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The Bitcoin Blockchain Explained
In Depth: Where is Blockchain Data Stored? - Coinnounce
Blockchain: Everything You Need to Know
Technical: The Path to Taproot Activation
Taproot! Everybody wants to have it, somebody wants to make it, nobody knows how to get it! (If you are asking why everybody wants it, see: Technical: Taproot: Why Activate?) (Pedants: I mostly elide over lockin times) Briefly, Taproot is that neat new thing that gets us:
Multisignatures (n-of-n, k-of-n) that are just 1 signature (1-of-1) in length!! (MuSig/Schnorr)
Better privacy!! If all contract participants can agree, just use a multisignature. If there is a dispute, show the contract publicly and have the Bitcoin network resolve it (Taproot/MAST).
Activation lets devs work get back to work on the even newer stuff like!!!
Cross-input signature aggregation!! (transaction with multiple inputs can have a single signature for all inputs) --- needs Schnorr, but some more work needed to ensure that the interactions with SCRIPT are okay.
Block validation - Schnorr signatures for all taproot spends in a block can be validated in a single operation instead of for each transaction!! Speed up validation and maybe we can actually afford to increase block sizes (maybe)!!
SIGHASH_ANYPREVOUT - you know, for Decker-Russell-Osuntokun ("eltoo") magic!!!
OP_CHECKTEMPLATEVERIFY - vaulty vaults without requiring storing signatures, just transaction details!!
So yes, let's activate taproot!
The SegWit Wars
The biggest problem with activating Taproot is PTSD from the previous softfork, SegWit. Pieter Wuille, one of the authors of the current Taproot proposal, has consistently held the position that he will not discuss activation, and will accept whatever activation process is imposed on Taproot. Other developers have expressed similar opinions. So what happened with SegWit activation that was so traumatic? SegWit used the BIP9 activation method. Let's dive into BIP9!
bit - A field in the block header, the nVersion, has a number of bits. By setting a particular bit, the miner making the block indicates that it has upgraded its software to support a particular soft fork. The bit parameter for a BIP9 activation is which bit in this nVersion is used to indicate that the miner has upgraded software for a particular soft fork.
timeout - a time limit, expressed as an end date. If this timeout is reached without sufficient number of miners signaling that they upgraded, then the activation fails and Bitcoin Core goes back to the drawing board.
Now there are other parameters (name, starttime) but they are not anywhere near as important as the above two. A number that is not a parameter, is 95%. Basically, activation of a BIP9 softfork is considered as actually succeeding if at least 95% of blocks in the last 2 weeks had the specified bit in the nVersion set. If less than 95% had this bit set before the timeout, then the upgrade fails and never goes into the network. This is not a parameter: it is a constant defined by BIP9, and developers using BIP9 activation cannot change this. So, first some simple questions and their answers:
Why not just set a day when everyone starts imposing the new rules of the softfork?
This was done classically (in the days when Satoshi was still among us). But this might argued to put too much power to developers, since there would be no way to reject an upgrade without possible bad consequences. For example, developers might package an upgrade that the users do not want, together with vital security bugfixes. Either you live without vital security bugfixes and hire some other developers to fix it for you (which can be difficult, presumably the best developers are already the ones working on the codebase) or you get the vital security bugfixes and implicitly support the upgrade you might not want.
Sure, you could fork the code yourself (the ultimate threat in the FOSS world) and hire another set of developers who aren't assholes to do the dreary maintenance work of fixing security bugs, but Bitcoin needs strong bug-for-bug compatibility so everyone should really congregate around a single codebase.
Basically: even the devs do not want this power, because they fear being coerced into putting "upgrades" that are detrimental to users. Satoshi got a pass because nobody knew who he was and how to coerce him.
Suppose the threshold were lower, like 51%. If so, after activation, somebody can disrupt the Bitcoin network by creating a transaction that is valid under the pre-softfork rules, but are invalid under the post-softfork rules. Upgraded nodes would reject it, but 49% of miners would accept it and include it in a block (which makes the block invalid) And then the same 49% would accept the invalid block and build on top of that, possibly creating a short chain of doomed invalid blocks that confirm an invalid spend. This can confuse SPV wallets, who might see multiple confirmations of a transaction and accept the funds, but later find that in fact it is invalid under the now-activated softfork rules.
Thus, a very high threshold was imposed. 95% is considered safe. 50% is definitely not safe. Due to variance in the mining process, 80% could also be potentially unsafe (i.e. 80% of blocks signaling might have a good chance of coming from only 60% of miners), so a threshold of 95% was considered "safe enough for Bitcoin work".
Why have a timeout that disables the upgrade?
Before BIP9, what was used was either flag day or BIP34. BIP34 had no flag day of activation or a bit, instead, it was just a 95% threshold to signal an nVersion value greater than a specific value. Actually, it was two thresholds: at 75%, blocks with the new nVersion would have the new softfork rules imposed, but at 95% blocks with the old nVersion would be rejected (and only the new blocks, with the new softfork rules, were accepted). For one, between 75% and 95%, there was a situation where the softfork was only "partially imposed", only blocks signaling the new rules would actually have those rules, but blocks with the old rules were still valid. This was fine for BIP34, which only added rules for miners with negligible use for non-miners.
The reasons miners signalled support was because they felt they were being pressured to signal support. So they signalled support, with plans to actually upgrade later, but because of the widespread signalling, the new BIP66 version locked in before upgrade plans were finished. Thus, the timeout that disables the upgrade was added in BIP9 to allow miners an escape hatch.
The Great Battles of the SegWit Wars
SegWit not only fixed transaction malleability, it also created a practical softforkable blocksize increase that also rebalanced weights so that the cost of spending a UTXO is about the same as the cost of creating UTXOs (and spending UTXOs is "better" since it limits the size of the UTXO set that every fullnode has to maintain). So SegWit was written, the activation was decided to be BIP9, and then.... miner signalling stalled at below 75%. Thus were the Great SegWit Wars started.
BIP9 Feature Hostage
If you are a miner with at least 5% global hashpower, you can hold a BIP9-activated softfork hostage. You might even secretly want the softfork to actually push through. But you might want to extract concession from the users and the developers. Like removing the halvening. Or raising or even removing the block size caps (which helps larger miners more than smaller miners, making it easier to become a bigger fish that eats all the smaller fishes). Or whatever. With BIP9, you can hold the softfork hostage. You just hold out and refuse to signal. You tell everyone you will signal, if and only if certain concessions are given to you. This ability by miners to hold a feature hostage was enabled because of the miner-exit allowed by the timeout on BIP9. Prior to that, miners were considered little more than expendable security guards, paid for the risk they take to secure the network, but not special in the grand scheme of Bitcoin.
ASICBoost was a novel way of optimizing SHA256 mining, by taking advantage of the structure of the 80-byte header that is hashed in order to perform proof-of-work. The details of ASICBoost are out-of-scope here but you can read about it elsewhere Here is a short summary of the two types of ASICBoost, relevant to the activation discussion.
Overt ASICBoost - Manipulates the unused bits in nVersion to reduce power consumption in mining.
Covert ASICBoost - Manipulates the order of transactions in the block to reduce power consumption in mining.
Now, "overt" means "obvious", while "covert" means hidden. Overt ASICBoost is obvious because nVersion bits that are not currently in use for BIP9 activations are usually 0 by default, so setting those bits to 1 makes it obvious that you are doing something weird (namely, Overt ASICBoost). Covert ASICBoost is non-obvious because the order of transactions in a block are up to the miner anyway, so the miner rearranging the transactions in order to get lower power consumption is not going to be detected. Unfortunately, while Overt ASICBoost was compatible with SegWit, Covert ASICBoost was not. This is because, pre-SegWit, only the block header Merkle tree committed to the transaction ordering. However, with SegWit, another Merkle tree exists, which commits to transaction ordering as well. Covert ASICBoost would require more computation to manipulate two Merkle trees, obviating the power benefits of Covert ASICBoost anyway. Now, miners want to use ASICBoost (indeed, about 60->70% of current miners probably use the Overt ASICBoost nowadays; if you have a Bitcoin fullnode running you will see the logs with lots of "60 of last 100 blocks had unexpected versions" which is exactly what you would see with the nVersion manipulation that Overt ASICBoost does). But remember: ASICBoost was, at around the time, a novel improvement. Not all miners had ASICBoost hardware. Those who did, did not want it known that they had ASICBoost hardware, and wanted to do Covert ASICBoost! But Covert ASICBoost is incompatible with SegWit, because SegWit actually has two Merkle trees of transaction data, and Covert ASICBoost works by fudging around with transaction ordering in a block, and recomputing two Merkle Trees is more expensive than recomputing just one (and loses the ASICBoost advantage). Of course, those miners that wanted Covert ASICBoost did not want to openly admit that they had ASICBoost hardware, they wanted to keep their advantage secret because miners are strongly competitive in a very tight market. And doing ASICBoost Covertly was just the ticket, but they could not work post-SegWit. Fortunately, due to the BIP9 activation process, they could hold SegWit hostage while covertly taking advantage of Covert ASICBoost!
UASF: BIP148 and BIP8
When the incompatibility between Covert ASICBoost and SegWit was realized, still, activation of SegWit stalled, and miners were still not openly claiming that ASICBoost was related to non-activation of SegWit. Eventually, a new proposal was created: BIP148. With this rule, 3 months before the end of the SegWit timeout, nodes would reject blocks that did not signal SegWit. Thus, 3 months before SegWit timeout, BIP148 would force activation of SegWit. This proposal was not accepted by Bitcoin Core, due to the shortening of the timeout (it effectively times out 3 months before the initial SegWit timeout). Instead, a fork of Bitcoin Core was created which added the patch to comply with BIP148. This was claimed as a User Activated Soft Fork, UASF, since users could freely download the alternate fork rather than sticking with the developers of Bitcoin Core. Now, BIP148 effectively is just a BIP9 activation, except at its (earlier) timeout, the new rules would be activated anyway (instead of the BIP9-mandated behavior that the upgrade is cancelled at the end of the timeout). BIP148 was actually inspired by the BIP8 proposal (the link here is a historical version; BIP8 has been updated recently, precisely in preparation for Taproot activation). BIP8 is basically BIP9, but at the end of timeout, the softfork is activated anyway rather than cancelled. This removed the ability of miners to hold the softfork hostage. At best, they can delay the activation, but not stop it entirely by holding out as in BIP9. Of course, this implies risk that not all miners have upgraded before activation, leading to possible losses for SPV users, as well as again re-pressuring miners to signal activation, possibly without the miners actually upgrading their software to properly impose the new softfork rules.
BIP91, SegWit2X, and The Aftermath
BIP148 inspired countermeasures, possibly from the Covert ASiCBoost miners, possibly from concerned users who wanted to offer concessions to miners. To this day, the common name for BIP148 - UASF - remains an emotionally-charged rallying cry for parts of the Bitcoin community. One of these was SegWit2X. This was brokered in a deal between some Bitcoin personalities at a conference in New York, and thus part of the so-called "New York Agreement" or NYA, another emotionally-charged acronym. The text of the NYA was basically:
Set up a new activation threshold at 80% signalled at bit 4 (vs bit 1 for SegWit).
When this 80% signalling was reached, miners would require that bit 1 for SegWit be signalled to achive the 95% activation needed for SegWit.
If the bit 4 signalling reached 80%, increase the block weight limit from the SegWit 4000000 to the SegWit2X 8000000, 6 months after bit 1 activation.
