Putting $400M of Bitcoin on your company balance sheet
Also posted on my blog as usual. Read it there if you can, there are footnotes and inlined plots. A couple of months ago, MicroStrategy (MSTR) had a spare $400M of cash which it decided to shift to Bitcoin (BTC). Today we'll discuss in excrutiating detail why this is not a good idea. When a company has a pile of spare money it doesn't know what to do with, it'll normally do buybacks or start paying dividends. That gives the money back to the shareholders, and from an economic perspective the money can get better invested in other more promising companies. If you have a huge pile of of cash, you probably should be doing other things than leave it in a bank account to gather dust. However, this statement from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor exists to make it clear he's buying into BTC for all the wrong reasons:
“This is not a speculation, nor is it a hedge. This was a deliberate corporate strategy to adopt a bitcoin standard.”
Let's unpack it and jump into the economics Bitcoin:
Is Bitcoin money?
No. Or rather BTC doesn't act as money and there's no serious future path for BTC to become a form of money. Let's go back to basics. There are 3 main economic problems money solves: 1. Medium of Exchange. Before money we had to barter, which led to the double coincidence of wants problem. When everyone accepts the same money you can buy something from someone even if they don't like the stuff you own. As a medium of exchange, BTC is not good. There are significant transaction fees and transaction waiting times built-in to BTC and these worsen the more popular BTC get. You can test BTC's usefulness as a medium of exchange for yourself right now: try to order a pizza or to buy a random item with BTC. How many additional hurdles do you have to go through? How many fewer options do you have than if you used a regular currency? How much overhead (time, fees) is there? 2. Unit of Account. A unit of account is what you compare the value of objects against. We denominate BTC in terms of how many USD they're worth, so BTC is a unit of account presently. We can say it's because of lack of adoption, but really it's also because the market value of BTC is so volatile. If I buy a $1000 table today or in 2017, it's roughly a $1000 table. We can't say that a 0.4BTC table was a 0.4BTC table in 2017. We'll expand on this in the next point: 3. Store of Value. When you create economic value, you don't want to be forced to use up the value you created right away. For instance, if I fix your washing machine and you pay me in avocados, I'd be annoyed. I'd have to consume my payment before it becomes brown, squishy and disgusting. Avocado fruit is not good money because avocadoes loses value very fast. On the other hand, well-run currencies like the USD, GBP, CAD, EUR, etc. all lose their value at a low and most importantly fairly predictible rate. Let's look at the chart of the USD against BTC While the dollar loses value at a predictible rate, BTC is all over the place, which is bad. One important use money is to write loan contracts. Loans are great. They let people spend now against their future potential earnings, so they can buy houses or start businesses without first saving up for a decade. Loans are good for the economy. If you want to sign something that says "I owe you this much for that much time" then you need to be able to roughly predict the value of the debt in at the point in time where it's due. Otherwise you'll have a hard time pricing the risk of the loan effectively. This means that you need to charge higher interests. The risk of making a loan in BTC needs to be priced into the interest of a BTC-denominated loan, which means much higher interest rates. High interests on loans are bad, because buying houses and starting businesses are good things.
BTC has a fixed supply, so these problems are built in
Some people think that going back to a standard where our money was denominated by a stock of gold (the Gold Standard) would solve economic problems. This is nonsense. Having control over supply of your currency is a good thing, as long as it's well run. See here Remember that what is desirable is low variance in the value, not the value itself. When there are wild fluctuations in value, it's hard for money to do its job well. Since the 1970s, the USD has been a fiat money with no intrinsic value. This means we control the supply of money. Let's look at a classic poorly drawn econ101 graph The market price for USD is where supply meets demand. The problem with a currency based on an item whose supply is fixed is that the price will necessarily fluctuate in response to changes in demand. Imagine, if you will, that a pandemic strikes and that the demand for currency takes a sharp drop. The US imports less, people don't buy anything anymore, etc. If you can't print money, you get deflation, which is worsens everything. On the other hand, if you can make the money printers go brrrr you can stabilize the price Having your currency be based on a fixed supply isn't just bad because in/deflation is hard to control. It's also a national security risk... The story of the guy who crashed gold prices in North Africa In the 1200s, Mansa Munsa, the emperor of the Mali, was rich and a devout Muslim and wanted everyone to know it. So he embarked on a pilgrimage to make it rain all the way to Mecca. He in fact made it rain so hard he increased the overall supply of gold and unintentionally crashed gold prices in Cairo by 20%, wreaking an economic havoc in North Africa that lasted a decade. This story is fun, the larger point that having your inflation be at the mercy of foreign nations is an undesirable attribute in any currency. The US likes to call some countries currency manipulators, but this problem would be serious under a gold standard.
Currencies are based on trust
Since the USD is based on nothing except the US government's word, how can we trust USD not to be mismanaged? The answer is that you can probably trust the fed until political stooges get put in place. Currently, the US's central bank managing the USD, the Federal Reserve (the Fed for friends & family), has administrative authority. The fed can say "no" to dumb requests from the president. People who have no idea what the fed does like to chant "audit the fed", but the fed is already one of the best audited US federal entities. The transcripts of all their meetings are out in the open. As is their balance sheet, what they plan to do and why. If the US should audit anything it's the Department of Defense which operates without any accounting at all. It's easy to see when a central bank will go rogue: it's when political yes-men are elected to the board. For example, before printing themselves into hyperinflation, the Venezuelan president appointed a sociologist who publicly stated “Inflation does not exist in real life” and instead is a made up capitalist lie. Note what happened mere months after his gaining control over the Venezuelan currency This is a key policy. One paper I really like, Sargent (1984) "The end of 4 big inflations" states:
The essential measures that ended hyperinflation in each of Germany,Austria, Hungary, and Poland were, first, the creation of an independentcentral bank that was legally committed to refuse the government'sdemand or additional unsecured credit and, second, a simultaneousalteration in the fiscal policy regime.
In english: *hyperinflation stops when the central bank can say "no" to the government." The US Fed, like other well good central banks, is run by a bunch of nerds. When it prints money, even as aggressively as it has it does so for good reasons. You can see why they started printing on March 15th as the COVID lockdowns started:
The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby promote its maximum employment and price stability goals.
In english: We're going to keep printing and lowering rates until jobs are back and inflation is under control. If we print until the sun is blotted out, we'll print in the shade.
BTC is not gold
Gold is a good asset for doomsday-preppers. If society crashes, gold will still have value. How do we know that? Gold has held value throughout multiple historic catastrophes over thousands of years. It had value before and after the Bronze Age Collapse, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Gengis Khan being Gengis Khan. Even if you erased humanity and started over, the new humans would still find gold to be economically valuable. When Europeans d̶i̶s̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ c̶o̶n̶q̶u̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ g̶e̶n̶o̶c̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ went to America, they found gold to be an important item over there too. This is about equivalent to finding humans on Alpha-Centauri and learning that they think gold is a good store of value as well. Some people are puzzled at this: we don't even use gold for much! But it has great properties: First, gold is hard to fake and impossible to manufacture. This makes it good to ascertain payment. Second, gold doesnt react to oxygen, so it doesn't rust or tarnish. So it keeps value over time unlike most other materials. Last, gold is pretty. This might sound frivolous, and you may not like it, but jewelry has actual value to humans. It's no coincidence if you look at a list of the wealthiest families, a large number of them trade in luxury goods. To paraphrase Veblen humans have a profound desire to signal social status, for the same reason peacocks have unwieldy tails. Gold is a great way to achieve that. On the other hand, BTC lacks all these attributes. Its value is largely based on common perception of value. There are a few fundamental drivers of demand:
Means of Exchange: if people seriously start using BTC to buy pizzas, then this creates a real demand for the currency to accomplish the short-term exchanges. As we saw previously, I'm not personally sold on this one and it's currently a negligible fraction of overall demand.
Criminal uses: Probably the largest inbuilt advantage of BTC is that it's anonymous, and so a great way to launder money. Hacker gangs use BTC to demand ransom on cryptolocker type attacks because it's a shared way for an honest company to pay and for the criminals to receive money without going to jail.
Apart from these, it's hard to argue that BTC will retain value throughout some sort of economic catastrophe.
BTC is really risky
One last statement from Michael Saylor I take offense to is this:
“We feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,” MicroStrategy CEO said in an interview
"BTC is less risky than holding cash or gold long term" is nonsense. We saw before that BTC is more volatile on face value, and that as long as the Fed isn't run by spider monkeys stacked in a trench coat, the inflation is likely to be within reasonable bounds. But on top of this, BTC has Abrupt downside risks that normal currencies don't. Let's imagine a few:
A critical software vulnerability is found in the BTC codebase, leading to a possible exploitation.
