Bitcoin: Too big to scale?. With about 11.000 mining nodes ...
If we lived in a Bitcoin future, how big would the ...
P2P Bitcoin Derivative Trading Through the Blockchain: Equities, Bonds, Forex & Commodities
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Putting $400M of Bitcoin on your company balance sheet
Also posted on my blog as usual. Read it there if you can, there are footnotes and inlined plots. A couple of months ago, MicroStrategy (MSTR) had a spare $400M of cash which it decided to shift to Bitcoin (BTC). Today we'll discuss in excrutiating detail why this is not a good idea. When a company has a pile of spare money it doesn't know what to do with, it'll normally do buybacks or start paying dividends. That gives the money back to the shareholders, and from an economic perspective the money can get better invested in other more promising companies. If you have a huge pile of of cash, you probably should be doing other things than leave it in a bank account to gather dust. However, this statement from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor exists to make it clear he's buying into BTC for all the wrong reasons:
“This is not a speculation, nor is it a hedge. This was a deliberate corporate strategy to adopt a bitcoin standard.”
Let's unpack it and jump into the economics Bitcoin:
Is Bitcoin money?
No. Or rather BTC doesn't act as money and there's no serious future path for BTC to become a form of money. Let's go back to basics. There are 3 main economic problems money solves: 1. Medium of Exchange. Before money we had to barter, which led to the double coincidence of wants problem. When everyone accepts the same money you can buy something from someone even if they don't like the stuff you own. As a medium of exchange, BTC is not good. There are significant transaction fees and transaction waiting times built-in to BTC and these worsen the more popular BTC get. You can test BTC's usefulness as a medium of exchange for yourself right now: try to order a pizza or to buy a random item with BTC. How many additional hurdles do you have to go through? How many fewer options do you have than if you used a regular currency? How much overhead (time, fees) is there? 2. Unit of Account. A unit of account is what you compare the value of objects against. We denominate BTC in terms of how many USD they're worth, so BTC is a unit of account presently. We can say it's because of lack of adoption, but really it's also because the market value of BTC is so volatile. If I buy a $1000 table today or in 2017, it's roughly a $1000 table. We can't say that a 0.4BTC table was a 0.4BTC table in 2017. We'll expand on this in the next point: 3. Store of Value. When you create economic value, you don't want to be forced to use up the value you created right away. For instance, if I fix your washing machine and you pay me in avocados, I'd be annoyed. I'd have to consume my payment before it becomes brown, squishy and disgusting. Avocado fruit is not good money because avocadoes loses value very fast. On the other hand, well-run currencies like the USD, GBP, CAD, EUR, etc. all lose their value at a low and most importantly fairly predictible rate. Let's look at the chart of the USD against BTC While the dollar loses value at a predictible rate, BTC is all over the place, which is bad. One important use money is to write loan contracts. Loans are great. They let people spend now against their future potential earnings, so they can buy houses or start businesses without first saving up for a decade. Loans are good for the economy. If you want to sign something that says "I owe you this much for that much time" then you need to be able to roughly predict the value of the debt in at the point in time where it's due. Otherwise you'll have a hard time pricing the risk of the loan effectively. This means that you need to charge higher interests. The risk of making a loan in BTC needs to be priced into the interest of a BTC-denominated loan, which means much higher interest rates. High interests on loans are bad, because buying houses and starting businesses are good things.
BTC has a fixed supply, so these problems are built in
Some people think that going back to a standard where our money was denominated by a stock of gold (the Gold Standard) would solve economic problems. This is nonsense. Having control over supply of your currency is a good thing, as long as it's well run. See here Remember that what is desirable is low variance in the value, not the value itself. When there are wild fluctuations in value, it's hard for money to do its job well. Since the 1970s, the USD has been a fiat money with no intrinsic value. This means we control the supply of money. Let's look at a classic poorly drawn econ101 graph The market price for USD is where supply meets demand. The problem with a currency based on an item whose supply is fixed is that the price will necessarily fluctuate in response to changes in demand. Imagine, if you will, that a pandemic strikes and that the demand for currency takes a sharp drop. The US imports less, people don't buy anything anymore, etc. If you can't print money, you get deflation, which is worsens everything. On the other hand, if you can make the money printers go brrrr you can stabilize the price Having your currency be based on a fixed supply isn't just bad because in/deflation is hard to control. It's also a national security risk... The story of the guy who crashed gold prices in North Africa In the 1200s, Mansa Munsa, the emperor of the Mali, was rich and a devout Muslim and wanted everyone to know it. So he embarked on a pilgrimage to make it rain all the way to Mecca. He in fact made it rain so hard he increased the overall supply of gold and unintentionally crashed gold prices in Cairo by 20%, wreaking an economic havoc in North Africa that lasted a decade. This story is fun, the larger point that having your inflation be at the mercy of foreign nations is an undesirable attribute in any currency. The US likes to call some countries currency manipulators, but this problem would be serious under a gold standard.
Currencies are based on trust
Since the USD is based on nothing except the US government's word, how can we trust USD not to be mismanaged? The answer is that you can probably trust the fed until political stooges get put in place. Currently, the US's central bank managing the USD, the Federal Reserve (the Fed for friends & family), has administrative authority. The fed can say "no" to dumb requests from the president. People who have no idea what the fed does like to chant "audit the fed", but the fed is already one of the best audited US federal entities. The transcripts of all their meetings are out in the open. As is their balance sheet, what they plan to do and why. If the US should audit anything it's the Department of Defense which operates without any accounting at all. It's easy to see when a central bank will go rogue: it's when political yes-men are elected to the board. For example, before printing themselves into hyperinflation, the Venezuelan president appointed a sociologist who publicly stated “Inflation does not exist in real life” and instead is a made up capitalist lie. Note what happened mere months after his gaining control over the Venezuelan currency This is a key policy. One paper I really like, Sargent (1984) "The end of 4 big inflations" states:
The essential measures that ended hyperinflation in each of Germany,Austria, Hungary, and Poland were, first, the creation of an independentcentral bank that was legally committed to refuse the government'sdemand or additional unsecured credit and, second, a simultaneousalteration in the fiscal policy regime.
In english: *hyperinflation stops when the central bank can say "no" to the government." The US Fed, like other well good central banks, is run by a bunch of nerds. When it prints money, even as aggressively as it has it does so for good reasons. You can see why they started printing on March 15th as the COVID lockdowns started:
The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby promote its maximum employment and price stability goals.
In english: We're going to keep printing and lowering rates until jobs are back and inflation is under control. If we print until the sun is blotted out, we'll print in the shade.
BTC is not gold
Gold is a good asset for doomsday-preppers. If society crashes, gold will still have value. How do we know that? Gold has held value throughout multiple historic catastrophes over thousands of years. It had value before and after the Bronze Age Collapse, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Gengis Khan being Gengis Khan. Even if you erased humanity and started over, the new humans would still find gold to be economically valuable. When Europeans d̶i̶s̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ c̶o̶n̶q̶u̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ g̶e̶n̶o̶c̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ went to America, they found gold to be an important item over there too. This is about equivalent to finding humans on Alpha-Centauri and learning that they think gold is a good store of value as well. Some people are puzzled at this: we don't even use gold for much! But it has great properties: First, gold is hard to fake and impossible to manufacture. This makes it good to ascertain payment. Second, gold doesnt react to oxygen, so it doesn't rust or tarnish. So it keeps value over time unlike most other materials. Last, gold is pretty. This might sound frivolous, and you may not like it, but jewelry has actual value to humans. It's no coincidence if you look at a list of the wealthiest families, a large number of them trade in luxury goods. To paraphrase Veblen humans have a profound desire to signal social status, for the same reason peacocks have unwieldy tails. Gold is a great way to achieve that. On the other hand, BTC lacks all these attributes. Its value is largely based on common perception of value. There are a few fundamental drivers of demand:
Means of Exchange: if people seriously start using BTC to buy pizzas, then this creates a real demand for the currency to accomplish the short-term exchanges. As we saw previously, I'm not personally sold on this one and it's currently a negligible fraction of overall demand.
