Proof of Work #58

Good morning from unexpectedly sunny Boston!

The MIT Bitcoin Expo last weekend was amazing as expected—particularly of interest, Gary Gensler and Hester Peirce’s dialog left me convinced that the US regulatory apparatus, while still pretty muddled in terms of their approach to crypto, at least want to provide a stable environment for cryptocurrency projects to grow. David from Sia gave a fascinating talk about why trusted setups are a systematic risk even if you think a specific trusted setup is OK. Boyma from Handshake gave another great overview of what they are doing to create a decentralized root zone for DNS. All talks were recorded (they haven’t been edited yet, but you can view the schedule and jump to whatever you want to watch)

I delayed this update a bit because I wanted to have some time to write about Cosmos in the context of Bitcoin, since Cosmos launched yesterday. If you just look at Twitter, you’d think Lightning is the only real layer 2 proposal for Bitcoin, but I think Cosmos actually presents a fascinating alternative, with very different tradeoffs.

Imagine a Cosmos zone with a validator set (maybe the ATOM validators, or maybe not) who control a Bitcoin multisig wallet. There are a lot of ways you could choose these validators (with a staking token, using BTC itself as a stake, or even with some variant of Proof of Work) but you can use this basic framework to have a zone where users can send Bitcoin, and then use it in ways that mainchain bitcoin can’t be used, for example in complex smart contracts that extend functionality beyond what Bitcoin Script allows.

Something that’s always put me off about a lot of the ETH ecosystem is that seemingly every new project comes with a new, increasingly illiquid token. Cosmos plus Bitcoin gives us the chance to create things like prediction markets without needing a new token at all—and using the single cryptocurrency that is most “money-like” as a result of its superior liquidity and acceptance.

That Cosmos works this way is no accident—many of the Cosmos team are sort of closet Bitcoin maximalists. One of them told me in conversation that he thinks the world needs one and only one massive-hashpower Proof of Work chain, and that Cosmos is intended to act as a massive powerup for BTC.

While there are of course tons of non-BTC uses for Cosmos (the much-touted IBC hub which intends to allow easy swapping between different tokens and zones, all the Ethermint stuff etc) it’s the Bitcoin stuff that has me the most excited. Importantly, validators and smart-contract authors now have a business model that doesn’t involve issuing a token: if you have a bunch of Bitcoin in your cosmos zone, you can earn fees either by extracting a small rent from all Bitcoin in the zone, or by taking transaction fees in BTC. While the specifics have yet to be worked out, it’s likely that BTC in a cosmos zone can earn a return that is in excess of the miniscule routing fees that lightning provides.

Of course, this comes with risk—while lightning is completely non-custodial, you can think of Cosmos bitcoin (at least, the implementations I’ve seen) as semi-custodial—your Bitcoin is being controlled by a set of economically incented validators who could collude to steal your coin. However if any of the validators defected from such a scheme they could get everyone else slashed (and potentially directly profit, depending on how slashing mechanics work in a given zone) so this risk is largely mitigated.

There was some grumbling from the usual critics on Twitter that Cosmos has taken too long to launch, but the reality of taking a consensus mechanism from academic literature and turning it into a live blockchain is that doing so right takes time. I don’t expect Cosmos-enabled Bitcoin projects to appear overnight, but I think it’s something worth paying close attention to for Bitcoiners.

Bitcoin & Friends

Optech on Bitcoin [ed: sign up for their newsletter too! it’s great!]

  • Suhas Daftuar disclosed a vulnerability affecting Bitcoin Core 0.13.0 to 0.13.2. (Note: those releases have been past end-of-life for several months.) The vulnerability would allow an attacker to convince your node that a valid block was invalid, forking you off the consensus block chain and making it possible to trick you into believing that you received confirmed bitcoins you wouldn’t actually control. [ed: Bitcoin has compatibility with old versions as a value, but it’s important to stay ahead of the EOL curve. Luckily it seems almost everyone is on more updated versions by this time]

  • The first Release Candidate (RC) for the next major version of Bitcoin Core has been released. Organizations and experienced users who depend upon Bitcoin Core are highly encouraged to test it for regressions and other problems that could affect your use of it in production. Any testing is appreciated, but if you have some extra time after testing for your specific use cases, please consider helping test 0.18’s changes to the GUI. This interface is primarily used by less experienced users who are unlikely to test RCs themselves but who would be especially affected by any problems that slip through.

  • Chris Belcher published an extended summary of various privacy concerns present in Bitcoin. That page and the Wiki’s related Privacy category provides an excellent starting point for anyone researching Bitcoin privacy concerns.