Xi Jinping decides he's had enough of rich people in China hiding their assets from him and bans BTC.
Some form of bank run takes hold for whatever reason. Because BTC wallets are uninsured, unlike regular banks, this compounds into a Black Tuesday style crash.
Blockchain solutions are fundamentally inefficient
Blockchain was a genius idea. I still marvel at the initial white paper which is a great mix of economics and computer science. That said, blockchain solutions make large tradeoffs in design because they assume almost no trust between parties. This leads to intentionally wasteful designs on a massive scale. The main problem is that all transactions have to be validated by expensive computational operations and double checked by multiple parties. This means waste:
BTC was estimated to use as much electricity as Belgium in 2019. It's hard to trace where the BTC mining comes from, but we can assume it has a huge carbon footprint.
A single transactions is necessarily expensive. A single transaction takes as much electricity as 800,000 VISA transactions, or watching 50,000 hours of youtube videos.
There is a large necessary tax on the transaction, since those checking the transaction extract a few BTC from it to be incentivized to do the work of checking it.
Many design problems can be mitigated by various improvements over BTC, but it remains that a simple database always works better than a blockchain if you can trust the parties to the transaction.
Hello, Im based in the U.K. and I’ve been looking to start up a mining company through a LLC for quite a while now,I’m still in the planning stages but I’m coming across a lot of hurdles such as trying to secure cheap rates and finding a good location in the U.K I’m only keen on trying to make this happen here.....I’ve come across countless of post such as ‘just buy the coin’ ‘it’s not possible’ ‘waste’ etc. Its not much but I’m going to be starting with a few miners first once location and electricity is sorted (2-3 S19/M20s not purchased yet).I’m aware of bitcoin economics network difficulties etc but if I’m delving into this side of the business of making this happen in the U.K. is more hassle than it’s worth am I better off just having cloud mining contracts (from NiceHash for e.g) under the company? is that a bad alternative idea? Sorry guys I might sound a bit all over the place but would really appreciate some suggestions or advice... Open to hearing everyone’s opinions Much appreciated Kind regards
This is a follow-up on https://old.reddit.com/Bitcoin/comments/hqzp14/technical_the_path_to_taproot_activation/ Taproot! Everybody wants it!! But... you might ask yourself: sure, everybody else wants it, but why would I, sovereign Bitcoin HODLer, want it? Surely I can be better than everybody else because I swapped XXX fiat for Bitcoin unlike all those nocoiners? And it is important for you to know the reasons why you, o sovereign Bitcoiner, would want Taproot activated. After all, your nodes (or the nodes your wallets use, which if you are SPV, you hopefully can pester to your wallet vendoimplementor about) need to be upgraded in order for Taproot activation to actually succeed instead of becoming a hot sticky mess. First, let's consider some principles of Bitcoin.
You the HODLer should be the one who controls where your money goes. Your keys, your coins.
You the HODLer should be able to coordinate and make contracts with other people regarding your funds.
You the HODLer should be able to do the above without anyone watching over your shoulder and judging you.
I'm sure most of us here would agree that the above are very important principles of Bitcoin and that these are principles we would not be willing to remove. If anything, we would want those principles strengthened (especially the last one, financial privacy, which current Bitcoin is only sporadically strong with: you can get privacy, it just requires effort to do so). So, how does Taproot affect those principles?
Taproot and Your /Coins
Most HODLers probably HODL their coins in singlesig addresses. Sadly, switching to Taproot would do very little for you (it gives a mild discount at spend time, at the cost of a mild increase in fee at receive time (paid by whoever sends to you, so if it's a self-send from a P2PKH or bech32 address, you pay for this); mostly a wash). (technical details: a Taproot output is 1 version byte + 32 byte public key, while a P2WPKH (bech32 singlesig) output is 1 version byte + 20 byte public key hash, so the Taproot output spends 12 bytes more; spending from a P2WPKH requires revealing a 32-byte public key later, which is not needed with Taproot, and Taproot signatures are about 9 bytes smaller than P2WPKH signatures, but the 32 bytes plus 9 bytes is divided by 4 because of the witness discount, so it saves about 11 bytes; mostly a wash, it increases blockweight by about 1 virtual byte, 4 weight for each Taproot-output-input, compared to P2WPKH-output-input). However, as your HODLings grow in value, you might start wondering if multisignature k-of-n setups might be better for the security of your savings. And it is in multisignature that Taproot starts to give benefits! Taproot switches to using Schnorr signing scheme. Schnorr makes key aggregation -- constructing a single public key from multiple public keys -- almost as trivial as adding numbers together. "Almost" because it involves some fairly advanced math instead of simple boring number adding, but hey when was the last time you added up your grocery list prices by hand huh? With current P2SH and P2WSH multisignature schemes, if you have a 2-of-3 setup, then to spend, you need to provide two different signatures from two different public keys. With Taproot, you can create, using special moon math, a single public key that represents your 2-of-3 setup. Then you just put two of your devices together, have them communicate to each other (this can be done airgapped, in theory, by sending QR codes: the software to do this is not even being built yet, but that's because Taproot hasn't activated yet!), and they will make a single signature to authorize any spend from your 2-of-3 address. That's 73 witness bytes -- 18.25 virtual bytes -- of signatures you save! And if you decide that your current setup with 1-of-1 P2PKH / P2WPKH addresses is just fine as-is: well, that's the whole point of a softfork: backwards-compatibility; you can receive from Taproot users just fine, and once your wallet is updated for Taproot-sending support, you can send to Taproot users just fine as well! (P2WPKH and P2WSH -- SegWit v0 -- addresses start with bc1q; Taproot -- SegWit v1 --- addresses start with bc1p, in case you wanted to know the difference; in bech32 q is 0, p is 1) Now how about HODLers who keep all, or some, of their coins on custodial services? Well, any custodial service worth its salt would be doing at least 2-of-3, or probably something even bigger, like 11-of-15. So your custodial service, if it switched to using Taproot internally, could save a lot more (imagine an 11-of-15 getting reduced from 11 signatures to just 1!), which --- we can only hope! --- should translate to lower fees and better customer service from your custodial service! So I think we can say, very accurately, that the Bitcoin principle --- that YOU are in control of your money --- can only be helped by Taproot (if you are doing multisignature), and, because P2PKH and P2WPKH remain validly-usable addresses in a Taproot future, will not be harmed by Taproot. Its benefit to this principle might be small (it mostly only benefits multisignature users) but since it has no drawbacks with this (i.e. singlesig users can continue to use P2WPKH and P2PKH still) this is still a nice, tidy win! (even singlesig users get a minor benefit, in that multisig users will now reduce their blockchain space footprint, so that fees can be kept low for everybody; so for example even if you have your single set of private keys engraved on titanium plates sealed in an airtight box stored in a safe buried in a desert protected by angry nomads riding giant sandworms because you're the frickin' Kwisatz Haderach, you still gain some benefit from Taproot) And here's the important part: if P2PKH/P2WPKH is working perfectly fine with you and you decide to never use Taproot yourself, Taproot will not affect you detrimentally. First do no harm!