Criminal uses: Probably the largest inbuilt advantage of BTC is that it's anonymous, and so a great way to launder money. Hacker gangs use BTC to demand ransom on cryptolocker type attacks because it's a shared way for an honest company to pay and for the criminals to receive money without going to jail.
Apart from these, it's hard to argue that BTC will retain value throughout some sort of economic catastrophe.
BTC is really risky
One last statement from Michael Saylor I take offense to is this:
“We feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,” MicroStrategy CEO said in an interview
"BTC is less risky than holding cash or gold long term" is nonsense. We saw before that BTC is more volatile on face value, and that as long as the Fed isn't run by spider monkeys stacked in a trench coat, the inflation is likely to be within reasonable bounds. But on top of this, BTC has Abrupt downside risks that normal currencies don't. Let's imagine a few:
A critical software vulnerability is found in the BTC codebase, leading to a possible exploitation.
Xi Jinping decides he's had enough of rich people in China hiding their assets from him and bans BTC.
Some form of bank run takes hold for whatever reason. Because BTC wallets are uninsured, unlike regular banks, this compounds into a Black Tuesday style crash.
Blockchain solutions are fundamentally inefficient
Blockchain was a genius idea. I still marvel at the initial white paper which is a great mix of economics and computer science. That said, blockchain solutions make large tradeoffs in design because they assume almost no trust between parties. This leads to intentionally wasteful designs on a massive scale. The main problem is that all transactions have to be validated by expensive computational operations and double checked by multiple parties. This means waste:
BTC was estimated to use as much electricity as Belgium in 2019. It's hard to trace where the BTC mining comes from, but we can assume it has a huge carbon footprint.
A single transactions is necessarily expensive. A single transaction takes as much electricity as 800,000 VISA transactions, or watching 50,000 hours of youtube videos.
There is a large necessary tax on the transaction, since those checking the transaction extract a few BTC from it to be incentivized to do the work of checking it.
Many design problems can be mitigated by various improvements over BTC, but it remains that a simple database always works better than a blockchain if you can trust the parties to the transaction.
If you are new to investing into Cryptocurrencies this summary might help you.
Knowing basic terms:
You'll stumble across a lot of terms and expressions some are of technical & some of financial nature, for example:
What actually is the blockchain, how does Bitcoin work under the hood, what is proof of stake...?
It's also important to know what are some basic terms concerning investing in general:
marketcap, volume, liquidity, dollar cost average...
Following Crypto News:
May it be our beloved cc, twitter, big new-sites like cointelegraph - stay up to date. Knowing what is going on in the sphere can give you an edge but also mind the saying "buy the rumor, sell the news"!
Having an investment strategy:
Strategies will help you to control your emotions - act as rational as possible.
Define goals at what pricepoint you want to buy and when to sell an asset (entrance/exit strategies).
Don't buy or sell all your coins at once - do it in smaller steps because you never know when the price is right (use methods like Dollar cost averaging).
Patience: in this fast reacting market everybody chases quick money but if you wait for a strategy to pay off, or that a price recovers to recoup losses it can take weeks, months, years.
Don't chase pumps - it's often already over if a coin has pumped and you'll end up as "bagholder" buying in at high prices.
Don't invest more than you are willing to lose (it even hurts to lose small portions of money so be careful and responsible)
Diversify - don't put all eggs in one basket. Split your investments up into Coins that already are etablished, like BTC, ETH, add some promising Altcoins and only a small portion of moonshots for gambling...
Be prepared & don't get scammed:
Use apps like blockfolio or coinstats to track prices on your mobile device or visit webpages like coingecko and coinmarketcap.
Use Hardware wallets like Ledger & Trezor to store your assets safely - remember not your keys not your coins...
Don't leave too much money on exchanges.
Write always down your passwords, passphrases and seed words (best on paper away from your computer). You'll regret if you don't.
Never ever send someone those private information, don't reply to uninitiated chats or open suspicious mails.
Watch out for "Crypto gurus" promoting their pump and dump schemes.
Splitting BCH/BSV still possible today for version 1.9.3?
Today I do have still a large amount unsplit BCH/BSV in one address in my trezor wallet. I didn't split it at the time shortly after the hardfork BCH/BSV dating 15 November 2018 because I was at that time too busy with other things. I thought it would be save if I just didn't thouch it. The address has remained untouched since February 2018. Today I want to recover the BSV because I want to cash out and exchange the BSV for some other coin and because of the coming fork for BCH in November 2020 not to complicate things further. In meantime, I have updated my Trezor One wallet to version 1.9.3 . I didn't yet update the address mentioned in orange " Bitcoin Cash changed the format of addresses to cashaddr" and "use this external tool to convert legacy addresses to the new format." with the external site in the Trezor wallet. This because I knew I hadn't yet split the BCH/BSV. I honestly don't know what the best solution is for recovering my BSV. It's an amount too big to ignore. https://wiki.trezor.io/How_to_split_and_send_your_Bitcoin_Cash_forks Does this way of splitting still work with installed version 1.9.3 of Trezor One wallet? This knowing that: - The Trezor wallet is displaying another amount of BCH than the address on the blockchain (99771 satoshis difference or 99771 satoshis more on the Trezor One wallet than on the on the address on the blockchain. For me an amount I'm prepared to lose because that's not the big amount I want to recover). This probably comes from 2 small test transactions. Anyway, the amount is different on the blockchain address (where the big amount unsplit BCH/BSV is parked) compared to the Trezor wallet. - The Trezor One wallet is displaying the new BCH cashaddr which is not including the BSV Problem: The BCH and BSV is still in an old BCH address. Trezor has in meantime updated to version so that the new BCH address is mentioned in my Trezor wallet. The new address (cashaddr) doesn't consist anymore the BSV. That BSV is still in the untouched old BCH address. Questions: How can I find the private key of the old BCH address in my Trezor? Can I still send the unsplitt BCH/BSV from the old BCH address to a new BCH address (cashaddr) with my Trezor, even when Trezor is in version 1.9.3 displaying the new address which is not consisting the unsplit BCH/BSV? Or do I have to send the unsplitt BCH/BSV from the old address with the recovered private key from an other alternative wallet? Can I send first a small amount of unsplit BCH/BSV for a test without the risk of a replay attack or lose funds in the originating address? Possible solutions:
I send the money to an exchange (CoinEx) where they are willing to split it in case the coins arrive unsplit. This supposing the problems and situation mentioned before are solved or are not cause for a loss of funds.
Please let me know what the best and easiest solution is without losing my coins. I'm a non tech guy.
