An extraordinary project, with a promising future! A responsible and effective team! I advise everyone to participate in this project! .#Markaccy #TokenSale #ICO #bitcoin #ethereum #crypto #cryptocurrency
Thoughts in effect of China coins? You can see it is in response to someone suing an exchange but the fact that it states “people have the right to freely participate in bitcoin trading at their own risk” ... is this opening the doors for China again or am I reading into this too much?
Bitcoin mentioned around Reddit: Thoughts in effect of China coins? You can see it is in response to someone suing an exchange but the fact that it states “people have the right to freely participate in bitcoin trading at their own r /r/Vechain
A common sentiment is brewing online; a shared desire for the internet that might have been. After decades of corporate encroachment, you don't need to be a power user to realize that something has gone very wrong. In the early days of the internet, the future was bright. In that future, when you sent an instant message, it traveled directly to the recipient. When you needed to pay a friend, you announced a transfer of value to their public key. When an app was missing a feature you wanted, you opened up the source code and implemented it. When you took a picture on your phone, it was immediately encrypted and backed up to storage that you controlled. In that future, people would laugh at the idea of having to authenticate themselves to some corporation before doing these things. What did we get instead? Rather than a network of human-sized communities, we have a handful of enormous commons, each controlled by a faceless corporate entity. Hey user, want to send a message? You can, but we'll store a copy of it indefinitely, unencrypted, for our preference-learning algorithms to pore over; how else could we slap targeted ads on every piece of content you see? Want to pay a friend? You can—in our Monopoly money. Want a new feature? Submit a request to our Support Center and we'll totally maybe think about it. Want to backup a photo? You can—inside our walled garden, which only we (and the NSA, of course) can access. Just be careful what you share, because merely locking you out of your account and deleting all your data is far from the worst thing we could do. You rationalize this: "MEGACORP would never do such a thing; it would be bad for business." But we all know, at some level, that this state of affairs, this inversion of power, is not merely "unfortunate" or "suboptimal" – No. It is degrading. Even if MEGACORP were purely benevolent, it is degrading that we must ask its permission to talk to our friends; that we must rely on it to safeguard our treasured memories; that our digital lives are completely beholden to those who seek only to extract value from us. At the root of this issue is the centralization of data. MEGACORP can surveil you—because your emails and video chats flow through their servers. And MEGACORP can control you—because they hold your data hostage. But centralization is a solution to a technical problem: How can we make the user's data accessible from anywhere in the world, on any device? For a long time, no alternative solution to this problem was forthcoming. Today, thanks to a confluence of established techniques and recent innovations, we have solved the accessibility problem without resorting to centralization. Hashing, encryption, and erasure encoding got us most of the way, but one barrier remained: incentives. How do you incentivize an anonymous stranger to store your data? Earlier protocols like BitTorrent worked around this limitation by relying on altruism, tit-for-tat requirements, or "points" – in other words, nothing you could pay your electric bill with. Finally, in 2009, a solution appeared: Bitcoin. Not long after, Sia was born. Cryptography has unleashed the latent power of the internet by enabling interactions between mutually-distrustful parties. Sia harnesses this power to turn the cloud storage market into a proper marketplace, where buyers and sellers can transact directly, with no intermediaries, anywhere in the world. No more silos or walled gardens: your data is encrypted, so it can't be spied on, and it's stored on many servers, so no single entity can hold it hostage. Thanks to projects like Sia, the internet is being re-decentralized. Sia began its life as a startup, which means it has always been subjected to two competing forces: the ideals of its founders, and the profit motive inherent to all businesses. Its founders have taken great pains to never compromise on the former, but this often threatened the company's financial viability. With the establishment of the Sia Foundation, this tension is resolved. The Foundation, freed of the obligation to generate profit, is a pure embodiment of the ideals from which Sia originally sprung. The goals and responsibilities of the Foundation are numerous: to maintain core Sia protocols and consensus code; to support developers building on top of Sia and its protocols; to promote Sia and facilitate partnerships in other spheres and communities; to ensure that users can easily acquire and safely store siacoins; to develop network scalability solutions; to implement hardforks and lead the community through them; and much more. In a broader sense, its mission is to commoditize data storage, making it cheap, ubiquitous, and accessible to all, without compromising privacy or performance. Sia is a perfect example of how we can achieve better living through cryptography. We now begin a new chapter in Sia's history. May our stewardship lead it into a bright future.
Today, we are proposing the creation of the Sia Foundation: a new non-profit entity that builds and supports distributed cloud storage infrastructure, with a specific focus on the Sia storage platform. What follows is an informal overview of the Sia Foundation, covering two major topics: how the Foundation will be funded, and what its funds will be used for.
The Sia Foundation will be structured as a non-profit entity incorporated in the United States, likely a 501(c)(3) organization or similar. The actions of the Foundation will be constrained by its charter, which formalizes the specific obligations and overall mission outlined in this document. The charter will be updated on an annual basis to reflect the current goals of the Sia community. The organization will be operated by a board of directors, initially comprising Luke Champine as President and Eddie Wang as Chairman. Luke Champine will be leaving his position at Nebulous to work at the Foundation full-time, and will seek to divest his shares of Nebulous stock along with other potential conflicts of interest. Neither Luke nor Eddie personally own any siafunds or significant quantities of siacoin.
The primary source of funding for the Foundation will come from a new block subsidy. Following a hardfork, 30 KS per block will be allocated to the "Foundation Fund," continuing in perpetuity. The existing 30 KS per block miner reward is not affected. Additionally, one year's worth of block subsidies (approximately 1.57 GS) will be allocated to the Fund immediately upon activation of the hardfork. As detailed below, the Foundation will provably burn any coins that it cannot meaningfully spend. As such, the 30 KS subsidy should be viewed as a maximum. This allows the Foundation to grow alongside Sia without requiring additional hardforks. The Foundation will not be funded to any degree by the possession or sale of siafunds. Siafunds were originally introduced as a means of incentivizing growth, and we still believe in their effectiveness: a siafund holder wants to increase the amount of storage on Sia as much as possible. While the Foundation obviously wants Sia to succeed, its driving force should be its charter. Deriving significant revenue from siafunds would jeopardize the Foundation's impartiality and focus. Ultimately, we want the Foundation to act in the best interests of Sia, not in growing its own budget.
The Foundation inherits a great number of responsibilities from Nebulous. Each quarter, the Foundation will publish the progress it has made over the past quarter, and list the responsibilities it intends to prioritize over the coming quarter. This will be accompanied by a financial report, detailing each area of expenditure over the past quarter, and forecasting expenditures for the coming quarter. Below, we summarize some of the myriad responsibilities towards which the Foundation is expected to allocate its resources.
Maintain and enhance core Sia software
Arguably, this is the most important responsibility of the Foundation. At the heart of Sia is its consensus algorithm: regardless of other differences, all Sia software must agree upon the content and rules of the blockchain. It is therefore crucial that the algorithm be stewarded by an entity that is accountable to the community, transparent in its decision-making, and has no profit motive or other conflicts of interest. Accordingly, Sia’s consensus functionality will no longer be directly maintained by Nebulous. Instead, the Foundation will release and maintain an implementation of a "minimal Sia full node," comprising the Sia consensus algorithm and P2P networking code. The source code will be available in a public repository, and signed binaries will be published for each release. Other parties may use this code to provide alternative full node software. For example, Nebulous may extend the minimal full node with wallet, renter, and host functionality. The source code of any such implementation may be submitted to the Foundation for review. If the code passes review, the Foundation will provide "endorsement signatures" for the commit hash used and for binaries compiled internally by the Foundation. Specifically, these signatures assert that the Foundation believes the software contains no consensus-breaking changes or other modifications to imported Foundation code. Endorsement signatures and Foundation-compiled binaries may be displayed and distributed by the receiving party, along with an appropriate disclaimer. A minimal full node is not terribly useful on its own; the wallet, renter, host, and other extensions are what make Sia a proper developer platform. Currently, the only implementations of these extensions are maintained by Nebulous. The Foundation will contract Nebulous to ensure that these extensions continue to receive updates and enhancements. Later on, the Foundation intends to develop its own implementations of these extensions and others. As with the minimal node software, these extensions will be open source and available in public repositories for use by any Sia node software. With the consensus code now managed by the Foundation, the task of implementing and orchestrating hardforks becomes its responsibility as well. When the Foundation determines that a hardfork is necessary (whether through internal discussion or via community petition), a formal proposal will be drafted and submitted for public review, during which arguments for and against the proposal may be submitted to a public repository. During this time, the hardfork code will be implemented, either by Foundation employees or by external contributors working closely with the Foundation. Once the implementation is finished, final arguments will be heard. The Foundation board will then vote whether to accept or reject the proposal, and announce their decision along with appropriate justification. Assuming the proposal was accepted, the Foundation will announce the block height at which the hardfork will activate, and will subsequently release source code and signed binaries that incorporate the hardfork code. Regardless of the Foundation's decision, it is the community that ultimately determines whether a fork is accepted or rejected – nothing can change that. Foundation node software will never automatically update, so all forks must be explicitly adopted by users. Furthermore, the Foundation will provide replay and wipeout protection for its hard forks, protecting other chains from unintended or malicious reorgs. Similarly, the Foundation will ensure that any file contracts formed prior to a fork activation will continue to be honored on both chains until they expire. Finally, the Foundation also intends to pursue scalability solutions for the Sia blockchain. In particular, work has already begun on an implementation of Utreexo, which will greatly reduce the space requirements of fully-validating nodes (allowing a full node to be run on a smartphone) while increasing throughput and decreasing initial sync time. A hardfork implementing Utreexo will be submitted to the community as per the process detailed above. As this is the most important responsibility of the Foundation, it will receive a significant portion of the Foundation’s budget, primarily in the form of developer salaries and contracting agreements.
Support community services
We intend to allocate 25% of the Foundation Fund towards the community. This allocation will be held and disbursed in the form of siacoins, and will pay for grants, bounties, hackathons, and other community-driven endeavours. Any community-run service, such as a Skynet portal, explorer or web wallet, may apply to have its costs covered by the Foundation. Upon approval, the Foundation will reimburse expenses incurred by the service, subject to the exact terms agreed to. The intent of these grants is not to provide a source of income, but rather to make such services "break even" for their operators, so that members of the community can enrich the Sia ecosystem without worrying about the impact on their own finances.
Ensure easy acquisition and storage of siacoins
Most users will acquire their siacoins via an exchange. The Foundation will provide support to Sia-compatible exchanges, and pursue relevant integrations at its discretion, such as Coinbase's new Rosetta standard. The Foundation may also release DEX software that enables trading cryptocurrencies without the need for a third party. (The Foundation itself will never operate as a money transmitter.) Increasingly, users are storing their cryptocurrency on hardware wallets. The Foundation will maintain the existing Ledger Nano S integration, and pursue further integrations at its discretion. Of course, all hardware wallets must be paired with software running on a computer or smartphone, so the Foundation will also develop and/or maintain client-side wallet software, including both full-node wallets and "lite" wallets. Community-operated wallet services, i.e. web wallets, may be funded via grants. Like core software maintenance, this responsibility will be funded in the form of developer salaries and contracting agreements.
Protect the ecosystem
When it comes to cryptocurrency security, patching software vulnerabilities is table stakes; there are significant legal and social threats that we must be mindful of as well. As such, the Foundation will earmark a portion of its fund to defend the community from legal action. The Foundation will also safeguard the network from 51% attacks and other threats to network security by implementing softforks and/or hardforks where necessary. The Foundation also intends to assist in the development of a new FOSS software license, and to solicit legal memos on various Sia-related matters, such as hosting in the United States and the EU. In a broader sense, the establishment of the Foundation makes the ecosystem more robust by transferring core development to a more neutral entity. Thanks to its funding structure, the Foundation will be immune to various forms of pressure that for-profit companies are susceptible to.
Drive adoption of Sia
Although the overriding goal of the Foundation is to make Sia the best platform it can be, all that work will be in vain if no one uses the platform. There are a number of ways the Foundation can promote Sia and get it into the hands of potential users and developers. In-person conferences are understandably far less popular now, but the Foundation can sponsor and/or participate in virtual conferences. (In-person conferences may be held in the future, permitting circumstances.) Similarly, the Foundation will provide prizes for hackathons, which may be organized by community members, Nebulous, or the Foundation itself. Lastly, partnerships with other companies in the cryptocurrency space—or the cloud storage space—are a great way to increase awareness of Sia. To handle these responsibilities, one of the early priorities of the Foundation will be to hire a marketing director.