Taproot and Your Contracts
No one is an island, no one lives alone. Give and you shall receive. You know: by trading with other people, you can gain expertise in some obscure little necessity of the world (and greatly increase your productivity in that little field), and then trade the products of your expertise for necessities other people have created, all of you thereby gaining gains from trade. So, contracts, which are basically enforceable agreements that facilitate trading with people who you do not personally know and therefore might not trust. Let's start with a simple example. You want to buy some gewgaws from somebody. But you don't know them personally. The seller wants the money, you want their gewgaws, but because of the lack of trust (you don't know them!! what if they're scammers??) neither of you can benefit from gains from trade. However, suppose both of you know of some entity that both of you trust. That entity can act as a trusted escrow. The entity provides you security: this enables the trade, allowing both of you to get gains from trade. In Bitcoin-land, this can be implemented as a 2-of-3 multisignature. The three signatories in the multisgnature would be you, the gewgaw seller, and the escrow. You put the payment for the gewgaws into this 2-of-3 multisignature address. Now, suppose it turns out neither of you are scammers (whaaaat!). You receive the gewgaws just fine and you're willing to pay up for them. Then you and the gewgaw seller just sign a transaction --- you and the gewgaw seller are 2, sufficient to trigger the 2-of-3 --- that spends from the 2-of-3 address to a singlesig the gewgaw seller wants (or whatever address the gewgaw seller wants). But suppose some problem arises. The seller gave you gawgews instead of gewgaws. Or you decided to keep the gewgaws but not sign the transaction to release the funds to the seller. In either case, the escrow is notified, and if it can sign with you to refund the funds back to you (if the seller was a scammer) or it can sign with the seller to forward the funds to the seller (if you were a scammer). Taproot helps with this: like mentioned above, it allows multisignature setups to produce only one signature, reducing blockchain space usage, and thus making contracts --- which require multiple people, by definition, you don't make contracts with yourself --- is made cheaper (which we hope enables more of these setups to happen for more gains from trade for everyone, also, moon and lambos). (technology-wise, it's easier to make an n-of-n than a k-of-n, making a k-of-n would require a complex setup involving a long ritual with many communication rounds between the n participants, but an n-of-n can be done trivially with some moon math. You can, however, make what is effectively a 2-of-3 by using a three-branch SCRIPT: either 2-of-2 of you and seller, OR 2-of-2 of you and escrow, OR 2-of-2 of escrow and seller. Fortunately, Taproot adds a facility to embed a SCRIPT inside a public key, so you can have a 2-of-2 Taprooted address (between you and seller) with a SCRIPT branch that can instead be spent with 2-of-2 (you + escrow) OR 2-of-2 (seller + escrow), which implements the three-branched SCRIPT above. If neither of you are scammers (hopefully the common case) then you both sign using your keys and never have to contact the escrow, since you are just using the escrow public key without coordinating with them (because n-of-n is trivial but k-of-n requires setup with communication rounds), so in the "best case" where both of you are honest traders, you also get a privacy boost, in that the escrow never learns you have been trading on gewgaws, I mean ewww, gawgews are much better than gewgaws and therefore I now judge you for being a gewgaw enthusiast, you filthy gewgawer).
Taproot and Your Contracts, Part 2: Cryptographic Boogaloo
Now suppose you want to buy some data instead of things. For example, maybe you have some closed-source software in trial mode installed, and want to pay the developer for the full version. You want to pay for an activation code. This can be done, today, by using an HTLC. The developer tells you the hash of the activation code. You pay to an HTLC, paying out to the developer if it reveals the preimage (the activation code), or refunding the money back to you after a pre-agreed timeout. If the developer claims the funds, it has to reveal the preimage, which is the activation code, and you can now activate your software. If the developer does not claim the funds by the timeout, you get refunded. And you can do that, with HTLCs, today. Of course, HTLCs do have problems:
Privacy. Everyone scraping the Bitcoin blockchain can see any HTLCs, and preimages used to claim them.
This can be mitigated by using offchain techniques so HTLCs are never published onchain in the happy case. Lightning would probably in practice be the easiest way to do this offchain. Of course, there are practical limits to what you can pay on Lightning. If you are buying something expensive, then Lightning might not be practical. For example, the "software" you are activating is really the firmware of a car, and what you are buying is not the software really but the car itself (with the activation of the car firmware being equivalent to getting the car keys).
Even offchain techniques need an onchain escape hatch in case of unresponsiveness! This means that, if something bad happens during payment, the HTLC might end up being published onchain anyway, revealing the fact that some special contract occurred.
And an HTLC that is claimed with a preimage onchain will also publicly reveal the preimage onchain. If that preimage is really the activation key of a software than it can now be pirated. If that preimage is really the activation key for your newly-bought cryptographic car --- well, not your keys, not your car!
Trust requirement. You are trusting the developer that it gives you the hash of an actual valid activation key, without any way to validate that the activation key hidden by the hash is actually valid.
Fortunately, with Schnorr (which is enabled by Taproot), we can now use the Scriptless Script constuction by Andrew Poelstra. This Scriptless Script allows a new construction, the PTLC or Pointlocked Timelocked Contract. Instead of hashes and preimages, just replace "hash" with "point" and "preimage" with "scalar". Or as you might know them: "point" is really "public key" and "scalar" is really a "private key". What a PTLC does is that, given a particular public key, the pointlocked branch can be spent only if the spender reveals the private key of the given public key to you. Another nice thing with PTLCs is that they are deniable. What appears onchain is just a single 2-of-2 signature between you and the developemanufacturer. It's like a magic trick. This signature has no special watermarks, it's a perfectly normal signature (the pledge). However, from this signature, plus some datta given to you by the developemanufacturer (known as the adaptor signature) you can derive the private key of a particular public key you both agree on (the turn). Anyone scraping the blockchain will just see signatures that look just like every other signature, and as long as nobody manages to hack you and get a copy of the adaptor signature or the private key, they cannot get the private key behind the public key (point) that the pointlocked branch needs (the prestige). (Just to be clear, the public key you are getting the private key from, is distinct from the public key that the developemanufacturer will use for its funds. The activation key is different from the developer's onchain Bitcoin key, and it is the activation key whose private key you will be learning, not the developer's/manufacturer's onchain Bitcoin key). So:
Privacy: PTLCs are private even if done onchain. Nobody else can learn what the private key behind the public key is, except you who knows the adaptor signature that when combined with the complete onchain signature lets you know what the private key of the activation key is. Somebody scraping the blockchain will not learn the same information even if all PTLCs are done onchain!
Lightning is still useful for reducing onchain use, and will also get PTLCs soon after Taproot is activated, but even if something bad happens and a PTLC has to go onchain, it doesn't reveal anything!
Trust issues can be proven more easily with a public-private keypair than with a hash-preimage pair.
For example, the developer of the software you are buying could provide a signature signing a message saying "unlock access to the full version for 1 day". You can check if feeding this message and signature to the program will indeed unlock full-version access for 1 day. Then you can check if the signature is valid for the purported pubkey whose private key you will pay for. If so, you can now believe that getting the private key (by paying for it in a PTLC) would let you generate any number of "unlock access to the full version for 1 day" message+signatures, which is equivalent to getting full access to the software indefinitely.
For the car, the manufacturer can show that signing a message "start the engine" and feeding the signature to the car's fimrware will indeed start the engine, and maybe even let you have a small test drive. You can then check if the signature is valid for the purported pubkey whose privkey you will pay for. If so, you can now believe that gaining knowledge of the privkey will let you start the car engine at any time you want.
(pedantry: the signatures need to be unique else they could be replayed, this can be done with a challenge-response sequence for the car, where the car gathers entropy somehow (it's a car, it probably has a bunch of sensors nowadays so it can get entropy for free) and uses the gathered entropy to challenge you to sign a random number and only start if you are able to sign the random number; for the software, it could record previous signatures somewhere in the developer's cloud server and refuse to run if you try to replay a previously-seen signature.)
Taproot lets PTLCs exist onchain because they enable Schnorr, which is a requirement of PTLCs / Scriptless Script. (technology-wise, take note that Scriptless Script works only for the "pointlocked" branch of the contract; you need normal Script, or a pre-signed nLockTimed transaction, for the "timelocked" branch. Since Taproot can embed a script, you can have the Taproot pubkey be a 2-of-2 to implement the Scriptless Script "pointlocked" branch, then have a hidden script that lets you recover the funds with an OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY after the timeout if the seller does not claim the funds.)
Now if you were really paying attention, you might have noticed this parenthetical:
(technical details: a Taproot output is 1 version byte + 32 byte public key, while a P2WPKH (bech32 singlesig) output is 1 version byte + 20 byte public key hash...)
So wait, Taproot uses raw 32-byte public keys, and not public key hashes? Isn't that more quantum-vulnerable?? Well, in theory yes. In practice, they probably are not. It's not that hashes can be broken by quantum computes --- they're still not. Instead, you have to look at how you spend from a P2WPKH/P2PKH pay-to-public-key-hash. When you spend from a P2PKH / P2WPKH, you have to reveal the public key. Then Bitcoin hashes it and checks if this matches with the public-key-hash, and only then actually validates the signature for that public key. So an unconfirmed transaction, floating in the mempools of nodes globally, will show, in plain sight for everyone to see, your public key. (public keys should be public, that's why they're called public keys, LOL) And if quantum computers are fast enough to be of concern, then they are probably fast enough that, in the several minutes to several hours from broadcast to confirmation, they have already cracked the public key that is openly broadcast with your transaction. The owner of the quantum computer can now replace your unconfirmed transaction with one that pays the funds to itself. Even if you did not opt-in RBF, miners are still incentivized to support RBF on RBF-disabled transactions. So the extra hash is not as significant a protection against quantum computers as you might think. Instead, the extra hash-and-compare needed is just extra validation effort. Further, if you have ever, in the past, spent from the address, then there exists already a transaction indelibly stored on the blockchain, openly displaying the public key from which quantum computers can derive the private key. So those are still vulnerable to quantum computers. For the most part, the cryptographers behind Taproot (and Bitcoin Core) are of the opinion that quantum computers capable of cracking Bitcoin pubkeys are unlikely to appear within a decade or two.