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
Here is how to play the altcoin game - for newbies & champs
I have been here for many previous altcoin seasons (2013,2017 etc) and wanted to share knowedle. It's a LOOONG article. The evaluation of altcoins (i.e not Bitcoin) is one of the most difficult and profitable exercises. Here I will outline my methodology and thinking but we have to take some things as a given. The first is that the whole market is going up or down with forces that we can't predict or control. Bitcoin is correlated with economic environments, money supply increases, safe havens such as Gold, hype and country regulations. This is an impossible mix to analyze and almost everyone fails at it. That's why you see people valuing Bitcoin from $100 to $500k frequently. Although I am bullish on the prospects of Bitcoin and decentralization and smart contract platforms, this is not the game I will be describing. I am talking about a game where you try to maximize your BTC holdings by investing in altcoins. We win this game even if we are at a loss in fiat currency value. To put it another way:
If you are not bullish in general on cryptocurrencies you have no place in investing or trading cryptocurrencies since it's always a losing proposition to trade in bubbles, a scientifically proven fact. If on the other hand you are then your goal is to grow your portfolio more than you would if holding BTC/ETH for example.
Bitcoin is the big boy
How the market works is not easily identifiable if you haven't graduated from the 2017 crypto university. When there is a bull market everything seems amazingly profitable and things keep going up outgrowing Bitcoin by orders of magnitude and you are a genius. The problem with this is that it only works while Bitcoin is going up a little bit or trades sideways. When it decides to move big then altcoins lose value both on the way up and on the way down. The second part is obvious and proven since all altcoins from 2017 are at a fraction of their BTC value (usually in the range of 80% or more down). Also, when BTC is making a big move upwards everyone exits altcoins to ride the wave. It is possible that the altcoin market behaves as an inversed leveraged ETF with leakage where in a certain period while Bitcoin starts at 10k and ends at 10k for example, altcoins have lost a lot of value because of the above things happening.
We are doing it anyway champ!
OK so we understand the risks and just wanna gambol with our money right? I get it. Why do that? Because finding the ideal scenario and period can be extremely profitable. In 2017 several altcoins went up 40x more than BTC. But again, if you don't chose wisely many of them have gone back to zero (the author has first hand experience in this!), they have been delisted and nobody remembers them. The actual mentality to have is very important and resembles poker and other speculative games: A certain altcoin can go up in value indefinitely but can only lose it's starting investment. Think about it. You either lose 1 metric or gain many many more. Now that sounds amazing but firstly as we said we have the goal to outperform our benchmark (BTC) and secondly that going up in value a lot means that the probability is quite low. There is this notion of Expected Value (EV) that poker players apply in these kind of situations and it goes like that. If you think that a certain coin has a probability let's say 10% to go up 10X and 90% probability it goes to zero it's an even bet. If you think that probability is 11% then it's a good bet, a profitable bet and you should take it. You get the point right? It's not that it can only go 10X or 0X, there is a whole range of probability outcomes that are too mathematical to explain here and it doesn't help so much because nobody can do such analysis with altcoins. See below on how we can approximate it.
How to evaluate altcoins
A range of different things to take into account outlined below will form our decision making. Not a single one of them should dictate 100% of our strategy.
It's all about market cap. Repeat after me. The price of a coin doesn't mean anything. Say it 10 times until you believe it. I can't remember how many times I had conversations with people that were comparing coins using their coin price instead of their market cap. To make this easy to get.
If I decide because the sky is blue to make my coin supply 100 Trillion FoolCoins with a price of $0.001 and there is another WiseCoin with a supply of 100 Million and price of $1 then FoolCoins are more expensive. - Alex Fin's Cap Law
This is done usually in the stock world and it means that each company has some fundamental value that includes it's assets, customers, growth prospects, sector prospects and leadership competence but mostly centered in financial measures such as P/E ratios etc. Valuation is a proper economic discipline by itself taught in universities. OK, now throw everything out of the window!. This kind of analysis is impossible in vague concepts and innovations that are currently cryptocurrencies. Ethereum was frequently priced at the fictional price of gas when all financial systems on earth run on the platform after decades (a bit of exaggeration here). No project is currently profitable enough to justify a valuation multiple that is usually equal to P/E in the thousands or more. As such we need to take other things into account. What I do is included in the list below:
Check Github. You need to make sure there is active development for the platform and it's a very bad sign if the project is either keeping the code closed source or even worse there is simply no development. No projects are "complete".
Check Website. If the website is written in bad English the Chinese google translate type it means that they are not serious enough to produce an unbreakable decentralized project. If you can't write English you can't change the world, period. That's a deal breaker.
Check Team's Linkedin. Numerous projects have either fake Linkedin accounts or the team is comprised mainly by unexperienced employees that are even shown to be working in other companies currently.
Check backers. Projects that have Binance, Coinbase or Silicon Valley VC funds backing them are way more legit but way more overpriced too!
One of my favorite ways to value altcoins that is based on the same principle in the stock market is to look at peers and decide what is the maximum cap it can grow to. As an example you take a second layer Ethereum solution that has an ICO and you want to decide if you will enter or not. You can take a look at other coins that are in the same business and compare their market caps. Thinking that your coin will outperform by a lot the top coins currently is overly optimistic so I usually take a lower valuation as a target price. If the initial offering is directly implying a valuation that is more than that then there is no room to grow according to my analysis and I skip it. Many times this has proven me wrong because it's a game theory problem where if many people think irrationally in a market it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But since there is opportunity cost involved, in the long run, getting in initial offerings that have a lot of room to grow will pay off as a strategy.
In 2017 the sexiest sector was platforms and then coins including privacy ones. Platforms are obviously still a highly rated sector because everything is being built on them, but privacy is not as hot as it used to be. In 2018 DEXes were all they hype but still people are massively using centralized exchanges. In 2020 Defi is the hottest sector and it includes platforms, oracles and Defi projects. What I am saying is that a project gets extra points if it's a Defi one in 2020 and minus points if it's a payment system that will conquer the world as it was in 2017 because that's old news. This is closely related to the next section.
Needless to say that the crypto market is a worse FOMO type of inexperienced trigger happy yolo investors , much worse than the Robinhood crowd that drove a bankrupt company's stock 1200% after they declared bankruptcy. The result is that there are numerous projects that are basically either vaporware or just so overhyped that their valuation has no connection to reality. Should we avoid those kind of projects? No and I will explain why. There are many very good technically projects that had zero hype potential due to incompetent marketing departments that made them tank. An example (without shilling because I sold out a while back) is Quantum Resistant Ledger. This project has amazing quantum resistant blockchain, the only one running now, has a platform that people can build tokens and messaging systems and other magnificent stuff. Just check how they fared up to now and you will get the point. A project *needs* to have a hype factor because you cannot judge it as normal stocks that you can do value investing like Warren Buffet does where a company will inevitable post sales and profitability numbers and investors will get dividends. Actually the last sentence is the most important: No dividends. Even projects that give you tokens or coins as dividends are not real dividends because if the coin tanks the value of the dividend tanks. This is NOT the case with company stocks where you get dollars even if the company stock tanks. All that being said, I would advice against betting on projects that have a lot of hype but little substance (but that should be obvious!).
How to construct your portfolio
My strategy and philosophy in investing is that risk should be proportional to investment capital. That means that if you are investing 100K in the crypto market your portfolio should be very different than someone investing 1K because 10% annual gains are nothing in the latter while they are very significant in the former. Starting from this principle each individual needs to construct a portfolio according to how much risk he wants to take. I will emphasize two important concepts that play well with what I said. In the first instance of a big portfolio you should concentrate on this mantra: "Diversification is the only free meal in finance". In the case of a small portfolio then this mantra is more important: "Concentrate to create wealth, diversify to maintain wealth". Usually in a big portfolio you would want to hold some big coins such as BTC and ETH to weather the ups and downs explained in previous paragraphs while generating profits and keep progressively smaller parts of your portfolio for riskier investments. Maybe 50% of this portfolio could be big caps and 10% very risky initial offerings. Adapting risk progressively to smaller portfolios makes sense but I think it would be irrational to keep more than 30% of a portfolio no matter what tied to one coin due to the very high risk of bankruptcy.