The Foundation Fund will be controlled by a multisig address. Each member of the Foundation's board will control one of the signing keys, with the signature threshold to be determined once the final composition of the board is known. (This threshold may also be increased or decreased if the number of board members changes.) Additionally, one timelocked signing key will be controlled by David Vorick. This key will act as a “dead man’s switch,” to be used in the event of an emergency that prevents Foundation board members from reaching the signature threshold. The timelock ensures that this key cannot be used unless the Foundation fails to sign a transaction for several months. On the 1st of each month, the Foundation will use its keys to transfer all siacoins in the Fund to two new addresses. The first address will be controlled by a high-security hot wallet, and will receive approximately one month's worth of Foundation expenditures. The second address, receiving the remaining siacoins, will be a modified version of the source address: specifically, it will increase the timelock on David Vorick's signing key by one month. Any other changes to the set of signing keys, such as the arrival or departure of board members, will be incorporated into this address as well. The Foundation Fund is allocated in SC, but many of the Foundation's expenditures must be paid in USD or other fiat currency. Accordingly, the Foundation will convert, at its discretion, a portion of its monthly withdrawals to fiat currency. We expect this conversion to be primarily facilitated by private "OTC" sales to accredited investors. The Foundation currently has no plans to speculate in cryptocurrency or other assets. Finally, it is important that the Foundation adds value to the Sia platform well in excess of the inflation introduced by the block subsidy. For this reason, the Foundation intends to provably burn, on a quarterly basis, any coins that it cannot allocate towards any justifiable expense. In other words, coins will be burned whenever doing so provides greater value to the platform than any other use. Furthermore, the Foundation will cap its SC treasury at 5% of the total supply, and will cap its USD treasury at 4 years’ worth of predicted expenses. Addendum: Hardfork Timeline We would like to see this proposal finalized and accepted by the community no later than September 30th. A new version of siad, implementing the hardfork, will be released no later than October 15th. The hardfork will activate at block 293220, which is expected to occur around 12pm EST on January 1st, 2021.
Addendum: Inflation specifics The total supply of siacoins as of January 1st, 2021 will be approximately 45.243 GS. The initial subsidy of 1.57 GS thus increases the supply by 3.47%, and the total annual inflation in 2021 will be at most 10.4% (if zero coins are burned). In 2022, total annual inflation will be at most 6.28%, and will steadily decrease in subsequent years.
We see the establishment of the Foundation as an important step in the maturation of the Sia project. It provides the ecosystem with a sustainable source of funding that can be exclusively directed towards achieving Sia's ambitious goals. Compared to other projects with far deeper pockets, Sia has always punched above its weight; once we're on equal footing, there's no telling what we'll be able to achieve. Nevertheless, we do not propose this change lightly, and have taken pains to ensure that the Foundation will act in accordance with the ideals that this community shares. It will operate transparently, keep inflation to a minimum, and respect the user's fundamental role in decentralized systems. We hope that everyone in the community will consider this proposal carefully, and look forward to a productive discussion.
Cosmos is a heterogeneous network of many independent parallel blockchains, each powered by classical BFT consensus algorithms like Tendermint. Developers can easily build custom application specific blockchains, called Zones, through the Cosmos SDK framework. These Zones connect to Hubs, which are specifically designed to connect zones together. The vision of Cosmos is to have thousands of Zones and Hubs that are Interoperable through the Inter-Blockchain Communication Protocol (IBC). Cosmos can also connect to other systems through peg zones, which are specifically designed zones that each are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. Cosmos does not use Sharding with each Zone and Hub being sovereign with their own validator set. For a more in-depth look at Cosmos and provide more reference to points made in this article, please see my three part series — Part One, Part Two, Part Three (There's a youtube video with a quick video overview of Cosmos on the medium article - https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b)
Polkadot is a heterogeneous blockchain protocol that connects multiple specialised blockchains into one unified network. It achieves scalability through a sharding infrastructure with multiple blockchains running in parallel, called parachains, that connect to a central chain called the Relay Chain. Developers can easily build custom application specific parachains through the Substrate development framework. The relay chain validates the state transition of connected parachains, providing shared state across the entire ecosystem. If the Relay Chain must revert for any reason, then all of the parachains would also revert. This is to ensure that the validity of the entire system can persist, and no individual part is corruptible. The shared state makes it so that the trust assumptions when using parachains are only those of the Relay Chain validator set, and no other. Interoperability is enabled between parachains through Cross-Chain Message Passing (XCMP) protocol and is also possible to connect to other systems through bridges, which are specifically designed parachains or parathreads that each are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. The hope is to have 100 parachains connect to the relay chain. For a more in-depth look at Polkadot and provide more reference to points made in this article, please see my three part series — Part One, Part Two, Part Three (There's a youtube video with a quick video overview of Polkadot on the medium article - https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b)
Avalanche is a platform of platforms, ultimately consisting of thousands of subnets to form a heterogeneous interoperable network of many blockchains, that takes advantage of the revolutionary Avalanche Consensus protocols to provide a secure, globally distributed, interoperable and trustless framework offering unprecedented decentralisation whilst being able to comply with regulatory requirements. Avalanche allows anyone to create their own tailor-made application specific blockchains, supporting multiple custom virtual machines such as EVM and WASM and written in popular languages like Go (with others coming in the future) rather than lightly used, poorly-understood languages like Solidity. This virtual machine can then be deployed on a custom blockchain network, called a subnet, which consist of a dynamic set of validators working together to achieve consensus on the state of a set of many blockchains where complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. Avalanche was built with serving financial markets in mind. It has native support for easily creating and trading digital smart assets with complex custom rule sets that define how the asset is handled and traded to ensure regulatory compliance can be met. Interoperability is enabled between blockchains within a subnet as well as between subnets. Like Cosmos and Polkadot, Avalanche is also able to connect to other systems through bridges, through custom virtual machines made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. For a more in-depth look at Avalanche and provide more reference to points made in this article, please see here and here (There's a youtube video with a quick video overview of Avalanche on the medium article - https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b)
Comparison between Cosmos, Polkadot and Avalanche
A frequent question I see being asked is how Cosmos, Polkadot and Avalanche compare? Whilst there are similarities there are also a lot of differences. This article is not intended to be an extensive in-depth list, but rather an overview based on some of the criteria that I feel are most important. For a more in-depth view I recommend reading the articles for each of the projects linked above and coming to your own conclusions. I want to stress that it’s not a case of one platform being the killer of all other platforms, far from it. There won’t be one platform to rule them all, and too often the tribalism has plagued this space. Blockchains are going to completely revolutionise most industries and have a profound effect on the world we know today. It’s still very early in this space with most adoption limited to speculation and trading mainly due to the limitations of Blockchain and current iteration of Ethereum, which all three of these platforms hope to address. For those who just want a quick summary see the image at the bottom of the article. With that said let’s have a look
Each Zone and Hub in Cosmos is capable of up to around 1000 transactions per second with bandwidth being the bottleneck in consensus. Cosmos aims to have thousands of Zones and Hubs all connected through IBC. There is no limit on the number of Zones / Hubs that can be created
Parachains in Polkadot are also capable of up to around 1500 transactions per second. A portion of the parachain slots on the Relay Chain will be designated as part of the parathread pool, the performance of a parachain is split between many parathreads offering lower performance and compete amongst themselves in a per-block auction to have their transactions included in the next relay chain block. The number of parachains is limited by the number of validators on the relay chain, they hope to be able to achieve 100 parachains.
Avalanche is capable of around 4500 transactions per second per subnet, this is based on modest hardware requirements to ensure maximum decentralisation of just 2 CPU cores and 4 GB of Memory and with a validator size of over 2,000 nodes. Performance is CPU-bound and if higher performance is required then more specialised subnets can be created with higher minimum requirements to be able to achieve 10,000 tps+ in a subnet. Avalanche aims to have thousands of subnets (each with multiple virtual machines / blockchains) all interoperable with each other. There is no limit on the number of Subnets that can be created.
All three platforms offer vastly superior performance to the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum 1.0. Avalanche with its higher transactions per second, no limit on the number of subnets / blockchains that can be created and the consensus can scale to potentially millions of validators all participating in consensus scores ✅✅✅. Polkadot claims to offer more tps than cosmos, but is limited to the number of parachains (around 100) whereas with Cosmos there is no limit on the number of hubs / zones that can be created. Cosmos is limited to a fairly small validator size of around 200 before performance degrades whereas Polkadot hopes to be able to reach 1000 validators in the relay chain (albeit only a small number of validators are assigned to each parachain). Thus Cosmos and Polkadot scores ✅✅ https://preview.redd.it/2o0brllyvpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=8f62bb696ecaafcf6184da005d5fe0129d504518
Tendermint consensus is limited to around 200 validators before performance starts to degrade. Whilst there is the Cosmos Hub it is one of many hubs in the network and there is no central hub or limit on the number of zones / hubs that can be created.
Polkadot has 1000 validators in the relay chain and these are split up into a small number that validate each parachain (minimum of 14). The relay chain is a central point of failure as all parachains connect to it and the number of parachains is limited depending on the number of validators (they hope to achieve 100 parachains). Due to the limited number of parachain slots available, significant sums of DOT will need to be purchased to win an auction to lease the slot for up to 24 months at a time. Thus likely to lead to only those with enough funds to secure a parachain slot. Parathreads are however an alternative for those that require less and more varied performance for those that can’t secure a parachain slot.
Avalanche consensus scan scale to tens of thousands of validators, even potentially millions of validators all participating in consensus through repeated sub-sampling. The more validators, the faster the network becomes as the load is split between them. There are modest hardware requirements so anyone can run a node and there is no limit on the number of subnets / virtual machines that can be created.
Avalanche offers unparalleled decentralisation using its revolutionary consensus protocols that can scale to millions of validators all participating in consensus at the same time. There is no limit to the number of subnets and virtual machines that can be created, and they can be created by anyone for a small fee, it scores ✅✅✅. Cosmos is limited to 200 validators but no limit on the number of zones / hubs that can be created, which anyone can create and scores ✅✅. Polkadot hopes to accommodate 1000 validators in the relay chain (albeit these are split amongst each of the parachains). The number of parachains is limited and maybe cost prohibitive for many and the relay chain is a ultimately a single point of failure. Whilst definitely not saying it’s centralised and it is more decentralised than many others, just in comparison between the three, it scores ✅ https://preview.redd.it/ckfamee0wpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=c4355f145d821fabf7785e238dbc96a5f5ce2846
Tendermint consensus used in Cosmos reaches finality within 6 seconds. Cosmos consists of many Zones and Hubs that connect to each other. Communication between 2 zones could pass through many hubs along the way, thus also can contribute to latency times depending on the path taken as explained in part two of the articles on Cosmos. It doesn’t need to wait for an extended period of time with risk of rollbacks.
Polkadot provides a Hybrid consensus protocol consisting of Block producing protocol, BABE, and then a finality gadget called GRANDPA that works to agree on a chain, out of many possible forks, by following some simpler fork choice rule. Rather than voting on every block, instead it reaches agreements on chains. As soon as more than 2/3 of validators attest to a chain containing a certain block, all blocks leading up to that one are finalized at once. If an invalid block is detected after it has been finalised then the relay chain would need to be reverted along with every parachain. This is particularly important when connecting to external blockchains as those don’t share the state of the relay chain and thus can’t be rolled back. The longer the time period, the more secure the network is, as there is more time for additional checks to be performed and reported but at the expense of finality. Finality is reached within 60 seconds between parachains but for external ecosystems like Ethereum their state obviously can’t be rolled back like a parachain and so finality will need to be much longer (60 minutes was suggested in the whitepaper) and discussed in more detail in part three
Avalanche consensus achieves finality within 3 seconds, with most happening sub 1 second, immutable and completely irreversible. Any subnet can connect directly to another without having to go through multiple hops and any VM can talk to another VM within the same subnet as well as external subnets. It doesn’t need to wait for an extended period of time with risk of rollbacks.