Current quantum computers can barely crack prime factorization problem for primes of 5 bits.
The 256-bit elliptic curve use by Bitcoin is, by my (possibly wrong) understanding, equivalent to 4096-bit primes, so you can see a pretty big gap between now (5 bit primes) and what is needed (4096 bit primes).
A lot of financial non-Bitcoin systems use the equivalent of 3072-bit primes or less, and are probably easier targets to crack than the equivalent-to-4096-bit-primes Bitcoin.
Quantum computers capable of cracking Bitcoin are still far off.
Pay-to-public-key-hash is not as protective as you might think.
We will probably see banks get cracked before Bitcoin, so the banking system is a useful canary-in-a-coal-mine to see whether we should panic about being quantum vulnerable.
For now, the homomorphic and linear properties of elliptic curve cryptography provide a lot of benefits --- particularly the linearity property is what enables Scriptless Script and simple multisignature (i.e. multisignatures that are just 1 signature onchain). So it might be a good idea to take advantage of them now while we are still fairly safe against quantum computers. It seems likely that quantum-safe signature schemes are nonlinear (thus losing these advantages).
If you are a singlesig HODL-only Bitcoin user, Taproot will not affect you positively or negatively. Importantly: Taproot does no harm!
If you use or intend to use multisig, Taproot will be a positive for you.
If you transact onchain regularly using typical P2PKH/P2WPKH addresses, you get a minor reduction in feerates since multisig users will likely switch to Taproot to get smaller tx sizes, freeing up blockspace for yours.
If you are using multiparticipant setups for special systems of trade, Taproot will be a positive for you.
Remember: Lightning channels are multipartiicpiant setups for special systems of lightning-fast offchain trades!
I Wanna Be The Taprooter!
So, do you want to help activate Taproot? Here's what you, mister sovereign Bitcoin HODLer, can do!
If you have developer experience especially in C, C++, or related languages
Review the Taproot code! There is one pull request in Bitcoin Core, and one in libsecp256k1. I deliberately am not putting links here, to avoid brigades of nontechnical but enthusiastic people leaving pointless reviews, but if you are qualified you know how to find them!
But I am not a cryptographeBitcoin Core contributomathematician/someone as awesome as Pieter Wuille
That's perfectly fine! The cryptographers have been over the code already and agree the math is right and the implementation is right. What is wanted is the dreary dreary dreary software engineering: are the comments comprehensive and understandable? no misspellings in the comments? variable names understandable? reasonable function naming convention? misleading coding style? off-by-one errors in loops? conditions not covered by tests? accidental mixups of variables with the same types? missing frees? read-before-init? better test coverage of suspicious-looking code? missing or mismatching header guards? portability issues? consistent coding style? you know, stuff any coder with a few years of experience in coding anything might be able to catch. With enough eyes all bugs are shallow!
If you are running a mining pool/mining operation/exchange/custodial service/SPV server
Be prepared to upgrade!
One of the typical issues with upgrading software is that subtle incompatibilities with your current custom programs tend to arise, disrupting operations and potentially losing income due to downtime. If so, consider moving to the two-node setup suggested by gmax, which is in the last section of my previous post. With this, you have an up-to-date "public" node and a fixed-version "private" node, with the public node protecting the private node from any invalid chainsplits or invalid transactions. Moving to this setup from a typical one-node setup should be smooth and should not disrupt operations (too much).
If you are running your own fullnode for fun or for your own wallet
Be prepared to upgrade! The more nodes validating the new rules (even if you are a non-mining node!), the safer every softfork will be!
If you are using an SPV wallet or custodial wallet/service (including hardware wallets using the software of the wallet provider)
Contact your wallet provider / SPV server and ask for a statement on whether they support Taproot, and whether they are prepared to upgrade for Taproot! Make it known to them that Taproot is something you want!
But I Hate Taproot!!
Raise your objections to Taproot now, or forever hold your peace! Maybe you can raise them here and some of the devs (probably nullc, he goes everywhere, even in rbtc!) might be able to see your objections! Or if your objections are very technical, head over to the appropriate pull request and object away!
Maybe you simply misunderstand something, and we can clarify it here!
Or maybe you do have a good objection, and we can make Taproot better by finding a solution for it!
Eth 2.0 vs Polkadot and other musings by a fundamental investor
Spent about two hours on this post and I decided it would help the community if I made it more visible. Comment was made as a response to this
I’m trying to avoid falling into a maximalist mindset over time. This isn’t a 100% ETH question, but I’m trying to stay educated about emerging tech. Can someone help me see the downsides of diversifying into DOTs? I know Polkadot is more centralized, VC backed, and generally against our ethos here. On chain governance might introduce some unknown risks. What else am I missing? I see a bunch of posts about how Ethereum and Polkadot can thrive together, but are they not both L1 competitors?
What else am I missing?
The upsides. Most of the guys responding to you here are full Eth maxis who drank the Parity is bad koolaid. They are married to their investment and basically emotional / tribal in an area where you should have a cool head. Sure, you might get more upvotes on Reddit if you do and say what the crowd wants, but do you want upvotes and fleeting validation or do you want returns on your investment? Do you want to be these guys or do you want to be the shareholder making bank off of those guys? Disclaimer: I'm both an Eth whale and a Dot whale, and have been in crypto for close to a decade now. I originally bought ether sub $10 after researching it for at least a thousand hours. Rode to $1500 and down to $60. Iron hands - my intent has always been to reconsider my Eth position after proof of stake is out. I invested in the 2017 Dot public sale with the plan of flipping profits back to Eth but keeping Dots looks like the right short and long term play now. I am not a trader, I just take a deep tech dive every couple of years and invest in fundamentals. Now as for your concerns:
I know Polkadot is more centralized
The sad truth is that the market doesn't really care about this. At all. There is no real statistic to show at what point a coin is "decentralized" or "too centralized". For example, bitcoin has been completely taken over by Chinese mining farms for about five years now. Last I checked, they control above 85% of the hashing power, they just spread it among different mining pools to make it look decentralized. They have had the ability to fake or block transactions for all this time but it has never been in their best interest to do so: messing with bitcoin in that way would crash its price, therefore their bitcoin holdings, their mining equipment, and their company stock (some of them worth billions) would evaporate. So they won't do it due to economics, but not because they can't. That is the major point I want to get across; originally Bitcoin couldn't be messed with because it was decentralized, but now Bitcoin is centralized but it's still not messed with due to economics. It is basically ChinaCoin at this point, but the market doesn't care, and it still enjoys over 50% of the total crypto market cap. So how does this relate to Polkadot? Well fortunately most chains - Ethereum included - are working towards proof of stake. This is obviously better for the environment, but it also has a massive benefit for token holders. If a hostile party wanted to take over a proof of stake chain they'd have to buy up a massive share of the network. The moment they force through a malicious transaction a proof of stake blockchain has the option to fork them off. It would be messy for a few days, but by the end of the week the hostile party would have a large amount of now worthless tokens, and the proof of stake community would have moved on to a version of the blockchain where the hostile party's tokens have been slashed to zero. So not only does the market not care about centralization (Bitcoin example), but proof of stake makes token holders even safer. That being said, Polkadot's "centralization" is not that far off to Ethereum. The Web3 foundation kept 30% of the Dots while the Ethereum Foundation kept 17%. There are whales in Polkadot but Ethereum has them too - 40% of all genesis Ether went to 100 wallets, and many suspect that the original Ethereum ICO was sybiled to make it look more popular and decentralized than it really was. But you don't really care about that do you? Neither do I. Whales are a fact of life.
