chain is guaranteed to execute correctly according to its code and guaranteed to make progress. Unlike in a state channel, offchain progress does not require unanimous consent, and liveness is preserved as long as there is a single honest validator. Note that the trust model for Arbitrum Sidechains is much stronger than for typical BFT-style chains which introduce a consensus "voting" protocols among a small permissioned group of validators. BFT-based protocols require a supermajority (more than 2/3) of validators to agree. In Arbitrum Sidechains, by contrast, all you need is a single honest validator to achieve guaranteed correctness and progress. Notice that in Arbitrum adding validators strictly increases security since the AnyTrust guarantee provides correctness as long as any one validator is honest and available. By contrast, in BFT-style protocols, adding nodes can be dangerous as a coalition of dishonest nodes can break the protocol. Like Arbitrum Rollup, the developer and user experiences for Arbitrum Sidechains will be identical to that of Ethereum. Reddit would be able to choose a large and diverse set of validators, and all that they would need to guarantee to break through the scaling barrier is that a single one of them will remain honest. We hope to have Arbitrum Sidechains in production in early 2021, and thus when Reddit reaches the scale that surpasses the capacity of Rollups, Arbitrum Sidechains will be waiting and ready to help. While the idea to switch between channels and Rollup to get the best of both worlds is conceptually simple, getting the details right and making sure that the switch does not introduce any attack vectors is highly non-trivial and has been the subject of years of our research (indeed, we were working on this design for years before the term Rollup was even coined). 12. How Arbitrum compares We include a comparison to several other categories as well as specific projects when appropriate. and explain why we believe that Arbitrum is best suited for Reddit's purposes. We focus our attention on other Ethereum projects. Payment only Rollups. Compared to Arbitrum Rollup, ZK-Rollups and other Rollups that only support token transfers have several disadvantages:
As outlined throughout the proposal, we believe that the entire draw of Ethereum is in its rich smart contracts support which is simply not achievable with today's zero-knowledge proof technology. Indeed, scaling with a ZK-Rollup will add friction to the deployment of smart contracts that interact with Community Points as users will have to withdraw their coins from the ZK-Rollup and transfer them to a smart contract system (like Arbitrum). The community will be best served if Reddit builds on a platform that has built-in, frictionless smart-contract support.
All other Rollup protocols of which we are aware employ a centralized operator. While it's true that users retain custody of their coins, the centralized operator can often profit from censoring, reordering, or delaying transactions. A common misconception is that since they're non-custodial protocols, a centralized sequencer does not pose a risk but this is incorrect as the sequencer can wreak havoc or shake down users for side payments without directly stealing funds.
Sidechain type protocols can eliminate some of these issues, but they are not trustless. Instead, they require trust in some quorum of a committee, often requiring two-third of the committee to be honest, compared to rollup protocols like Arbitrum that require only a single honest party. In addition, not all sidechain type protocols have committees that are diverse, or even non-centralized, in practice.
Plasma-style protocols have a centralized operator and do not support general smart contracts.
13. Concluding Remarks While it's ultimately up to the judges’ palate, we believe that Arbitrum Rollup is the bakeoff choice that Reddit kneads. We far surpass Reddit's specified workload requirement at present, have much room to optimize Arbitrum Rollup in the near term, and have a clear path to get Reddit to hundreds of millions of users. Furthermore, we are the only project that gives developers and users the identical interface as the Ethereum blockchain and is fully interoperable and tooling-compatible, and we do this all without any new trust assumptions or centralized components. But no matter how the cookie crumbles, we're glad to have participated in this bake-off and we thank you for your consideration. About Offchain Labs Offchain Labs, Inc. is a venture-funded New York company that spun out of Princeton University research, and is building the Arbitrum platform to usher in the next generation of scalable, interoperable, and compatible smart contracts. Offchain Labs is backed by Pantera Capital, Compound VC, Coinbase Ventures, and others. Leadership Team Ed Felten Ed Felten is Co-founder and Chief Scientist at Offchain Labs. He is on leave from Princeton University, where he is the Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs. From 2015 to 2017 he served at the White House as Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer and senior advisor to the President. He is an ACM Fellow and member of the National Academy of Engineering. Outside of work, he is an avid runner, cook, and L.A. Dodgers fan. Steven Goldfeder Steven Goldfeder is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Offchain Labs. He holds a PhD from Princeton University, where he worked at the intersection of cryptography and cryptocurrencies including threshold cryptography, zero-knowledge proof systems, and post-quantum signatures. He is a co-author of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, the leading textbook on cryptocurrencies, and he has previously worked at Google and Microsoft Research, where he co-invented the Picnic signature algorithm. When not working, you can find Steven spending time with his family, taking a nature walk, or twisting balloons. Harry Kalodner Harry Kalodner is Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Offchain Labs where he leads the engineering team. Before the company he attended Princeton as a Ph.D candidate where his research explored economics, anonymity, and incentive compatibility of cryptocurrencies, and he also has worked at Apple. When not up at 3:00am writing code, Harry occasionally sleeps.