With regards to performance far too much emphasis is just put on tps as a metric, the other equally important metric, if not more important with regards to finance is latency. Throughput measures the amount of data at any given time that it can handle whereas latency is the amount of time it takes to perform an action. It’s pointless saying you can process more transactions per second than VISA when it takes 60 seconds for a transaction to complete. Low latency also greatly increases general usability and customer satisfaction, nowadays everyone expects card payments, online payments to happen instantly. Avalanche achieves the best results scoring ✅✅✅, Cosmos with comes in second with 6 second finality ✅✅ and Polkadot with 60 second finality (which may be 60 minutes for external blockchains) scores ✅ https://preview.redd.it/kzup5x42wpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=320eb4c25dc4fc0f443a7a2f7ff09567871648cd
Every Zone and Hub in Cosmos has their own validator set and different trust assumptions. Cosmos are researching a shared security model where a Hub can validate the state of connected zones for a fee but not released yet. Once available this will make shared security optional rather than mandatory.
Shared Security is mandatory with Polkadot which uses a Shared State infrastructure between the Relay Chain and all of the connected parachains. If the Relay Chain must revert for any reason, then all of the parachains would also revert. Every parachain makes the same trust assumptions, and as such the relay chain validates state transition and enables seamless interoperability between them. In return for this benefit, they have to purchase DOT and win an auction for one of the available parachain slots. However, parachains can’t just rely on the relay chain for their security, they will also need to implement censorship resistance measures and utilise proof of work / proof of stake for each parachain as well as discussed in part three, thus parachains can’t just rely on the security of the relay chain, they need to ensure sybil resistance mechanisms using POW and POS are implemented on the parachain as well.
A subnet in Avalanche consists of a dynamic set of validators working together to achieve consensus on the state of a set of many blockchains where complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. So unlike in Cosmos where each zone / hub has their own validators, A subnet can validate a single or many virtual machines / blockchains with a single validator set. Shared security is optional
Shared security is mandatory in polkadot and a key design decision in its infrastructure. The relay chain validates the state transition of all connected parachains and thus scores ✅✅✅. Subnets in Avalanche can validate state of either a single or many virtual machines. Each subnet can have their own token and shares a validator set, where complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. It scores ✅ ✅. Every Zone and Hub in cosmos has their own validator set / token but research is underway to have the hub validate the state transition of connected zones, but as this is still early in the research phase scores ✅ for now. https://preview.redd.it/pbgyk3o3wpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=61c18e12932a250f5633c40633810d0f64520575
The Cosmos project started in 2016 with an ICO held in April 2017. There are currently around 50 projects building on the Cosmos SDK with a full list can be seen here and filtering for Cosmos SDK . Not all of the projects will necessarily connect using native cosmos sdk and IBC and some have forked parts of the Cosmos SDK and utilise the tendermint consensus such as Binance Chain but have said they will connect in the future.
The Polkadot project started in 2016 with an ICO held in October 2017. There are currently around 70 projects building on Substrate and a full list can be seen here and filtering for Substrate Based. Like with Cosmos not all projects built using substrate will necessarily connect to Polkadot and parachains or parathreads aren’t currently implemented in either the Live or Test network (Kusama) as of the time of this writing.
Avalanche in comparison started much later with Ava Labs being founded in 2018. Avalanche held it’s ICO in July 2020. Due to lot shorter time it has been in development, the number of projects confirmed are smaller with around 14 projects currently building on Avalanche. Due to the customisability of the platform though, many virtual machines can be used within a subnet making the process incredibly easy to port projects over. As an example, it will launch with the Ethereum Virtual Machine which enables byte for byte compatibility and all the tooling like Metamask, Truffle etc. will work, so projects can easily move over to benefit from the performance, decentralisation and low gas fees offered. In the future Cosmos and Substrate virtual machines could be implemented on Avalanche.
Whilst it’s still early for all 3 projects (and the entire blockchain space as a whole), there is currently more projects confirmed to be building on Cosmos and Polkadot, mostly due to their longer time in development. Whilst Cosmos has fewer projects, zones are implemented compared to Polkadot which doesn’t currently have parachains. IBC to connect zones and hubs together is due to launch Q2 2021, thus both score ✅✅✅. Avalanche has been in development for a lot shorter time period, but is launching with an impressive feature set right from the start with ability to create subnets, VMs, assets, NFTs, permissioned and permissionless blockchains, cross chain atomic swaps within a subnet, smart contracts, bridge to Ethereum etc. Applications can easily port over from other platforms and use all the existing tooling such as Metamask / Truffle etc but benefit from the performance, decentralisation and low gas fees offered. Currently though just based on the number of projects in comparison it scores ✅. https://preview.redd.it/4zpi6s85wpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=e91ade1a86a5d50f4976f3b23a46e9287b08e373
Cosmos enables permissioned and permissionless zones which can connect to each other with the ability to have full control over who validates the blockchain. For permissionless zones each zone / hub can have their own token and they are in control who validates.
With polkadot the state transition is performed by a small randomly selected assigned group of validators from the relay chain plus with the possibility that state is rolled back if an invalid transaction of any of the other parachains is found. This may pose a problem for enterprises that need complete control over who performs validation for regulatory reasons. In addition due to the limited number of parachain slots available Enterprises would have to acquire and lock up large amounts of a highly volatile asset (DOT) and have the possibility that they are outbid in future auctions and find they no longer can have their parachain validated and parathreads don’t provide the guaranteed performance requirements for the application to function.
Avalanche enables permissioned and permissionless subnets and complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. For example a subnet can be created where its mandatory that all validators are from a certain legal jurisdiction, or they hold a specific license and regulated by the SEC etc. Subnets are also able to scale to tens of thousands of validators, and even potentially millions of nodes, all participating in consensus so every enterprise can run their own node rather than only a small amount. Enterprises don’t have to hold large amounts of a highly volatile asset, but instead pay a fee in AVAX for the creation of the subnets and blockchains which is burnt.
Avalanche provides the customisability to run private permissioned blockchains as well as permissionless where the enterprise is in control over who validates the blockchain, with the ability to use complex rulesets to meet regulatory compliance, thus scores ✅✅✅. Cosmos is also able to run permissioned and permissionless zones / hubs so enterprises have full control over who validates a blockchain and scores ✅✅. Polkadot requires locking up large amounts of a highly volatile asset with the possibility of being outbid by competitors and being unable to run the application if the guaranteed performance is required and having to migrate away. The relay chain validates the state transition and can roll back the parachain should an invalid block be detected on another parachain, thus scores ✅. https://preview.redd.it/li5jy6u6wpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=e2a95f1f88e5efbcf9e23c789ae0f002c8eb73fc
Cosmos will connect Hubs and Zones together through its IBC protocol (due to release in Q1 2020). Connecting to blockchains outside of the Cosmos ecosystem would either require the connected blockchain to fork their code to implement IBC or more likely a custom “Peg Zone” will be created specific to work with a particular blockchain it’s trying to bridge to such as Ethereum etc. Each Zone and Hub has different trust levels and connectivity between 2 zones can have different trust depending on which path it takes (this is discussed more in this article). Finality time is low at 6 seconds, but depending on the number of hops, this can increase significantly.
Polkadot’s shared state means each parachain that connects shares the same trust assumptions, of the relay chain validators and that if one blockchain needs to be reverted, all of them will need to be reverted. Interoperability is enabled between parachains through Cross-Chain Message Passing (XCMP) protocol and is also possible to connect to other systems through bridges, which are specifically designed parachains or parathreads that each are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. Finality time between parachains is around 60 seconds, but longer will be needed (initial figures of 60 minutes in the whitepaper) for connecting to external blockchains. Thus limiting the appeal of connecting two external ecosystems together through Polkadot. Polkadot is also limited in the number of Parachain slots available, thus limiting the amount of blockchains that can be bridged. Parathreads could be used for lower performance bridges, but the speed of future blockchains is only going to increase.
A subnet can validate multiple virtual machines / blockchains and all blockchains within a subnet share the same trust assumptions / validator set, enabling cross chain interoperability. Interoperability is also possible between any other subnet, with the hope Avalanche will consist of thousands of subnets. Each subnet may have a different trust level, but as the primary network consists of all validators then this can be used as a source of trust if required. As Avalanche supports many virtual machines, bridges to other ecosystems are created by running the connected virtual machine. There will be an Ethereum bridge using the EVM shortly after mainnet. Finality time is much faster at sub 3 seconds (with most happening under 1 second) with no chance of rolling back so more appealing when connecting to external blockchains.
All 3 systems are able to perform interoperability within their ecosystem and transfer assets as well as data, as well as use bridges to connect to external blockchains. Cosmos has different trust levels between its zones and hubs and can create issues depending on which path it takes and additional latency added. Polkadot provides the same trust assumptions for all connected parachains but has long finality and limited number of parachain slots available. Avalanche provides the same trust assumptions for all blockchains within a subnet, and different trust levels between subnets. However due to the primary network consisting of all validators it can be used for trust. Avalanche also has a much faster finality time with no limitation on the number of blockchains / subnets / bridges that can be created. Overall all three blockchains excel with interoperability within their ecosystem and each score ✅✅. https://preview.redd.it/ai0bkbq8wpq51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=3e85ee6a3c4670f388ccea00b0c906c3fb51e415
The ATOM token is the native token for the Cosmos Hub. It is commonly mistaken by people that think it’s the token used throughout the cosmos ecosystem, whereas it’s just used for one of many hubs in Cosmos, each with their own token. Currently ATOM has little utility as IBC isn’t released and has no connections to other zones / hubs. Once IBC is released zones may prefer to connect to a different hub instead and so ATOM is not used. ATOM isn’t a fixed capped supply token and supply will continuously increase with a yearly inflation of around 10% depending on the % staked. The current market cap for ATOM as of the time of this writing is $1 Billion with 203 million circulating supply. Rewards can be earnt through staking to offset the dilution caused by inflation. Delegators can also get slashed and lose a portion of their ATOM should the validator misbehave.
Polkadot’s native token is DOT and it’s used to secure the Relay Chain. Each parachain needs to acquire sufficient DOT to win an auction on an available parachain lease period of up to 24 months at a time. Parathreads have a fixed fee for registration that would realistically be much lower than the cost of acquiring a parachain slot and compete with other parathreads in a per-block auction to have their transactions included in the next relay chain block. DOT isn’t a fixed capped supply token and supply will continuously increase with a yearly inflation of around 10% depending on the % staked. The current market cap for DOT as of the time of this writing is $4.4 Billion with 852 million circulating supply. Delegators can also get slashed and lose their DOT (potentially 100% of their DOT for serious attacks) should the validator misbehave.
AVAX is the native token for the primary network in Avalanche. Every validator of any subnet also has to validate the primary network and stake a minimum of 2000 AVAX. There is no limit to the number of validators like other consensus methods then this can cater for tens of thousands even potentially millions of validators. As every validator validates the primary network, this can be a source of trust for interoperability between subnets as well as connecting to other ecosystems, thus increasing amount of transaction fees of AVAX. There is no slashing in Avalanche, so there is no risk to lose your AVAX when selecting a validator, instead rewards earnt for staking can be slashed should the validator misbehave. Because Avalanche doesn’t have direct slashing, it is technically possible for someone to both stake AND deliver tokens for something like a flash loan, under the invariant that all tokens that are staked are returned, thus being able to make profit with staked tokens outside of staking itself. There will also be a separate subnet for Athereum which is a ‘spoon,’ or friendly fork, of Ethereum, which benefits from the Avalanche consensus protocol and applications in the Ethereum ecosystem. It’s native token ATH will be airdropped to ETH holders as well as potentially AVAX holders as well. This can be done for other blockchains as well. Transaction fees on the primary network for all 3 of the blockchains as well as subscription fees for creating a subnet and blockchain are paid in AVAX and are burnt, creating deflationary pressure. AVAX is a fixed capped supply of 720 million tokens, creating scarcity rather than an unlimited supply which continuously increase of tokens at a compounded rate each year like others. Initially there will be 360 tokens minted at Mainnet with vesting periods between 1 and 10 years, with tokens gradually unlocking each quarter. The Circulating supply is 24.5 million AVAX with tokens gradually released each quater. The current market cap of AVAX is around $100 million.
The greatest wealth transfer of this century! An analysis: British-US-Chinese Empires: Gold, Silver, Bitcoin, Ethereum!
"Inflation makes you pay 50 dollars for the 20 dollar haircut you used to get for 5 dollars when you had hair!" Let's embark on a journey that made the United States the number 1 economy of the world.
1. Despite the British Empire's claim that it would for ever remain the leading empire,history can serve as a harbinger for what's to come...