VCs are part of the crypto game now. There is no way to get rid of them, and there is no real reason why you should want to get rid of them. They put their capital at risk (same as you and me) and seek returns on their investment (same as you and me). They are both in Polkadot and Ethereum, and have been for years now. I have no issue with them as long as they don't play around with insider information, but that is another topic. To be honest, I would be worried if VCs did not endorse chains I'm researching, but maybe that's because my investing style isn't chasing hype and buying SUSHI style tokens from anonymous (at the time) developers. That's just playing hot potato. But hey, some people are good at that. As to the amount of wallets that participated in the Polkadot ICO: a little known fact is that more individual wallets participated in Polkadot's ICO than Ethereum's, even though Polkadot never marketed their ICO rounds due to regulatory reasons.
generally against our ethos here
Kool aid. Some guy that works(ed?) at Parity (who employs what, 200+ people?) correctly said that Ethereum is losing its tech lead and that offended the Ethereum hivemind. Oh no. So controversial. I'm so personally hurt by that. Some guy that has been working for free on Ethereum basically forever correctly said that Polkadot is taking the blockchain tech crown. Do we A) Reflect on why he said that? or B) Rally the mob to chase him off?
Also Parity locked their funds (and about 500+ other wallets not owned by them) and proposed a solution to recover them. When the community voted no they backed off and did not fork the chain, even if they had the influence to do so. For some reason this subreddit hates them for that, even if Parity did the 100% moral thing to do. Remember, 500+ other teams or people had their funds locked, so Parity was morally bound to try its best to recover them. Its just lame drama to be honest. Nothing to do with ethos, everything to do with emotional tribalism. Now for the missing upsides (I'll also respond to random fragments scattered in the thread):
This isn’t a 100% ETH question, but I’m trying to stay educated about emerging tech.
A good quick intro to Eth's tech vs Polkadot's tech can be found on this thread, especially this reply. That thread is basically mandatory reading if you care about your investment. Eth 2.0's features will not really kick in for end users until about 2023. That means every dapp (except DeFI, where the fees make sense due to returns and is leading the fee market) who built on Eth's layer 1 are dead for three years. Remember the trading card games... Gods Unchained? How many players do you think are going to buy and sell cards when the transaction fee is worth more than the cards? All that development is now practically worthless until it can migrate to its own shard. This story repeats for hundreds of other dapp teams who's projects are now priced out for three years. So now they either have to migrate to a one of the many unpopulated L2 options (which have their own list of problems and risks, but that's another topic) or they look for another platform, preferably one interoperable with Ethereum. Hence Polkadot's massive growth in developer activity. If you check out https://polkaproject.com/ you'll see 205 projects listed at the time of this post. About a week ago they had 202 listed. That means about one team migrated from another tech stack to build on Polkadot every two days, and trust me, many more will come in when parachains are finally activated, and it will be a complete no brainer when Polkadot 2.0 is released. Another huge upside for Polkadot is the Initial Parachain Offerings. Polkadot's version of ICOs. The biggest difference is that you can vote for parachains using your Dots to bind them to the relay chain, and you get some of the parachain's tokens in exchange. After a certain amount of time you get your Dots back. The tokenomics here are impressive: Dots are locked (reduced supply) instead of sold (sell pressure) and you still earn your staking rewards. There's no risk of scammers running away with your Ether and the governance mechanism allows for the community to defund incompetent devs who did not deliver what was promised.
Wouldn’t an ETH shard on Polkadot gain a bunch of scaling benefits that we won’t see natively for a couple years?
Yes. That is correct. Both Edgeware and Moonbeam are EVM compatible. And if the original dapp teams don't migrate their projects someone else will fork them, exactly like SUSHI did to Uniswap, and how Acala is doing to MakerDao.
Although realistically Ethereum has a 5 yr headstart and devs haven't slowed down at all
Just because it's "EVM Compatible" doesn't mean you can just plug Ethereum into Polkadot or vica versa, it just means they both understand Ethereum bytecode and you can potentially copy/paste contracts from Ethereum to Polkadot, but you'd still need to add a "bridge" between the 2 chains, so it adds additional complexity and extra steps compared to using any of the existing L2 scaling solutions
That only applies of you are thinking from an Eth maximalist perspective. But if you think from Polkadot's side, why would you need to use the bridge back to Ethereum at all? Everything will be seamless, cheaper, and quicker once the ecosystem starts to flourish.
I see a bunch of posts about how Ethereum and Polkadot can thrive together, but are they not both L1 competitors?
They are competitors. Both have their strategies, and both have their strengths (tech vs time on the market) but they are clearly competing in my eyes. Which is a good thing, Apple and Samsung competing in the cell phone market just leads to more innovation for consumers. You can still invest in both if you like. Edit - link to post and the rest of the conversation: https://www.reddit.com/ethfinance/comments/iooew6/daily_general_discussion_september_8_2020/g4h5yyq/ Edit 2 - one day later PolkaProject count is 210. Devs are getting the hint :)
How EpiK Protocol “Saved the Miners” from Filecoin with the E2P Storage Model?
https://preview.redd.it/n5jzxozn27v51.png?width=2222&format=png&auto=webp&s=6cd6bd726582bbe2c595e1e467aeb3fc8aabe36f On October 20, Eric Yao, Head of EpiK China, and Leo, Co-Founder & CTO of EpiK, visited Deep Chain Online Salon, and discussed “How EpiK saved the miners eliminated by Filecoin by launching E2P storage model”. ‘?” The following is a transcript of the sharing. Sharing Session Eric: Hello, everyone, I’m Eric, graduated from School of Information Science, Tsinghua University. My Master’s research was on data storage and big data computing, and I published a number of industry top conference papers. Since 2013, I have invested in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Dogcoin, EOS and other well-known blockchain projects, and have been settling in the chain circle as an early technology-based investor and industry observer with 2 years of blockchain experience. I am also a blockchain community initiator and technology evangelist Leo: Hi, I’m Leo, I’m the CTO of EpiK. Before I got involved in founding EpiK, I spent 3 to 4 years working on blockchain, public chain, wallets, browsers, decentralized exchanges, task distribution platforms, smart contracts, etc., and I’ve made some great products. EpiK is an answer to the question we’ve been asking for years about how blockchain should be landed, and we hope that EpiK is fortunate enough to be an answer for you as well. Q & A Deep Chain Finance: First of all, let me ask Eric, on October 15, Filecoin’s main website launched, which aroused everyone’s attention, but at the same time, the calls for fork within Filecoin never stopped. The EpiK protocol is one of them. What I want to know is, what kind of project is EpiK Protocol? For what reason did you choose to fork in the first place? What are the differences between the forked project and Filecoin itself? Eric: First of all, let me answer the first question, what kind of project is EpiK Protocol. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution already upon us, comprehensive intelligence is one of the core goals of this stage, and the key to comprehensive intelligence is how to make machines understand what humans know and learn new knowledge based on what they already know. And the knowledge graph scale is a key step towards full intelligence. In order to solve the many challenges of building large-scale knowledge graphs, the EpiK Protocol was born. EpiK Protocol is a decentralized, hyper-scale knowledge graph that organizes and incentivizes knowledge through decentralized storage technology, decentralized autonomous organizations, and generalized economic models. Members of the global community will expand the horizons of artificial intelligence into a smarter future by organizing all areas of human knowledge into a knowledge map that will be shared and continuously updated for the eternal knowledge vault of humanity And then, for what reason was the fork chosen in the first place? EpiK’s project founders are all senior blockchain industry practitioners and have been closely following the industry development and application scenarios, among which decentralized storage is a very fresh application scenario. However, in the development process of Filecoin, the team found that due to some design mechanisms and historical reasons, the team found that Filecoin had some deviations from the original intention of the project at that time, such as the overly harsh penalty mechanism triggered by the threat to weaken security, and the emergence of the computing power competition leading to the emergence of computing power monopoly by large miners, thus monopolizing the packaging rights, which can be brushed with computing power by uploading useless data themselves. The emergence of these problems will cause the data environment on Filecoin to get worse and worse, which will lead to the lack of real value of the data in the chain, high data redundancy, and the difficulty of commercializing the project to land. After paying attention to the above problems, the project owner proposes to introduce multi-party roles and a decentralized collaboration platform DAO to ensure the high value of the data on the chain through a reasonable economic model and incentive mechanism, and store the high-value data: knowledge graph on the blockchain through decentralized storage, so that the lack of value of the data on the chain and the monopoly of large miners’ computing power can be solved to a large extent. Finally, what differences exist between the forked project and Filecoin itself? On the basis of the above-mentioned issues, EpiK’s design is very different from Filecoin, first of all, EpiK is more focused in terms of business model, and it faces a different market and track from the cloud storage market where Filecoin is located because decentralized storage has no advantage over professional centralized cloud storage in terms of storage cost and user experience. EpiK focuses on building a decentralized knowledge graph, which reduces