For Trading October 13th NASDAQ NAMES FLY NOT AS GOOD AS IT LOOKS Oh Goody, Earnings Season Today’s market was nice to see but if you don’t own the 7 or 8 big names it wasn’t anywhere near as good as it looked. The indexes closed up, but the spread was obvious with the DJIA +250.62 (.88%), NASDAQ +296.32 (2.56%), S&P 500 +57.09 (1.64%), the Russell +11.51 (.70%), and the Transports a dismal +18.49 (.16%). Volume was VERY light, and A/D was just 3:2 on both sides. DJIA was 23/7 up with AAPL the leader adding $49 DP’s, MSFT +37, CAT +25 and the biggest loser NKE -10 DP’s. My least favorite time of the quarter starts tomorrow with several of the banks leading the names to report Q2 earnings. As you all know, I try hard not to be involved in earnings plays since they are a coin-toss at best and you can have solid ideas on what will be reported, get it right, and if the “whisper number” was higher you get stuck in a down-draft of disappointment. Not for me! And the only groups showing weakness were energy and materials. Our “open forum” on Discord, which allows you to interact with subscribers and others to allow direct questions and chart opinions on just about any stock, continues to grow with more participants every day. It is informative and allows me to share insights as the market is open and moving. The link is: https://discord.gg/ATvC7YZ and I will be there and active from before the open and all day. It’s a great place to share ideas and gain some insights, and we’ve grown to almost 3000 members. I also returned to my radio show today with a great live interview with the Chief Medical Officer of JANONE (JAN) and it was a great show. This is the link to the audio recording including my discussion of the market and the very exciting story of JAN’s phenomenal NON-OPIOID Pain Med! This is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCFCxnijFO4 Enjoy!! Tonight’s closing comment video: https://youtu.be/3b6deMjWEvc SECTORS: There was good news for holders of the biggest names with AAPL, AMZN, GOOGL, and NVDA all moving between 4% – 7%. The biggest winner was AAPL +7.69 (6.57%). AMZN +172.35, GOOGL +57.54. Major gains for the biggest and the best. TWTR gained $2.45 (5.34%) on an upgrade by DB, TWLO $329.72 +23.48 on the news it was spending $3.2Billion on SEGMENT, and PEP $142.13 +3.69 (2.7%) on the Citi upgrade from neutral to buy. And a big name in the medical and drug business is gone... MNK closed $ .75, down from an all-time high of $133 on the filing (completely expected) of bankruptcy. I hope the RH traders don’t pile in to this worthless shell of a major company…DEAD And the big gainer of the day, over $5.00 was DDS $55.00 +12.92 (30.70%) on the news that one of Berkshire Hathaway’s advisors bought 5.9% of the stocks. And, the Disaster Du Jour of the day was Avenue Therapeutics (ATXI), with the FDA decision not to approve Tramadol, an opioid, in its present form. The stock was $5.24 -5.36 (50%) in premarket trading and then it only got worse. It finished the day $$4.53 -6.51 (59%)…OUCH..I hate when the stock looks like a 2:1 split all by itself ! New Group: AIR & CRUISE LINES were LOWER with CCL -.44, RCL -1.11, NCLH -.61, AAL -.27, DAL -11, LUV -.48, UAL -.79, HA -.44, ALK -.04, and XTN $61.68 -.15 (.25%). FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN was HIGHER with TSN +.99, BGS +.37, FLO +.27, CPB +.65, CAG +.69, MDLZ +1.49, CALM -.23, JJSF +.23, SAFM +3.94, HRL +1.14, SJM +1.24, PPC +.42, KR +.29, and PBJ $34.56 +.36 (1.05%). BIOPHARMA was HIGHER with BIIB +4.94, ABBV +.79, REGN -.52, ISRG +17.48, GILD +.67, MYL +.34, TEVA -.35, VRTX +4.65, BHC -.20, INCY +2.60, ICPT -2.76, LABU +.64 and IBB $143.92 +1.39 (.98%). CANNABIS: was HIGHER with the comment in last night’s debate that Kamala Harris that they would legalize pot. TLRY +.26, CGC +1.58, CRON +.19, GWPH +1.64, ACB .05, CURLF +.32, KERN +.30, and MJ $11.80 +.23 (1.99%). DEFENSE was HIGHER with LMT +3.10, GD +1.07, TXT +.11, NOC +1.31, BWXT +.96, TDY +2.39, RTX +.64, and ITA $164.84 +.59 (.36%). RETAIL: was MIXED with M +.02, JWN -.21, KSS -.18, DDS +12.92 (30.7%) see above, WMT +1.74, TGT +1.29, TJX -.22, RL -.25, UAA +.40, LULU +1.64, TPR +.38, CPRI +.27, and a new addition GPS -.45, and XRT $54.05 +.01 (.02%). MEGA-CAPS & FAANG were HIGHER with GOOGL +57.54, AMZN +171.85, AAPL +7.69, FB +11.60, NFLX +.36, NVDA 19.98, TSLA +8.94, BABA +7.51, BIDU +1.31, CMG -2.58, CRM +1.87, BA +.05, CAT +3.73, DIS +6.58, and XLK $123.83 +3.,65 (3.04%). PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THESE PRICES ARE LATE MARKET QUOTES AND DO NOT REPRESENT THE 4:00 CLOSES. FINANCIALS were HIGHER with GS +7.44, JPM +1.80, BAC +.19, MS +2.67, C +1.30, PNC +1.13, AIG +.51, TRV +.71, V -2.25, and XLF $25.59 +.36 (1.43%). OIL, $39.43 -1.17, Oil was near recent highs and sold off hard Friday touching $37.61 (down about 6%) before mounting a rally back to close +2.17. The stocks were LOWER with XLE $30.86 +.07 (.23%). GOLD $1,928.90 +2.70, opened HIGHER and made a slightly higher high and a higher low, closing near the highs of the day. There were several “unusual options action” looking for another 10-12% on the upside before year end. BITCOIN: closed $11630 +520. After breaking out over $10,000 we have had a “running correction” pushing prices toward $12,000, reaching a recovery high of $12220 Thursday, and after a day of rest in between, we resumed the rally touching $12,635, but have sold off back to support. We had 750 shares of GBTC and sold off 250 last week at $13.93 and still have 500 with a cost of $8.45. GBTC closed $12.67 +.90 today. Tomorrow is another day. CAM
Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analyzed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk-reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralized and scalable in my opinion.
Below I post my analysis of why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise, just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
Technology and some more:
The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
Mainnet is live since the end of January 2019 with daily transaction rates growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralized and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. The maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
Zilliqa realized early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralized, secure, and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in the amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralization. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
Before we continue dissecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
Down the rabbit hole
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour, no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here. Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts, etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as: “A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronize cryptographically-secure data”.
Next, he states that: "blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”. For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber, and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
With public blockchains like Zilliqa, this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network, etc.
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever-changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralized and scalable being low.
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimization on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and the University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017. Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (66%) double-spend attacks become possible.
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT, etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralization.
Currently, there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so-called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralized nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics, you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching its transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand. Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end-users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public. They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public-facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not involved with consensus! That is still PoW as entry ticket and pBFT for the actual consensus.
5% of the block rewards are being assigned to seed nodes (from the beginning in 2019) and those are being used to pay out ZIL stakers. The 5% block rewards with an annual yield of 10.03% translate to roughly 610 MM ZILs in total that can be staked. Exchanges use the custodial variant of staking and wallets like Moonlet will use the non-custodial version (starting in Q3 2020). Staking is being done by sending ZILs to a smart contract created by Zilliqa and audited by Quantstamp.
With a high amount of DS; shard nodes and seed nodes becoming more decentralized too, Zilliqa qualifies for the label of decentralized in my opinion.
Generalized: programming languages can be divided into being ‘object-oriented’ or ‘functional’. Here is an ELI5 given by software development academy: * “all programs have two basic components, data – what the program knows – and behavior – what the program can do with that data. So object-oriented programming states that combining data and related behaviors in one place, is called “object”, which makes it easier to understand how a particular program works. On the other hand, functional programming argues that data and behavior are different things and should be separated to ensure their clarity.” *
Scilla is on the functional side and shares similarities with OCaml: OCaml is a general-purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. It has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It's used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools. For all its power, OCaml is also pretty simple, which is one reason it's often used as a teaching language.
Scilla is blockchain agnostic, can be implemented onto other blockchains as well, is recognized by academics and won a so-called Distinguished Artifact Award award at the end of last year.
One of the reasons why the Zilliqa team decided to create their own programming language focused on preventing smart contract vulnerabilities is that adding logic on a blockchain, programming, means that you cannot afford to make mistakes. Otherwise, it could cost you. It’s all great and fun blockchains being immutable but updating your code because you found a bug isn’t the same as with a regular web application for example. And with smart contracts, it inherently involves cryptocurrencies in some form thus value.