At the peak of its power, in 1913, "the empire on which the sun never sets", controlled 25% of the planet's land mass and about the same percentage of the world's population. Britain was both the naval an imperial power of the 19th century, and between 1812-1914, its dominance resulted in relative peace in Europe and the rest of the world. The industrial revolution transformed Britain into the workshop of the world. By the start of the 20th century things changed as both Germany and the United States started to challenge Britain's economic and influential leadership. As often happened during human history such challenging lead to war and although Britain achieved its largest territorial influence after WW1, the war had destroyed much of its economic strength, with losses in industrial and military power marking the begin of its demise. During WW2, Japan occupied Britain's colonies, and after WW2, India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence. Much of the British Empire's influence is now enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, stating shared values like democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The United Kingdom's pound sterling was its world's reserve currency during its reign and by controlling the supply of money, Britain was able to influence its global power. "Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!"Mayer Amschel Rothschild
2. The US Empire repeats this blueprint by claiming the U.S. Dollar's reserve currency status as its birthright!
The Federal Reserve Act. The Panic of 1907 triggered many American's belief that The Federal Reserve Act, passed by the 63rd United States Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913, was necessary for financial and economic stability. The law created the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States. The Bretton Woods System. The FED ended immobile reserve issues and the inelastic currency problems and successfully internationalized the U.S Dollar as the global reserve currency. The usage of the prior nationally used U.S. Dollar expanded a first time when the Allies agreed to the terms of the Bretton Woods System, establishing the rules for commercial as well as financial regulations among the United States and its allies. Canada, Western Europe, Australia and Japan accepted the U.S. Dollar, which was backed by a gold exchange standard, making the U.S. Dollar "as good as gold". This was only possible because the United States controlled two thirds of the world's gold reserves. Soviet representatives, who claimed that institutions like the IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) were Wall Street branches, didn't participate in Bretton Woods and later proved to be right, as the United States printed too much money (not backed by its gold reserves) to wage war on Vietnam, destroying a big part of the value of the U.S. Dollars held by its allies, due to the inflation of the U.S. Dollar money supply. Yet, the initial demand for U.S. dollars created the American way of life: a consumer driven economy fueled by products made outside the U.S. in return for U.S. Dollars. As the Allied countries couldn't really buy any "Made in America"-products, due to the fact that the United States' elites rather outsourced their manufacturing, they instead invested their hard labor into U.S. Treasuries. On August 1971, President Richard Nixon announced the unilateral cancellation of the direct international convertibility of the United States dollar to gold, in a response to halt the Allied countries' continuous attempts to exchange their U.S. Dollars for Gold. By 1973, the Bretton Woods system was replaced by the current freely floating fiat currency system. The petro dollar system. The second wave of U.S. Dollar adoption was the result of the petro dollar, making the global trade of oil U.S. Dollar denominated. Every country on this planet needed and still needs oil to operate and grow its economy, creating an enormous growth in U.S. Dollar demand and like mentioned before, those dollars had to be earned. Especially China served the United States consumer model by producing almost everything Americans can buy in Wall Mart and other stores. By relying on the U.S. Dollar reserve currency status, the American elites have made the mistake of outsourcing manufacturing to China, as often predicted by Donald Trump in the 1980's. The y figured it was easier to just print wealth. The tradewar. President Donald Trump, decided it was time to bring jobs back to the U.S. and started an ongoing trade war with China, the country that supplied the U.S. consumer driven economy, and proud owner of $1.07 trillion in Treasury holdings. The trade war has negatively impacted the economies of both the United States and China and will most likely result in the decoupling of both economies. What is to come? My personal insights. I see huge problems for the U.S. and the rest of the western liberal democracies. But especially the United States, who's currency amounts to no less than 60% of all the world's reserve assets, is vulnerable if and when China who only accounts for 1 or 2 %, says it is time for change. Most likely we will experience another banking crisis, with or without Covid-19, and unfortunately a bigger one when compared to the 2008 dissaster. Did you know that the global debt tripled since then? Many economists and politicians advocate the end of the U.S. Dollar reserve currency system and predict a reset. Every financial system has a limited lifespan similar to a human live: it is created, it grows, it matures, and unfortunately, it ages, weakens and dies. It happened to the Brittish Pound Sterling, and I am afraid that the days of this financial hegemony are numbered as well. And I did write "afraid", why? History tells us that these transition periods are particularly dangerous and have often led to full-blown military conflicts if not world wars. The current wealth transfer, the result of manufacturing outsourcing to mainland China, impoverished the United States and destroyed its middle class. President Donald Trump's analysis that the U.S. needs a strong manufacturing base is correct, yet without its allies the United States will not be able to turn the tide. It took China decades to build its manufacturing base, and President Trump doesn't have the privilege of having the political luxury to design five year plans, as the United States capitalistic and political model specializes more on presidential campaigning and less on economic planning, which is exactly China's strength.
3. The Chinese 'digital' empire.
China is ideally positioned to become the new global power: it produces many of our products and dominates most supply chains. It has been hoarding gold and mines most of the Bitcoin. It might just have the right reserve assets to back its DCEP, the digital Yuan, which will be pilot tested during the 2022 Winter Olympics hosted by China. Despite the fact that the United States and other western nations might not want to adopt the Yuan or allow it to be part of the world's reserve assets, China can demand payment in Yuan for its products. It's that simple! This is why outsourcing is such as stupid economic voluntarily yet fatal policy. If you only print money and don't produce goods, how long will the world play ball? One of the results of Trump's trade war is that China and other countries such as Russia and Iran no longer want to be vulnerable to U.S. sanctions that come in the shape of being denied access to the financial system through Swift. The United States can indeed destroy a big part of Iran's economy, but Iran is now becoming a big cryptocurrency player. In other words, bullying those countries might work in the short-term, but in the long-term they will simply adopt a new standard: and I believe that the Yuan will likely play a major role in the financial system they will adopt. This trend means that the expansion of the demand in U.S. Dollars will stop and reverse, when countries no longer want to use the currency whose issuer can economically destroy them through sanctions. The alternatives for such countires are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and many others, national CBDC's (Central Bank Digital Currencies), and the adoption of the digital Yuan. This digital Yuan will be attached to the One Belt, One road initiative, finding adoption whilst developing huge infrastructure projects that will lead to a Eurasian trading zone. If the U.S. Military leaves the Middle East, as Trump brings home troops, this will create the right conditions for China to emerge as the victor.
4. Surveillance Capitalism - Insights on the DCEP (Digital Currency Electronic Payment, DC/EP):
This centralized digital financial system works on blockchain and cryptographic principles and aims to increase the circulation of the RMB, in the hope it can become a reserve currency like the U.S. Dollar.
Created and sanctioned by the Chinese Government, it is the only legal digital currency in China.
The system offers Chinese regulators better monitoring abilities and will be an efficient tool against anonymous counterfeiting, money laundering and illegal financing. At the same time it reduces costs involved in maintaining and recycling bank notes and coins.
As mentioned above, China aims to bypass Swift, which it regards to be a U.S. entity, and will be able to collect real-time data related to money creation, bookkeeping, essential information for the implementation of monetary policies.
The pilot institutions for DCEP, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, will serve as a production test for China's new currency system, after which the DCEP will be distributed to large fintech companies such as Tencent and Alibaba to be used in WeChat Pay and AliPay. Transfers will not go through bank accounts, but through electronic wallets.
By mandating that all merchants who accept digital payments must accept DCEP, the DECP will become the most accepted digital currency in the world.
5. Sings of hope.
If the United States adopts blockchain and issues a CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) backed by Bitcoin, they will have a reasonable chance to offer the western democracies a new type of dollar standard that can be an anchor versus the coming RMB. If not, I fear the worst is yet to come for the U.S. Dollar and its economy. Many smart American economists and Wall Street goeroe's have finally figured out the remarkable strength of Bitcoin, the world's first and most favorite digital form of gold. Some of the smartest investment capitalists like Ray Dalio and Warren Buffet have allocated more money into gold, a clear sign of trouble. Bitcoin might be a step too far for Warren Buffet, but rest assure that Wall Street investment management companies have figured it out by now, have you? You can expect more institutions to allocate a % of their portfolio's wealth into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as a hedge against the systemic risk in our global financial system, which will inevitable start feeling the effects of the trillions that have been printed. "Inflation makes you pay 50 dollars for the 20 dollar haircut you used to get for 5 dollars when you had hair!"
In a recent spillover of internet-based long-form intellectual new media into the mainstream, Eric Weinstein appeared as a guest on Ted Cruz's podcast. Eric was well prepared. Cruz played the role of a charitable and engaged critic while avoiding direct confrontation. The conservation laid bare the intersection of the anti-corporate socialist left and anti-government libertarian right and the potential of these forces as a combined political interest. There was a strong sense of shared acknowledgement of the current crisis and they touched on all the culture war aspects. But I'm more interested in what Eric has pointed to now several times as the root cause of the systemic decline, and what seems to be the original trigger for the slow decay and building of tension that has ultimately led to the rise of darker elements on both the left and right that we see today: a Great Decoupling of productivity (GDP) and wage growth in the early 1970's. The significance of this time period has also been highlighted by Eric's boss, Peter Thiel. We are referred to https://wtfhappenedin1971.com/, where a collection of charts give the impression that a profound change in the foundations of the economy took place, effectively causing a divergence of all kinds of metrics related to equality, wealth creation, the complexity of regulation, and implicitly downstream effects like political polarization, incarceration rates, and age of marriage. The simple, seemingly persuasive answer is that the effective cancellation of the gold standard set us on a path towards borrowing ever larger sums to avert financial crises as they arise, and the return to a currency backed by something provably scarce, i.e. bitcoin, is a solution. I can't say I'm convinced it's that simple. And Eric doesn't mention currency specifically as the problem. So what I want to know is, was 1971 a real inflection point, the real root of inequality and dysfunction we see today? Was the removal of limits on the Fed's ability to print money a mistake? Or was there some other government action or change at that time that was the real cause? Do we need to let stock market crashes happen from time to time? A year ago, u/gwern posted a 1986 Atlantic article that described a lot of the problems in black America that are still around 4 decades later and offered more in the way of nuance and insight than most of the discourse we see today. What struck me on revisiting it was how the timing of the decline of Chicago aligns with the early 1970's trigger hypothesis:
In 1970 thirty-seven percent of the population of the area was below the poverty line; in 1980 the figure was 51 percent. In 1970 the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent; in 1980 it was 24.2 percent. In 1970 forty percent of the residents of the neighborhood lived in families with a female head; in 1980 the number had grown to 72 percent. In 1980 of the 54,000 residents 33,000 were on welfare. Experts agree that all of the numbers are even worse today.
My mental model for social issues is that they are mostly rooted in economics. If you have a society that generates wealth, you can pay teachers, doctors, and police well enough to attract competent candidates and the competition necessary to create real expertise. You can afford to build and maintain good infrastructure and spend time on figuring out how to best help the disadvantaged. You have the resources to advance technology and support the arts. You get all the positive feedback loops that come with this. When wealth generation becomes concentrated and restricted, public institutions start to struggle, people feel they have less opportunity, and social issues start to bubble up like the formation of outgroups of all kinds. A massive oversimplifation, I know, but a useful general framework to approaching issues that avoids (mis)placing blame on cultural degeneracy, "evil" corporations, or other common scapegoats that are largely symptoms of greater problems. Today, this mindset seems to align with the conservative right, but in the 1986 article it's the "liberal answer" to the problem of ghettos that I identify with:
In Chicago the harbinger of the change was the closing in the late fifties of the stockyards, which for half a century were the sine qua non of lower-class grunt work and a heavy employer of blacks. Chicago lost 200,000 jobs in the seventies; small shut-down redbrick factories that used to make products like boxes and ball bearings dot the city, especially the West Side. The lack of jobs, the argument continues, caused young men in the ghetto to adopt a drifting, inconstant life; to turn to crime; to engage in exaggeratedly macho behavior -- acting tough, not studying, bullying women for money -- as a way to get the sense of male strength that their fathers had derived from working and supporting families. As Murray believes that one simple step, ending all welfare programs, would heal the ghettos, the unemployment school believes that another simple step, jobs, would heal them. "When there's a demand for the participation of the black underclass in the labor force, most of the so-called problems people talk about will evaporate in a generation," says John McKnight. an urban-research professor at Northwestern University.