data redundancy and safeguards the value of data in the distributed storage chain while preventing the knowledge graph from being tampered with by a few people, thus making the commercialization of the entire project reasonable and feasible. From the perspective of ecological construction, EpiK treats miners more friendly and solves the pain point of Filecoin to a large extent, firstly, it changes the storage collateral and commitment collateral of Filecoin to one-time collateral. Miners participating in EpiK Protocol are only required to pledge 1000 EPK per miner, and only once before mining, not in each sector. What is the concept of 1000 EPKs, you only need to participate in pre-mining for about 50 days to get this portion of the tokens used for pledging. The EPK pre-mining campaign is currently underway, and it runs from early September to December, with a daily release of 50,000 ERC-20 standard EPKs, and the pre-mining nodes whose applications are approved will divide these tokens according to the mining ratio of the day, and these tokens can be exchanged 1:1 directly after they are launched on the main network. This move will continue to expand the number of miners eligible to participate in EPK mining. Secondly, EpiK has a more lenient penalty mechanism, which is different from Filecoin’s official consensus, storage and contract penalties, because the protocol can only be uploaded by field experts, which is the “Expert to Person” mode. Every miner needs to be backed up, which means that if one or more miners are offline in the network, it will not have much impact on the network, and the miner who fails to upload the proof of time and space in time due to being offline will only be forfeited by the authorities for the effective computing power of this sector, not forfeiting the pledged coins. If the miner can re-submit the proof of time and space within 28 days, he will regain the power. Unlike Filecoin’s 32GB sectors, EpiK’s encapsulated sectors are smaller, only 8M each, which will solve Filecoin’s sector space wastage problem to a great extent, and all miners have the opportunity to complete the fast encapsulation, which is very friendly to miners with small computing power. The data and quality constraints will also ensure that the effective computing power gap between large and small miners will not be closed. Finally, unlike Filecoin’s P2P data uploading model, EpiK changes the data uploading and maintenance to E2P uploading, that is, field experts upload and ensure the quality and value of the data on the chain, and at the same time introduce the game relationship between data storage roles and data generation roles through a rational economic model to ensure the stability of the whole system and the continuous high-quality output of the data on the chain. Deep Chain Finance: Eric, on the eve of Filecoin’s mainline launch, issues such as Filecoin’s pre-collateral have aroused a lot of controversy among the miners. In your opinion, what kind of impact will Filecoin bring to itself and the whole distributed storage ecosystem after it launches? Do you think that the current confusing FIL prices are reasonable and what should be the normal price of FIL? Eric: Filecoin mainnet has launched and many potential problems have been exposed, such as the aforementioned high pre-security problem, the storage resource waste and computing power monopoly caused by unreasonable sector encapsulation, and the harsh penalty mechanism, etc. These problems are quite serious, and will greatly affect the development of Filecoin ecology. These problems are relatively serious, and will greatly affect the development of Filecoin ecology, here are two examples to illustrate. For example, the problem of big miners computing power monopoly, now after the big miners have monopolized computing power, there will be a very delicate state — — the miners save a file data with ordinary users. There is no way to verify this matter in the chain, whether what he saved is uploaded by himself or someone else. And after the big miners have monopolized computing power, there will be a very delicate state — — the miners will save a file data with ordinary users, there is no way to verify this matter in the chain, whether what he saved is uploaded by himself or someone else. Because I can fake another identity to upload data for myself, but that leads to the fact that for any miner I go to choose which data to save. I have only one goal, and that is to brush my computing power and how fast I can brush my computing power. There is no difference between saving other people’s data and saving my own data in the matter of computing power. When I save someone else’s data, I don’t know that data. Somewhere in the world, the bandwidth quality between me and him may not be good enough. The best option is to store my own local data, which makes sense, and that results in no one being able to store data on the chain at all. They only store their own data, because it’s the most economical for them, and the network has essentially no storage utility, no one is providing storage for the masses of retail users. The harsh penalty mechanism will also severely deplete the miner’s profits, because DDOS attacks are actually a very common attack technique for the attacker, and for a big miner, he can get a very high profit in a short period of time if he attacks other customers, and this thing is a profitable thing for all big miners. Now as far as the status quo is concerned, the vast majority of miners are actually not very well maintained, so they are not very well protected against these low-DDOS attacks. So the penalty regime is grim for them. The contradiction between the unreasonable system and the demand will inevitably lead to the evolution of the system in a more reasonable direction, so there will be many forked projects that are more reasonable in terms of mechanism, thus attracting Filecoin miners and a diversion of storage power. Since each project is in the field of decentralized storage track, the demand for miners is similar or even compatible with each other, so miners will tend to fork the projects with better economic benefits and business scenarios, so as to filter out the projects with real value on the ground. For the chaotic FIL price, because FIL is also a project that has gone through several years, carrying too many expectations, so it can only be said that the current situation has its own reasons for existence. As for the reasonable price of FIL there is no way to make a prediction because in the long run, it is necessary to consider the commercialization of the project to land and the value of the actual chain of data. In other words, we need to keep observing whether Filecoin will become a game of computing power or a real value carrier. Deep Chain Finance: Leo, we just mentioned that the pre-collateral issue of Filecoin caused the dissatisfaction of miners, and after Filecoin launches on the main website, the second round of space race test coins were directly turned into real coins, and the official selling of FIL hit the market phenomenon, so many miners said they were betrayed. What I want to know is, EpiK’s main motto is “save the miners eliminated by Filecoin”, how to deal with the various problems of Filecoin, and how will EpiK achieve “save”? Leo: Originally Filecoin’s tacit approval of the computing power makeup behavior was to declare that the official directly chose to abandon the small miners. And this test coin turned real coin also hurt the interests of the loyal big miners in one cut, we do not know why these low-level problems, we can only regret. EpiK didn’t do it to fork Filecoin, but because EpiK to build a shared knowledge graph ecology, had to integrate decentralized storage in, so the most hardcore Filecoin’s PoRep and PoSt decentralized verification technology was chosen. In order to ensure the quality of knowledge graph data, EpiK only allows community-voted field experts to upload data, so EpiK naturally prevents miners from making up computing power, and there is no reason for the data that has no value to take up such an expensive decentralized storage resource. With the inability to make up computing power, the difference between big miners and small miners is minimal when the amount of knowledge graph data is small. We can’t say that we can save the big miners, but we are definitely the optimal choice for the small miners who are currently in the market to be eliminated by Filecoin. Deep Chain Finance: Let me ask Eric: According to EpiK protocol, EpiK adopts the E2P model, which allows only experts in the field who are voted to upload their data. This is very different from Filecoin’s P2P model, which allows individuals to upload data as they wish. In your opinion, what are the advantages of the E2P model? If only voted experts can upload data, does that mean that the EpiK protocol is not available to everyone? Eric: First, let me explain the advantages of the E2P model over the P2P model. There are five roles in the DAO ecosystem: miner, coin holder, field expert, bounty hunter and gateway. These five roles allocate the EPKs generated every day when the main network is launched. The miner owns 75% of the EPKs, the field expert owns 9% of the EPKs, and the voting user shares 1% of the EPKs. The other 15% of the EPK will fluctuate based on the daily traffic to the network, and the 15% is partly a game between the miner and the field expert. The first describes the relationship between the two roles. The first group of field experts are selected by the Foundation, who cover different areas of knowledge (a wide range of knowledge here, including not only serious subjects, but also home, food, travel, etc.) This group of field experts can recommend the next group of field experts, and the recommended experts only need to get 100,000 EPK votes to become field experts. The field expert’s role is to submit high-quality data to the miner, who is responsible for encapsulating this data into blocks. Network activity is judged by the amount of EPKs pledged by the entire network for daily traffic (1 EPK = 10 MB/day), with a higher percentage indicating higher data demand, which requires the miner to increase bandwidth quality. If the data demand decreases, this requires field experts to provide higher quality data. This is similar to a library with more visitors needing more seats, i.e., paying the miner to upgrade the bandwidth. When there are fewer visitors, more money is needed to buy better quality books to attract visitors, i.e., money for bounty hunters and field experts to generate more quality knowledge graph data. The game between miners and field experts is the most important game in the ecosystem, unlike the game between the authorities and big miners in the Filecoin ecosystem. The game relationship between data producers and data storers and a more rational economic model will inevitably lead to an E2P model that generates stored on-chain data of much higher quality than the P2P model, and the quality