The first item above was coded in BIP91. Unfortunately, if you read the BIP91, independently of NYA, you might come to the conclusion that BIP91 was only about lowering the threshold to 80%. In particular, BIP91 never mentions anything about the second point above, it never mentions that bit 4 80% threshold would also signal for a later hardfork increase in weight limit. Because of this, even though there are claims that NYA (SegWit2X) reached 80% dominance, a close reading of BIP91 shows that the 80% dominance was only for SegWit activation, without necessarily a later 2x capacity hardfork (SegWit2X). This ambiguity of bit 4 (NYA says it includes a 2x capacity hardfork, BIP91 says it does not) has continued to be a thorn in blocksize debates later. Economically speaking, Bitcoin futures between SegWit and SegWit2X showed strong economic dominance in favor of SegWit (SegWit2X futures were traded at a fraction in value of SegWit futures: I personally made a tidy but small amount of money betting against SegWit2X in the futures market), so suggesting that NYA achieved 80% dominance even in mining is laughable, but the NYA text that ties bit 4 to SegWit2X still exists. Historically, BIP91 triggered which caused SegWit to activate before the BIP148 shorter timeout. BIP148 proponents continue to hold this day that it was the BIP148 shorter timeout and no-compromises-activate-on-August-1 that made miners flock to BIP91 as a face-saving tactic that actually removed the second clause of NYA. NYA supporters keep pointing to the bit 4 text in the NYA and the historical activation of BIP91 as a failed promise by Bitcoin developers.
We have discussed BIP8: roughly, it has bit and timeout, if 95% of miners signal bit it activates, at the end of timeout it activates. (EDIT: BIP8 has had recent updates: at the end of timeout it can now activate or fail. For the most part, in the below text "BIP8", means BIP8-and-activate-at-timeout, and "BIP9" means BIP8-and-fail-at-timeout) So let's take a look at Modern Softfork Activation!
Modern Softfork Activation
This is a more complex activation method, composed of BIP9 and BIP8 as supcomponents.
First have a 12-month BIP9 (fail at timeout).
If the above fails to activate, have a 6-month discussion period during which users and developers and miners discuss whether to continue to step 3.
Have a 24-month BIP8 (activate at timeout).
The total above is 42 months, if you are counting: 3.5 years worst-case activation. The logic here is that if there are no problems, BIP9 will work just fine anyway. And if there are problems, the 6-month period should weed it out. Finally, miners cannot hold the feature hostage since the 24-month BIP8 period will exist anyway.
PSA: Being Resilient to Upgrades
Software is very birttle. Anyone who has been using software for a long time has experienced something like this:
You hear a new version of your favorite software has a nice new feature.
Excited, you install the new version.
You find that the new version has subtle incompatibilities with your current workflow.
You are sad and downgrade to the older version.
You find out that the new version has changed your files in incompatible ways that the old version cannot work with anymore.
You tearfully reinstall the newer version and figure out how to get your lost productivity now that you have to adapt to a new workflow
If you are a technically-competent user, you might codify your workflow into a bunch of programs. And then you upgrade one of the external pieces of software you are using, and find that it has a subtle incompatibility with your current workflow which is based on a bunch of simple programs you wrote yourself. And if those simple programs are used as the basis of some important production system, you hve just screwed up because you upgraded software on an important production system. And well, one of the issues with new softfork activation is that if not enough people (users and miners) upgrade to the newest Bitcoin software, the security of the new softfork rules are at risk. Upgrading software of any kind is always a risk, and the more software you build on top of the software-being-upgraded, the greater you risk your tower of software collapsing while you change its foundations. So if you have some complex Bitcoin-manipulating system with Bitcoin somewhere at the foundations, consider running two Bitcoin nodes:
One is a "stable-version" Bitcoin node. Once it has synced, set it up to connect=x.x.x.x to the second node below (so that your ISP bandwidth is only spent on the second node). Use this node to run all your software: it's a stable version that you don't change for long periods of time. Enable txiindex, disable pruning, whatever your software needs.
The other is an "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin Node. Keep its stoarge down with pruning (initially sync it off the "stable-version" node). You can't use blocksonly if your "stable-version" node needs to send transactions, but otherwise this "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin node can be kept as a low-resource node, so you can run both nodes in the same machine.
When a new Bitcoin version comes up, you just upgrade the "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin node. This protects you if a future softfork activates, you will only receive valid Bitcoin blocks and transactions. Since this node has nothing running on top of it, it is just a special peer of the "stable-version" node, any software incompatibilities with your system software do not exist. Your "stable-version" Bitcoin node remains the same version until you are ready to actually upgrade this node and are prepared to rewrite most of the software you have running on top of it due to version compatibility problems. When upgrading the "always-up-to-date", you can bring it down safely and then start it later. Your "stable-version" wil keep running, disconnected from the network, but otherwise still available for whatever queries. You do need some system to stop the "always-up-to-date" node if for any reason the "stable-version" goes down (otherwisee if the "always-up-to-date" advances its pruning window past what your "stable-version" has, the "stable-version" cannot sync afterwards), but if you are technically competent enough that you need to do this, you are technically competent enough to write such a trivial monitor program (EDIT: gmax notes you can adjust the pruning window by RPC commands to help with this as well). This recommendation is from gmaxwell on IRC, by the way.
Maybe it's time to discuss bitcoin's history again. Credit to u/singularity87 for the original post over 3 years ago. People should get the full story of bitcoin because it is probably one of the strangest of all reddit subs. bitcoin, the main sub for the bitcoin community is held and run by a person who goes by the pseudonym u/theymos. Theymos not only controls bitcoin, but also bitcoin.org and bitcointalk.com. These are top three communication channels for the bitcoin community, all controlled by just one person. For most of bitcoin's history this did not create a problem (at least not an obvious one anyway) until around mid 2015. This happened to be around the time a new player appeared on the scene, a for-profit company called Blockstream. Blockstream was made up of/hired many (but not all) of the main bitcoin developers. (To be clear, Blockstream was founded before mid 2015 but did not become publicly active until then). A lot of people, including myself, tried to point out there we're some very serious potential conflicts of interest that could arise when one single company controls most of the main developers for the biggest decentralised and distributed cryptocurrency. There were a lot of unknowns but people seemed to give them the benefit of the doubt because they were apparently about to release some new software called "sidechains" that could offer some benefits to the network. Not long after Blockstream came on the scene the issue of bitcoin's scalability once again came to forefront of the community. This issue came within the community a number of times since bitcoins inception. Bitcoin, as dictated in the code, cannot handle any more than around 3 transactions per second at the moment. To put that in perspective Paypal handles around 15 transactions per second on average and VISA handles something like 2000 transactions per second. The discussion in the community has been around how best to allow bitcoin to scale to allow a higher number of transactions in a given amount of time. I suggest that if anyone is interested in learning more about this problem from a technical angle, they go to btc and do a search. It's a complex issue but for many who have followed bitcoin for many years, the possible solutions seem relatively obvious. Essentially, currently the limit is put in place in just a few lines of code. This was not originally present when bitcoin was first released. It was in fact put in place afterwards as a measure to stop a bloating attack on the network. Because all bitcoin transactions have to be stored forever on the bitcoin network, someone could theoretically simply transmit a large number of transactions which would have to be stored by the entire network forever. When bitcoin was released, transactions were actually for free as the only people running the network were enthusiasts. In fact a single bitcoin did not even have any specific value so it would be impossible set a fee value. This meant that a malicious person could make the size of the bitcoin ledger grow very rapidly without much/any cost which would stop people from wanting to join the network due to the resource requirements needed to store it, which at the time would have been for very little gain. Towards the end of the summer last year, this bitcoin scaling debate surfaced again as it was becoming clear that the transaction limit for bitcoin was semi regularly being reached and that it would not be long until it would be regularly hit and the network would become congested. This was a very serious issue for a currency. Bitcoin had made progress over the years to the point of retailers starting to offer it as a payment option. Bitcoin companies like, Microsoft, Paypal, Steam and many more had began to adopt it. If the transaction limit would be constantly maxed out, the network would become unreliable and slow for users. Users and businesses would not be able to make a reliable estimate when their transaction would be confirmed by the network. Users, developers and businesses (which at the time was pretty much the only real bitcoin subreddit) started to discuss how we should solve the problem bitcoin. There was significant support from the users and businesses behind a simple solution put forward by the developer Gavin Andreesen. Gavin was the lead developer after Satoshi Nakamoto left bitcoin and he left it in his hands. Gavin initially proposed a very simple solution of increasing the limit which was to change the few lines of code to increase the maximum number of transactions that are allowed. For most of bitcoin's history the transaction limit had been set far far higher than the number of transactions that could potentially happen on the network. The concept of increasing the limit one time was based on the fact that history had proven that no issue had been cause by this in the past. A certain group of bitcoin developers decided that increasing the limit by this amount was too much and that it was dangerous. They said that the increased use of resources that the network would use would create centralisation pressures which could destroy the network. The theory was that a miner of the network with more resources could publish many more transactions than a competing small miner could handle and therefore the network would tend towards few large miners rather than many small miners. The group of developers who supported this theory were all developers who worked for the company Blockstream. The argument from people in support of increasing the transaction capacity by this amount was that there are always inherent centralisation pressure with bitcoin mining. For example miners who can access the cheapest electricity will tend to succeed and that bigger miners will be able to find this cheaper electricity easier. Miners who have access to the most efficient computer chips will tend to succeed and that larger miners are more likely to be able to afford the development of them. The argument from Gavin and other who supported increasing the transaction capacity by this method are essentially there are economies of scale in mining and that these economies have far bigger centralisation pressures than increased resource cost for a larger number of transactions (up to the new limit proposed). For example, at the time the total size of the blockchain was around 50GB. Even for the cost of a 500GB SSD is only $150 and would last a number of years. This is in-comparison to the $100,000's in revenue per day a miner would be making. Various developers put forth various other proposals, including Gavin Andresen who put forth a more conservative increase that would then continue to increase over time inline with technological improvements. Some of the employees of blockstream also put forth some proposals, but all were so conservative, it would take bitcoin many decades before it could reach a scale of VISA. Even though there was significant support from the community behind Gavin's simple proposal of increasing the limit it was becoming clear certain members of the bitcoin community who were part of Blockstream were starting to become increasingly vitriolic and divisive. Gavin then teamed up with one of the other main bitcoin developers Mike Hearn and released a coded (i.e. working) version of the bitcoin software that would only activate if it was supported by a significant majority of the network. What happened next was where things really started to get weird. After this free and open source software was released, Theymos, the person who controls all the main communication channels for the bitcoin community implemented a new moderation policy that disallowed any discussion of this new software. Specifically, if people were to discuss this software, their comments would be deleted and ultimately they would be banned temporarily or permanently. This caused chaos within the community as there was very clear support for this software at the time and it seemed our best hope for finally solving the problem and moving on. Instead a censorship campaign was started. At first it 'all' they were doing was banning and removing discussions but after a while it turned into actively manipulating the discussion. For example, if a thread was created where there was positive sentiment for increasing the transaction capacity or being negative about the moderation policies or negative about the actions of certain bitcoin developers, the mods of