Indeed, Mr. McKnight. And up until this spring, it looked like the Trump presidency's aggressively pro-jobs and pro-American workers policy was showing promise of vindicating this view - the presence of BLM and racial tensions leading up to 2016 had all but subsided by 2018-2019. I wonder just how little backlash the George Floyd incident would have caused if the pandemic hadn't undone the economic progress of the past 3 years. Mind you, that "progress" was but a tiny step in the right direction in terms of improving wages and opportunities for the lowest earners. And for all the times the "audit the fed" meme hit the top of the_donald, it now seems impossible that the current administration has any capability or willingness to take the drastic steps needed to address the real root cause that apparently started 50 years ago. To do that, we may need an actual revolution.
The Guardian, 21 March, 2016http://www.theguardian.com/money/commentisfree/2016/ma21/fear-cashless-world-contactless?CMP=fb_gu The health food chain "Tossed" has just opened the UK's first cashless cafe. It's another step towards the death of cash. This is nothing new. Money is tech. The casting of coins made shells, whales' teeth and other such primitive forms of money redundant. The printing press did the same for precious metals: we started using paper notes instead. Electronic banking put paid to the cheque. Contactless payment is now doing the same to cash, which is becoming less and less convenient. In the marketplace convenience usually wins. That's fine as long as people are making this choice freely. What concerns me is the unofficial war on cash that is going on, from the suspicion with which you are treated if you ever use large sums of cash to the campaign in Europe to decommission the 500-Euro note. I'm not sure the consequences have been properly considered. We already live in a world that is, as far as the distribution of wealth is concerned, about as unequal as it gets. It may even be as unequal as it's ever been. My worry is that a cashless society may exacerbate inequality even further. It will hand yet more power to the financial sector in that banks and related fintech companies will oversee all transactions. The crash of 2008 showed that, when push comes to shove, banks have already been exempted from the very effective regulation that is bankruptcy -- one by which the rest of us must all operate. Do we want this sector to have yet more power and influence? In a world without cash, every payment you make will be traceable. Do you want governments (which are not always benevolent), banks or payment processors to have potential access to that information? The power this would hand them is enormous and the potential scope for Orwellian levels of surveillance is terrifying. Cash, on the other hand, empowers its users. It enables them to buy and sell, and store their wealth, without being dependent on anyone else. They can stay outside the financial system, if so desired. There are many reasons, both moral and practical, to want this. In 2008 many rushed to take their money out of the banks. If the financial system really was as close to breaking point as we are told it was, then such actions are quite justified. When Cyprus's banks teetered on the cliff of financial disaster in 2011, we saw bail-ins. Ordinary people's money in deposit accounts was sequestered to bail out the system. If your life savings were threatened with confiscation to bail out a corporation you considered profligate, I imagine you too would rush to withdraw them. We have seen similar panics in Greece and, to a lesser extent, across southern Europe. Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, recently declared that banking was not fixed and that we would see financial panic again. In Japan, the central bank has imposed negative rates and you are charged by banks to store money. This is to try and goad people into spending, rather than saving. So much cash has been withdrawn from banks that there are now reports that the country has sold out of safes. These are all quite legitimate reasons to want to exit the system. I'm not saying we should all take our money out of the bank, but that we should all have the option to. Cash gives you that option. Why remove it? It's our money. Not the banks'. The telephone teaches us a useful lesson. At its peak in 2008, there were 1.3bn landlines for a global population close to 7 billion. Today more than 6 billion people have a mobile phone -- more than have access to a toilet, according to a UN study. Many assume that the mobile succeeded where the landline failed, because the superior technology made widespread coverage more possible. There is something to that. But the main reason, simply, is that, to get a landline, you need a bank account and credit. About half of the world's population is 'unbanked', without access to the basic financial services you need. Telecom companies saw no potential custom, the infrastructure was never built and many were left with fewer possibilities to communicate. But a mobile phone and its airtime you can buy with cash. You don't need to be banked. Almost anyone can get a mobile -- and they have. The financial system was actually a barrier to progress for the world's poor, while cash was a facilitator for them. Six billion people around the world will have a smartphone by 2020. They will have pretty much everything they need to participate in e-commerce -- internet access, basically -- except the financial inclusion. Which is why there will be a huge role to play in the future for new forms of digital cash -- from Kenya's M-Pesa to bitcoin -- money you can use even if you are not financially included. Cash has its uses for small transactions -- a chocolate bar, a newspaper, a pint of milk -- which, in the UK, are still uneconomic to process by other means. It will always be the fastest and most direct form of payment there is. I like to tip waiters, for example, in cash, knowing they will receive that money, without it being siphoned off by some unscrupulous employer. I also like to shop in markets, where I can buy directly from the producer knowing they will receive the money, without middle men shaving off their percentages. It also has its uses for private transactions, for which there are many possible reasons, and by no means all of them illegal. Small businesses starting out need the cash economy. Poor people need the cash economy. The war on cash is a war on them. If you listen to the scaremongering, you'd start to think that all cash users are either criminals, tax evaders or terrorists. Sure, some use cash to evade tax, but it's paltry compared to the tax avoidance schemes Google and Facebook have employed. Google doesn't use cash to avoid tax. It's all done via legislative means. Cash means total financial inclusion, a luxury the better-off take for granted. Without financial inclusion -- and there will always be some who, for whatever reason, won't have it -- you are trapped in poverty. So beware the war on cash.
This is a follow-up on https://old.reddit.com/Bitcoin/comments/hqzp14/technical_the_path_to_taproot_activation/ Taproot! Everybody wants it!! But... you might ask yourself: sure, everybody else wants it, but why would I, sovereign Bitcoin HODLer, want it? Surely I can be better than everybody else because I swapped XXX fiat for Bitcoin unlike all those nocoiners? And it is important for you to know the reasons why you, o sovereign Bitcoiner, would want Taproot activated. After all, your nodes (or the nodes your wallets use, which if you are SPV, you hopefully can pester to your wallet vendoimplementor about) need to be upgraded in order for Taproot activation to actually succeed instead of becoming a hot sticky mess. First, let's consider some principles of Bitcoin.
You the HODLer should be the one who controls where your money goes. Your keys, your coins.
You the HODLer should be able to coordinate and make contracts with other people regarding your funds.
You the HODLer should be able to do the above without anyone watching over your shoulder and judging you.
I'm sure most of us here would agree that the above are very important principles of Bitcoin and that these are principles we would not be willing to remove. If anything, we would want those principles strengthened (especially the last one, financial privacy, which current Bitcoin is only sporadically strong with: you can get privacy, it just requires effort to do so). So, how does Taproot affect those principles?
Taproot and Your /Coins
Most HODLers probably HODL their coins in singlesig addresses. Sadly, switching to Taproot would do very little for you (it gives a mild discount at spend time, at the cost of a mild increase in fee at receive time (paid by whoever sends to you, so if it's a self-send from a P2PKH or bech32 address, you pay for this); mostly a wash). (technical details: a Taproot output is 1 version byte + 32 byte public key, while a P2WPKH (bech32 singlesig) output is 1 version byte + 20 byte public key hash, so the Taproot output spends 12 bytes more; spending from a P2WPKH requires revealing a 32-byte public key later, which is not needed with Taproot, and Taproot signatures are about 9 bytes smaller than P2WPKH signatures, but the 32 bytes plus 9 bytes is divided by 4 because of the witness discount, so it saves about 11 bytes; mostly a wash, it increases blockweight by about 1 virtual byte, 4 weight for each Taproot-output-input, compared to P2WPKH-output-input). However, as your HODLings grow in value, you might start wondering if multisignature k-of-n setups might be better for the security of your savings. And it is in multisignature that Taproot starts to give benefits! Taproot switches to using Schnorr signing scheme. Schnorr makes key aggregation -- constructing a single public key from multiple public keys -- almost as trivial as adding numbers together. "Almost" because it involves some fairly advanced math instead of simple boring number adding, but hey when was the last time you added up your grocery list prices by hand huh? With current P2SH and P2WSH multisignature schemes, if you have a 2-of-3 setup, then to spend, you need to provide two different signatures from two different public keys. With Taproot, you can create, using special moon math, a single public key that represents your 2-of-3 setup. Then you just put two of your devices together, have them communicate to each other (this can be done airgapped, in theory, by sending QR codes: the software to do this is not even being built yet, but that's because Taproot hasn't activated yet!), and they will make a single signature to authorize any spend from your 2-of-3 address. That's 73 witness bytes -- 18.25 virtual bytes -- of signatures you save! And if you decide that your current setup with 1-of-1 P2PKH / P2WPKH addresses is just fine as-is: well, that's the whole point of a softfork: backwards-compatibility; you can receive from Taproot users just fine, and once your wallet is updated for Taproot-sending support, you can send to Taproot users just fine as well! (P2WPKH and P2WSH -- SegWit v0 -- addresses start with bc1q; Taproot -- SegWit v1 --- addresses start with bc1p, in case you wanted to know the difference; in bech32 q is 0, p is 1) Now how about HODLers who keep all, or some, of their coins on custodial services? Well, any custodial service worth its salt would be doing at least 2-of-3, or probably something even bigger, like 11-of-15. So your custodial service, if it switched to using Taproot internally, could save a lot more (imagine an 11-of-15 getting reduced from 11 signatures to just 1!), which --- we can only hope! --- should translate to lower fees and better customer service from your custodial service! So I think we can say, very accurately, that the Bitcoin principle --- that YOU are in control of your money --- can only be helped by Taproot (if you are doing multisignature), and, because P2PKH and P2WPKH remain validly-usable addresses in a Taproot future, will not be harmed by Taproot. Its benefit to this principle might be small (it mostly only benefits multisignature users) but since it has no drawbacks with this (i.e. singlesig users can continue to use P2WPKH and P2PKH still) this is still a nice, tidy win! (even singlesig users get a minor benefit, in that multisig users will now reduce their blockchain space footprint, so that fees can be kept low for everybody; so for example even if you have your single set of private keys engraved on titanium plates sealed in an airtight box stored in a safe buried in a desert protected by angry nomads riding giant sandworms because you're the frickin' Kwisatz Haderach, you still gain some benefit from Taproot) And here's the important part: if P2PKH/P2WPKH is working perfectly fine with you and you decide to never use Taproot yourself, Taproot will not affect you detrimentally. First do no harm!
Taproot and Your Contracts
No one is an island, no one lives alone. Give and you shall receive. You know: by trading with other people, you can gain expertise in some obscure little necessity of the world (and greatly increase your productivity in that little field), and then trade the products of your expertise for necessities other people have created, all of you thereby gaining gains from trade. So, contracts, which are basically enforceable agreements that facilitate trading with people who you do not personally know and therefore might not trust. Let's start with a simple example. You want to buy some gewgaws from somebody. But you don't know them personally. The seller wants the money, you want their gewgaws, but because of the lack of trust (you don't know them!! what if they're scammers??) neither of you can benefit from gains from trade. However, suppose both of you know of some entity that both of you trust. That entity can act as a trusted escrow. The entity provides you security: this enables the trade, allowing both of you to get gains from trade. In Bitcoin-land, this can be implemented as a 2-of-3 multisignature. The three signatories in the multisgnature would be you, the gewgaw seller, and the escrow. You put the payment for the gewgaws into this 2-of-3 multisignature address. Now, suppose it turns out neither of you are scammers (whaaaat!). You receive the gewgaws just fine and you're willing to pay up for them. Then you and the gewgaw seller just sign a transaction --- you and the gewgaw seller are 2, sufficient to trigger the 2-of-3 --- that spends from the 2-of-3 address to a singlesig the gewgaw seller wants (or whatever address the gewgaw seller wants). But suppose some problem arises. The seller gave you gawgews instead of gewgaws. Or you decided to keep the gewgaws but not sign the transaction to release the funds to the seller. In either case, the escrow is notified, and if it can sign with you to refund the funds back to you (if the seller was a scammer) or it can sign with the seller to forward the funds to the seller (if you were a scammer). Taproot helps with this: like mentioned above, it allows multisignature setups to produce only one signature, reducing blockchain space usage, and thus making contracts --- which require multiple people, by definition, you don't make contracts with yourself --- is made cheaper (which we hope enables more of these setups to happen for more gains from trade for everyone, also, moon and lambos). (technology-wise, it's easier to make an n-of-n than a k-of-n, making a k-of-n would require a complex setup involving a long ritual with many communication rounds between the n participants, but an n-of-n can be done trivially with some moon math. You can, however, make what is effectively a 2-of-3 by using a three-branch SCRIPT: either 2-of-2 of you and seller, OR 2-of-2 of you and escrow, OR 2-of-2 of escrow and seller. Fortunately, Taproot adds a facility to embed a SCRIPT inside a public key, so you can have a 2-of-2 Taprooted address (between you and seller) with a SCRIPT branch that can instead be spent with 2-of-2 (you + escrow) OR 2-of-2 (seller + escrow), which implements the three-branched SCRIPT above. If neither of you are scammers (hopefully the common case) then you both sign using your keys and never have to contact the escrow, since you are just using the escrow public key without coordinating with them (because n-of-n is trivial but k-of-n requires setup with communication rounds), so in the "best case" where both of you are honest traders, you also get a privacy boost, in that the escrow never learns you have been trading on gewgaws, I mean ewww, gawgews are much better than gewgaws and therefore I now judge you for being a gewgaw enthusiast, you filthy gewgawer).