Another difference with programming languages on a blockchain is gas. Every transaction you do on a smart contract platform like Zilliqa or Ethereum costs gas. With gas you basically pay for computational costs. Sending a ZIL from address A to address B costs 0.001 ZIL currently. Smart contracts are more complex, often involve various functions and require more gas (if gas is a new concept click here ).
So with Scilla, similar to Solidity, you need to make sure that “every function in your smart contract will run as expected without hitting gas limits. An improper resource analysis may lead to situations where funds may get stuck simply because a part of the smart contract code cannot be executed due to gas limits. Such constraints are not present in traditional software systems”.Scilla design story part 1
Some examples of smart contract issues you’d want to avoid are: leaking funds, ‘unexpected changes to critical state variables’ (example: someone other than you setting his or her address as the owner of the smart contract after creation) or simply killing a contract.
Scilla also allows for formal verification. Wikipedia to the rescue: In the context of hardware and software systems, formal verification is the act of proving or disproving the correctness of intended algorithms underlying a system with respect to a certain formal specification or property, using formal methods of mathematics.
Formal verification can be helpful in proving the correctness of systems such as: cryptographic protocols, combinational circuits, digital circuits with internal memory, and software expressed as source code.
“Scilla is being developed hand-in-hand with formalization of its semantics and its embedding into the Coq proof assistant — a state-of-the art tool for mechanized proofs about properties of programs.”
Simply put, with Scilla and accompanying tooling developers can be mathematically sure and proof that the smart contract they’ve written does what he or she intends it to do.
Smart contract on a sharded environment and state sharding
There is one more topic I’d like to touch on: smart contract execution in a sharded environment (and what is the effect of state sharding). This is a complex topic. I’m not able to explain it any easier than what is posted here. But I will try to compress the post into something easy to digest.
Earlier on we have established that Zilliqa can process transactions in parallel due to network sharding. This is where the linear scalability comes from. We can define simple transactions: a transaction from address A to B (Category 1), a transaction where a user interacts with one smart contract (Category 2) and the most complex ones where triggering a transaction results in multiple smart contracts being involved (Category 3). The shards are able to process transactions on their own without interference of the other shards. With Category 1 transactions that is doable, with Category 2 transactions sometimes if that address is in the same shard as the smart contract but with Category 3 you definitely need communication between the shards. Solving that requires to make a set of communication rules the protocol needs to follow in order to process all transactions in a generalised fashion.
There is no strict defined roadmap but here are topics being worked on. And via the Zilliqa website there is also more information on the projects they are working on.
Business & Partnerships
It’s not only technology in which Zilliqa seems to be excelling as their ecosystem has been expanding and starting to grow rapidly. The project is on a mission to provide OpenFinance (OpFi) to the world and Singapore is the right place to be due to its progressive regulations and futuristic thinking. Singapore has taken a proactive approach towards cryptocurrencies by introducing the Payment Services Act 2019 (PS Act). Among other things, the PS Act will regulate intermediaries dealing with certain cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It will also provide a stable regulatory licensing and operating framework for cryptocurrency entities, effectively covering all crypto businesses and exchanges based in Singapore. According to PWC 82% of the surveyed executives in Singapore reported blockchain initiatives underway and 13% of them have already brought the initiatives live to the market. There is also an increasing list of organizations that are starting to provide digital payment services. Moreover, Singaporean blockchain developers Building Cities Beyond has recently created an innovation $15 million grant to encourage development on its ecosystem. This all suggests that Singapore tries to position itself as (one of) the leading blockchain hubs in the world.
Zilliqa seems to already take advantage of this and recently helped launch Hg Exchange on their platform, together with financial institutions PhillipCapital, PrimePartners and Fundnel. Hg Exchange, which is now approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), uses smart contracts to represent digital assets. Through Hg Exchange financial institutions worldwide can use Zilliqa's safe-by-design smart contracts to enable the trading of private equities. For example, think of companies such as Grab, Airbnb, SpaceX that are not available for public trading right now. Hg Exchange will allow investors to buy shares of private companies & unicorns and capture their value before an IPO. Anquan, the main company behind Zilliqa, has also recently announced that they became a partner and shareholder in TEN31 Bank, which is a fully regulated bank allowing for tokenization of assets and is aiming to bridge the gap between conventional banking and the blockchain world. If STOs, the tokenization of assets, and equity trading will continue to increase, then Zilliqa’s public blockchain would be the ideal candidate due to its strategic positioning, partnerships, regulatory compliance and the technology that is being built on top of it.