bitcoin would selectively change the sorting order of threads to 'controversial' so that the most support opinions would be sorted to the bottom of the thread and the most vitriolic would be sorted to the top of the thread. This was initially very transparent as it was possible to see that the most downvoted comments were at the top and some of the most upvoted were at the bottom. So they then implemented hiding the voting scores next to the users name. This made impossible to work out the sentiment of the community and when combined with selectively setting the sorting order to controversial it was possible control what information users were seeing. Also, due to the very very large number of removed comments and users it was becoming obvious the scale of censorship going on. To hide this they implemented code in their CSS for the sub that completely hid comments that they had removed so that the censorship itself was hidden. Anyone in support of scaling bitcoin were removed from the main communication channels. Theymos even proudly announced that he didn't care if he had to remove 90% of the users. He also later acknowledged that he knew he had the ability to block support of this software using the control he had over the communication channels. While this was all going on, Blockstream and it's employees started lobbying the community by paying for conferences about scaling bitcoin, but with the very very strange rule that no decisions could be made and no complete solutions could be proposed. These conferences were likely strategically (and successfully) created to stunt support for the scaling software Gavin and Mike had released by forcing the community to take a "lets wait and see what comes from the conferences" kind of approach. Since no final solutions were allowed at these conferences, they only served to hinder and splinter the communities efforts to find a solution. As the software Gavin and Mike released called BitcoinXT gained support it started to be attacked. Users of the software were attack by DDOS. Employees of Blockstream were recommending attacks against the software, such as faking support for it, to only then drop support at the last moment to put the network in disarray. Blockstream employees were also publicly talking about suing Gavin and Mike from various different angles simply for releasing this open source software that no one was forced to run. In the end Mike Hearn decided to leave due to the way many members of the bitcoin community had treated him. This was due to the massive disinformation campaign against him on bitcoin. One of the many tactics that are used against anyone who does not support Blockstream and the bitcoin developers who work for them is that you will be targeted in a smear campaign. This has happened to a number of individuals and companies who showed support for scaling bitcoin. Theymos has threatened companies that he will ban any discussion of them on the communication channels he controls (i.e. all the main ones) for simply running software that he disagrees with (i.e. any software that scales bitcoin). As time passed, more and more proposals were offered, all against the backdrop of ever increasing censorship in the main bitcoin communication channels. It finally come down the smallest and most conservative solution. This solution was much smaller than even the employees of Blockstream had proposed months earlier. As usual there was enormous attacks from all sides and the most vocal opponents were the employees of Blockstream. These attacks still are ongoing today. As this software started to gain support, Blockstream organised more meetings, especially with the biggest bitcoin miners and made a pact with them. They promised that they would release code that would offer an on-chain scaling solution hardfork within about 4 months, but if the miners wanted this they would have to commit to running their software and only their software. The miners agreed and the ended up not running the most conservative proposal possible. This was in February last year. There is no hardfork proposal in sight from the people who agreed to this pact and bitcoin is still stuck with the exact same transaction limit it has had since the limit was put in place about 6 years ago. Gavin has also been publicly smeared by the developers at Blockstream and a plot was made against him to have him removed from the development team. Gavin has now been, for all intents an purposes, expelled from bitcoin development. This has meant that all control of bitcoin development is in the hands of the developers working at Blockstream. There is a new proposal that offers a market based approach to scaling bitcoin. This essentially lets the market decide. Of course, as usual there has been attacks against it, and verbal attacks from the employees of Blockstream. This has the biggest chance of gaining wide support and solving the problem for good. To give you an idea of Blockstream; It has hired most of the main and active bitcoin developers and is now synonymous with the "Core" bitcoin development team. They AFAIK no products at all. They have received around $75m in funding. Every single thing they do is supported by theymos. They have started implementing an entirely new economic system for bitcoin against the will of it's users and have blocked any and all attempts to scaling the network in line with the original vision. Although this comment is ridiculously long, it really only covers the tip of the iceberg. You could write a book on the last two years of bitcoin. The things that have been going on have been mind blowing. One last thing that I think is worth talking about is the u/bashco's claim of vote manipulation. The users that the video talks about have very very large numbers of downvotes mostly due to them having a very very high chance of being astroturfers. Around about the same time last year when Blockstream came active on the scene every single bitcoin troll disappeared, and I mean literally every single one. In the years before that there were a large number of active anti-bitcoin trolls. They even have an active sub buttcoin. Up until last year you could go down to the bottom of pretty much any thread in bitcoin and see many of the usual trolls who were heavily downvoted for saying something along the lines of "bitcoin is shit", "You guys and your tulips" etc. But suddenly last year they all disappeared. Instead a new type of bitcoin user appeared. Someone who said they were fully in support of bitcoin but they just so happened to support every single thing Blockstream and its employees said and did. They had the exact same tone as the trolls who had disappeared. Their way to talking to people was aggressive, they'd call people names, they had a relatively poor understanding of how bitcoin fundamentally worked. They were extremely argumentative. These users are the majority of the list of that video. When the 10's of thousands of users were censored and expelled from bitcoin they ended up congregating in btc. The strange thing was that the users listed in that video also moved over to btc and spend all day everyday posting troll-like comments and misinformation. Naturally they get heavily downvoted by the real users in btc. They spend their time constantly causing as much drama as possible. At every opportunity they scream about "censorship" in btc while they are happy about the censorship in bitcoin. These people are astroturfers. What someone somewhere worked out, is that all you have to do to take down a community is say that you are on their side. It is an astoundingly effective form of psychological attack.
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!
(if you would like to add information or see mistakes, just comment below and I will credit you) What is Cardano? Cardano is an open source and permissionless "Third Generation" blockchain project being developed by IOHK. Development and research started in 2015, with the 1.0 mainnet launching in 2017. Cardano blockchain is currently being developed into two layers. The first one is the ledger of account values, and the second one is the reason why values are transferred from one account to the other.
Cardano Settlement Layer (CSL) - The CSL acts as the ledger of account or balance ledger. This is an idea created as an improvement of bitcoin blockchain. It uses a proof-of-stake consensus algorithm known as Ouroboros to generate new blocks and confirm transactions.
IOHK has the contract with an undisclosed party to develop the project until the end of 2020, at which point the community may elect another development team - on the assumption that the voting infrastructure has been completed. However CEO Charles Hoskinson has stated that they will develop the project until it is completed, and they are simply financed until the end of 2020. Cardano was the first project built on a peer-reviewed scientific development method, resulting in dozens of research papers produced by IOHK. Among these papers is Ouroboros Genesis, proving that a Proof of Stake protocol can be just as secure as Proof of Work - which was originally developed for Bitcoin, and refined for Ethereum. This PoS protocol considerably lowers the resources cost to maintain network while still maintaining security and network speed. Cardano as a financial infrastructure is not yet completed, With significant development to be rolled out. What were the other two generations of blockchain? Gen 1 was Bitcoin. It exists by itself and talks to nobody but Bitcoin. It is capable of peer to peer transactions without a third party in such a way that you cannot cheat the system. This was a major step forward for the E-cash concept that people have been working on for the 20 years prior. Gen 2 was Ethereum and other smart-contract platforms that allow other coins and platforms to be built on top of their infrastructure. These coins can interact with others on the platform, but cannot interact with other platforms. Meaning it is still not truly interoperable. Most Gen 2 blockchains are also using Proof of Work likes Bitcoin, which effects scaling. Also missing is a built-in method to pay for upgrades and voting mechanics for decision making. Gen 3 blockchains are a complete package designed to replace the current financial infrastructure of the world. Cardano is using Proof of Stake to ensure security and decentralisation(Shelley). Scaling through parallel computation (Hydra in Basho), Sidechains to allow the platform to interact with other platforms (Basho), and also include mechanisms for voting for project funding, changes to the protocol and improvement proposals (Voltaire). Finally smart contracts platform for new and established projects that are developer friendly (Goguen). Who is the team behind Cardano? There are three organisations that are contributing to the development of Cardano. The first is the Cardano Foundation, an objective, non-profit organisation based in Switzerland. Its core responsibilities are to nurture, grow and educate Cardano users and commercial communities, to engage with authorities on regulatory and commercial matters and to act as a blockchain and cryptocurrency standards body. The second entity is IOHK, a leading cryptocurrency research and development company, which holds the contract to develop the platform until 2020. The final business partner is Emurgo, which invests in start-ups and assists commercial ventures to build on the Cardano blockchain. www.Cardano.orgwww.emurgo.iohttps://cardanofoundation.org/en/ What is the difference between Proof of Work and Proof of stake? Both these protocols are known as “consensus protocols” that confirm whether a transaction is valid or invalid without a middleman like Visa or your bank. Every node (active and updated copy of the blockchain) can agree that the transaction did take place legitimately. If more than half validators agree, then the ledger is updated and the transaction is now secured. Proof-of-Work (PoW) happens when a miner is elected to solve an exceptionally difficult math problem and gets credit for adding a verified block to the blockchain. Finding a solution is an arduous guessing game that takes a considerable amount of computing power to compete for the correct answer. It is like “pick a number between 1 and one trillion” and when you get it right, you get $30,000 in Bitcoin, so the more computers you have working on it, the faster you can solve it. Also the more people who are trying to solve the same block, the harder the algorithm, so it may become 1 in 20 trillion. The downside is the massive amounts of power required to run the computers that run the network, and the slow pace that blocks are solved. To “Hack” a PoW system, you need 51% of the computing power, which would allow you to deny transactions, or spend the same coin twice. At the moment there are 8 main mining operations for bitcoin, and 4 of them make up more that 51% of the mining power. PoS instead selects a coin at random that already exists, and the person who owns that coin is elected to put the work in to validate the block. This means there is no contest and no guessing game. Some computer power is required, but only a fraction of a PoW system. The complex nature of selecting a coin that exists on the correct and longest chain and is owned by someone who can complete the block, AND in such a way that it is secure AND that computer currently running AND that person also having an incentive to complete the work, has made the development of PoS very slow. However only a few years ago it wasn’t even possible. In this method, the more of the coin (ADA) you stake, the more likely you are to be selected to close a block. Cardano also allows you to delegate your stake to someone else to validate the block so they do the work, and you share in the reward for doing so. To “hack” a PoS blockchain you need to own 51% of the tokens, which is significantly harder than owning 51% of the computing power. What is ADA and how is it different to Cardano? Cardano is the name of the network infrastructure, and can be thought of like a rail network. ADA is the native token that has been developed alongside Cardano to facilitate the network operation. This helps confusion and maintains distinction, compared to Ethereum being the native token of Ethereum. Similar to bitcoin or any other token, ADA can be sent peer to peer as payment, but is also the reward for running the network, and what is taken as transaction fees. In this metaphor “Cardano” is the train tracks, that everything runs on. A stake pool would be the locomotive, facilitating transactions on the network while ADA is the coal that powers the locomotive. The train carriages are Decentralised applications (Dapps) that are also running on cardano tracks, but are not actively powering the network. What is staking Cardano is a Proof of Stake protocol, and uses already existing coins like a marker to ensure security. The protocol