of bandwidth for data access will be better than the P2P model, resulting in greater business value and better landing scenarios. I will then answer the question of whether this means that the EpiK protocol will not be universally accessible to all. The E2P model only qualifies the quality of the data generated and stored, not the roles in the ecosystem; on the contrary, with the introduction of the DAO model, the variety of roles introduced in the EpiK ecosystem (which includes the roles of ordinary people) is not limited. (Bounty hunters who can be competent in their tasks) gives roles and possibilities for how everyone can participate in the system in a more logical way. For example, a miner with computing power can provide storage, a person with a certain domain knowledge can apply to become an expert (this includes history, technology, travel, comics, food, etc.), and a person willing to mark and correct data can become a bounty hunter. The presence of various efficient support tools from the project owner will lower the barriers to entry for various roles, thus allowing different people to do their part in the system and together contribute to the ongoing generation of a high-quality decentralized knowledge graph. Deep Chain Finance: Leo, some time ago, EpiK released a white paper and an economy whitepaper, explaining the EpiK concept from the perspective of technology and economy model respectively. What I would like to ask is, what are the shortcomings of the current distributed storage projects, and how will EpiK protocol be improved? Leo: Distributed storage can easily be misunderstood as those of Ali’s OceanDB, but in the field of blockchain, we should focus on decentralized storage first. There is a big problem with the decentralized storage on the market now, which is “why not eat meat porridge”. How to understand it? Decentralized storage is cheaper than centralized storage because of its technical principle, and if it is, the centralized storage is too rubbish for comparison. What incentive does the average user have to spend more money on decentralized storage to store data? Is it safer? Existence miners can shut down at any time on decentralized storage by no means save a share of security in Ariadne and Amazon each. More private? There’s no difference between encrypted presence on decentralized storage and encrypted presence on Amazon. Faster? The 10,000 gigabytes of bandwidth in decentralized storage simply doesn’t compare to the fiber in a centralized server room. This is the root problem of the business model, no one is using it, no one is buying it, so what’s the big vision. The goal of EpiK is to guide all community participants in the co-construction and sharing of field knowledge graph data, which is the best way for robots to understand human knowledge, and the more knowledge graph data there is, the more knowledge a robot has, the more intelligent it is exponentially, i.e., EpiK uses decentralized storage technology. The value of exponentially growing data is captured with linearly growing hardware costs, and that’s where the buy-in for EPK comes in. Organized data is worth a lot more than organized hard drives, and there is a demand for EPK when robots have the need for intelligence. Deep Chain Finance: Let me ask Leo, how many forked projects does Filecoin have so far, roughly? Do you think there will be more or less waves of fork after the mainnet launches? Have the requirements of the miners at large changed when it comes to participation? Leo: We don’t have specific statistics, now that the main network launches, we feel that forking projects will increase, there are so many restricted miners in the market that they need to be organized efficiently. However, we currently see that most forked projects are simply modifying the parameters of Filecoin’s economy model, which is undesirable, and this level of modification can’t change the status quo of miners making up computing power, and the change to the market is just to make some of the big miners feel more comfortable digging up, which won’t help to promote the decentralized storage ecology to land. We need more reasonable landing scenarios so that idle mining resources can be turned into effective productivity, pitching a 100x coin instead of committing to one Fomo sentiment after another. Deep Chain Finance: How far along is the EpiK Protocol project, Eric? What other big moves are coming in the near future? Eric: The development of the EpiK Protocol is divided into 5 major phases. (a) Phase I testing of the network “Obelisk”. Phase II Main Network 1.0 “Rosetta”. Phase III Main Network 2.0 “Hammurabi”. (a) The Phase IV Enrichment Knowledge Mapping Toolkit. The fifth stage is to enrich the knowledge graph application ecology. Currently in the first phase of testing network “Obelisk”, anyone can sign up to participate in the test network pre-mining test to obtain ERC20 EPK tokens, after the mainnet exchange on a one-to-one basis. We have recently launched ERC20 EPK on Uniswap, you can buy and sell it freely on Uniswap or download our EpiK mobile wallet. In addition, we will soon launch the EpiK Bounty platform, and welcome all community members to do tasks together to build the EpiK community. At the same time, we are also pushing forward the centralized exchange for token listing. Users’ Questions User 1: Some KOLs said, Filecoin consumed its value in the next few years, so it will plunge, what do you think? Eric: First of all, the judgment of the market is to correspond to the cycle, not optimistic about the FIL first judgment to do is not optimistic about the economic model of the project, or not optimistic about the distributed storage track. First of all, we are very confident in the distributed storage track and will certainly face a process of growth and decline, so as to make a choice for a better project. Since the existing group of miners and the computing power already produced is fixed, and since EpiK miners and FIL miners are compatible, anytime miners will also make a choice for more promising and economically viable projects. Filecoin consumes the value of the next few years this time, so it will plunge. Regarding the market issues, the plunge is not a prediction, in the industry or to keep learning iteration and value judgment. Because up and down market sentiment is one aspect, there will be more very important factors. For example, the big washout in March this year, so it can only be said that it will slow down the development of the FIL community. But prices are indeed unpredictable. User2: Actually, in the end, if there are no applications and no one really uploads data, the market value will drop, so what are the landing applications of EpiK? Leo: The best and most direct application of EpiK’s knowledge graph is the question and answer system, which can be an intelligent legal advisor, an intelligent medical advisor, an intelligent chef, an intelligent tour guide, an intelligent game strategy, and so on.
Now that crypto has integrated into mainstream commercial and financial systems, it can do everything that traditional currency can do. You can use it to buy things or use it to make more money. The innovative nature of crypto means you can generate and grow wealth in innovative ways. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can make crypto and make money using crypto. Contents
Mining cryptocurrency means using computing power to help verify crypto transactions. Think of your computer as your neighborhood bank teller. You get paid to make sure that deposits and withdrawals get to the right place. Anyone can become a crypto miner — provided you have the right equipment. Not just any computer can be effectively used to mine. It needs to be extremely powerful to compete with all of the other bank tellers who are looking to verify transactions and make money. These huge computer rigs also use up extraordinary amounts of electricity, causing some municipalities to ban the practice. As time goes on, mining will become less profitable. The more attention it receives, the more miners enter the space. More miners means profits are spread more thinly throughout the community. But for those who can acquire the hardware and navigate the competition, there is still plenty of financial value to earn. Many miners focus efforts on up-and-coming coins expected to rise in value over time. There’s an entire industry of companies and individuals that sell rigs focused on mining certain coins. Focused rigs only allow you to mine a single coin but usually mine more efficiently. There is risk of losing the investment in your rig if your chosen coin changes its mining criteria.
Option 2: Trade Cryptocurrency
As a whole, the crypto market is stable enough to set the values of coins directly against each other. You don’t have to trade your Bitcoin for USD or Japanese Yen — you can trade Bitcoin for Tezos, Ethereum or Zcoin on a trading platform. Many people do this because they believe 1 coin will rise in value more quickly than another. Crypto traders value anonymity as well. Governments have focused on requiring exchanges to identify traders who want to move from cryptocurrency into traditional fiat. More secretive coins like Monero have been able to avoid this regulation. As a result, many traders are using Bitcoin and Ethereum as a gateway into quieter coins. There are 4 major types of exchanges that facilitate trade in the crypto space:
Fiat-crypto exchanges: These are exchanges that offer transfers between traditional currencies like the USD and cryptocurrencies. Governments keep them highly-regulated with know your customer (KYC) standards. These standards require you to provide selfies, IDs and sometimes tax records. They only deal in the bigger cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Crypto-crypto exchanges: These exchanges don’t offer trades into fiat currencies. They are usually less regulated and may not require any ID at all to use. ie:Cryptmixeror Changelly
Peer-to-peer (P2P) exchanges: Instead of taking the other side of your trade, P2P exchanges match buyers and sellers.
Brokers: If you trade on a brokerage, you actually don’t ever own the cryptocurrency you are trading in. You are actually trading a contract for difference (CFD), a financial device that tracks the price of the underlying asset. Brokers must get a license from a regulatory body and follow the rules that the regulator sets forth. If you want to trade under the watchful eye of a traditional regulator, use a broker instead of an exchange.
Option 3: Get Paid in Crypto
As long as you have a digital wallet, you can accept payment for your goods and services in cryptocurrency. Many major businesses accept crypto including Starbucks, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Subway, Microsoft, Amazon and others. Zogby Analytics found that 33% of small businesses accept crypto. This is a great option for people who want to build a crypto portfolio without the need to learn about the technicalities of mining or trading.