  • Optech publishes book chapter about payment batching: paying multiple people in the same transaction can reduce the average transaction fee cost per payment by more than 70%. The technique is especially convenient for high-frequency spenders such as exchanges. As part of Optech’s ongoing work to create a guide to individually-deployable scaling techniques, we’re publishing our draft chapter that describes this technique and its tradeoffs in detail.

James from Summa

Summa builds tools to exchange crypto in a convenient and truly trustless fashion.

  • James gave a talk at the MIT Bitcoin Expo yesterday about non-atomic swaps, video should be up soon

  • Slides are available here -> link

  • Feel free to reach out on Twitter to @summa_one or @_prestwich with questions about it :)

Tony from Kadena

Kadena is building Pact, a formally verifiable smart-contracting language for financial applications, and Chainweb, a novel PoW blockchain that uses multiple chains in parallel to increase throughput.

  • "We've added namespaces and improved key management to the open source Pact smart contract language. We'll be head's down for the next couple weeks so this will be our last update until the Testnet launch of Kadena's public blockchain, Chainweb, at the end of this month. If you're in New York, come to our Chainweb meetup on March 27 at 6 pm ET!"

  • Merged namespaces to the Pact smart contract language, which allows users to claim a prefix to their code. Namespaces provide a secure way to claim ownership of all modules with a particular name prefix. 

  • Improved key management to Pact Web REPL (pact.kadena.io) so users can now copy keys to the clipboard for easy export. This facilitates an improved virtual wallet experience during Testnet.

  • Marie Leaf spoke on a NYU Future Labs' Focus | Blockchain panel about the future of blockchain, including the trilemma.

  • Ben Jessel shared his analysis of JP Morgan's stablecoin with the Crypto 101 podcast and CoinDesk.

  • Emily Pillmore, Haskell.org Committee Member, wrote a post about how "The EVM is Fundamentally Unsafe," which was referenced on the March 4th Insureblocks podcast.

  • Stuart Popejoy had a dynamic trans-Atlantic Twitter exchange with the CTO of R3 (Corda) about ways to handle non-determinism.

  • Kadena is hosting a Discord AMA featuring Kadena CEO Will Martino and Multicoin Capital Co-Founder Kyle Samani discussing PoW and PoS next Wed, 3/20 at 2 pm ET.

Aviv from Spacemesh

Spacemesh is a programmable cryptocurrency powered by a novel proof-of-space-time consensus protocol.

JZ from Decred

Decred’s vision is to build a self-directed, decentralized future ruled by the collective intelligence of the community. It will be built upon the pillars of sovereignty, transparency, inclusivity, privacy, and security. Everyone can vote on the rules and project-level decision making proportionately to their stake, yielding decisions and policies in the best interest of all — not just a select few. 

  • February edition of the Decred Journal is out. Last month marked the 3rd anniversary of the Decred mainnet launch, upgrade requirements for the 4th consensus rules vote were met, Politeia saw unprecedented activity, and $490k in budgets were approved for Marketing & Events.

  • We also saw healthy dev activity in February as usual with 251 active PRs, 224 commits, 39K additions & 24K deletions across 3-8 devs per repo.

  • By the time this hits your inbox the Decred DEX proposal will likely have passed with what seems like 90%+ support from stakeholders. Another great example of something that was thought to be "contentious" but suddenly isn't when you have a Sybil-resistant means of gauging the desires of stakeholders.

Johnny from Stellar

Stellar is an open network for sending and exchanging value of any kind. Using the Stellar Consensus protocol, we can create a global, dependable network of trust while maintaining decentralization in an environmentally friendly way.

  • No update this week

Izaak from Coda

Coda is the first cryptocurrency protocol with a constant-sized blockchain. Coda compresses the entire blockchain into a tiny snapshot the size of a few tweets using recursive ZK-snarks

  • Jiawei fixed a nasty bug in our catchup procedure (which is run when a node is a few blocks behind the longest chain).

  • Avery designed the first version of Coda's GraphQL API.

  • Corey fixed several bugs related to our in-memory ledger overlays.

  • Izaak implemented Ouroboros' exponential threshold function in the SNARK. Look out for a blog post about the math behind the optimization.

Privacy coins

Paige & Zooko from Zcash

Zcash is a privacy-protecting, digital currency built on strong science.

  • Paige Peterson, User Education and Community Team Lead, presented "Defending Against Counterfeiting Attacks in Zcash" at the MIT Bitcoin Expo 2019.

Mitchell from Monero

Monero is an open-source privacy-focused cryptocurrency, maintained by a grassroots community of volunteers and crowdfunded contributors since 2014. Monero uses an ASIC-resistant CryptoNote PoW algorithm, and enforces all privacy features at the protocol level to ensure that all transactions create a single fungible anonymity pool.