chooses a coin at random and the owner of that coin is elected to validate a block of transactions. Staking is the process of adding your ADA coins to a Pool that has the resources to run the network. If the pool you have chosen to "delegate" your stake to is chosen to close/validate a block, then you get a portion of the rewards. The ADA never leaves your wallet, and you can "undelegate" whenever you like. this increases stability of the network and also gives an incentive to pool operators to invest the time and hardware required to run a pool. What is a stake-pool and how does it work?Cardano.org FAQ on the issue goes into much more detail A stake pool is where the computing power of the network takes place. During ITN there was 1200 registered stake pools while 300 were creating blocks. You can manage your own stake-pool or delegate your ADA to an already registered pool. Rewards are determined by the protocol, however the pool may elect to charge fee Percentages, or flat rate fee to upkeep their pool. Can I Stake my ADA right now? The staking testnet has closed, If you participated in the Incentivised Test Net and earned rewards, instructions to check the balance are here. However if you have just purchased some or it was held on an exchange, then you will need to wait until the Shelley mainnet launch happening at the end of July 2020. Where do I stake my ADA? Daedalus Flight wallet, and Yoroi Wallet (as a chrome extension) are the current best options. Adalite and several other third-party wallets also exist. Coinbase will also allow staking as a custodial service, and many exchanges may offer “staking as a service” so you can leave your coins on the exchange and still earn rewards if you enjoy trading. I do not recommend leaving coins on an exchange unless you are actively trading. What are the staking rewards now and what can I expect on a return in the future? The Incentivised Test Net (ITN) Delivered 10%-15%pa returns on average. The future of staking will most likely be lower, but will depend on the amount of ADA staked across the network and the amount of network traffic. Check https://staking.cardano.org/en/calculato for a clearer picture. what is a Pledge? To stop one person operating many pools, the rewards that a pool earns will vary depending on the amount of personal ADA they “pledge” to open the pool. This means that 50 pools with a 1,00ADA pledge each will be overall less profitable than 1-2 pool with the max ADA pledge (unknown but likely around 300k). Even if the 50 pools have the same over stake delegated by other users and have a better chance of being selected to close a block, the 50 pools may receive lower rewards.. (at least that is the theory) Who is IOHK? IOHK is a for-profit software engineering company founded by CEO Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood in 2015 that has taken a scientific approach to the development of blockchain. IOHK started with “first principles” and looked at questions like “what is a blockchain” and “what should a blockchain be able to do” rather than accepting the established paradigm of Bitcoin and Ethereum. IOHK was originally Input Output Hong Kong, but is now Input Output Global and is based in Wyoming USA employing over 230 staff. IOHK has established research labs in several universities in order to complete the Cardano project, and is also developing Ethereum Classic, Atala, Mantis and possibly other Blockchain related programs and infrastructure. Who is Charles? Charles Hoskinson is an early adopter of cryptocurrencies, American entrepreneur and cryptocurrency specialist. Charles Co-founded Ethereum with Vitalik Buterin and 5-8 others, However he only worked on that project for approximately six-months. Charles is now the CEO of IOHK and the director of The Bitcoin Education Project. Why isn’t ADA on coinbase? Cardano and coinbase have recently connected in a big way. With IOHK turning over all their ADA to the custodial services of Coinbase. This means that Cardano and Coinbase have been working together for some time and there is a strong partnership forming. Staking and cold storage will be available and trading on Coinbase will most likely become available after the release of Shelley (although no official word yet) Why Doesn’t Cardano have a Wikipedia Page? Wikipedia has strict guidelines on what can be turned into an article. As there has been no coverage of Cardano from mainstream media or “noteworthy” sources, there is no article yet. Wikipedia will also not accept sources from IOHK as they are not considered “reliable” and must come from a third party. This will most likely change soon. Cardano does have a dedicated community driven wiki https://cardanowiki.info/wiki/Home What is Atala and why do I care?* Atala is a suite of services being developed on top of the cardano blockchain by IOHK that focusses on credential certification, for things like education, work history and degrees (Atala Prism). Product counterfeiting protection through registering products on a blockchain and create taper-proof provenance. This does not only apply to Gucci handbags, but also medication, art, and anything that can be counterfeited (Atala Scan). As well as supply chain tracking to see issues and inefficiencies with greater transparency(Atala Trace). Im new, how much is a good investment? Cardano is still a speculative market and although there is amazing potential here, it is still only potential. When investing in any High risk market like Crypto, only every invest what you are willing to lose. Cardano may be testing the 10c barrier now. But in March it dumped to 1.7c. And if you suddenly need your money back during the dump then you are out of luck. Do your research before you FOMO in. Start with a small amount and send it between wallets and exchanges to understand how the system works. Store your private keys offline (or online cloud service but encrypted) with a method that is unlikely to be damaged AND have multiple copies. So in the case of a house fire or a blow to the head, or the cloud service being shutdown/destroyed, you do not lose your money. Timelines https://roadmap.cardano.org/en/ Shelley Decentralisation rollout and news Goguen smart contract rollout Voltaire Voting mechanics – no official roll out timeline (though promised for 2020) Basho scaling and sidechains – no official roll out time line (most likely 2021)
It is no doubt Grayscale’s booming popularity as a mainstream investment has caused a lot of community hullabaloo lately. As such, I felt it was worth making a FAQ regarding the topic. I’m looking to update this as needed and of course am open to suggestions / adding any questions. The goal is simply to have a thread we can link to anyone with questions on Grayscaleand its products. Instead of explaining the same thing 3 times a day, shoot those posters over to this thread.My hope is that these questions are answered in a fairly simple and easy to understand manner. I think as the sub grows it will be a nice reference point for newcomers. Disclaimer: I do NOT work for Grayscale and as such am basing all these answers on information that can be found on their website / reports. (Grayscale’s official FAQ can be found here). I also do NOT have a finance degree, I do NOT have a Series 6 / 7 / 140-whatever, and I do NOT work with investment products for my day job. I have an accounting background and work within the finance world so I have the general ‘business’ knowledge to put it all together, but this is all info determined in my best faith effort as a layman. The point being is this --- it is possible I may explain something wrong or missed the technical terms, and if that occurs I am more than happy to update anything that can be proven incorrect Everything below will be in reference to ETHE but will apply to GBTC as well.If those two segregate in any way, I will note that accordingly.
ETHE is essentially a stock that intends to loosely track the price of ETH. It does so by having each ETHE be backed by a specific amount of ETH that is held on chain. Initially, the newly minted ETHE can only be purchased by institutions and accredited investors directly from Grayscale. Once a year has passed (6 months for GBTC) it can then be listed on the OTCQX Best Market exchange for secondary trading. Once listed on OTCQX, anyone investor can purchase at this point. Additional information on ETHE can be found here.
So ETHE is an ETF?
No. For technical reasons beyond my personal understandings it is not labeled an ETF. I know it all flows back to the “Securities Act Rule 144”, but due to my limited knowledge on SEC regulations I don’t want to misspeak past that. If anyone is more knowledgeable on the subject I am happy to input their answer here.
How long has ETHE existed?
ETHE was formed 12/14/2017. GBTC was formed 9/25/2013.
How is ETHE created?
The trust will issue shares to “Authorized Participants” in groups of 100 shares (called baskets). Authorized Participants are the only persons that may place orders to create these baskets and they do it on behalf of the investor. Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 39 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here Note – The way their reports word this makes it sound like there is an army of authorizers doing the dirty work, but in reality there is only one Authorized Participant. At this moment the “Genesis” company is the sole Authorized Participant. Genesis is owned by the “Digital Currency Group, Inc.” which is the parent company of Grayscale as well. (And to really go down the rabbit hole it looks like DCG is the parent company of CoinDesk and is “backing 150+ companies across 30 countries, including Coinbase, Ripple, and Chainalysis.”) Source: Digital Currency Group, Inc. informational section on page 77 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here Source: Barry E. Silbert informational section on page 75 of the “Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (BTC) Form 10-K (2019)” – Located Here
How does Grayscale acquire the ETH to collateralize the ETHE product?
An Investor may acquire ETHE by paying in cash or exchanging ETH already owned.
Cash: The investor pays the subscription amount in cash and the Authorized Participant will use that cash to purchase ETH.
ETH: The investor transfers the ETH to the Authorized Participant, which will contribute the ETH in-kind to the Trust.
Source: Creation and Redemption of Shares section on page 40 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Where does Grayscale store their ETH? Does it have a specific wallet address we can follow?
ETH is stored with Coinbase Custody Trust Company, LLC. I am unaware of any specific address or set of addresses that can be used to verify the ETH is actually there. As an aside - I would actually love to see if anyone knows more about this as it’s something that’s sort of peaked my interest after being asked about it… I find it doubtful we can find that however. Source: Part C. Business Information, Item 8, subsection A. on page 16 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Can ETHE be redeemed for ETH?
No, currently there is no way to give your shares of ETHE back to Grayscale to receive ETH back. The only method of getting back into ETH would be to sell your ETHE to someone else and then use those proceeds to buy ETH yourself. Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Why are they not redeeming shares?
I think the report summarizes it best:
Redemptions of Shares are currently not permitted and the Trust is unable to redeem Shares. Subject to receipt of regulatory approval from the SEC and approval by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, the Trust may in the future operate a redemption program. Because the Trust does not believe that the SEC would, at this time, entertain an application for the waiver of rules needed in order to operate an ongoing redemption program, the Trust currently has no intention of seeking regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program.
Source: Redemption Procedures on page 41 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the fee structure?
ETHE has an annual fee of 2.5%. GBTC has an annual fee of 2.0%. Fees are paid by selling the underlying ETH / BTC collateralizing the asset. Source: ETHE’s informational page on Grayscale’s website - Located Here Source: Description of Trust on page 31 & 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
What is the ratio of ETH to ETHE?
At the time of posting (6/19/2020) each ETHE share is backed by .09391605 ETH. Each share of GBTC is backed by .00096038 BTC. ETHE & GBTC’s specific information page on Grayscale’s website updates the ratio daily – Located Here For a full historical look at this ratio, it can be found on the Grayscale home page on the upper right side if you go to Tax Documents > 2019 Tax Documents > Grayscale Ethereum Trust 2019 Tax Letter.
Why is the ratio not 1:1? Why is it always decreasing?
While I cannot say for certain why the initial distribution was not a 1:1 backing, it is more than likely to keep the price down and allow more investors a chance to purchase ETHE / GBTC. As noted above, fees are paid by selling off the ETH collateralizing ETHE. So this number will always be trending downward as time goes on. Source: Description of Trust on page 32 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
I keep hearing about how this is locked supply… explain?
As noted above, there is currently no redemption program for converting your ETHE back into ETH. This means that once an ETHE is issued, it will remain in circulation until a redemption program is formed --- something that doesn’t seem to be too urgent for the SEC or Grayscale at the moment. Tiny amounts will naturally be removed due to fees, but the bulk of the asset is in there for good. Knowing that ETHE cannot be taken back and destroyed at this time, the ETH collateralizing it will not be removed from the wallet for the foreseeable future. While it is not fully locked in the sense of say a totally lost key, it is not coming out any time soon. Per their annual statement:
The Trust’s ETH will be transferred out of the ETH Account only in the following circumstances: (i) transferred to pay the Sponsor’s Fee or any Additional Trust Expenses, (ii) distributed in connection with the redemption of Baskets (subject to the Trust’s obtaining regulatory approval from the SEC to operate an ongoing redemption program and the consent of the Sponsor), (iii) sold on an as-needed basis to pay Additional Trust Expenses or (iv) sold on behalf of the Trust in the event the Trust terminates and liquidates its assets or as otherwise required by law or regulation.
Source: Description of Trust on page 31 of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here
Grayscale now owns a huge chunk of both ETH and BTC’s supply… should we be worried about manipulation, a sell off to crash the market crash, a staking cartel?