The altseason is supposedly coming every 3 months. Truth is that nobody can predict it but altcoins can be profitable no matter what. Forget about maximalists who are stuck in their dogmas. Altcoins deliver different value propositions and it makes sense because we are very far from a situation where some project offers everything like Amazon and we wouldn't even want that in the first place since we are talking about decentralization and not a winner takes all and becomes a monster kind of scenario! Some last minute advice:
Stay out of paid telegram/discord pump groups. They are deadly for your wallet.
Avoid jumping on overhyped coins that have pumped massively during the last days without any very important news.
Don't keep coins in obscure exchanges for too long or you will get burned with certainty.
Stop thinking that your coin will 1000x and overtake Bitcoin!
P.S If you find value in reading this and want more weekly consider subscribing to my newsletterhere
Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analyzed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk-reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralized and scalable in my opinion.
Below I post my analysis of why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise, just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
Technology and some more:
The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
Mainnet is live since the end of January 2019 with daily transaction rates growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralized and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. The maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
Zilliqa realized early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralized, secure, and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in the amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralization. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
Before we continue dissecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
Down the rabbit hole
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour, no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here. Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts, etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as: “A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronize cryptographically-secure data”.
Next, he states that: "blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”. For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber, and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
With public blockchains like Zilliqa, this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network, etc.
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever-changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralized and scalable being low.
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimization on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and the University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017. Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (66%) double-spend attacks become possible.
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT, etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralization.
Currently, there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so-called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralized nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics, you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching its transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand. Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end-users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public. They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public-facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not involved with consensus! That is still PoW as entry ticket and pBFT for the actual consensus.
5% of the block rewards are being assigned to seed nodes (from the beginning in 2019) and those are being used to pay out ZIL stakers. The 5% block rewards with an annual yield of 10.03% translate to roughly 610 MM ZILs in total that can be staked. Exchanges use the custodial variant of staking and wallets like Moonlet will use the non-custodial version (starting in Q3 2020). Staking is being done by sending ZILs to a smart contract created by Zilliqa and audited by Quantstamp.
With a high amount of DS; shard nodes and seed nodes becoming more decentralized too, Zilliqa qualifies for the label of decentralized in my opinion.
Generalized: programming languages can be divided into being ‘object-oriented’ or ‘functional’. Here is an ELI5 given by software development academy: * “all programs have two basic components, data – what the program knows – and behavior – what the program can do with that data. So object-oriented programming states that combining data and related behaviors in one place, is called “object”, which makes it easier to understand how a particular program works. On the other hand, functional programming argues that data and behavior are different things and should be separated to ensure their clarity.” *
Scilla is on the functional side and shares similarities with OCaml: OCaml is a general-purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. It has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It's used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools. For all its power, OCaml is also pretty simple, which is one reason it's often used as a teaching language.
Scilla is blockchain agnostic, can be implemented onto other blockchains as well, is recognized by academics and won a so-called Distinguished Artifact Award award at the end of last year.
One of the reasons why the Zilliqa team decided to create their own programming language focused on preventing smart contract vulnerabilities is that adding logic on a blockchain, programming, means that you cannot afford to make mistakes. Otherwise, it could cost you. It’s all great and fun blockchains being immutable but updating your code because you found a bug isn’t the same as with a regular web application for example. And with smart contracts, it inherently involves cryptocurrencies in some form thus value.
Another difference with programming languages on a blockchain is gas. Every transaction you do on a smart contract platform like Zilliqa or Ethereum costs gas. With gas you basically pay for computational costs. Sending a ZIL from address A to address B costs 0.001 ZIL currently. Smart contracts are more complex, often involve various functions and require more gas (if gas is a new concept click here ).
So with Scilla, similar to Solidity, you need to make sure that “every function in your smart contract will run as expected without hitting gas limits. An improper resource analysis may lead to situations where funds may get stuck simply because a part of the smart contract code cannot be executed due to gas limits. Such constraints are not present in traditional software systems”.Scilla design story part 1
Some examples of smart contract issues you’d want to avoid are: leaking funds, ‘unexpected changes to critical state variables’ (example: someone other than you setting his or her address as the owner of the smart contract after creation) or simply killing a contract.
Scilla also allows for formal verification. Wikipedia to the rescue: In the context of hardware and software systems, formal verification is the act of proving or disproving the correctness of intended algorithms underlying a system with respect to a certain formal specification or property, using formal methods of mathematics.
Formal verification can be helpful in proving the correctness of systems such as: cryptographic protocols, combinational circuits, digital circuits with internal memory, and software expressed as source code.
“Scilla is being developed hand-in-hand with formalization of its semantics and its embedding into the Coq proof assistant — a state-of-the art tool for mechanized proofs about properties of programs.”
Simply put, with Scilla and accompanying tooling developers can be mathematically sure and proof that the smart contract they’ve written does what he or she intends it to do.
Smart contract on a sharded environment and state sharding
There is one more topic I’d like to touch on: smart contract execution in a sharded environment (and what is the effect of state sharding). This is a complex topic. I’m not able to explain it any easier than what is posted here. But I will try to compress the post into something easy to digest.
Earlier on we have established that Zilliqa can process transactions in parallel due to network sharding. This is where the linear scalability comes from. We can define simple transactions: a transaction from address A to B (Category 1), a transaction where a user interacts with one smart contract (Category 2) and the most complex ones where triggering a transaction results in multiple smart contracts being involved (Category 3). The shards are able to process transactions on their own without interference of the other shards. With Category 1 transactions that is doable, with Category 2 transactions sometimes if that address is in the same shard as the smart contract but with Category 3 you definitely need communication between the shards. Solving that requires to make a set of communication rules the protocol needs to follow in order to process all transactions in a generalised fashion.
There is no strict defined roadmap but here are topics being worked on. And via the Zilliqa website there is also more information on the projects they are working on.
Business & Partnerships
It’s not only technology in which Zilliqa seems to be excelling as their ecosystem has been expanding and starting to grow rapidly. The project is on a mission to provide OpenFinance (OpFi) to the world and Singapore is the right place to be due to its progressive regulations and futuristic thinking. Singapore has taken a proactive approach towards cryptocurrencies by introducing the Payment Services Act 2019 (PS Act). Among other things, the PS Act will regulate intermediaries dealing with certain cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It will also provide a stable regulatory licensing and operating framework for cryptocurrency entities, effectively covering all crypto businesses and exchanges based in Singapore. According to PWC 82% of the surveyed executives in Singapore reported blockchain initiatives underway and 13% of them have already brought the initiatives live to the market. There is also an increasing list of organizations that are starting to provide digital payment services. Moreover, Singaporean blockchain developers Building Cities Beyond has recently created an innovation $15 million grant to encourage development on its ecosystem. This all suggests that Singapore tries to position itself as (one of) the leading blockchain hubs in the world.