What is also very encouraging is their focus on banking the un(der)banked. They are launching a stablecoin basket starting with XSGD. As many of you know, stablecoins are currently mostly used for trading. However, Zilliqa is actively trying to broaden the use case of stablecoins. I recommend everybody to read this text that Amrit Kumar wrote (one of the co-founders). These stablecoins will be integrated in the traditional markets and bridge the gap between the crypto world and the traditional world. This could potentially revolutionize and legitimise the crypto space if retailers and companies will for example start to use stablecoins for payments or remittances, instead of it solely being used for trading.
Zilliqa also released their DeFi strategic roadmap (dating November 2019) which seems to be aligning well with their OpFi strategy. A non-custodial DEX is coming to Zilliqa made by Switcheo which allows cross-chain trading (atomic swaps) between ETH, EOS and ZIL based tokens. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a (soon to be announced) USD stablecoin. And as Zilliqa is all about regulations and being compliant, I’m speculating on it to be a regulated USD stablecoin. Furthermore, XSGD is already created and visible on block explorer and XIDR (Indonesian Stablecoin) is also coming soon via StraitsX. Here also an overview of the Tech Stack for Financial Applications from September 2019. Further quoting Amrit Kumar on this:
There are two basic building blocks in DeFi/OpFi though: 1) stablecoins as you need a non-volatile currency to get access to this market and 2) a dex to be able to trade all these financial assets. The rest are built on top of these blocks.
So far, together with our partners and community, we have worked on developing these building blocks with XSGD as a stablecoin. We are working on bringing a USD-backed stablecoin as well. We will soon have a decentralised exchange developed by Switcheo. And with HGX going live, we are also venturing into the tokenization space. More to come in the future.”
Additionally, they also have this ZILHive initiative that injects capital into projects. There have been already 6 waves of various teams working on infrastructure, innovation and research, and they are not from ASEAN or Singapore only but global: see Grantees breakdown by country. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa's ecosystem. This includes individuals and teams developing wallets, explorers, developer toolkits, smart contract testing frameworks, dapps, etc. As some of you may know, Unstoppable Domains (UD) blew up when they launched on Zilliqa. UD aims to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name and allows for uncensorable websites. Zilliqa will probably be the only one able to handle all these transactions onchain due to ability to scale and its resulting low fees which is why the UD team launched this on Zilliqa in the first place. Furthermore, Zilliqa also has a strong emphasis on security, compliance, and privacy, which is why they partnered with companies like Elliptic, ChainSecurity (part of PwC Switzerland), and Incognito. Their sister company Aqilliz (Zilliqa spelled backwards) focuses on revolutionizing the digital advertising space and is doing interesting things like using Zilliqa to track outdoor digital ads with companies like Foodpanda.
Zilliqa is listed on nearly all major exchanges, having several different fiat-gateways and recently have been added to Binance’s margin trading and futures trading with really good volume. They also have a very impressive team with good credentials and experience. They don't just have “tech people”. They have a mix of tech people, business people, marketeers, scientists, and more. Naturally, it's good to have a mix of people with different skill sets if you work in the crypto space.
Marketing & Community
Zilliqa has a very strong community. If you just follow their Twitter their engagement is much higher for a coin that has approximately 80k followers. They also have been ‘coin of the day’ by LunarCrush many times. LunarCrush tracks real-time cryptocurrency value and social data. According to their data, it seems Zilliqa has a more fundamental and deeper understanding of marketing and community engagement than almost all other coins. While almost all coins have been a bit frozen in the last months, Zilliqa seems to be on its own bull run. It was somewhere in the 100s a few months ago and is currently ranked #46 on CoinGecko. Their official Telegram also has over 20k people and is very active, and their community channel which is over 7k now is more active and larger than many other official channels. Their local communities also seem to be growing.
Moreover, their community started ‘Zillacracy’ together with the Zilliqa core team ( see www.zillacracy.com ). It’s a community-run initiative where people from all over the world are now helping with marketing and development on Zilliqa. Since its launch in February 2020 they have been doing a lot and will also run their own non-custodial seed node for staking. This seed node will also allow them to start generating revenue for them to become a self sustaining entity that could potentially scale up to become a decentralized company working in parallel with the Zilliqa core team. Comparing it to all the other smart contract platforms (e.g. Cardano, EOS, Tezos etc.) they don't seem to have started a similar initiative (correct me if I’m wrong though). This suggests in my opinion that these other smart contract platforms do not fully understand how to utilize the ‘power of the community’. This is something you cannot ‘buy with money’ and gives many projects in the space a disadvantage.
Zilliqa also released two social products called SocialPay and Zeeves. SocialPay allows users to earn ZILs while tweeting with a specific hashtag. They have recently used it in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross for a marketing campaign after their initial pilot program. It seems like a very valuable social product with a good use case. I can see a lot of traditional companies entering the space through this product, which they seem to suggest will happen. Tokenizing hashtags with smart contracts to get network effect is a very smart and innovative idea.