Option 4: Lending Crypto
With crypto, you can become the bank — with certain advantages. Lending crypto isn’t like letting your buddy borrow $20 and never getting it back. When you use crypto to lend the right way, your money is protected by a smart contract. Once entered, these contracts must be executed. Your deadbeat cousin can’t just turn off the phone and hope you forget about it. Lending exchanges bring together crypto holders and allow them to fund projects. Many of them are focused on building up the fundamental technologies that allow crypto to exist. Participants are rewarded with an interest rate on business returns for a specified amount of time — just like a bond. Here’s the difference: 10-year treasury yields are currently hovering around 1%. You can get 5–20% on crypto projects depending on the credit rating of the business. If you want the best of both worlds, you can invest in the bonds traditional banks issue on crypto. You can lend your crypto to individuals, but another interesting option is to lend its utility back to the entity that issued it. This practice is known as “staking” and brings an opportunity for extremely high interest returns. When you stake a coin, you basically agree to hold that coin in a digital wallet for a specified length of time. This helps to ensure the market cap for that coin. The issuing entity rewards you for not spending the coin — just like a bank. Here’s the difference: You get 0.2% per year for a top 25 bank. You can get 10 to 15% per year for a top 25 cryptocurrency.
Use Crypto to Make Money
You might laugh at the returns that traditional checking and savings accounts offer right now. Some researchers even say these rates could move into negative territory to ensure a COVID recovery. Imagine paying a bank to hold your money, and you’ll see why the market for crypto is expanding. All value-generating and trading activities in the crypto space carry risk. FDIC and SIPC insurance doesn’t exist in the space yet either. But it’s also true that you risk losing your buying power in traditional banks with interest rates that don’t outpace inflation. With all the new opportunity, exploring how to make money with cryptocurrency is worth your time.
An Ethereum based work of art just sold for $100K. A bit of hype right now around NFTs, but Ethereum's high-end crypto art market is actually really interesting. Overview here.
With DeFi markets sputtering earlier this week, crypto twitter seemed to suddenly shift its attention to the next shiny new thing this week: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. But NFTs aren’t new. In crypto, the concept has been around for over 5 years. However, this market cycle, they are inherently more interesting. Today, I’ll briefly sum up what NFTs are and dig into one fascinating aspect of this market: high-end crypto art. What are NFTs Items that are fungible can be replaced with another identical item without anyone caring. For example, any $5 bill can buy a hotdog just as effectively as any other. Bitcoin, ether and pretty much any crypto asset you see on messari.io fall into the “fungible” bucket. Items that are non-fungible are unique and can’t be exchanged 1 to 1. The simplest example being art. Try asking the people at the Louvre to swap your 5 year-old’s crudely painted hand-turkey with the Mona Lisa and you’ll experience true non-fungibility. https://preview.redd.it/wabbc50v0cp51.png?width=599&format=png&auto=webp&s=22a525f284411f461d4d8399d76b840e8dad10fa So in the crypto world, NFTs are simply tokens that represent something unique. Unsurprisingly, NFTs attached to unique pieces of purely digital artwork are gaining steam. Crypto’s Art Scene In many ways, much of crypto is simply the recreation of existing human behaviors in a purely digital environment. Markets. Trading. Lending. Borrowing. Speculation. As such, it should be no surprise that markets have formed around trading and speculating on works of digital art. Like NFTs, crypto art markets have been around for years. As with NFTs and DeFi as a whole, the underlying technology is much more mature this cycle. Add in the fact that there’s a ton of freshly created wealth in the space from DeFi’s casino summer, and you get a crypto art market that’s heating up. After all, investors need to park all those DeFi gains somewhere. Nowhere is this combination of technological sophistication and wealth on display than in this piece from Matt Kane titled, “Right Place - Right Time” that sold for almost $100K on a platform called Async Art. https://preview.redd.it/qq5j33ua1cp51.png?width=2048&format=png&auto=webp&s=82833bb1eeb4af49f53e2c171fc8da93f32d1688 Right Place - Right Time If you look at the above screenshot of Matt Kane’s work, it just looks like a cool piece of Bitcoin art. What’s under the hood is what makes it interesting. Kane wrote an algorithm that’s tied into a BTC pricing feed. Every 12 hours, the algorithm updates the piece based on Bitcoin’s volatility from that day, which you can see on display in this GIF. In addition to being an evolving work of art, there are a few other components that make this interesting. For one, Kane has retained an ownership token that allows him to fine-tune the piece over time - a novel aspect of NFT based artwork that allows the artist to retain some level of control over the work. Artwork no longer has to remain static, and instead, can adapt and evolve as an artist builds upon their work over time. Secondly, as this piece responds to the rhythms of bitcoin volatility, it will mint 210 individual NFTsbased on significant days of movement. For example, say BTC hit’s $20K, a new NFT will be minted and sold based on what the piece looks like on that day. Whoever buys that NFT will have the ability to claim a physical print version. The next point of interest are the rights baked into the sale. The work was purchased by a collector going by the name of TokenAngels. As the piece generates and sells new NFTs, TokenAngels will receive 21% of each new sale. So in addition to the potential for the work to increase in value, it’s also a productive asset. Again, something fundamentally new, all codified into the underlying work A Shift in the Balance Traditional art is a $65 Billion dollar market, with the balance of power firmly in the hands of wealthy collectors. There was an infamous contemporary art sale in the 1970’s by a collector named Robert Scull. Scull bought up works from living artists around the world from $600-$10,000 and then sold them at auction for many multiples of his purchasing price. All-in-all, Scull’s total collection sold for an unheard of $2.2M ($14.7 million adjusted for inflation today). While this auction is credited for the birth of the highly speculative contemporary art market, Scull was criticized for how little of the windfall went to the actual artists. For example, Scull bought a piece from an artist named Robert Rauschenberg called, “Thaw” for $900 and sold it for $85,000. Rauschenberg didn’t see a dime in royalties. NFTs come with the benefit of more artist-friendly terms, leading to a shift in the balance of power between artist and collector. Note that TokenAngels receives 21% of the residual NFT sales from Matt Kane’s piece, not 100%. Similarly, an NFT art marketplace called SuperRare bakes a 10% creator royalty commission into all secondary sales - something Robert Rauschenberg would have appreciated in 1973. A New Frontier More artist-friendly terms along with curated marketplaces like SuperRare and Async Art are attracting a flood of new artists into the space. For a profession that’s notoriously impoverished, the allure of large amounts of money sloshing around these markets make crypto art even harder to ignore. In addition to Matt Kane, we’re already seeing early signs of a new breed of artists. Another name gaining steam is an artist that goes by the name of Pak. In true crypto fashion, Pak is completely anonymous and there’s speculation over whether their art is the product of one person or of artificial-intelligence produced by a collective of engineers. Pak has over 140K twitter followers and has sold over $350K in NFT artwork, including this piece that recently went for around $10K. Given that this is crypto, it’s also worth noting just how ripe these markets are for manipulation. Imagine how easy it would be for a whale to purchase a Pak piece for $10K, sell it to a friend for $25K, buy it back for $50K and then sell it to an unsuspecting speculator for $100K. Wash trading has already become problematic on a platform called Rarible and undoubtedly is taking place. (Rarible has recently introduced platform fees in order to disincentivize wash trading, although it likely won’t be a bullet-proof solution to the problem). What’s Next Wash trading aside, all of this speaks to the fact that the NFT hype isn’t without merit. These are new behaviors uniquely made possible through new marketplaces primarily built on Ethereum. And crypto art is only the beginning. NFTs can and will be used to represent other non-fungible items. The obvious being other forms of creative outputs like music. Less obvious but equally intriguing are financial contracts like insurance. Imagine taking out a policy on your work of art that insures against loss of the work’s private keys. The integration of DeFi primitives into the NFT space is accelerating rapidly. For example, using a platform called NFTfi, you can now post your NFT as collateral and take out an ETH denominated loan. Another platform, Niftex enables NFT holders to fractionalize their assets into multiple tradeable tokens. While these applications are new, it’s not hard to see them taking off alongside the rest of the crypto art and NFT market. In a few decades, the rise of Ethereum art markets might be comparable to Robert Scull’s introduction of the speculative contemporary art market. The key difference is that this time, artists will be well compensated for their work. Perhaps the masterpieces of the future will be on display in galleries held in metaverses like Decentraland, each insured by NFT policies, on loan from the collector with the original artists still collecting royalties on their work years after inception. Source: Messari Stay up on all-things NFT Mason Nystrom has been a great source for all-things Web 3 and NFTs, so give him a follow on twitter, More resources (paywall warning)
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!
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