First, it’s important to remember Grayscale is a lot more akin to an exchange then say an investment firm. Grayscale is working on behalf of its investors to create this product for investor control. Grayscale doesn’t ‘control’ the ETH it holds any more then Coinbase ‘controls’ the ETH in its hot wallet. (Note: There are likely some varying levels of control, but specific to this topic Grayscale cannot simply sell [legally, at least] the ETH by their own decision in the same manner Coinbase wouldn't be able to either.) That said, there shouldn’t be any worry in the short to medium time-frame. As noted above, Grayscale can’t really remove ETH other than for fees or termination of the product. At 2.5% a year, fees are noise in terms of volume. Grayscale seems to be the fastest growing product in the crypto space at the moment and termination of the product seems unlikely. IF redemptions were to happen tomorrow, it’s extremely unlikely we would see a mass exodus out of the product to redeem for ETH. And even if there was incentive to get back to ETH, the premium makes it so that it would be much more cost effective to just sell your ETHE on the secondary market and buy ETH yourself. Remember, any redemption is up to the investors and NOT something Grayscale has direct control over.
Yes, but what about [insert criminal act here]…
Alright, yes. Technically nothing is stopping Grayscale from selling all the ETH / BTC and running off to the Bahamas (Hawaii?). BUT there is no real reason for them to do so. Barry is an extremely public figure and it won’t be easy for him to get away with that. Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust creates SEC reports weekly / bi-weekly and I’m sure given the sentiment towards crypto is being watched carefully. Plus, Grayscale is making tons of consistent revenue and thus has little to no incentive to give that up for a quick buck.
That’s a lot of ‘happy little feels’ Bob, is there even an independent audit or is this Tether 2.0?
Actually yes, an independent auditor report can be found in their annual reports. It is clearly aimed more towards the financial side and I doubt the auditors are crypto savants, but it is at least one extra set of eyes. Auditors are Friedman LLP – Auditor since 2015. Source: Independent Auditor Report starting on page 116 (of the PDF itself) of the “Grayscale Ethereum Trust Annual Report (2019)” – Located Here As mentioned by user TheCrpytosAndBloods (In Comments Below), a fun fact:
The company’s auditors Friedman LLP were also coincidentally TetheBitfinex’s auditors until They controversially parted ways in 2018 when the Tether controversy was at its height. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is anything shady about DCG - I just find it interesting it’s the same auditor.
“Grayscale sounds kind of lame” / “Not your keys not your crypto!” / “Why is anyone buying this, it sounds like a scam?”
Welp, for starters this honestly is not really a product aimed at the people likely to be reading this post. To each their own, but do remember just because something provides no value to you doesn’t mean it can’t provide value to someone else. That said some of the advertised benefits are as follows:
Access to trading within a tax advantaged retirement account
Institutions can easily and safely get exposure to crypto in a more legal-friendly manner
Ease of use for those who are not very technologically savvy
Ease of access for someone who doesn’t want to set up a Coinbase account
Perceived trust in institutional platforms over something like Coinbase or Kraken
Degen traders who just want access to the volatility ETHE provides that have no interest in crypto beyond that
So for example, I can set up an IRA at a brokerage account that has $0 trading fees. Then I can trade GBTC and ETHE all day without having to worry about tracking my taxes. All with the relative safety something like E-Trade provides over Binance. As for how it benefits the everyday ETH holder? I think the supply lock is a positive. I also think this product exposes the Ethereum ecosystem to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about it.
Why is there a premium? Why is ETHE’s premium so insanely high compared to GBTC’s premium?
There are a handful of theories of why a premium exists at all, some even mentioned in the annual report. The short list is as follows:
ETHE is NOT redeeming shares and as such doesn’t have an effective arbitrage mechanism
ETHE has a 1 year wait to be sold on the secondary market, again negating the ability to effectively arbitrage the premium
People may simply be willing to pay a premium for the benefits stated above.
Why is ETHE’s so much higher the GBTC’s? Again, a few thoughts:
ETHE hasn’t been around as long, so there is less secondary market supply to go around
ETHE was listed at an insanely high premium to begin with
ETHE might simply be more popular at the moment
Could just be sheer stupidity (investors think ETHE is a 1:1 ratio not 1:11)
Are there any other differences between ETHE and GBTC?
I touched on a few of the smaller differences, but one of the more interesting changes is GBTC is now a “SEC reporting company” as of January 2020. Which again goes beyond my scope of knowledge so I won’t comment on it too much… but the net result is GBTC is now putting out weekly / bi-weekly 8-K’s and annual 10-K’s. This means you can track GBTC that much easier at the moment as well as there is an extra layer of validity to the product IMO.
I’m looking for some statistics on ETHE… such as who is buying, how much is bought, etc?
There is a great Q1 2020 report I recommend you give a read that has a lot of cool graphs and data on the product. It’s a little GBTC centric, but there is some ETHE data as well. It can be found here hidden within the 8-K filings.Q1 2020 is the 4/16/2020 8-K filing. For those more into a GAAP style report see the 2019 annual 10-K of the same location.
Is Grayscale only just for BTC and ETH?
No, there are other products as well. In terms of a secondary market product, ETCG is the Ethereum Classic version of ETHE. Fun Fact – ETCG was actually put out to the secondary market first. It also has a 3% fee tied to it where 1% of it goes to some type of ETC development fund. In terms of institutional and accredited investors, there are a few ‘fan favorites’ such as Bitcoin Cash, Litcoin, Stellar, XRP, and Zcash. Something called Horizion (Backed by ZEN I guess? Idk to be honest what that is…). And a diversified Mutual Fund type fund that has a little bit of all of those. None of these products are available on the secondary market.
Are there alternatives to Grayscale?
I know they exist, but I don’t follow them. I’ll leave this as a “to be edited” section and will add as others comment on what they know. Per user Over-analyser (in comments below):
As asked by pegcity - Okay so I was under the impression you can just give them your own ETH and get ETHE, but do you get 11 ETHE per ETH or do you get the market value of ETH in USD worth of ETHE?
I have always understood that the ETHE issued directly through Grayscale is issued without the premium. As in, if I were to trade 1 ETH for ETHE I would get 11, not say only 2 or 3 because the secondary market premium is so high. And if I were paying cash only I would be paying the price to buy 1 ETH to get my 11 ETHE. Per page 39 of their annual statement, it reads as follows:
The Trust will issue Shares to Authorized Participants from time to time, but only in one or more Baskets (with a Basket being a block of 100 Shares). The Trust will not issue fractions of a Basket. The creation (and, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redemption) of Baskets will be made only in exchange for the delivery to the Trust, or the distribution by the Trust, of the number of whole and fractional ETH represented by each Basket being created (or, should the Trust commence a redemption program, redeemed), which is determined by dividing (x) the number of ETH owned by the Trust at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the trade date of a creation or redemption order, after deducting the number of ETH representing the U.S. dollar value of accrued but unpaid fees and expenses of the Trust (converted using the ETH Index Price at such time, and carried to the eighth decimal place), by (y) the number of Shares outstanding at such time (with the quotient so obtained calculated to one one-hundred-millionth of one ETH (i.e., carried to the eighth decimal place)), and multiplying such quotient by 100 (the “Basket ETH Amount”). All questions as to the calculation of the Basket ETH Amount will be conclusively determined by the Sponsor and will be final and binding on all persons interested in the Trust. The Basket ETH Amount multiplied by the number of Baskets being created or redeemed is the “Total Basket ETH Amount.” The number of ETH represented by a Share will gradually decrease over time as the Trust’s ETH are used to pay the Trust’s expenses. Each Share represented approximately 0.0950 ETH and 0.0974 ETH as of December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Forward Thinking Friday: Decred Narratives - 26 June 2020
Welcome to Forward Thinking Friday, a regular venue to discuss ideas, concepts and designs that push Decred further, bigger and better. This week, I wanted to focus discussion in on Decred Narratives and ideas revolving around what Decred is, what it can be and where project messaging resonates with people on an individual and community scale. Decred Narratives Some of the principle narratives and messaging that resonate with me, revolve around the technical and block-chain design components. There are certainly many more out there so please expand, bring up new ideas and discuss unique concepts beyond those below. Superior Store of Value: Decred is unique in the ledger assurances it provides. It assures high security, ability to evolve and a well defined mechanism to be Decisive. I believe this sets Decred up to outlast competition and I believe at the tail of the block subsidy, Decred will be better equipped than any other chain to manage those tail risks and realities. Decred H.A.S it: Related to Hyper-secure, Adaptable, Sustainable after Chris Burniske Armoured Lizard: A h/t to Murad who personified Decred as a lizard and is a comparative to the Bitcoin Honey Badger. Shout out to OfficialCryptos for the Decred Dragon graphic below! https://twitter.com/OfficialCryptos/status/1273926304027508738/photo/1 Elephant in the Room: Governance is the topic in cryptocurrencies least understood but probably most important and hardest to get right. The graphic below remains one of my absolute favourites and speaks to numerous qualities of Decred personified as an elephant (intelligent, herd intelligence, safety in size, elephant in the room of governance). I am very keen to see this narrative built out, I think it is extremely powerful and nuanced. Decred, the elephant in the room Built to Last: Decred's governance and treasury underpin its ability to evolve and self-sustain. This makes for an aligned incentive base and a technology stack uniquely designed for longevity. Differentiation across Numerous Levels: Decred is very different to a minimally different coin like LTC , BCH and ZEC where a small set of changes to the Bitcoin model are made. Decred differentiates across multiple important layers such as governance, treasury, consensus model, security, issuance, adaptability etc. Digital Organism/Hive Mind: Long ago I tweeted about Decred as a digital organism which appreciated that Bitcoin is the gorilla in the room a beast of sheer size and raw power. Decred understands this and does not aim to take it on directly (hence the variety of differentiation noted above). Instead it installed a Hive of human intelligence as the primary mechanism by which it can outsmart, outwit and outlast Bitcoin, giving it superior edge. Evolution in Employment: Decred destroys borders. It enables people around the world to coordinate and build value towards a central goal of sound money. Decred does not care about your background, past, culture or whether you are wearing pants. It employs people without discrimination who do good work, and demonstrate an appreciation of Decred project values and skin in the game contributions. These are just a sub-set of ideas and narratives I have found compelling or illustrative of the Decred value proposition. I believe this topic of narratives is immensely valuable to explore and I look forward to hearing all manner of narratives that resonate with you.
semi-quick answers to common questions of new people
so people often ask similar questions over here and because they are getting probably kinda annoying over time to many I just try to answer as many as I find. if you have more that would fit here, add them to the comments
can I recieve coins without the ledger being connected to a computer
how does that work?
basically crypto currencies work like a bank-only currency, all funds are in the Consensus network which basically works like the bank of the currency, they carry out the transactions and verify you are not trying to overspend. all transactions are basically in an accounting book which is referenced to check your currency balance (which is the blockchain)
tldr: does your debit card need to be online for your account to recieve funds? nope.