Daniel from Grin

Grin is a community-driven implementation of the Mimblewimble protocol that aims to be privacy preserving, scalable, fair, and minimal.

Beni from Beam

A confidential and scalable cryptocurrency based on Mimblewimble.

  • No update this week

Smart contracting platforms

Evan from Ethereum

  • No update this week

Erik from NEAR

NEAR is a sharded proof-of-stake blockchain that enables great usability for both developers and their end-users.

  • NEAR is working on getting a multi-node “TestNet Alpha” shipped.

  • 25 PRs in nearcore from 12 different authors

  • New Whiteboard Series episodes with Harmony, Interstellar and Plasma Group.

  • First webinar with a live coding session

  • Blockchain Layer:

  • Application/Development Layer:

    • Released command line tools for local development, testing, and deployment

    • Improved NEAR Studio UI and added more templates.

    • Exposed cross-contract APIs in AssemblyScript and published an example with using another token contract.

    • Released new designs for the NEAR Wallet and NEAR website.

    • Released an image that deploys entire NEAR stack (NEARStudio, nearlib, wallet, DevNet, block explorer), which is useful for local development or continuous deployment.

AJ from Tezos

Tezos is a self-amending blockchain that features formally verified smart contracts, on-chain governance, and a proof-of-stake consensus algorithm which enables all token holders to participate in the network. 

Topper from Quorum Control

Tupelo is a permissionless proof of stake DLT platform purpose-built to model individual objects that enables flexible public or private data models.

  • No update this week

Michael from Loom

Loom Network is a platform for building highly scalable DPoS sidechains to Ethereum, with a focus on large-scale games and social apps.

  • Over 80M LOOM now staked on PlasmaChain, around 12% of the circulating supply.

  • PlasmaChain staking from Ledger devices is now working on the latest versions of Chrome, Brave, and Opera.

  • 2 more external validators went live on PlasmaChain -- Stake Capital and Blockware.

  • Latest Zombie Battleground alpha build has been released, including fixes to new account registration, adding missing card images, fine-tuning the revamped tutoria, and improvements to PvP out-of-sync client issues. Download latest builds here -- AndroidiOSWindows, and macOS.

Myles from EOS

Zaki from Cosmos

Kate and Dean from Agoric

Founded by pioneers in secure development and distributed systems, Agoric uses a secure subset of JavaScript to enable object capabilities and smart contracts.

Financial Infrastructure

Antonio from dYdX

dYdX is a decentralized exchange for margin trading, borrowing, lending, and eventually derivatives. dYdX allows traders to trustlessly short and get leverage on crypto assets.

  • Nearing completion of the alpha version of a new margin trading product we're building. Stay tuned for more details in the next few weeks!

  • Looking for traders, lenders, and dApp enthusiasts to participate in the alpha launch of our product. Reach out to contact@dydx.exchange if you're interested!

  • Hiring engineers & product designers full-time in SF!

Brendan from Dharma

Dharma is the easiest place to borrow and lend cryptocurrencies. We enable non-custodial peer-to-peer lending through smart contracts on Ethereum.

  • Added support for DAI last week. Borrowers can currently borrow DAI for 0.1% APR, about 3% of the current Maker Stability fee

  • Dharma Lever had another strong growth week, doing >160k in borrow (+60% WoW) and >180k in lend (+20% WoW).

  • Our team is growing! We are looking for awesome full-stack engineers, no crypto experience necessary. Check out our open roles at: https://angel.co/dharma-labs/jobs.

Coulter from MakerDAO

Maker is unlocking the power of the blockchain for everyone by creating an inclusive platform for economic empowerment -- allowing equal access to the global financial marketplace.

  • After passing the Governance Vote, the Executive Vote to raise the Stability Fee to 3.5% is underway. You can read more on the governance in action here

  • In conjunction with twelve VCs, incubators, and exchanges in Korea, we've begun a national relayer campaign there. The purpose is to raise awareness and usage of Dai. If all goes well, we plan to replicate in other regions. 

  • ButtonWallet, a wallet built directly into telegram, has integrated Dai. Now you can send Dai to anyone on telegram simply by @ mentioning them. 

  • The team at Dharma made it so you can borrow Dai at .1% APR. #DeFi FTW! 

Lazar from MARKET Protocol

MARKET Protocol is a framework for creating tokens that track prices of traditional or digital assets, providing financial access to anyone.

  • We stood up staging environments for MPX exchange, our API, & admin panel!

  • Continued work on user dashboard. This is nearing completion.

  • Continued admin UI & backend work

Robert from Compound

  • No update this week

Layer two and interoperability

Tieshun from Namebase

Namebase is the easiest way to buy, sell, and use Handshake.