Regarding Zeeves, this is a tipping bot for Telegram. They already have 1000s of signups and they plan to keep upgrading it for more and more people to use it (e.g. they recently have added a quiz features). They also use it during AMAs to reward people in real-time. It’s a very smart approach to grow their communities and get familiar with ZIL. I can see this becoming very big on Telegram. This tool suggests, again, that the Zilliqa team has a deeper understanding of what the crypto space and community needs and is good at finding the right innovative tools to grow and scale.
To be honest, I haven’t covered everything (i’m also reaching the character limited haha). So many updates happening lately that it's hard to keep up, such as the International Monetary Fund mentioning Zilliqa in their report, custodial and non-custodial Staking, Binance Margin, Futures, Widget, entering the Indian market, and more. The Head of Marketing Colin Miles has also released this as an overview of what is coming next. And last but not least, Vitalik Buterin has been mentioning Zilliqa lately acknowledging Zilliqa and mentioning that both projects have a lot of room to grow. There is much more info of course and a good part of it has been served to you on a silver platter. I invite you to continue researching by yourself :-) And if you have any comments or questions please post here!
UNI Airdrop opens a new phase of DeFi and AESwap is set to become aelf’s trump card to up its DeFi game
Today the decentralized exchange Uniswap officially released its governance token UNI. Due to the popularity of the UNI airdrop, the gas fee for a single transfer has been pushed up to 660gwei, about $5.27. With the release of Uniswap’s token, the DeFi sector has entered a new phase of development, with new opportunities up for grabs. In the first half of this year, the DeFi sector was thriving as various projects sprang up one after another. The boom caught many people by surprise. The catalyst was the launch of the COMP Token on June 17th. After COMP started trading its price surged, quickly leading to token issuance by a slew of DeFi projects which were much sought after by investors. Since June 17th, in just over three months, the DeFi sector has seen great fortune being made. The most well-known example is YFI. As of writing, the price of YFI has reached $33592.79, which is even higher than that of Bitcoin at its peak. Even the price of its fork YFII has reached $4627.24. Where there is exuberance, there is a bubble, just like two sides of the same coin. Recently, the price of SUSHI plummeted after Chef Nomi, founder of SushiSwap, cashed out nearly $14 million. Next to that,Emerald Mine (EMD), a liquidity mining DeFi project on EOS, appeared to be an exit scam. Such events should give investors pause and wonder: has DeFi come to a dead end,and where will DeFi go next? We all know that the blockchain industry is essentially characterized by its decentralization, anonymity and lack of supervision. This means that anyone can deploy contracts on the public blockchain. Therefore, the ecosystems of public chains are a mixed bunch. There are good projects, but there will also be scams. The ICO craze in 2017 was a hard lesson to learn, and the current DeFi boom is no exception. However, today’s DeFi is very different from ICO. For example, DeFi has practical applications and brings real returns to users, whereas the projects behind the ICOs never came up with any real product. In addition, the key driving force for DeFi’s further development lies in the innovation in its models. After seeing so many projects come and go it’s not hard to see that the success of a project in DeFi depends on whether the project’s model has a positive impact on users, such as incentives, user experience, and returns. This is also the fundamental driving force of DeFi projects and hinges on the technical strength of the project, interface design, mechanism design, etc. As a result, the DeFi projects that focus on the technology and work hard will reach new heights, whereas those exit scams will not survive. Aelf has passed the test of time and showed it belongs to the hard-working category. AESwap, launched by aelf recently, is the first DeFi project based on the aelf network. It is committed to building a global leading decentralized trading platform and a more efficient, convenient and safer DeFi product than Uniswap. Now it has integrated the features of Token Exchange, adding liquidity to earn income, and creating transaction peer-to-peer. In the future, aelf will continue to make efforts in cross chain DeFi. Thanks to the unlimited scalability of the aelf blockchain system, cross chain mechanism of protocol layer and multi-level side chain design, aelf is able to keep gas fee low with fast transaction speed. Moreover, applications in the aelf ecosystem can also interact with the Ethereum ecosystem. With its well-developed cross chain mechanism and high-performance contract, aelf is able to solve the problems of limited performance and transaction congestion of Ethereum. Although the current DeFi sector does have an element of hype and bubble, the products of these DeFi projects do have real market demand. The DeFi sector will continue to grow, integrate and optimize. After the hype is over, the market will eliminate the bad projects and only the good ones will remain. In this new phase of DeFi development, participants will be less enthusiastic and the growth of DeFi projects will not be as fast. I believe that the development of DeFi will become more and more rational, and AESwap will live up to our expectations.