Taproot and Your Contracts, Part 2: Cryptographic Boogaloo
Now suppose you want to buy some data instead of things. For example, maybe you have some closed-source software in trial mode installed, and want to pay the developer for the full version. You want to pay for an activation code. This can be done, today, by using an HTLC. The developer tells you the hash of the activation code. You pay to an HTLC, paying out to the developer if it reveals the preimage (the activation code), or refunding the money back to you after a pre-agreed timeout. If the developer claims the funds, it has to reveal the preimage, which is the activation code, and you can now activate your software. If the developer does not claim the funds by the timeout, you get refunded. And you can do that, with HTLCs, today. Of course, HTLCs do have problems:
Privacy. Everyone scraping the Bitcoin blockchain can see any HTLCs, and preimages used to claim them.
This can be mitigated by using offchain techniques so HTLCs are never published onchain in the happy case. Lightning would probably in practice be the easiest way to do this offchain. Of course, there are practical limits to what you can pay on Lightning. If you are buying something expensive, then Lightning might not be practical. For example, the "software" you are activating is really the firmware of a car, and what you are buying is not the software really but the car itself (with the activation of the car firmware being equivalent to getting the car keys).
Even offchain techniques need an onchain escape hatch in case of unresponsiveness! This means that, if something bad happens during payment, the HTLC might end up being published onchain anyway, revealing the fact that some special contract occurred.
And an HTLC that is claimed with a preimage onchain will also publicly reveal the preimage onchain. If that preimage is really the activation key of a software than it can now be pirated. If that preimage is really the activation key for your newly-bought cryptographic car --- well, not your keys, not your car!
Trust requirement. You are trusting the developer that it gives you the hash of an actual valid activation key, without any way to validate that the activation key hidden by the hash is actually valid.
Fortunately, with Schnorr (which is enabled by Taproot), we can now use the Scriptless Script constuction by Andrew Poelstra. This Scriptless Script allows a new construction, the PTLC or Pointlocked Timelocked Contract. Instead of hashes and preimages, just replace "hash" with "point" and "preimage" with "scalar". Or as you might know them: "point" is really "public key" and "scalar" is really a "private key". What a PTLC does is that, given a particular public key, the pointlocked branch can be spent only if the spender reveals the private key of the given public key to you. Another nice thing with PTLCs is that they are deniable. What appears onchain is just a single 2-of-2 signature between you and the developemanufacturer. It's like a magic trick. This signature has no special watermarks, it's a perfectly normal signature (the pledge). However, from this signature, plus some datta given to you by the developemanufacturer (known as the adaptor signature) you can derive the private key of a particular public key you both agree on (the turn). Anyone scraping the blockchain will just see signatures that look just like every other signature, and as long as nobody manages to hack you and get a copy of the adaptor signature or the private key, they cannot get the private key behind the public key (point) that the pointlocked branch needs (the prestige). (Just to be clear, the public key you are getting the private key from, is distinct from the public key that the developemanufacturer will use for its funds. The activation key is different from the developer's onchain Bitcoin key, and it is the activation key whose private key you will be learning, not the developer's/manufacturer's onchain Bitcoin key). So:
Privacy: PTLCs are private even if done onchain. Nobody else can learn what the private key behind the public key is, except you who knows the adaptor signature that when combined with the complete onchain signature lets you know what the private key of the activation key is. Somebody scraping the blockchain will not learn the same information even if all PTLCs are done onchain!
Lightning is still useful for reducing onchain use, and will also get PTLCs soon after Taproot is activated, but even if something bad happens and a PTLC has to go onchain, it doesn't reveal anything!
Trust issues can be proven more easily with a public-private keypair than with a hash-preimage pair.
For example, the developer of the software you are buying could provide a signature signing a message saying "unlock access to the full version for 1 day". You can check if feeding this message and signature to the program will indeed unlock full-version access for 1 day. Then you can check if the signature is valid for the purported pubkey whose private key you will pay for. If so, you can now believe that getting the private key (by paying for it in a PTLC) would let you generate any number of "unlock access to the full version for 1 day" message+signatures, which is equivalent to getting full access to the software indefinitely.
For the car, the manufacturer can show that signing a message "start the engine" and feeding the signature to the car's fimrware will indeed start the engine, and maybe even let you have a small test drive. You can then check if the signature is valid for the purported pubkey whose privkey you will pay for. If so, you can now believe that gaining knowledge of the privkey will let you start the car engine at any time you want.
(pedantry: the signatures need to be unique else they could be replayed, this can be done with a challenge-response sequence for the car, where the car gathers entropy somehow (it's a car, it probably has a bunch of sensors nowadays so it can get entropy for free) and uses the gathered entropy to challenge you to sign a random number and only start if you are able to sign the random number; for the software, it could record previous signatures somewhere in the developer's cloud server and refuse to run if you try to replay a previously-seen signature.)
Taproot lets PTLCs exist onchain because they enable Schnorr, which is a requirement of PTLCs / Scriptless Script. (technology-wise, take note that Scriptless Script works only for the "pointlocked" branch of the contract; you need normal Script, or a pre-signed nLockTimed transaction, for the "timelocked" branch. Since Taproot can embed a script, you can have the Taproot pubkey be a 2-of-2 to implement the Scriptless Script "pointlocked" branch, then have a hidden script that lets you recover the funds with an OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY after the timeout if the seller does not claim the funds.)
Now if you were really paying attention, you might have noticed this parenthetical:
(technical details: a Taproot output is 1 version byte + 32 byte public key, while a P2WPKH (bech32 singlesig) output is 1 version byte + 20 byte public key hash...)
So wait, Taproot uses raw 32-byte public keys, and not public key hashes? Isn't that more quantum-vulnerable?? Well, in theory yes. In practice, they probably are not. It's not that hashes can be broken by quantum computes --- they're still not. Instead, you have to look at how you spend from a P2WPKH/P2PKH pay-to-public-key-hash. When you spend from a P2PKH / P2WPKH, you have to reveal the public key. Then Bitcoin hashes it and checks if this matches with the public-key-hash, and only then actually validates the signature for that public key. So an unconfirmed transaction, floating in the mempools of nodes globally, will show, in plain sight for everyone to see, your public key. (public keys should be public, that's why they're called public keys, LOL) And if quantum computers are fast enough to be of concern, then they are probably fast enough that, in the several minutes to several hours from broadcast to confirmation, they have already cracked the public key that is openly broadcast with your transaction. The owner of the quantum computer can now replace your unconfirmed transaction with one that pays the funds to itself. Even if you did not opt-in RBF, miners are still incentivized to support RBF on RBF-disabled transactions. So the extra hash is not as significant a protection against quantum computers as you might think. Instead, the extra hash-and-compare needed is just extra validation effort. Further, if you have ever, in the past, spent from the address, then there exists already a transaction indelibly stored on the blockchain, openly displaying the public key from which quantum computers can derive the private key. So those are still vulnerable to quantum computers. For the most part, the cryptographers behind Taproot (and Bitcoin Core) are of the opinion that quantum computers capable of cracking Bitcoin pubkeys are unlikely to appear within a decade or two.
Current quantum computers can barely crack prime factorization problem for primes of 5 bits.
The 256-bit elliptic curve use by Bitcoin is, by my (possibly wrong) understanding, equivalent to 4096-bit primes, so you can see a pretty big gap between now (5 bit primes) and what is needed (4096 bit primes).
A lot of financial non-Bitcoin systems use the equivalent of 3072-bit primes or less, and are probably easier targets to crack than the equivalent-to-4096-bit-primes Bitcoin.
Quantum computers capable of cracking Bitcoin are still far off.
Pay-to-public-key-hash is not as protective as you might think.
We will probably see banks get cracked before Bitcoin, so the banking system is a useful canary-in-a-coal-mine to see whether we should panic about being quantum vulnerable.
For now, the homomorphic and linear properties of elliptic curve cryptography provide a lot of benefits --- particularly the linearity property is what enables Scriptless Script and simple multisignature (i.e. multisignatures that are just 1 signature onchain). So it might be a good idea to take advantage of them now while we are still fairly safe against quantum computers. It seems likely that quantum-safe signature schemes are nonlinear (thus losing these advantages).
If you are a singlesig HODL-only Bitcoin user, Taproot will not affect you positively or negatively. Importantly: Taproot does no harm!
If you use or intend to use multisig, Taproot will be a positive for you.
If you transact onchain regularly using typical P2PKH/P2WPKH addresses, you get a minor reduction in feerates since multisig users will likely switch to Taproot to get smaller tx sizes, freeing up blockspace for yours.
If you are using multiparticipant setups for special systems of trade, Taproot will be a positive for you.
Remember: Lightning channels are multipartiicpiant setups for special systems of lightning-fast offchain trades!
I Wanna Be The Taprooter!
So, do you want to help activate Taproot? Here's what you, mister sovereign Bitcoin HODLer, can do!
If you have developer experience especially in C, C++, or related languages
Review the Taproot code! There is one pull request in Bitcoin Core, and one in libsecp256k1. I deliberately am not putting links here, to avoid brigades of nontechnical but enthusiastic people leaving pointless reviews, but if you are qualified you know how to find them!
But I am not a cryptographeBitcoin Core contributomathematician/someone as awesome as Pieter Wuille
That's perfectly fine! The cryptographers have been over the code already and agree the math is right and the implementation is right. What is wanted is the dreary dreary dreary software engineering: are the comments comprehensive and understandable? no misspellings in the comments? variable names understandable? reasonable function naming convention? misleading coding style? off-by-one errors in loops? conditions not covered by tests? accidental mixups of variables with the same types? missing frees? read-before-init? better test coverage of suspicious-looking code? missing or mismatching header guards? portability issues? consistent coding style? you know, stuff any coder with a few years of experience in coding anything might be able to catch. With enough eyes all bugs are shallow!
If you are running a mining pool/mining operation/exchange/custodial service/SPV server
Be prepared to upgrade!
One of the typical issues with upgrading software is that subtle incompatibilities with your current custom programs tend to arise, disrupting operations and potentially losing income due to downtime. If so, consider moving to the two-node setup suggested by gmax, which is in the last section of my previous post. With this, you have an up-to-date "public" node and a fixed-version "private" node, with the public node protecting the private node from any invalid chainsplits or invalid transactions. Moving to this setup from a typical one-node setup should be smooth and should not disrupt operations (too much).
If you are running your own fullnode for fun or for your own wallet
Be prepared to upgrade! The more nodes validating the new rules (even if you are a non-mining node!), the safer every softfork will be!
If you are using an SPV wallet or custodial wallet/service (including hardware wallets using the software of the wallet provider)
Contact your wallet provider / SPV server and ask for a statement on whether they support Taproot, and whether they are prepared to upgrade for Taproot! Make it known to them that Taproot is something you want!
But I Hate Taproot!!
Raise your objections to Taproot now, or forever hold your peace! Maybe you can raise them here and some of the devs (probably nullc, he goes everywhere, even in rbtc!) might be able to see your objections! Or if your objections are very technical, head over to the appropriate pull request and object away!
Maybe you simply misunderstand something, and we can clarify it here!
Or maybe you do have a good objection, and we can make Taproot better by finding a solution for it!
A theory of why Ethereum is perhaps better "sound money" than Bitcoin.
The idea of Bitcoin's supremacy as "sound money" is very frequently thrown around by the biggest talking heads in the crypto world. I know I will get a lot of hate for suggesting that this theory is not only flawed, but it is straight up wrong. As unintuitive as it may sound to Bitcoin maximalists (no offense intended) I believe Ethereum is on the path to becoming the global leading asset and model for sound money... give me a chance to explain why.