Zilliqa seems to already take advantage of this and recently helped launch Hg Exchange on their platform, together with financial institutions PhillipCapital, PrimePartners and Fundnel. Hg Exchange, which is now approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), uses smart contracts to represent digital assets. Through Hg Exchange financial institutions worldwide can use Zilliqa's safe-by-design smart contracts to enable the trading of private equities. For example, think of companies such as Grab, Airbnb, SpaceX that are not available for public trading right now. Hg Exchange will allow investors to buy shares of private companies & unicorns and capture their value before an IPO. Anquan, the main company behind Zilliqa, has also recently announced that they became a partner and shareholder in TEN31 Bank, which is a fully regulated bank allowing for tokenization of assets and is aiming to bridge the gap between conventional banking and the blockchain world. If STOs, the tokenization of assets, and equity trading will continue to increase, then Zilliqa’s public blockchain would be the ideal candidate due to its strategic positioning, partnerships, regulatory compliance and the technology that is being built on top of it.
What is also very encouraging is their focus on banking the un(der)banked. They are launching a stablecoin basket starting with XSGD. As many of you know, stablecoins are currently mostly used for trading. However, Zilliqa is actively trying to broaden the use case of stablecoins. I recommend everybody to read this text that Amrit Kumar wrote (one of the co-founders). These stablecoins will be integrated in the traditional markets and bridge the gap between the crypto world and the traditional world. This could potentially revolutionize and legitimise the crypto space if retailers and companies will for example start to use stablecoins for payments or remittances, instead of it solely being used for trading.
Zilliqa also released their DeFi strategic roadmap (dating November 2019) which seems to be aligning well with their OpFi strategy. A non-custodial DEX is coming to Zilliqa made by Switcheo which allows cross-chain trading (atomic swaps) between ETH, EOS and ZIL based tokens. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a (soon to be announced) USD stablecoin. And as Zilliqa is all about regulations and being compliant, I’m speculating on it to be a regulated USD stablecoin. Furthermore, XSGD is already created and visible on block explorer and XIDR (Indonesian Stablecoin) is also coming soon via StraitsX. Here also an overview of the Tech Stack for Financial Applications from September 2019. Further quoting Amrit Kumar on this:
There are two basic building blocks in DeFi/OpFi though: 1) stablecoins as you need a non-volatile currency to get access to this market and 2) a dex to be able to trade all these financial assets. The rest are built on top of these blocks.
So far, together with our partners and community, we have worked on developing these building blocks with XSGD as a stablecoin. We are working on bringing a USD-backed stablecoin as well. We will soon have a decentralised exchange developed by Switcheo. And with HGX going live, we are also venturing into the tokenization space. More to come in the future.”
Additionally, they also have this ZILHive initiative that injects capital into projects. There have been already 6 waves of various teams working on infrastructure, innovation and research, and they are not from ASEAN or Singapore only but global: see Grantees breakdown by country. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa's ecosystem. This includes individuals and teams developing wallets, explorers, developer toolkits, smart contract testing frameworks, dapps, etc. As some of you may know, Unstoppable Domains (UD) blew up when they launched on Zilliqa. UD aims to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name and allows for uncensorable websites. Zilliqa will probably be the only one able to handle all these transactions onchain due to ability to scale and its resulting low fees which is why the UD team launched this on Zilliqa in the first place. Furthermore, Zilliqa also has a strong emphasis on security, compliance, and privacy, which is why they partnered with companies like Elliptic, ChainSecurity (part of PwC Switzerland), and Incognito. Their sister company Aqilliz (Zilliqa spelled backwards) focuses on revolutionizing the digital advertising space and is doing interesting things like using Zilliqa to track outdoor digital ads with companies like Foodpanda.
Zilliqa is listed on nearly all major exchanges, having several different fiat-gateways and recently have been added to Binance’s margin trading and futures trading with really good volume. They also have a very impressive team with good credentials and experience. They don't just have “tech people”. They have a mix of tech people, business people, marketeers, scientists, and more. Naturally, it's good to have a mix of people with different skill sets if you work in the crypto space.
Marketing & Community
Zilliqa has a very strong community. If you just follow their Twitter their engagement is much higher for a coin that has approximately 80k followers. They also have been ‘coin of the day’ by LunarCrush many times. LunarCrush tracks real-time cryptocurrency value and social data. According to their data, it seems Zilliqa has a more fundamental and deeper understanding of marketing and community engagement than almost all other coins. While almost all coins have been a bit frozen in the last months, Zilliqa seems to be on its own bull run. It was somewhere in the 100s a few months ago and is currently ranked #46 on CoinGecko. Their official Telegram also has over 20k people and is very active, and their community channel which is over 7k now is more active and larger than many other official channels. Their local communities also seem to be growing.
Moreover, their community started ‘Zillacracy’ together with the Zilliqa core team ( see www.zillacracy.com ). It’s a community-run initiative where people from all over the world are now helping with marketing and development on Zilliqa. Since its launch in February 2020 they have been doing a lot and will also run their own non-custodial seed node for staking. This seed node will also allow them to start generating revenue for them to become a self sustaining entity that could potentially scale up to become a decentralized company working in parallel with the Zilliqa core team. Comparing it to all the other smart contract platforms (e.g. Cardano, EOS, Tezos etc.) they don't seem to have started a similar initiative (correct me if I’m wrong though). This suggests in my opinion that these other smart contract platforms do not fully understand how to utilize the ‘power of the community’. This is something you cannot ‘buy with money’ and gives many projects in the space a disadvantage.
Zilliqa also released two social products called SocialPay and Zeeves. SocialPay allows users to earn ZILs while tweeting with a specific hashtag. They have recently used it in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross for a marketing campaign after their initial pilot program. It seems like a very valuable social product with a good use case. I can see a lot of traditional companies entering the space through this product, which they seem to suggest will happen. Tokenizing hashtags with smart contracts to get network effect is a very smart and innovative idea.
Regarding Zeeves, this is a tipping bot for Telegram. They already have 1000s of signups and they plan to keep upgrading it for more and more people to use it (e.g. they recently have added a quiz features). They also use it during AMAs to reward people in real-time. It’s a very smart approach to grow their communities and get familiar with ZIL. I can see this becoming very big on Telegram. This tool suggests, again, that the Zilliqa team has a deeper understanding of what the crypto space and community needs and is good at finding the right innovative tools to grow and scale.
To be honest, I haven’t covered everything (i’m also reaching the character limited haha). So many updates happening lately that it's hard to keep up, such as the International Monetary Fund mentioning Zilliqa in their report, custodial and non-custodial Staking, Binance Margin, Futures, Widget, entering the Indian market, and more. The Head of Marketing Colin Miles has also released this as an overview of what is coming next. And last but not least, Vitalik Buterin has been mentioning Zilliqa lately acknowledging Zilliqa and mentioning that both projects have a lot of room to grow. There is much more info of course and a good part of it has been served to you on a silver platter. I invite you to continue researching by yourself :-) And if you have any comments or questions please post here!