The world of DeFi is exploding but is it all it’s made out to be?
DeFi (decentralised finance) is most certainly the buzz in the crypto world this minute. It’s bringing similar feelings which was the 2017/18 ICO phase, where a mammoth of new projects begun to explode onto the scene, each with their own promise of new innovation and use case. Hindsight has shown us that most of those projects have ultimately failed, or worse, were outright scams that took advantage of not so wise investors looking to make a buck. Obviously, not all projects fit that description, with many teams still around today working on and delivering their individual visions. Crypto is, after all, still a big experiment of new technology.
Enter DeFi: Serum
DeFi has exploded into the limelight over the last few months, with some tokens appreciating hundreds of percent in price. It appears to be the catalyst that has driven a huge market shift in the crypto world, and for those who’ve been around a number of years, this is a welcome change. In this piece, I’m going to examine a particular project called Serum.
Serum is the world’s first completely decentralized derivatives exchange with trustless cross-chain trading brought to you by Project Serum.
The Serum Project is aiming to create both a decentralised exchange and a cross-chain swapping mechanism. In this article, I’m going to focus solely on the cross-chain swapping aspect of Serum. Although the Serum whitepaper is quite short and lacking in detail, it is useful to derive some understanding of how the cross-chain swapping protocol should work. Throughout this review, I will use it to describe how the imagined protocol works.
Let's assume Alice wants to trade some BTC for ETH and Bob wants to trade some ETH for BTC using Serum. These two users are matched and agree on a price using an on-chain order book on the Solana blockchain (whitepaper provides no practical details on how to do this). Once these users are matched, Bob must send the ETH he wants to trade to an Ethereum smart contract, plus some amount of ETH ~200 USD worth (see section 4 below) to the smart contract as collateral. Alice will also need to send some collateral to the smart contract. Once this initial setup process is complete Alice then has to send her BTC to Bob’s BTC address and if Bob receives the BTC from Alice he can then release his ETH from the smart contract sending it to Alice’s ETH address. Upon completion of this both Alice and Bob are refunded their ETH collateral. So what happens if something goes wrong? For example, say Alice never sends BTC to Bob, after some period of time Bob can initiate a dispute. When the dispute begins both Alice and Bob present a portion of the Bitcoin blockchain information to the smart contract (see section 3). The smart contract then decides whether or not Alice did send BTC to Bob. If she hasn’t then the smart contract returns Bob's ETH and collateral to Bob and also takes Alice’s ETH collateral and gives that to Bob. The same occurs in reverse if Alice sends BTC but Bob never approves the transfer of ETH from the smart contract. This scheme seems pretty simple, there’s no oracles and no centralised parties, however, it has a number of disadvantages.
1. User-Provided Collateral Is Bad for User Experience
Each time a user conducts a swap they must reserve some percentage or fixed amount to cover the collateral for the swap. This collateral amount needs to be present to prevent griefing attacks where users initiate swaps with no intention of ever following through and sending funds to the alternate participant. However, this creates a poor user experience as both Alice and Bob need to have at least the value of the dispute fee committed to the contract in collateral before they conduct a swap. This is totally foreign from the normal exchange experience in which you only require a single coin and a single transaction to begin trading. For example, if using Serum to trade Bitcoin you would need to hold Bitcoin and ~200$ of Ethereum and also interact with the Ethereum chain before any swap occurs. This adds unnecessary complexity and confusion, especially for newcomers to the crypto space.
2. ETH Must Always Be on One Side of the Swap
Although the Serum method of cross-chain swapping could occur on any blockchain with smart contracts, the Serum whitepaper makes it clear the Serum arbitration contract is going to be deployed on the Ethereum blockchain. This means one party must always be locking the full value of the trade in ETH using an Ethereum smart contract. This makes it impossible, for example, to do a single step trade between Bitcoin and Monero since the swap would need to be from Bitcoin to ETH first and then from ETH to Monero. This is comparable to other proposed cross-chain swap systems like Thorchain and Blockswap, however since those networks use AMM’s (automated market makers)and decentralized vaults to take custody of funds, the user needs not to interact with the intermediary chain at all. Instead in Serum, the user wanting to swap Bitcoin to Monero will need to do the following steps:
Send Ethereum collateral to the Serum arbitration contract
Send Bitcoin to the user they are swapping with.
Send Ethereum back to Serum arbitration contract
Send Ethereum out of Serum arbitration contract
Receive back Ethereum collateral
It might be possible to remove or simplify step 4, depending on how the smart contract is built, however, this means a swap from BTC to Monero would require 2 Ethereum and 1 Bitcoin transaction in the best-case scenario. Compared with the experience of other cross-chain swapping mechanisms, which only require the user to send a single transaction to swap between two assets, this is very poor user experience.