The idea that nothing can change Bitcoin's issuance schedule is a myth. There is absolutely no divine power controlling the supply of Bitcoin. Contrary to what is commonly asserted, Bitcoin's issuance protocol is not primarily driven by what is currently implemented. The real driver is consensus: the majority of network participants must agree that what is currently defined cannot be changed. There is an underlying assumption that the consensus would never want to change Bitcoin's issuance. On the surface this makes for a nice "sound money" narrative, but it is false premise and sticking to it could be ultimately detrimental. It presents a long term sustainability issue (the hope that somehow Bitcoin's base layer will scale enough to maintain security entirely through fees). It also completely dismisses the possibility that an unforeseen event could create pressure to change the issuance. If Bitcoin managed to create a consensus mechanism that did not rely on mining, it is very likely there would be consensus to reduce issuance. On the other hand, if some potentially catastrophic event would create incentives to increase the issuance, it would only make sense for the network to do so.
Issuance flexibility is not fundamentally bad. Etheruem's approach to adjust the issuance according to the contextual circumstances has resulted in a faster rate of issuance reduction than what was originally defined in the protocol. The rate of issuance will continue to decrease as new developments allow for it to happen without compromising the network security. There is a very high probability that Ethereum will achieve a lower issuance rate than Bitcoin in the next two years, and it could possibly achieve zero issuance in the next five years. This would be a result of a successful implementation of PoS, sharding and EIP-1559.
The root of all evil is Proof of Work. PoW is by far the primary cost of operating the Bitcoin network. It is the primary determinant of how much issuance is needed as a financial incentive to keep miners doing their thing. The very mechanism that secures the network's decentralization is unfortunately quite wasteful. The degree of decentralization is a direct result of how much random mathematical operations are being done by miners.
There is a better way. Some people will take offense by the use of the word wasteful, and they claim that it is not because those mindless calculations are what is actually securing the network. However, its wasteful aspect becomes clear if there is a different way to achieve equal or superior decentralization without the need to crunch difficult computational problems. This just so happens to be embodied in Ethereum's design of Proof of Stake. It will drastically reduce the cost of securing the network, while providing at least 2-3% annual returns for the ownership of Ether. When Ethereum's issuance becomes lower than its staking rewards, it will effectively have achieved the same effect as having zero (or possibly negative) issuance.
The value proposition of Ethereum 2.0 is unmatched. There is just absolutely no asset in the world that has a 2-3% self-denominated annual returns and just so happens to be rapidly appreciating. When wall-street's greed sees this, it will create the mother of all bubbles.
Don't dismiss the flippening. On February 01 2018 Ethereum reached 70% of Bitcoin's marked cap (it was even closer if you account for the amount of lost bitcoins). That happened before DEFI, before proof of staking was within reach, before multiple effective layer 2 solutions were a thing, before wrapped Bitcoins and before the first signs of mass adoption were on the horizon (like integration with Reddit , VISA and potential to compete with SWIFT). Utility is a huge factor in driving prices, lets not forget how Silk Road played a key role into propelling Bitcoin's value. Yes, Ethereum crashed hard after the peak in 2018, but perhaps it is simply manifesting a higher volatility pattern that is reminiscent of Bitcoin's early years. Bitcoin's first 5 years were characterized by aggressive price swings, why should it be different for Etheruem (considering it is about 5 years younger than Bitcoin)? If the volatility patterns stands on this bull market, we will see a flippening.
So... do I think Etheruem will flip? Yes I do, but I still hold Bitcoin. No one has a crystal ball, and nothing is certain. Perhaps Etheruem will crash and burn, perhaps Bitcoin will become the next Yahoo, and perhaps they will both thrive in this new exciting crypto world.
Frustrated with the slow development of Ethereum 2.0, Dr. Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum and inventor of Solidity, left to begin work on Polkadot, a next generation scalable blockchain protocol that connects multiple specialised blockchains into one unified network. It achieves scalability through a sharding infrastructure with multiple blockchains running in parallel, called parachains, that connect to a central chain called the Relay Chain. Whilst it shares some similarities with Ethereum 2.0, one key differentiator is that it uses heterogeneous sharding, where each parachains can be customised through the Substrate development framework, enabling them to be optimised for a specific use case and running in parallel rather than same across all shards. This is important as when it comes to blockchain architecture, one size does not fit all and all blockchains make trade-offs to support different features and use cases. All parachains connect to the relay chain, which validates the state transition of connected parachains, providing shared state across the entire ecosystem. If the Relay Chain must revert for any reason, then all of the parachains would also revert. This is to ensure that the validity of the entire system can persist, and no individual part is corruptible. The shared state makes it so that the trust assumptions when using parachains are only those of the Relay Chain validator set, and no other. Since the validator set on the Relay Chain is expected to be secure with a large amount of stake put up to back it, it is desirable for parachains to benefit from this security. This enables seamless interoperability between all parachains and parathreads using the Cross-chain Message Passing (XCMP) protocol, allowing arbitrary data — not just tokens — to be transferred across blockchains. Interoperability is also possible to other ecosystems through bridges, which are specifically designed parachains or parathreads that are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum, Bitcoin and Cosmos for example, enabling interoperability. Because these other ecosystems don’t use the same shared state of Polkadot, finality is incredibly important, because whilst the relay chain can roll back all the parachains, it can’t roll back the Ethereum or Bitcoin blockchains for example. This is discussed further in part three. https://preview.redd.it/lmrz428je6m51.png?width=1000&format=png&auto=webp&s=237ad499f85e960ca50ca884234453ce283a60c0 The relay chain is responsible for the network’s shared security, consensus and cross-chain interoperability. It is secured by Validators and Nominators staking the native DOT tokens. Ultimately scalability for the ecosystem is determined by how scalable the relay chain can be. The number of parachains is determined by the number of validators on the relay chain. The hope is to reach 1000 validators, which would enable around 100 parachains. With each parachain being capable of around 1,000 transactions per second. Nominators stake their DOT tokens with validators they trust, with the validators likely charging a small commission to cover running costs. If a validator is found to have performed misconduct a percentage of the their stake but also the nominators stake will be slashed depending upon the severity. For Level 4 security threats such as collusion and including an invalid block then 100% of the stake will be slashed.What’s really important to understand is that both the validators own stake and the nominated stake will be slashed, so you could lose all your DOT that you have staked against a validator if they perform maliciously. Therefore, it’s very important not to just try and maximise rewards and being oblivious to the risk, not only can you lose all your DOT, but you are making the entire system less secure (addressed inpart three). There have already been several minor slashing incidents so far, so something to really consider. https://preview.redd.it/aj9v0azke6m51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=86134eaef08d1ef50466d1d80ec5ce151327d702
Auction for Parachain Slots
Due to the limited number of parachain slots available, there needs to be a method to decide who gets a parachain slot. This is achieved through a candle-auction where participants bid with DOT to secure a lease on a parchain slot to secure a 6 — 24 month period, with the highest bidders winning. DOT isn’t spent, but rather locked for the duration of the lease and unable to participate in staking and earn rewards. In the event they are unsuccessful in securing a further slot, then the lease expires and the DOT will be returned. Of the 100 parachain slots that they hope to be able to accommodate, between 10 and 30 will be reserved for system parachains, with the remaining available for either auction slots or used for parathreads. Whilst the DOT is returned, due to the limited number of slots available this could result in significant amounts of DOT needing to be acquired to secure a slot. How the auction mechanics effect the price of DOT also remains to be seen, with potentially a rise from the start of the auction, followed by a fall before the lease ends and the DOT are returned. The plan is to continuously have a small amount of parachain auctions going throughout the year, to minimise any unwanted effects. How comfortable developers will be with locking significant amounts of funds in a highly volatile asset for an extended amount of time, also remains to be seen. They could also be in a position where they can no longer afford to keep their lease and have to downgrade to a parathread (providing the application will still function with the reduced performance or migrate to another platform). See this article for more details on the auction mechanism https://preview.redd.it/wp8rvxlme6m51.png?width=387&format=png&auto=webp&s=496320d627405362142210e1a4c17ebe43e1f8a1
For applications that don’t require the guaranteed performance of a parachain or don’t want to pay the large fees to secure a parachain slot, then parathreads can be used instead. Parathreads have a fixed fee for registration that would realistically be much lower than the cost of acquiring a parachain slot and compete with other parathreads in a per-block auction to have their transactions included in the next relay chain block. A portion of the parachain slots on the Relay Chain will be designated as part of the parathread pool. In the event that a parachain loses its slot then it can transition to a parathread (assuming the application can still function with the reduced and varied performance of sharing the slot between many). This also enables small projects to start out with a parathread and then upgrade to a parachain slot when required.
DOT is the native token of the Polkadot network and serves three key functions. (i) It is staked to provide security for the relay chain, (ii) to be bonded to connect a chain to Polkadot as a parachain and (iii) to be used for governance of the network. There is an initial total supply of 1 billion DOT with yearly inflation estimated to be around 10% providing the optimal 50% staking rate is achieved, resulting in rewards of 20% to those that stake (net 10% when take into account inflation). Those that don’t stake lose 10% through dilution. Should the amount staked exceed the optimal 50% then reward rates reduce as well as inflation to make staking less attractive. Likewise if its below 50% then rewards and inflation rate will be higher to encourage staking. Staking isn’t risk free though as mentioned before.
Polkadot employs an on-chain governance model where in order to make any changes to the network, DOT holders vote on a proposal to upgrade the network with the help of the Council. The council is an entity comprising a 23 seats each represented by an on-chain account. Its goals are to represent passive stakeholders, submit sensible and important proposals, and cancel dangerous or malicious proposals. All DOT holders are free to register their candidacy for the Council, and free to vote for any number of candidates, with a voting power proportional to their stake. Any stakeholder can submit a public proposal by depositing a fixed minimum amount of DOTs, which stays locked for a certain period. If someone agrees with the proposal, they may deposit the same amount of tokens to endorse it. Public proposals are stored in a priority queue, and at regular intervals the proposal with the most endorsements gets tabled for a referendum. The locked tokens are released once the proposal is tabled. Council proposals are submitted by the Council, and are stored in a separate priority queue where the priorities are set at the Council’s discretion. Every thirty days, a new proposal will be tabled, and a referendum will come up for a vote. The proposal to be tabled is the top proposal from either the public-proposal queue or the Council-proposal queue, alternating between the two queues. The Technical Committee is composed according to a single vote for each team that has successfully and independently implemented or formally specified the protocol in Polkadot, or in its canary network Kusama. The Technical Committee is the last line of defence for the system. Its sole purpose is detecting present or imminent issues in the system such as bugs in the code or security vulnerabilities, and proposing and fast-tracking emergency referenda.
Whilst parachains aren’t currently implemented at this stage, there is a rapidly growing ecosystem looking to build on Polkadot with substrate. Polkadot’s “cousin”, the canary network Kusama used for experimentation, was launched last year by the same team and contributes to the early growth of the overall ecosystem. See here for a list of the current projects looking to build on Polkadot and filter by Substrate based. https://preview.redd.it/rt8i0hqpe6m51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=f6bcf26fa84463765f720c3074ee10157c2735f6 Now that we have covered the basics, in part two I will explain how the consensus mechanism in Polkadot works and covering more of the technical aspects.
Taproot, CoinJoins, and Cross-Input Signature Aggregation
It is a very common misconception that the upcoming Taproot upgrade helps CoinJoin. TLDR: The upcoming Taproot upgrade does not help equal-valued CoinJoin at all, though it potentially increases the privacy of other protocols, such as the Lightning Network, and escrow contract schemes. If you want to learn more, read on!
Let's start with equal-valued CoinJoins, the type JoinMarket and Wasabi use. What happens is that some number of participants agree on some common value all of them use. With JoinMarket the taker defines this value and pays the makers to agree to it, with Wasabi the server defines a value approximately 0.1 BTC. Then, each participant provides inputs that they unilaterally control, totaling equal or greater than the common value. Typically since each input is unilaterally controlled, each input just requires a singlesig. Each participant also provides up to two addresses they control: one of these will be paid with the common value, while the other will be used for any extra value in the inputs they provided (i.e. the change output). The participants then make a single transaction that spends all the provided inputs and pays out to the appropriate outputs. The inputs and outputs are shuffled in some secure manner. Then the unsigned transaction is distributed back to all participants. Finally, each participant checks that the transaction spends the inputs it provided (and more importantly does not spend any other coins it might own that it did not provide for this CoinJoin!) and that the transaction pays out to the appropriate address(es) it controls. Once they have validated the transaction, they ratify it by signing for each of the inputs it provided. Once every participant has provided signatures for all inputs it registered, the transaction is now completely signed and the CoinJoin transaction is now validly confirmable. CoinJoin is a very simple and direct privacy boost, it requires no SCRIPTs, needs only singlesig, etc.