I just sent/recieved coins, why are they not showing yet?
as the cryptocurrency's bank while being central to the currency (as in no currency can ever leave the network) the bank in itself is not a central institution but anyone can be part of it, and one of the major things that need to exist because of this is Consensus, or in plain english: agreement. because of this, a few blocks need to pass so nobody can manipulate the chain by calculating a different chain that overrides a transaction with a different one (double-spending)
tldr: the network of many needs time to agree whose transactions are processed in what order and therefore need a bit of time
(which in case of bitcoin is typically an hour after the transaction has set into a block)
my transaction does not get into a block
chances might be your fees are too low, while you cannot directly fix this in Ledger live, other wallets allow you to send another transaction with the same "transaction number" (aka nonce) and higher fees which as soon as it gets placed into the chain, invalidates the old one as each number can only be used once.
my bitcoin address changes everytime I try to recieve in Ledger live, is that normal?
yes. it is a privacy mechanism of the standard of how ledger generates addresses, basically allowing you to stay a little bit more private.
you CAN use your old addresses if you really want but it is obviously less private
how does that work and how do I make sure the address is correct?
simply said: complex math. if you for example enter "my secret -> Bitcoin 1" into the sha256 algorithm you get 3f667104b9efdc247d860a35d9343ec2af6adf16ee87d44bcd4a6c2af572bab8, if you however enter "my secret -> Bitcoin 2", you get 58f5c09c46585dca9bf50b2d3beb48766254138c1f89df8111cf7e012b4d7004 which cannot easily be correlated to each other, it's the same concept but more complicated.
for verification, plug in your ledger when recieving and verify your address by using the Ledger's display.
do I need to backup my currency keys often?
nope and in fact there is nothing to backup except your seed phrase. Ledger uses a technique called deterministic wallets, which allows your secret and a standardized sequence of math operations to determine your keys addresses and everything.
the above answer literally illustrates the concept, where you would throw your secret and data about which currency and the how many-th account you need into a complex piece of math and get your data out.
TLDR: all you need are your 24 words.
can I create hidden wallets on my ledger which cannot be easily accessed?
sure. but be warned, THIS IS ADVANCED.
there is a feature called a passphrase, which you can add onto your 24 words (which is why it is sometimes called a 25th word, but it can literally be anything), which works as a way to create a new set of addresses. however unlike your 24 words, there is no checksum and as it can literally be anything it is case sensitive and everything, so be careful when noting it down.
you can either attach the passphrase temporarily (gone when you turn off your ledger) or set up a second PIN with that passphrase stored on your ledger
HELP: I lost my:
if you have your 24 word seed (and passphrase if you use it, you can just reset by entering 3 wrong PINs and recover
if not, sorry, your assets are gone, so KEEP A BACKUP OF YOUR SEED
Ledger Passphrase PIN:
if you have your passphrase, just enter your main PIN and re-attach your passphrase
if you have your ledger PIN, you can move away your coins to an exchange or a new seed (which you either initialize using a second ledger or you use a software wallet for the short term while being SUPER careful (or as a compromise, new 24 words you generate offline) and transfer your funds over there, in case you used a software wallet or an exchange, reset your ledger afterwards and create a new set of 24 words and transfer back to them.
in case you use a passphrase you either need both PINs or main pin and passphrase
in case you do not have the above, it's sad and all is gone yet again.
if you have a passphrase PIN and you know it, you can TEMPORARILY attach a new phrase to your ledger to get new addresses, switch back to the passphrase using your PIN and send the funds over to your new passphrase's addresses.
if not, be sad.
Ledger Live Password
you can just reset ledger live. ledger live is just an application to watch your currency and prepare transactions for your ledger to sign. its contents LITERALLY DONT MATTER
if you dont need the privacy added by the password you can set up ledger live without any password as well.
long story short: your ledger live password doesnt matter, your PINs dont matter too much, but SERIOUSLY, BACKUP YOUR SEED AND PASSPHRASE
I cannot recover, why cant the Ledger makers help me?
unlike in a real life bank which can verify your human identity and issue new keys, to the Consensus network, YOUR KEYS ARE YOUR IDENTITY, and your 24 words are effectively your keys. aside from your backup THERE IS NO BACKUP.
Someone claims to be from [Ledger, the Police, the network of a coin etc.] and wants my 24 words/passphrase to verify something, should I tell them.
I did say your ledger effectively is your debit card, and your 24 words and passphrase are effectively a template for making a new one with full access to your account. and unlike a debit card in real life might have, there are no spending limits aside from the fact you cannot go below zero, and there is no fraud department, or chargeback.
IF ANYONE HAS YOUR KEYS, THEY CAN EMPTY YOUR ACCOUNTS, ALL OF THEM.
Crypto-Powered - The Most Promising Use-Cases of Decentralized Finance (DeFi)
A whirlwind tour of Defi, paying close attention to protocols that we’re leveraging atGenesis Block. https://reddit.com/link/hrrt21/video/cvjh5rrh12b51/player This is the third post ofCrypto-Powered— a new series that examines what it means forGenesis Blockto be a digital bank that’s powered by crypto, blockchain, and decentralized protocols. Last week we explored how building on legacy finance is a fool’s errand. The future of money belongs to those who build with crypto and blockchain at their core. We also started down the crypto rabbit hole, introducing Bitcoin, Ethereum, and DeFi (decentralized finance). That post is required reading if you hope to glean any value from the rest of this series. 97% of all activity on Ethereum in the last quarter has been DeFi-related. The total value sitting inside DeFi protocols is roughly $2B — double what it was a month ago. The explosive growth cannot be ignored. All signs suggest that Ethereum & DeFi are a Match Made in Heaven, and both on their way to finding strong product/market fit. So in this post, we’re doing a whirlwind tour of DeFi. We look at specific examples and use-cases already in the wild and seeing strong growth. And we pay close attention to protocols that Genesis Block is integrating with. Alright, let’s dive in.
Stablecoins are exactly what they sound like: cryptocurrencies that are stable. They are not meant to be volatile (like Bitcoin). These assets attempt to peg their price to some external reference (eg. USD or Gold). A non-volatile crypto asset can be incredibly useful for things like merchant payments, cross-border transfers, or storing wealth — becoming your own bank but without the stress of constant price volatility. There are major governments and central banks that are experimenting with or soon launching their own stablecoins like China with their digital yuan and the US Federal Reserve with their digital dollar. There are also major corporations working in this area like JP Morgan with their JPM Coin, and of course Facebook with their Libra Project.
Stablecoin activity has grown 800% in the last year, with $290B of transaction volume (funds moving on-chain).
USDC($1B): This is the most reputable USD-backed stablecoin, at least in the West. It was created by Coinbase & Circle, both well-regarded crypto companies. They’ve been very open and transparent with their audits and bank records.
DAI ($189M): This is backed by other crypto assets — not USD in a bank account. This was arguably the first true DeFi protocol. The big benefit is that it’s more decentralized — it’s not controlled by any single organization. The downside is that the assets backing it can be volatile crypto assets (though it has mechanisms in place to mitigate that risk).
Three of the top five DeFi protocols relate to lending & borrowing. These popular lending protocols look very similar to traditional money markets. Users who want to earn interest/yield can deposit (lend) their funds into a pool of liquidity. Because it behaves similarly to traditional money markets, their funds are not locked, they can withdraw at any time. It’s highly liquid. Borrowers can tap into this pool of liquidity and take out loans. Interest rates depend on the utilization rate of the pool — how much of the deposits in the pool have already been borrowed. Supply & demand. Thus, interest rates are variable and borrowers can pay their loans back at any time.
So, who decides how much a borrower can take? What’s the process like? Are there credit checks? How is credit-worthiness determined?
These protocols are decentralized, borderless, permissionless. The people participating in these markets are from all over the world. There is no simple way to verify identity or check credit history. So none of that happens. Credit-worthiness is determined simply by how much crypto collateral the borrower puts into the protocol. For example, if a user wants to borrow $5k of USDC, then they’ll need to deposit $10k of BTC or ETH. The exact amount of collateral depends on the rules of the protocol — usually the more liquid the collateral asset, the more borrowing power the user can receive. The most prominent lending protocols include Compound, Aave, Maker, and Atomic Loans. Recently, Compound has seen meteoric growth with the introduction of their COMP token — a token used to incentivize and reward participants of the protocol. There’s almost $1B in outstanding debt in the Compound protocol. Mainframe is also working on an exciting protocol in this area and the latest iteration of their white paper should be coming out soon.
There is very little economic risk to these protocols because all loans are overcollateralized.
Buying, selling, and trading crypto assets is certainly one form of investing (though not for the faint of heart). But there are now DeFi protocols to facilitate making and managing traditional-style investments. Through DeFi, you can invest in Gold. You can invest in stocks like Amazon and Apple. You can short Tesla. You can access the S&P 500. This is done through crypto-based synthetics — which gives users exposure to assets without needing to hold or own the underlying asset. This is all possible with protocols like UMA, Synthetix, or Market protocol. Maybe your style of investing is more passive. With PoolTogether , you can participate in a no-loss lottery. Maybe you’re an advanced trader and want to trade options or futures. You can do that with DeFi protocols like Convexity, Futureswap, and dYdX. Maybe you live on the wild side and trade on margin or leverage, you can do that with protocols like Fulcrum, Nuo, and DDEX. Or maybe you’re a degenerate gambler and want to bet against Trump in the upcoming election, you can do that on Augur. And there are plenty of DeFi protocols to help with crypto investing. You could use Set Protocol if you need automated trading strategies. You could use Melonport if you’re an asset manager. You could use Balancer to automatically rebalance your portfolio. With as little as $1, people all over the world can have access to the same investment opportunities and tools that used to be reserved for only the wealthy, or those lucky enough to be born in the right country.
You can start to imagine how services like Etrade, TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and even Robinhood could be massively disrupted by a crypto-native company that builds with these types of protocols at their foundation.
As mentioned in our previous post, there are near-infinite applications one can build on Ethereum. As a result, sometimes the code doesn’t work as expected. Bugs get through, it breaks. We’re still early in our industry. The tools, frameworks, and best practices are all still being established. Things can go wrong. Sometimes the application just gets in a weird or bad state where funds can’t be recovered — like with what happened with Parity where $280M got frozen (yes, I lost some money in that). Sometimes, there are hackers who discover a vulnerability in the code and maliciously steal funds — like how dForce lost $25M a few months ago, or how The DAO lost $50M a few years ago. And sometimes the system works as designed, but the economic model behind it is flawed, so a clever user takes advantage of the system— like what recently happened with Balancer where they lost $500k. There are a lot of risks when interacting with smart contracts and decentralized applications — especially for ones that haven’t stood the test of time. This is why insurance is such an important development in DeFi.
Insurance will be an essential component in helping this technology reach the masses.
Decentralized Exchanges (DEX) were one of the first and most developed categories in DeFi. A DEX allows a user to easily exchange one crypto asset for another crypto asset — but without needing to sign up for an account, verify identity, etc. It’s all via decentralized protocols. Within the first 5 months of 2020, the top 7 DEX already achieved the 2019 trading volume. That was $2.5B. DeFi is fueling a lot of this growth. https://preview.redd.it/1dwvq4e022b51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=97a3d756f60239cd147031eb95fc2a981db55943 There are many different flavors of DEX. Some of the early ones included 0x, IDEX, and EtherDelta — all of which had a traditional order book model where buyers are matched with sellers. Another flavor is the pooled liquidity approach where the price is determined algorithmically based on how much liquidity there is and how much the user wants to buy. This is known as an AMM (Automated Market Maker) — Uniswap and Bancor were early leaders here. Though lately, Balancer has seen incredible growth due mostly to their strong incentives for participation — similar to Compound. There are some DEXs that are more specialized — for example, Curve and mStable focus mostly only stablecoins. Because of the proliferation of these decentralized exchanges, there are now aggregators that combine and connect the liquidity of many sources. Those include Kyber, Totle, 1Inch, and Dex.ag.
These decentralized exchanges are becoming more and more connected to DeFi because they provide an opportunity for yield and earning interest.