3. Proving Transactions on Arbitrary Chains to a Smart Contract Is Not Trivial
Perhaps the most central part of the Serum cross-chain swapping mechanism is left completely unexplored in the Serum whitepaper with only a brief explanation given.
“[The] Smart Contract is programmed to parse whether a proposed BTC blockchain is valid; it can then check which of Alice and Bob send the longer valid blockchain, and settle in their favor”
This is not a trivial problem, and it is unclear how this actually works from the explanation given in the Serum whitepaper. What actually needs to be presented to the smart contract to prove a Bitcoin transaction? Typically when talking about SPV the smart contract would need the block headers of all previous blocks and a merkle inclusion proof. This is far too heavy to submit in a dispute. Instead, Serum could use NIPoPoW, however, these proofs only work on chains with fixed difficulty and are still probably prohibitively too large (~100KB) to be submitted as a proof to a contract. Other solutions like Flyclient are more versatile, but proof sizes are much larger and have failed to see much real-world adoption. Without explaining how they actually plan to do this validation of Bitcoin transactions, users are left in the dark about how secure their solution actually is.
4. High Dispute Fees Force Large Collateral on Small Trades
Although disputes should almost never happen because of the incentives and punishments designed into the Serum protocol, the way they are designed has negative impacts on the use of the network. Although the Serum whitepaper does not say how the dispute mechanism works, they do say that it will cost about ~100 USD in GAS to dispute a swap. Note: keep in mind that the Serum paper was published in July 2020 when the gas price was about 50 Gwei, as Ethereum use has picked up over the past month we have seen average GAS prices as high as 250 Gwei, with the average price right now about 120 Gwei. This means that at the height of GAS prices it could have cost a user ~500 USD to dispute a swap. This means for the network to ensure losing cross-chain swaps aren’t made each user must deploy at least $200 in collateral on each side. It may be possible to lower this to collateral if we assume the attacker is not financially motivated, however, there is a lower bound in which ransom attacks become possible on low-value trades. Further and perhaps more damagingly, this means in a trade of any size the user needs to have at least 300 USD in ETH laying around. 100 USD in ETH for the required collateral and 200 USD if they need to challenge the transaction. This further adds to the poor user experience when using Serum for cross-chain swapping.
5. Swaps Are Not Set and Forget
Instead of being able to send a transaction and receive funds on the blockchain you are swapping to, the process is highly interactive. In the case where I am swapping ETH for Bitcoin, the following occurs:
Send a transaction to the Serum arbitration contract with my collateral.
Send a transaction to the Serum arbitration contract with the funds to be traded.
Wait until the Bitcoin transaction sent to my address has an acceptable amount of confirmations (up to 60 mins, depending on network congestion).
If the Bitcoin transaction is never received then I need to wait for a timeout to occur before I can participate in the dispute process.
Send a transaction to the Serum arbitration contract unlocking my funds and sending them to the participant.
And on the Bitcoin side (assuming the seller is ready), the following must take place:
Send my Ethereum collateral to the smart contract.
Send the Bitcoin.
Wait until the Seller has accepted that Bitcoin.
If the Seller never accepts the Bitcoin I sent to him then I need to wait on line for the dispute process.
Wait to receive my ETH + Collateral back.
This presents a strange user experience where the seller or seller’s wallet must be left online during this whole process and be ready to sign a new transaction if they need to dispute transactions or unlock funds from a smart contract. This is different from the typical exchange or swapping scenario in which, once your funds are sent you can be assured you will receive the amount you expected in your swap back to you, without any of your wallets needing to remain online.
6. The Serum Token Seems to Lack a Use Case
The cross-chain swapping protocol Serum describes in its whitepaper could easily be forked and launched on the Ethereum blockchain without having any need for the Serum token. It seems that the Serum token will be used in some capacity when placing orders on the Solana based blockchain, however, the order book could just as easily be placed off with traditional rate-limiting schemes. There is some brief mention of future governance abilities for token holders, however, as a common theme in their whitepaper, details are scarce:
Serum is anticipated to include a limited governance model based on the SRM token. While most of the Serum ecosystem will be immutable, some parameters without large security risks (e.g. future fees) may be modified via a governance vote of SRM tokens.
Until satisfactory answers are given to these questions I would be looking at other projects who are attempting to build platforms for cross-chain swaps. As previously mentioned, Thorchain & Blockswap show some promise in design, whilst there are some others competing in this space too, such as Incognito and RenVM. However, this area is still extremely immature so plenty of testing and time is required before we can call any of these projects a success. If you’ve got any feedback or thoughts about Serum, cross-chain swapping or DeFi in general, please don’t be shy in leaving a comment.
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