Update and Few Thoughts, a (Well-Typed) transcript: Liza&Charles the marketeers, Voltaire kick-off, PrisM and Ebb-and-Flow to fuck ETH2.0 Gasper, the (back)log of a man and a falcon, lots of companies, September Goguen time, Basho, 2021 Titans, Basho, Hydra and much more thoughts and prayers
Hi everybody this is Charles Hoskinson broadcasting live from warm sunny Colorado. I'm trying a new streaming service and it allows me to annotate a few things and simulcast to both periscope and youtube. Let's see how this works. I also get to put a little caption. I think for the future, I'm just for a while going to put: "I will never give away ada". So, when people repost my videos for giveaway scams they at least have that. First off, a thank you, a community member named Daryl had decided to carve a log and give his artistic impression of my twitter profile picture of me and the falcon so that always means a lot when I get these gifts from fans and also I just wanted to, on the back of the Catalyst presentation, express my profound gratitude and excitement to the community. You know it's really really cool to see how much progress has been made in such a short period of time. It was only yesterday when we were saying "when Shelley"? Now Shelley's out and it's evolving rapidly. Voltaire is now starting to evolve rapidly and we're real close to Goguen. At the end of this month we'll be able to talk around some of the realities of Goguen and some of the ideas we have and give some dates for certain things and give you a sense of where that project is at. The good news is that we have gained an enormous amount of progress and knowledge about what we need to do and how to get that done and basically people are just executing and it's a much smaller task than getting us to Shelley. With Byron to Shelley we literally had to build a completely new cryptocurrency from the ground up. We had to have new ledger rules, new update system, we had to invent a way of transitioning from one system to another system and there's hundreds of other little innovations along the way: new network stack and so forth. Byron cosmetically looks like Shelley but under the hood it's completely different and the Shelley design was built with a lot of the things that we needed for Goguen in mind. For example, we built Shelley with the idea of extended UTXO and we built Shelley understanding what the realities were for the smart contract model and that's one of the advantages you get when you do this type of bespoke engineering. There's two consequences to that, one, the integration is significantly easier, and two, the integration is significantly faster. We won't look at that same complexity there. The product update at the end of the month... We'll really start discussing around some of these things as well as talk about partners and talk about how the development ecosystem is going to evolve. There are a lot of threads throughout all three organizations that are happening simultaneously. Emurgo, they're really thinking deeply about DeFi and they've invited us to collaborate with them on things like stablecoins for example but we're also looking at oracles (oracle pools), DEX and these other things and because there are already people in market who have made mistakes, learned lessons, it gives us the benefit of hindsight. It means we can be much faster to market and we can build much more competitive things in market and the Cardano community gets first access to these next generation DeFi applications without a lot of the problems of the prior generations and that's super beneficial to us. You know, the other side of it, is that Voltaire is going to have a systemic influence not just on community funding but also the overall evolution and direction of the platform. The longer it exists the more pervasive it will become. Probably first applied towards the Cardano foundation roadmap but later on it will definitely have a lot of influence and say over every element aspect of the system including the launch dApps and these other things. Basically, long term, the types of problems that Cardano solves so that's incredibly appealing to me and very exciting to me because it's like I have this giant community brain with the best and brightest of all of you working with us to get us where we need to go. You know, another thing that was super encouraging, it's a small thing, but it shows us that we're definitely in the right direction was that we recently got a demo from Pramod (Viswanath) and his team out of university of Illinois on a protocol they create called PrisM which is a super fast proof-of-work protocol and they wrote this beautiful paper and they wrote code along with it that showed that PrisM is a ten thousand times faster than Nakamoto consensus. If you take the bitcoin proof-of-work protocol, you strip it out, you put PrisM in, you can run the entire bitcoin system 10000 times faster. They have these beautiful benchmarks to show that. Even in bad network conditions. (I'm) promoting this team, they're, they're real researchers, and they're real engineers, they use a lot of cool HPC concepts like springboarding and other things like that to accommodate that. Then I asked him in the presentation, I said well, how much faster if you replay the Ethereum chain? He says, well, that it takes a big performance hit, could be only maybe a hundred times because that model is not as easy to optimize and shard with standard computer science concepts. In fact in some cases there are limitations there that really can't be overcome. It turns out that we're more on that UTXO side than we are on the account side. As a coincidence or intent of the design of extended UTXO we're gonna have a lot easier time getting much higher performance where and when it's necessary. I also approved this week a scaling up of the Basho project. In particular, to build a hydra prototype team. The science has gotten to a point where we can make a really competitive push in that particular direction. What does that mean? It means that in just a few short months we can de-risk technological approaches that long-term will give us a lot of fruit where and when the community decides that they need infrastructure like hydra. Now, here's the beautiful thing about hydra. If you watch my whiteboard back in September of 2017 when Cardano first hit market with Byron I talked about this concept of looking at scalability with a very simple test which is as you get more people in the system it stays at the same performance or it gets faster. We all experience systems that do this, for example, bittorrent, more people downloading something you tend to be able to get it faster and we all experience the converse which is, the system gets slower when you get more people. What does this mean? It means that hydra is an actual approach towards true scalability in the system and it's a lot easier to do than sharding even though we have a beautiful approach to get the sharding on the ledger side if we truly desire to go down that way. There's beautiful ideas that we are definitely in deep discussions about. That's a very complex thing. There was recently a paper ("Ebb-and-Flow Protocols: A Resolution of the Availability-Finality Dilemma") out of Stanford that showed that the Gasper protocol as proposed for ETH2.0 does have some security concerns and it's going to be the burden on the shoulders of the Ethereum 2.0 developers and Vitalik to address those concerns from those Stanford professors. Whenever you have these very complex protocols they have so many different ways they can break and things can go wrong so it's much more appealing when you don't have to embrace complexity to achieve the same. The elegance of hydra is that stake pool operators are very natural parties to put hydra channels on and every time we add one we get much more performance out of that and the system as it gets more valuable. The k factor increases which means you get more stake pull operators, which means you get more hydra channels, so with growth we get appreciation, with appreciation we get more decentralization, with more decentralization we get more performance. In essence, this spiritually speaking, is really what we meant when we said scalability. That the system will always grow to meet its particular needs and we have a very elegant way of moving in that direction that doesn't require us to embrace very sophisticated techniques. It's not to say that these techniques don't have a place and purpose but it says that the urgency of implementing these is gone and we then have the luxury to pick the best science when it's ready instead of rushing it to market to resolve a crisis of high fees. We'll never have that crisis so there's a beauty to Cardano that is missing, I in my view, from many cryptocurrencies and blockchains in the marketplace and we're now seeing that beauty shine through. Not only through our community who are so passionate and amazing but in the science and the engineering itself and how easy it is for us to navigate the concepts. How easy it is for us to add more things, to take some things away, to clean some things up here and there and our ability to move through. I never imagined when in 2015 I signed up to go in on this crazy ride and try to build a world financial operating system we would have made as much progress as we made today. We've written more than 75 research papers as an organization many of which are directly applicable to Cardano. We've got great partners who work with Nasa and Boeing and Pfizer, massive companies, that have 10 years of history and millions of users to come in and help us grow better. We've worked with incredible organizations, major universities like university of Wyoming, university of Edinburgh, Tokyo, tech professors all across the world. We've worked with incredible engineering firms like VacuumLabs and AtixLabs and Twig and Well-Typed, runtime verification, QuviQ and dozens of others along the years and despite the fact that at times there's been delays and friction throughout this entire journey we've mostly been aligned and we keep learning and growing. It gives me so much hope that our best days are ahead of us and an almost fanatical belief that success is inevitable in a certain respect. You see because we always find a way to be here tomorrow and we always find a way to make tomorrow a better day than today and as long as that's the trend you're monotonically increasing towards a better tomorrow, you're always going to have that outcome, you're always going to be in a position where Cardano