As it relates to making payments, much of the world is still stuck on plastic cards. We’re grateful to partner with Visa and launch the Genesis Block debit card… but we still don’t believe that's the future of payments. We see that as an important bridge between the past (legacy finance) and the future (crypto). Our first post in this series shared more on why legacy finance is broken. We talked about the countless unnecessary middle-men on every card swipe (merchant, acquiring bank, processor, card network, issuing bank). We talked about the slow settlement times. The future of payments will be much better. Yes, it’ll be from a mobile phone and the user experience will be similar to ApplePay (NFC) or WePay (QR Code).
But more importantly, the underlying assets being moved/exchanged will all be crypto — digital, permissionless, and open source.
Someone making a payment at the grocery store check-out line will be able to open up Genesis Block, use contactless tech or scan a QR code, and instantly pay for their goods. All using crypto. Likely a stablecoin. Settlement will be instant. All the middlemen getting their pound of flesh will be disintermediated. The merchant can make more and the user can spend less. Blockchain FTW! Now let’s talk about a few projects working in this area. The xDai Burner Wallet experience was incredible at the ETHDenver event a few years ago, but that speed came at the expense of full decentralization (can it be censored or shut down?). Of course, Facebook’s Libra wants to become the new standard for global payments, but many are afraid to give Facebook that much control (newsflash: it isn’t very decentralized). Bitcoin is decentralized… but it’s slow and volatile. There are strong projects like Lightning Network (Zap example) that are still trying to make it happen. Projects like Connext and OmiseGo are trying to help bring payments to Ethereum. The Flexa project is leveraging the gift card rails, which is a nice hack to leverage existing pipes. And if ETH 2.0 is as fast as they say it will be, then the future of payments could just be a stablecoin like DAI (a token on Ethereum). In a way, being able to spend crypto on daily expenses is the holy grail of use-cases. It’s still early. It hasn’t yet been solved. But once we achieve this, then we can ultimately and finally say goodbye to the legacy banking & finance world. Employees can be paid in crypto. Employees can spend in crypto. It changes everything.
Legacy finance is hanging on by a thread, and it’s this use-case that they are still clinging to. Once solved, DeFi domination will be complete.
At Genesis Block, we’re excited to leverage these protocols and take this incredible technology to the world. Many of these protocols are already deeply integrated with our product. In fact, many are essential. The masses won’t know (or care about) what Tether, USDC, or DAI is. They think in dollars, euros, pounds and pesos. So while the user sees their local currency in the app, the underlying technology is all leveraging stablecoins. It’s all on “crypto rails.” https://preview.redd.it/jajzttr622b51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=fcf55cea1216a1d2fcc3bf327858b009965f9bf8 When users deposit assets into their Genesis Block account, they expect to earn interest. They expect that money to grow. We leverage many of these low-risk lending/exchange DeFi protocols. We lend into decentralized money markets like Compound — where all loans are overcollateralized. Or we supply liquidity to AMM exchanges like Balancer. This allows us to earn interest and generate yield for our depositors. We’re the experts so our users don’t need to be. We haven’t yet integrated with any of the insurance or investment protocols — but we certainly plan on it. Our infrastructure is built with blockchain technology at the heart and our system is extensible — we’re ready to add assets and protocols when we feel they are ready, safe, secure, and stable. Many of these protocols are still in the experimental phase. It’s still early.
At Genesis Block we’re excited to continue to be at the frontlines of this incredible, innovative, technological revolution called DeFi.
--- None of these powerful DeFi protocols will be replacing Robinhood, SoFi, or Venmo anytime soon. They never will. They aren’t meant to! We’ve discussed this before, these are low-level protocols that need killer applications, like Genesis Block. So now that we’ve gone a little deeper down the rabbit hole and we’ve done this whirlwind tour of DeFi, the natural next question is: why?
Why does any of it matter?
Most of these financial services that DeFi offers already exist in the real world. So why does it need to be on a blockchain? Why does it need to be decentralized? What new value is unlocked? Next post, we answer these important questions. To look at more projects in DeFi, check outDeFi Prime,DeFi Pulse, orConsensys. ------ Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
Dieter Fishbein, Ecosystem Development Lead, Web3 Foundation
Dan: Hey everyone, thanks for joining us for the Polkadot Launch AMA. We have Dieter Fishbein (Head of Ecosystem Development, our business development team), Logan Saether (Technical Education), and Will Pankiewicz (Master of Validators) joining us today. We had some great questions submitted in advance, and we’ll start by answering those and learning a bit about each of our guests. After we go through the pre-submitted questions, then we’ll open up the chat to live Q&A and the hosts will answer as many questions as they can. We’ll start off with Dieter and ask him a set of some business-related questions.
Dieter could you introduce yourself, your background, and your role within the Polkadot ecosystem?
Dieter: I got my start in the space as a cryptography researcher at the University of Waterloo. This is where I first learned about Bitcoin and started following the space. I spent the next four years or so on the investment team for a large asset manager where I primarily focused on emerging markets. In 2017 I decided to take the plunge and join the space full-time. I worked at a small blockchain-focused VC fund and then joined the Polkadot team just over a year ago. My role at Polkadot is mainly focused on ensuring there is a vibrant community of projects building on our technology.
Q: Adoption of Polkadot of the important factors that all projects need to focus on to become more attractive to the industry. So, what is Polkadot's plan to gain more Adoption? [sic]
A (Dieter): Polkadot is fundamentally a developer-focused product so much of our adoption strategy is focused around making Polkadot an attractive product for developers. This has many elements. Right now the path for most developers to build on Polkadot is by creating a blockchain using the Substrate framework which they will later connect to Polkadot when parachains are enabled. This means that much of our adoption strategy comes down to making Substrate an attractive tool and framework. However, it’s not just enough to make building on Substrate attractive, we must also provide an incentive to these developers to actually connect their Substrate-based chain to Polkadot. Part of this incentive is the security that the Polkadot relay chain provides but another key incentive is becoming interoperable with a rich ecosystem of other projects that connect to Polkadot. This means that a key part of our adoption strategy is outreach focused. We go out there and try to convince the best projects in the space that building on our technology will provide them with significant value-add. This is not a purely technical argument. We provide significant support to projects building in our ecosystem through grants, technical support, incubatoaccelerator programs and other structured support programs such as the Substrate Builders Program (https://www.substrate.io/builders-program). I do think we really stand out in the significant, continued support that we provide to builders in our ecosystem. You can also take a look at the over 100 Grants that we’ve given from the Web3 Foundation: https://medium.com/web3foundation/web3-foundation-grants-program-reaches-100-projects-milestone-8fd2a775fd6b
Q: On moving forward through your roadmap, what are your most important next priorities? Does the Polkadot team have enough fundamentals (Funds, Community, etc.) to achieve those milestones?
A (Dieter): I would say the top priority by far is to ensure a smooth roll-out of key Polkadot features such as parachains, XCMP and other key parts of the protocol. Our recent Proof of Authority network launch was only just the beginning, it’s crucial that we carefully and successfully deploy features that allow builders to build meaningful technology. Second to that, we want to promote adoption by making more teams aware of Polkadot and how they can leverage it to build their product. Part of this comes down to the outreach that I discussed before but a major part of it is much more community-driven and many members of the team focus on this. We are also blessed to have an awesome community to make this process easier 🙂
Q: Where can a list of Polkadot's application-specific chains can be found?
A (Dieter): The best list right now is http://www.polkaproject.com/. This is a community-led effort and the team behind it has done a terrific job. We’re also working on providing our own resource for this and we’ll share that with the community when it’s ready.
Q: Could you explain the differences and similarities between Kusama and Polkadot?
A (Dieter): Kusama is fundamentally a less robust, faster-moving version of Polkadot with less economic backing by validators. It is less robust since we will be deploying new technology to Kusama before Polkadot so it may break more frequently. It has less economic backing than Polkadot, so a network takeover is easier on Kusama than on Polkadot, lending itself more to use cases without the need for bank-like security. In exchange for lower security and robustness, we expect the cost of a parachain lease to be lower on Kusama than Polkadot. Polkadot will always be 100% focused on security and robustness and I expect that applications that deal with high-value transactions such as those in the DeFi space will always want a Polkadot deployment, I think there will be a market for applications that are willing to trade cheap, high throughput for lower security and robustness such as those in the gaming, content distribution or social networking sectors. Check out - https://polkadot.network/kusama-polkadot-comparing-the-cousins/ for more detailed info!
Q: and for what reasons would a developer choose one over the other?
A (Dieter): Firstly, I see some earlier stage teams who are still iterating on their technology choosing to deploy to Kusama exclusively because of its lower-stakes, faster moving environment where it will be easier for them to iterate on their technology and build their user base. These will likely encompass the above sectors I identified earlier. To these teams, Polkadot becomes an eventual upgrade path for them if, and when, they are able to perfect their product, build a larger community of users and start to need the increased stability and security that Polkadot will provide. Secondly, I suspect many teams who have their main deployment on Polkadot will also have an additional deployment on Kusama to allow them to test new features, either their tech or changes to the network, before these are deployed to Polkadot mainnet.
Logan Saether, Technical Education, Web3 Foundation
Q: Sweet, let's move over to Logan. Logan - could you introduce yourself, your background, and your role within the Polkadot ecosystem?
A (Logan): My initial involvement in the industry was as a smart contract engineer. During this time I worked on a few projects, including a reboot of the Ethereum Alarm Clock project originally by Piper Merriam. However, I had some frustrations at the time with the limitations of the EVM environment and began to look at other tools which could help me build the projects that I envisioned. This led to me looking at Substrate and completing a bounty for Web3 Foundation, after which I applied and joined the Technical Education team. My responsibilities at the Technical Education team include maintaining the Polkadot Wiki as a source of truth on the Polkadot ecosystem, creating example applications, writing technical documentation, giving talks and workshops, as well as helping initiatives such as the Thousand Validator Programme.
Q: The first technical question submitted for you was: "When will an official Polkadot mobile wallet appear?"
A (Logan): There is already an “official” wallet from Parity Technologies called the Parity Signer. Parity Signer allows you to keep your private keys on an air-gapped mobile device and to interactively sign messages using web interfaces such as Polkadot JS Apps. If you’re looking for something that is more of an interface to the blockchain as well as a wallet, you might be interested in PolkaWallet which is a community team that is building a full mobile interface for Polkadot. For more information on Parity Signer check out the website: https://www.parity.io/signe
Q: Great thanks...our next question is: If someone already developed an application to run on Ethereum, but wants the interoperability that Polkadot will offer, are there any advantages to rebuilding with Substrate to run as a parachain on the Polkadot network instead of just keeping it on Ethereum and using the Ethereum bridge for use with Polkadot?
A (Logan): Yes, the advantage you would get from building on Substrate is more control over how your application will interact with the greater Polkadot ecosystem, as well as a larger design canvas for future iterations of your application. Using an Ethereum bridge will probably have more cross chain latency than using a Polkadot parachain directly. The reason for this is due to the nature of Ethereum’s separate consensus protocol from Polkadot. For parachains, messages can be sent to be included in the next block with guarantees that they will be delivered. On bridged chains, your application will need to go through more routes in order to execute on the desired destination. It must first route from your application on Ethereum to the Ethereum bridge parachain, and afterward dispatch the XCMP message from the Polkadot side of the parachain. In other words, an application on Ethereum would first need to cross the bridge then send a message, while an application as a parachain would only need to send the message without needing to route across an external bridge.
Q: DOT transfers won't go live until Web3 removes the Sudo module and token holders approve the proposal to unlock them. But when will staking rewards start to be distributed? Will it have to after token transfers unlock? Or will accounts be able to accumulate rewards (still locked) once the network transitions to NPoS?