Let's say we have two participants who have agreed on a common amount of 0.1 BTC. One provides a 0.105 coin as input, the other provides a 0.114 coin as input. This results in a CoinJoin with a 0.105 coin and a 0.114 coin as input, and outputs with 0.1, 0.005, 0.014, and 0.1 BTC. Now obviously the 0.005 output came from the 0.105 input, and the 0.014 output came from the 0.114 input. But the two 0.1 BTC outputs cannot be correlated with either input! There is no correlating information, since either output could have come from either input. That is how common CoinJoin implementations like Wasabi and JoinMarket gain privacy.
Unfortunately, large-scale CoinJoins like that made by Wasabi and JoinMarket are very obvious. All you have to do is look for a transactions where, say, more than 3 outputs are the same equal value, and the number of inputs is equal or larger than the number of equal-valued outputs. Thus, it is trivial to identify equal-valued CoinJoins made by Wasabi and JoinMarket. You can even trivially differentiate them: Wasabi equal-valued CoinJoins are going to have a hundred or more inputs, with outputs that are in units of approximately 0.1 BTC, while JoinMarket CoinJoins have equal-valued outputs of less than a dozen (between 4 to 6 usually) and with the common value varying wildly from as low as 0.001 BTC to as high as a dozen BTC or more. This has led to a number of anti-privacy exchanges to refuse to credit custodially-held accounts if the incoming deposit is within a few hops of an equal-valued CoinJoin, usually citing concerns about regulations. Crucially, the exchange continues to hold private keys for those "banned" deposits, and can still spend them, thus this is effectively a theft. If your exchange does this to you, you should report that exchange as stealing money from its customers. Not your keys not your coins. Thus, CoinJoins represent a privacy tradeoff:
It's very hard for everyone else to determine which output belongs to which input.
It's obvious to everyone else that the output was involved in a mixing operation.
Let's now briefly discuss that nice new shiny thing called Taproot. Taproot includes two components:
The use of Schnorr-based signature scheme, with multisignature support. Spending from a Schnorr pubkey is called a "keypath spend".
The ability to secretly commit to a set of scripts, one of which can be revealed later and its inputs provided correctly in order to spend the coin. Spending via a hidden script is called a "scriptpath spend".
This has some nice properties:
Direct multisignature support means all multisignature uses look the same. In current Bitcoin, a 2-of-2 "multisignature" is really a script which demands that two signatures be provided, from 2 different pre-specified public keys. To a cryptographer, the strict definition of multisignature is that this is a single signature that is cooperatively created by multiple parties.
A typical minimal "multisig" setup would be a 2-of-3, because that lets you lose one signing device while still being able to keep access to your money, and still providing an increase in security relative to a singlesig, since a 2-of-3 requires that potential thieves abscond with at least two signing devices. In current Bitcoin, a 2-of-3 is a SCRIPT containing 3 public keys, requiring that two signatures from those three public keys be provided.
But a Lightning Network channel has exactly two participants. Thus, it uses a 2-of-2, and is a SCRIPT containing 2 public keys, requiring that two signatures from those public keys be provided. If you look for 2-of-2 spends on the blockchain after Lightning became cool, the chances are very good that a random 2-of-2 spend is a Lightning Network channel being closed, because there are hardly ever any other uses of 2-of-2.
Just from there, you can easily differentiate the most common HODLer multisig of 2-of-3 (SCRIPT contains 3 pubkeys) from the Lightning channel 2-of-2 (SCRIPT contains 2 pubkeys).
Fortunately, with Taproot, 2-of-3 and 2-of-2 (and any arbitrary k-of-n) can look exactly the same, because Schnorr allows for the cryptographer's strict definition of "multisignature": a single signature cooperatively created by multiple parties.
Complex SCRIPTs, like HTLCs, can be hidden in a Taproot output.
For example, the output can have a keyspend branch that is a n-of-n of all participants, with hidden SCRIPTs that encode the conditions under which the output can be spent
The hidden SCRIPTs ensure that the protocol is followed. If one of the participants drops from the protocol, the rest can reveal the hidden SCRIPTs and follow their conditions.
If everyone follows the protocol correctly, and agrees to the result, they can all cooperatively sign with the keyspend n-of-n. They can just all agree on what the result of the SCRIPTs would be, and sign a transaction that performs that, without revealing any SCRIPTs. Since all of them agreed on the result, nobody should complain (if one of them believes the result is not correct, they can just refuse to sign and force everyone else to publish the SCRIPTs onchain).
If everyone agrees, they get privacy: none of the SCRIPTs they were following ever get published onchain, and it looks like every other multisignature spend.
Taproot DOES NOT HELP CoinJoin
So let's review! CoinJoin:
CoinJoin inputs are singlesig
There are no SCRIPTs involved in CoinJoin.
Improves multisig privacy.
Improves SCRIPT privacy.
There is absolutely no overlap. Taproot helps things that CoinJoin does not use. CoinJoin uses things that Taproot does not improve.
B-but They Said!!
A lot of early reporting on Taproot claimed that Taproot benefits CoinJoin. What they are confusing is that earlier drafts of Taproot included a feature called cross-input signature aggregation. In current Bitcoin, every input, to be spent, has to be signed individually. With cross-input signature aggregation, all inputs that support this feature are signed with a single signature that covers all those inputs. So for example if you would spend two inputs, current Bitcoin requires a signature for each input, but with cross-input signature aggregation you can sign both of them with a single signature. This works even if the inputs have different public keys: two inputs with cross-input signature aggregation effectively define a 2-of-2 public key, and you can only sign for that input if you know the private keys for both inputs, or if you are cooperatively signing with somebody who knows the private key of the other input. This helps CoinJoin costs. Since CoinJoins will have lots of inputs (each participant will provide at least one, and probably will provide more, and larger participant sets are better for more privacy in CoinJoin), if all of them enabled cross-input signature aggregation, such large CoinJoins can have only a single signature. This complicates the signing process for CoinJoins (the signers now have to sign cooperatively) but it can be well worth it for the reduced signature size and onchain cost. But note that the while cross-input signature aggregation improves the cost of CoinJoins, it does not improve the privacy! Equal-valued CoinJoins are still obvious and still readily bannable by privacy-hating exchanges. It does not improve the privacy of CoinJoin. Instead, see https://old.reddit.com/Bitcoin/comments/gqb3udesign_for_a_coinswap_implementation_fo
Why isn't cross-input signature aggregation in?
There's some fairly complex technical reasons why cross-input signature aggregation isn't in right now in the current Taproot proposal. The primary reason was to reduce the technical complexity of Taproot, in the hope that it would be easier to convince users to activate (while support for Taproot is quite high, developers have become wary of being hopeful that new proposals will ever activate, given the previous difficulties with SegWit). The main technical complexity here is that it interacts with future ways to extend Bitcoin. The rest of this writeup assumes you already know about how Bitcoin SCRIPT works. If you don't understand how Bitcoin SCRIPT works at the low-level, then the TLDR is that cross-input signature aggregation complicates how to extend Bitcoin in the future, so it was deferred to let the develoeprs think more about it. (this is how I understand it; perhaps pwuille or ajtowns can give a better summary.) In detail, Taproot also introduces OP_SUCCESS opcodes. If you know about the OP_NOP opcodes already defined in current Bitcoin, well, OP_SUCCESS is basically "OP_NOP done right". Now, OP_NOP is a do-nothing operation. It can be replaced in future versions of Bitcoin by having that operation check some condition, and then fail if the condition is not satisfied. For example, both OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY and OP_CHECKSEQUENCEVERIFY were previously OP_NOP opcodes. Older nodes will see an OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY and think it does nothing, but newer nodes will check if the nLockTime field has a correct specified value, and fail if the condition is not satisfied. Since most of the nodes on the network are using much newer versions of the node software, older nodes are protected from miners who try to misspend any OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY/OP_CHECKSEQUENCEVERIFY, and those older nodes will still remain capable of synching with the rest of the network: a dedication to strict backward-compatibility necessary for a consensus system. Softforks basically mean that a script that passes in the latest version must also be passing in all older versions. A script cannot be passing in newer versions but failing in older versions, because that would kick older nodes off the network (i.e. it would be a hardfork). But OP_NOP is a very restricted way of adding opcodes. Opcodes that replace OP_NOP can only do one thing: check if some condition is true. They can't push new data on the stack, they can't pop items off the stack. For example, suppose instead of OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY, we had added a OP_GETBLOCKHEIGHT opcode. This opcode would push the height of the blockchain on the stack. If this command replaced an older OP_NOP opcode, then a script like OP_GETBLOCKHEIGHT 650000 OP_EQUAL might pass in some future Bitcoin version, but older versions would see OP_NOP 650000 OP_EQUAL, which would fail because OP_EQUAL expects two items on the stack. So older versions will fail a SCRIPT that newer versions will pass, which is a hardfork and thus a backwards incompatibility. OP_SUCCESS is different. Instead, old nodes, when parsing the SCRIPT, will see OP_SUCCESS, and, without executing the body, will consider the SCRIPT as passing. So, the OP_GETBLOCKHEIGHT 650000 OP_EQUAL example will now work: a future version of Bitcoin might pass it, and existing nodes that don't understand OP_GETBLOCKHEIGHT will se OP_SUCCESS 650000 OP_EQUAL, and will not execute the SCRIPT at all, instead passing it immediately. So a SCRIPT that might pass in newer versions will pass for older versions, which keeps the back-compatibility consensus that a softfork needs. So how does OP_SUCCESS make things difficult for cross-input signatur aggregation? Well, one of the ways to ask for a signature to be verified is via the opcodes OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY. With cross-input signature aggregation, if a public key indicates it can be used for cross-input signature aggregation, instead of OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY actually requiring the signature on the stack, the stack will contain a dummy 0 value for the signature, and the public key is instead added to a "sum" public key (i.e. an n-of-n that is dynamically extended by one more pubkey for each OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY operation that executes) for the single signature that is verified later by the cross-input signature aggregation validation algorithm00. The important part here is that the OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY has to execute, in order to add its public key to the set of public keys to be checked in the single signature. But remember that an OP_SUCCESS prevents execution! As soon as the SCRIPT is parsed, if any opcode is OP_SUCCESS, that is considered as passing, without actually executing the SCRIPT, because the OP_SUCCESS could mean something completely different in newer versions and current versions should assume nothing about what it means. If the SCRIPT contains some OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY command in addition to an OP_SUCCESS, that command is not executed by current versions, and thus they cannot add any public keys given by OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY. Future versions also have to accept that: if they parsed an OP_SUCCESS command that has a new meaning in the future, and then execute an OP_CHECKSIGVERIFY in that SCRIPT, they cannot add the public key into the same "sum" public key that older nodes use, because older nodes cannot see them. This means that you might need more than one signature in the future, in the presence of an opcode that replaces some OP_SUCCESS. Thus, because of the complexity of making cross-input signature aggregation work compatibly with future extensions to the protocol, cross-input signature aggregation was deferred.
The legality of unregistered, unlicensed lending? Legality of stablecoins?
With all this defi hype, I don't see very many people questioning the legality of some of these functions. In most countries, lending is allowed because two willing participants agree to a written contract. A contract is essentially a group of people privatizing a set of laws that take precedent over public law. "Smart contracts" are not legal contracts. A legal contract must have actual print and a signature of all participants acknowledging the terms of the agreement. Just because you have software executing a code, that doesn't make it a legal contract. There's a real fundamental problem with stablecoins: any system that effectively allows decentralized peer-to-peer transmission of money is going to fail one or more anti-money-laundering laws. Stablecoins are fundamentally illegal operations under US law. With bitcoin, you can squish around legal definitions to call it a commodity instead of money because of it's volatile nature. But stable coins are being marketed as 1:1 equivalent to USD, which is money.
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.
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