shines bright. Towards the end of the month we'll have a lot more to say about the development side and that'll be a beginning just like Voltaire is the beginning and then suddenly you now notice the beautiful parallelism of the roadmap. Shelley continues to evolve, partial delegation is coming, in fact, I signed the contract with vacuumlabs to bring that to Ledger (and Trezor). The Daedalus team is hard at work to make that feature apparent for everyone as is the Yoroi team. You see that, with now Voltaire, and soon was Goguen, and these are not endpoints, rather they're just beginnings and they're never over. We can always make staking better, more diverse, more merit-based and entertain different control models, have better delegation mechanics, have better user experience. The same for smart contracts, that's an endless river and along the way what we've discovered is it's easy for us to work with great minds and great people. For example with testing of smart contracts I would love to diversify that conversation above and beyond what we can come up with and bring in some firms who have done this for a long time to basically take that part with us shoulder to shoulder and build beautiful frameworks to assist us. For example, runtime verification is doing this with, the EVM with a beautiful project called Firefly to replace Truffle. I believe that we can achieve similar ends with Plutus smart contracts. When you ask yourself what makes a system competitive in the cryptocurrency space? In my view there are four dimensions and you have to have a good story for all four of those dimensions. You need security and correctness. A lot of people don't prioritize that but when they get that wrong it hurts retail people, it hurts everyday people, billions of dollars have been lost due to the incompetence and ineptitude of junior developers making very bad mistakes and oftentimes those developers faced no consequences. The people who lost money were innocent people who believed in cryptocurrencies and wanted to be part of the movement but didn't protect themselves adequately. That's a really sad thing and it's unethical to continue pushing a model that that is the standard or the likely outcome rather than a rare edge case. You have to as a platform, a third generation platformn invest heavily in giving the developers proper tools to ensure security and correctness. We've seen a whole industry there's been great innovations out of Quantstamp and ConsenSys and dozens of other firms in the space including runtime verification who have really made major leaps in the last few years of trying to improve that story. What's unique to Cardano is that we based our foundations on languages that were designed right the first time and there's over 35 years of history for the approach that we're following in the Haskell side that allows us to build high assurance systems and our developers in the ecosystem to build high assurance systems. We didn't reinvent the wheel, we found the best wheel and we're giving it to you. I think we're going to be dominant in that respect as we enter 2021. Second, you look at things like ease of maintenance, ease of deployment, the life cycle of the software upgrades to the software and as we've demonstrated with things like the hard fork combinator and the fact that Voltaire is not just a governance layer for ada and Cardano but will eventually be reusable for any dApp deployed on our system. You have very natural tooling that's going to allow people to upgrade their smart contracts, their dApps and enable governance for their users at an incredibly low cost and not have to reinvent the governance wheel each and every application. This is another unique property to our system and it can be reused for the dApps that you deploy on your system as I've mentioned before. Performance is a significant concern and this was often corrupted by marketers especially ICO marketers who really wanted to differentiate (and) say: "our protocol tested on a single server in someone's basement is 500000 transactions per second" and somehow that translates to real life performance and that's antithetical to anyone who's ever to study distributed systems and understands the reality of these systems and where they go and what they do and in terms of performance. I think we have the most logical approach. You know, we have 10 years of history with bitcoin, it's a massive system, we've learned a huge amount and there's a lot of papers written about, a lot of practical projects and bitcoin is about to step into the world of smart contracts. We congratulate them on getting Schnorr sigs in and the success of Taproot. That means entering 2021, 2022, we are going to start seeing legitimate dApps DeFi projects, real applications, instead of choosing Ethereum or Algorand, EOS, Cardano, choosing bitcoin and they're adding a lot to that conversation. I think that ultimately that model has a lot of promise which is why we built a better one. There are still significant limitations with what bitcoin can accomplish from settlement time to the verbosity of contracts that can be written. The extended UTXO model was designed to be the fastest accounting and most charitable accounting model ever, on and off chain, and hydra was designed to allow you to flex between those two systems seamlessly. When you look at the foundations of where we're at and how we can extend this from domain specific languages, for domain experts, such as Marlowe to financial experts, and the DSLs that will come later, for others, like lawyers and supply chain experts in medical databases and so forth and how easy it is to write and deploy these. Plutus being beautiful glue code for both on and off chain communications. I think we have an incredibly competitive offering for performance and when hydra comes, simply put, there'll be no one faster. If we need to shard, we're going to do that and definitely better than anybody else because we know where our security model sits and there won't be surprise Stanford papers to blindside us that require immediate addressing. In terms of operating costs, this is the last component, in my view, and that's basically how much does it cost you the developer to run your application? There are really two dimensions, one is predictability and the other is amount. It's not just good enough to say: it's a penny per transaction today. You need to know that after you spend millions of dollars and months or years of effort building something and deploying something that you're not going to wake up tomorrow and now it's five dollars to do what used to cost a penny. You need that cost to be as low as possible and as predictable as possible and again the way that we architectured our system and as we turn things on towards the end of this year and as we enter into the next year we believe we have a great approach to achieve low operating cost. One person asks why Cardano? Well because we have great security and correctness in the development experience and tools with 35 years of legacy that were built right the first time and don't put the burdens of mistakes on your customers. They ask why Cardano and we say: well the chain itself is going to give you great solutions with identity value transformation and governance itself and as a consequence when you talk about upgrading your applications having a relationship with your customers of your applications and you talk about the ease of maintenance of those applications. There's going to be a good story there and we have beautiful frameworks like Voltaire that allow that story to evolve and we keep adding partners and who have decades of experience to get us along. We won't stop until it's much better. They asked why Cardano? We said because at the moment we're 10 times faster today than Ethereum today and that's all we really need for this year and next year to be honest and in the future we can be as fast as we need to be because we're truly scalable. As the system gets more decentralized the system improves performance and where and when we need to shard we can do that. We'll have the luxury of time to do it right, the Cardano way, and when people ask why Cardano? Because the reality is, it's very cheap to do things on our platform and the way we're building things. That's going to continue being the case and we have the governance mechanisms to allow the community to readjust fees and parameters so that it can continue being affordable for users. Everything in the system will eventually be customizable and parameterizable: from block size, to transaction fees and the community will be in a good position to dynamically allocate these things where and when needed so that we can enjoy as an ecosystem predictability in our cost. In the coming weeks and months, especially in my company, we're going to invest a lot of time and effort into comparison marketing and product marketing. When I see people say, oh well, you've launched proof of stake, a lot of other people have done. I don't think those people fully appreciate the magnitude of what we actually accomplished as an ecosystem and the quality of the protocols that are in distribution. That's not their fault, it's our fault, because we didn't take the time in simplistic terms, not scientific papers and deep code and formal specifications, but rather everyday language, to really show why we're different. I admit that that's a product failing and that needs to be corrected so we hired a great marketing director, named Liza (Horowitz?) and she is going to work full time with me and others in the ecosystem, a great team of people, every single day to get out there and explain what we have done is novel, unique, competitive and special to our industry. Everything from Ouroboros and contrast to major other protocols from the EOSes and Algorands and the Tezos of the world. Why we're different, trade-offs we chose over them, to our network stack, to the extended UTXO model, to Plutus, to Marlowe and we're going to keep hammering away at that until we get it right and everybody acknowledges and sees what has been accomplished. I've spent five years of my life, good years of my life, and missed a lot to get this project where it needs to go. All of our employees have invested huge sums of their personal lives, their time, their brand, their careers, in trying to make this the really most magical and special cryptocurrency and blockchain infrastructure around. No one ever signed up in this company or the other companies working on Cardano to work on a mediocre protocol. That's just