A (Logan): Staking rewards will be distributed starting with the transition to NPoS. Transfers will still be locked during the beginning of this phase, but reward payments are technically different from the normal transfer mechanism. You can read more about the launch process and steps at http://polkadot.network/launch-roadmap
Q: Next question is: I'm interested in how Cumulus/parachain development is going. ETA for when we will see the first parachain registered working on Kusama or some other public testnet like Westend maybe?
A (Logan): Parachains and Cumulus is a current high priority development objective of the Parity team. There have already been PoC parachains running with Cumulus on local testnets for months. The current work now is making the availability and validity subprotocols production ready in the Polkadot client. The best way to stay up to date would be to follow the project boards on GitHub that have delineated all of the tasks that should be done. Ideally, we can start seeing parachains on Westend soon with the first real parachains being deployed on Kusama thereafter. The projects board can be viewed here: https://github.com/paritytech/polkadot/projects Dan: Also...check out Basti's tweet from yesterday on the Cumulus topic: https://twitter.com/bkchstatus/1270479898696695808?s=20
Q: In what ways does Polkadot support smart contracts?
A (Logan): The philosophy behind the Polkadot Relay Chain is to be as minimal as possible, but allow arbitrary logic at the edges in the parachains. For this reason, Polkadot does not support smart contracts natively on the Relay Chain. However, it will support smart contracts on parachains. There are already a couple major initiatives out there. One initiative is to allow EVM contracts to be deployed on parachains, this includes the Substrate EVM module, Parity’s Frontier, and projects such as Moonbeam. Another initiative is to create a completely new smart contract stack that is native to Substrate. This includes the Substrate Contracts pallet, and the ink! DSL for writing smart contracts. Learn more about Substrate's compatibility layer with Ethereum smart contracts here: https://github.com/paritytech/frontier
Will Pankiewicz, Master of Validators, Parity Technologies
Q: (Dan) Thanks for all the answers. Now we’ll start going through some staking questions with Will related to validating and nominating on Polkadot. Will - could you introduce yourself, your background, and your role within the Polkadot ecosystem?
A (Will): Sure thing. Like many others, Bitcoin drew me in back in 2013, but it wasn't until Ethereum came that I took the deep dive into working in the space full time. It was the financial infrastructure aspects of cryptocurrencies I was initially interested in, and first worked on dexes, algorithmic trading, and crypto funds. I really liked the idea of "Generalized Mining" that CoinFund came up with, and started to explore the whacky ways the crypto funds and others can both support ecosystems and be self-sustaining at the same time. This drew me to a lot of interesting experiments in what later became DeFi, as well as running validators on Proof of Stake networks. My role in the Polkadot ecosystem as “Master of Validators” is ensuring the needs of our validator community get met.
Q: Cool thanks. Our first community question was "Is it still more profitable to nominate the validators with lesser stake?"
A (Will): It depends on their commission, but generally yes it is more profitable to nominate validators with lesser stake. When validators have lesser stake, when you nominate them this makes your nomination stake a higher percentage of total stake. This means when rewards get distributed, it will be split more favorably toward you, as rewards are split by total stake percentage. Our entire rewards scheme is that every era (6 hours in Kusama, 24 hours in Polkadot), a certain amount of rewards get distributed, where that amount of rewards is dependent on the total amount of tokens staked for the entire network (50% of all tokens staked is currently optimal). These rewards from the end of an era get distributed roughly equally to all validators active in the validator set. The reward given to each validator is then split between the validators and all their nominators, determined by the total stake that each entity contributes. So if you contribute to a higher percentage of the total stake, you will earn more rewards.
Q: What does priority ranking under nominator addresses mean? For example, what does it mean that nominator A has priority 1 and nominator B has priority 6?
A (Will): Priority ranking is just the index of the nomination that gets stored on chain. It has no effect on how stake gets distributed in Phragmen or how rewards get calculated. This is only the order that the nominator chose their validators. The way that stake from a nominator gets distributed from a nominator to validators is via Phragmen, which is an algorithm that will optimally put stake behind validators so that distribution is roughly equal to those that will get in the validator set. It will try to maximize the total amount at stake in the network and maximize the stake behind minimally staked validators.
Q: On Polkadot.js, what does it mean when there are nodes waiting on Polkadot?
**A (Will):**In Polkadot there is a fixed validator set size that is determined by governance. The way validators get in the active set is by having the highest amount of total stake relative to other validators. So if the validator set size is 100, the top 100 validators by total stake will be in the validator set. Those not active in the validator set will be considered “waiting”.
Q: Another question...Is it necessary to become a waiting validator node right now?
A (Will): It's not necessary, but highly encouraged if you actively want to validate on Polkadot. The longer you are in the waiting tab, the longer you get exposure to nominators that may nominate you.
Q: Will current validators for Kusama also validate for Polkadot? How strongly should I consider their history (with Kusama) when looking to nominate a good validator for DOTs?
A (Will): A lot of Kusama validators will also be validators for Polkadot, as KSM was initially distributed to DOT holders. The early Kusama Validators will also likely be the first Polkadot validators. Being a Kusama validator should be a strong indicator for who to nominate on Polkadot, as the chaos that has ensued with Kusama has allowed validators to battle test their infrastructure. Kusama validators by now are very familiar with tooling, block explorers, terminology, common errors, log formats, upgrades, backups, and other aspects of node operation. This gives them an edge against Polkadot validators that may be new to the ecosystem. You should strongly consider well known Kusama validators when making your choices as a nominator on Polkadot.
Q: Can you go into more details about the process for becoming a DOT validator? Is it similar as the KSM 1000 validators program?
A (Will): The Process for becoming a DOT validators is first to have DOTs. You cannot be a validator without DOTs, as DOTs are used to pay transaction fees, and the minimum amount of DOTs you need is enough to create a validate transaction. After obtaining enough DOTs, you will need to set up your validator infrastructure. Ideally you should have a validator node with specs that match what we call standard hardware, as well as one or more sentry nodes to help isolate the validator node from attacks. After the infrastructure is up and running, you should have your Polkadot accounts set up right with a stash bonded to a controller account, and then submit a validate transaction, which will tell the network your nodes are ready to be a part of the network. You should then try and build a community around your validator to let others know you are trustworthy so that they will nominate you. The 1000 validators programme for Kusama is a programme that gives a certain amount of nominations from the Web3 Foundation and Parity to help bootstrap a community and reputation for validators. There may eventually be a similar type of programme for Polkadot as well. Dan: Thanks a lot for all the answers, Will. That’s the end of the pre-submitted questions and now we’ll open the chat up to live Q&A, and our three team members will get through as many of your questions as possible. We will take questions related to business development, technology, validating, and staking. For those wondering about DOT: DOT tokens do not exist yet. Allocations of Polkadot's native DOT token are technically and legally non-transferable. Hence any publicized sale of DOTs is unsanctioned by Web3 Foundation and possibly fraudulent. Any official public sale of DOTs will be announced on the Web3 Foundation website. Polkadot’s launch process started in May and full network decentralization later this year, holders of DOT allocations will determine issuance and transferability. For those who participated in previous DOT sales, you can learn how to claim your DOTs here (https://wiki.polkadot.network/docs/en/claims).
Telegram Community Follow-up Questions Addressed Below
Q: Polkadot looks good but it confuses me that there are so many other Blockchain projects. What should I pay attention in Polkadot to give it the importance it deserves? What are your planning to achieve with your project?
A (Will): Personally, what I think differentiates it is the governance process. Coordinating forkless upgrades and social coordination helps stand it apart. A (Dieter): The wiki is awesome - https://wiki.polkadot.network/
Q: Over 10,000 ETH paid as a transaction fee , what if this happens on Polkadot? Is it possible we can go through governance to return it to the owner?
Q: What is the minimum ideal amount of DOT and KSM to have if you want to become a validator and how much technical knowledge do you need aside from following the docs?
A (Will): It depends on what the other validators in the ecosystem are staking as well as the validator set size. You just need to be in the top staking amount of the validator set size. So if its 100 validators, you need to be in the top 100 validators by stake.
Q: Will Web3 nominate validators? If yes, which criteria to be elected?
Q: How did you manage to prove that the consensus protocol is safe and unbreakable mathematically?
A (Dieter): We have a research teams of over a dozen scientists with PhDs and post-docs in cryptography and distributed computing who do thorough theoretical analyses on all the protocols used in Polkadot
Q: What are the prospects for NFT?
A: Already being built 🙂
Q: What will be Polkadot next roadmap for 2020 ?
A (Dieter): Building. But seriously - we will continue to add many more features and upgrades to Polkadot as well as continue to strongly focus on adoption from other builders in the ecosystem 🙂 A (Will): https://polkadot.network/launch-roadmap/ This is the launch roadmap. Ideally adding parachains and xcmp towards the end of the year
Q: How Do you stay active in terms of marketing developments during this PANDEMIC? Because I'm sure you're very excited to promote more after this settles down.
A (Dan): The main impact of covid was the impact on in-person events. We have been very active on Crowdcast for webinars since 2019, so it was quite the smooth transition to all-online events. You can see our 40+ past event recordings and follow us on Crowdcast here: https://www.crowdcast.io/polkadot. If you're interested in following our emails for updates (including online events), subscribe here: https://info.polkadot.network/subscribe
Q: Hi, who do you think is your biggest competitor in the space?
A (Dan): Polkadot is a metaprotocol that hasn't been seen in the industry up until this point. We hope to elevate the industry by providing interoperability between all major public networks as well as private blockchains.
Q: Is Polkadot a friend or competitor of Ethereum?
A: Polkadot aims to elevate the whole blockchain space with serious advancements in interoperability, governance and beyond :)
Q: When will there be hardware wallet support?
A (Will): Parity Signer works well for now. Other hardware wallets will be added pretty soon
Q: What are the attractive feature of DOT project that can attract any new users ?
A: We are working on integrations on all the biggest and best wallet providers. ;)
Q: What event/call can we track to catch a switch to nPOS? Is it only force_new_era call? Thanks.
A (Will): If you're on riot, useful channels to follow for updates like this are #polkabot:matrix.org and #polkadot-announcements:matrix.parity.io A (Logan): Yes this is the trigger for initiating the switch to NPoS. You can also poll the ForceEra storage for when it changes to ForceNew.
Q: What strategy will the Polkadot Team use to make new users trust its platform and be part of it?
Q: What problems do you see occurring in the blockchain industry nowadays and how does your project aims to solve these problems?
A (Will): Governance I see as a huge problem. For example upgrading Bitcoin and making decisions for changing things is a very challenging process. We have robust systems of on-chain governance to help solve these coordination problems
Q: How involved are the Polkadot partners? Are they helping with the development?
Q: Can you explain the role of the treasury in Polkadot?
A (Will): The treasury is for projects or people that want to build things, but don't want to go through the formal legal process of raising funds from VCs or grants or what have you. You can get paid by the community to build projects for the community. A: There’s a whole section on the wiki about the treasury and how it functions here https://wiki.polkadot.network/docs/en/mirror-learn-treasury#docsNav
Q: Any plan to introduce Polkadot on Asia, or rising market on Asia?
**A (Will):**We're globally focused
Q: What kind of impact do you expect from the Council? Although it would be elected by token holders, what kind of people you wish to see there?
A (Will): Community focused individuals like u/jam10o that want to see cool things get built and cool communities form If you have further questions, please ask in the official Polkadot Telegram channel.
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