another blockchain, they signed up to change the world, they signed up to build a system that legitimately can look at you in the face and say: one day we have the potential to have a billion users! That's what they signed up for and they showed up to play. They built technology that evolves in that direction with some certainty and great foundations and we have an obligation to market in a way that can show the world why, succinctly, with clarity. Understandably, this has been a failing in the past but you know what? You can always be better tomorrow that monotonically increasing make it better and that's what we're going to do. We recognized it and we're going to invest in it and with Voltaire if we can't do it. You the community can do it and we'll work with you. If you can do a better job and the funding will be there to get that done. In addition to this, we think about 2021 and we ask where does the future take us? I've thought a lot about this you know I've thought a lot about how do we get the next five years as we close out 2020 and here's the reality: we're not going to leave as a company until we have smart contracts and multi-asset and Voltaire has evolved to a point where the community can comfortably make decisions about the future of the protocol and that the staking experience has solidified and it's stable. I don't care if this costs me millions or tens of millions of dollars out of my own pocket to make happen. I'm going to do that because that's my commitment to you, the community and every product update will keep pushing our way there. We'll continue to get more transparent, we'll continue to get more aggressive and hire more and parallelize more. Aware when we can, to deliver that experience so that Cardano gets where it needs to go. Then when we ask about where do we go next? The reality is that the science as an industry, the engineering as an industry has given a menu of incredibly unique attractive and sexy things that we can pursue. What we're going to do is work with the community and the very same tools that are turning on today, the Voltaire tools, the cardano.ideascale.com tools and we're going to propose a consortium and we're going to bring the best and brightest together and give a vision of where we can take the system in another five years. With the benefit of hindsight, massively improved processes, better estimation capabilities and the fact that we're not starting with two people at IOG. We're starting with 250 people and the best scientific division in our industry and the legacy of almost, nearly by the end of this year, 100 scientific papers. That's us, you know what, there's dozens of companies throughout the history who have worked on Cardano. It's about time to scale them up too and get client diversity. So come next year when the protocol has evolved to the point where it's ready for it, we'll have that conversation with you the community and that's going to be a beautiful conversation. At the conclusion of it, there's going to be certainty of how we're going to evolve over the next five years to get ourselves beyond the cryptocurrency space. I'm very tired of these conversations we have about: are you going to go to (coindesk's) consensus or not? Or who's going to be the big winner? What about Libra or what about this particular regulation and this crypto unicorn and this thing? You know I've been in the space a long time and I've noticed that people keep saying the same things year after year in the same venues. Yes, the crowd sizes get larger and the amount of value at risk gets larger but I haven't seen a lot of progress in the places where I feel it is absolutely necessary for this technology to be permanent in the developing world. We need to see economic identity. People often ask what is the mission for Cardano? For us IOG, you look at economic identity and you take a look at a roadmap. For it, you scale up and down, and each and every step along the way, from open data, to self-sovereign identity, to financial inclusion. You can keep going down: to decentralized lending, decentralized insurance, decentralized banking. Each and every step along the way to economic identity. When you admit a blockchain tells you that, there's a collection of applications and infrastructure that you need to build. My life's work is to get to a point where we have the technology to do that. The infrastructure to do that, with principles, and so we'll keep evolving Cardano and we'll keep evolving the space as a whole and the science as a whole until I can wake up and say: each box and that road to economic identity, for all people not just one group, we have a solution for that. I'm going to put those applications on Cardano and success for me is not about us being king of the crypto hill and having a higher market cap than bitcoin or being entrepreneur of the year coindesk's most influential person. It's meaningless noise, success for me is reflecting back at the things that we have accomplished together and recognizing that millions if not billions now live in a system where they all matter, they all have a voice, they all have an equal footing. The Jeff Bezos of the world have the very same experience as the person born in Rwanda and we're not done until that's the case. It's a long road, it's a hard road, but you know what? We're making progress, we have great people in Africa, we have great people in eastern Europe, we have great people in southeast Asia and great partners all along the way. Great people, Latin America, great people in south America, great people here in the United States. When we talk about economic identity there are millions, if not tens of millions of Americans who don't have it. Same for Canadians, hundreds of thousands, who don't have it. Developed western cultures, it's the greatest blind spot of policy and as we enter into a depression as a result of coronavirus, add millions if not tens of millions more onto that list. Generations are being disenfranchised by this legacy system and we as an ecosystem, we as an entire community are offering a different way forward. Not hyper centralizationn not social credit but a way forward where you own your own money, your own identity, your own data. You're not a victim of surveillance capitalism, you're not a victim of civil asset forfeiture. When you say the wrong things, you get shut out of society. Each and every human being matters and I'm optimistic to believe that when you remind people that they matter they're gonna rise to the occasion. That is the point of my company. In the things that we do each and every day, that's our mission to give the platforms to the world so that those who don't have economic identity can get it and they can keep it and no one can take it from them and they can enjoy an ever increasing growth of standard of living wealth and prosperity. However you want to measure that this is my goal post, I couldn't care less about the cryptocurrency space. It was a great place to start but the space needs to be reminded why it exists. Bitcoin was given a mandate on the back of the 2008 financial crisis to do something different. It was not given a mandate to go be a new settlement layer for central banks or a new way for the old guard to make more money and banks get bigger and for those who are in control to preserve their power. The whole point of doing something so crazy as to buy a coin that doesn't even exist in real life, that's just a bunch of numbers in the cloud, the whole point of that was so that we as a society could do something different than the way that we'd been doing things before. So, each and every member of the cryptocurrency space needs to remind everyone else from time to time why we're here and where did we come from and where are we going to go. The beauty of Cardano is we have already achieved for the most part a decentralized brain and that momentum is pushing harder than ever. More and more scientists are waking up, more and more institutions are waking up, getting us there. The code we have, the right approach and I think we have a great competitive offering for 2021 as we go and battle the titans and that's going to be a lot of fun but we know who we are and where we're going and we're in the right places. It's so incredibly encouraging to see the stake pool operators not just be from California or Texas or New York or Canada. To see a lot of stake pool operators from the place that need the most, help everybody does matter and it means a lot to me for the people who are there but it means a lot to everybody to say that we have created an equal platform. It makes the participation of all of us so much more meaningful. We're not just talking to each other, we're talking to the world and by working together on this platform we're lifting the world up and giving people hope. That's the point, there's a lot more to do, we didn't get everything done. You never do you aspire, you work hard, you set a moon, shot and sometimes you can just get to orbit with the first go but you know what? When you build the next rocket you can go to Mars. Thank you all for being with me, thank you all for being part of this. Today was a damn good day with the announcement of Voltaire. Go to cardano.ideascale.com. You can participate in that, so end of September is going to be a good day too. There's a lot of good days to come, in between a lot of hard days, doing tasks sometimes entirely forgettable but always necessary to keep the revolution going and the movement going. I cannot wait for 2021, our best days are ahead of us, because of you. You all take care now . Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFa9zL_Dl_w Other things mentioned: https://cardano.ideascale.com/ https://www.atixlabs.com/blockchain https://www.well-typed.com/ https://www.vacuumlabs.com/ https://medium.com/interdax/what-is-taproot-and-how-will-it-benefit-bitcoin-5c8944eed8da https://medium.com/interdax/how-will-schnorr-signatures-benefit-bitcoin-b4482cf85d40 https://quantstamp.com/ https://bloxian.com/bloxian-platforms/ (TWIG) https://runtimeverification.com/firefly/ https://www.trufflesuite.com/ https://experts.illinois.edu/en/publications/prism-deconstructing-the-blockchain-to-approach-physical-limits (PrisM and not our Prism https://atalaprism.io/) Ebb-and-Flow Protocols: A Resolution of the Availability-Finality Dilemma (aka Gasper and ETH2.0 fucker) https://arxiv.org/abs/2009.04987 http://www.quviq.com/products/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schnorr_signature
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