  • No updates for this week

Paul from Veil

  • Working towards our March 13th launch of Veil’s market creation feature—any Veil user will be able to create their own prediction market. Want to be part of the launch? Add your info here.

  • Bet whether Veil will successfully launch market creation on March 13th (here’s the market). Obviously there’s a prediction market on that.

  • More updates coming March 13th.

Rahul from 0x

  • February dev update: in addition to our three extension contracts, the dev team is also working on an alpha of the Coordinator model for relayers (formerly called TEC), and an ERC-1155 proxy contract

  • Joined the TechStars Blockchain Accelerator as a technical partner and announced our 0x Global Community Meetups program

  • 0x relayer Ethfinex, which pulls liquidity from parent exchange Bitfinex, migrated over to V2

  • Hackathon winners from ETHParis selected: GoMommy, for buying and selling ENS domains, and 12months, for requesting a DAI loan by collateralizing a car via 0x and Estonian E-ID system

Tony from Liquidity.Network

Transfer and Swap Platform for any Token

  • No updates this week.

Dong Mo from Celer

Celer Network is a leading layer-2 scaling platform that enables fast, easy and secure off-chain transactions for not only payment transactions, but also generalized off-chain smart contract. It enables everyone to quickly build, operate, and use highly scalable decentralized applications through innovations in off-chain scaling techniques and incentive-aligned cryptoeconomics.

  • No update this week

Alexandra from Parity Technologies

Application infrastructure

Wes from Theta

  • Theta mainnet launches on March 15th

  • Snapshot of ERC20 Theta will occur on March 12th at Ethereum block height 7,356,258

  • At mainnet launch, all Theta Token holders will receive a 1:5 distribution of Theta Fuel, the operational or ‘gas’ token of the protocol

  • Theta Fuel is now functioning as the currency of SLIVER.tv video platform (on Theta testnet until March 15th mainnet launch)

Doug from Livepeer

Livepeer is a decentralized video infrastructure network, dramatically reducing prices for developers and businesses building video streaming applications at scale. 

  • 3rd party project, Livepeer Studio, launched featuring a Graph integration, and a weekly Livepeer staking rewards email which updates token holders on how much they have earned during the course of the week. This compliments another 3rd party app, Livepeer.tools, which gives daily telegram messages and email alerts around staking and rewards issuance.

Ryan from FOAM

  • No update this week

David from Sia

  • The repository of the new Sia-UI that eddiewang has been working on during the last months on has been made public (link). It features a new modern visual aspect, a more comprehensive file uploading interface, and step-by-step wizards for tasks like creating a wallet, sending a transaction or renting Sia storage. This new UI will be featured on 1.4.0 and it is already available for testing on the RC versions.

  • Fixed a memory leak on uploading files, by MSevey. Other upload optimizations by DavidVorick, MSevey and ChrisSchinnerl

  • A fix on Sia directories, by MSevey

  • A fix on reading settings from hosts using older Sia versions, by lukechampine

  • Three improvements on file repairs and stuck files, by MSevey

  • Updated documentation about the /renter/files API endpoint, by MSevey

  • Improved streaming speeds, thanks to requesting multiple sections of a file in a single request from the renter, by lukechampine

  • Encryption added to the backups of metadata, by ChrisSchinnerl

  • The RC3 of the upcoming 1.4.0 version was published on the #contributors channel of Discord for its beta-testing. It features “contracting bugs fixes, file query performance fixes, repair process fixes, windows filesystem error fixes, memory leak / usage fixes, and a whole host of updates and feature adds to the new UI”. This could be the final RC release before the final general release.

  • 2 Nebulous repo were updated. 13 issues were created, 13 were closed. 24 MRs were merged.

Other

Ari from Decentraland

Decentraland is a virtual world where you can build and explore 3D creations, play games and socialize.

  • No update this week

Bowen from Hydro/DDEX.io

  • Hydro Scan - 3rd Party program to show Hydro Protocol transaction 

  • Hydro Starter Kit ETA 3/30 - SDK and documentation to build an order-book DEX  

  • Hydro Token Economics Draft - Focus on Liquidity sharing incentive and stake mechanism 

  • Humming Bot Partnership - Arbitrage Bot for everyone (No coding experience needed) between Binance and DDEX 

Sam from OpenBazaar

  • Testing on 2.3.1 continues toward a viable gold release. Hardening on the wallet infrastructure is getting completed which will ensure better up-time and availability in the event of problems. 

  • Preparation also continues for the upcoming launch of Haven (https://gethaven.app), the first mobile application built using OpenBazaar.

Martín from Zeppelin

Zeppelin builds tools for the secure development, deployment and operation of decentralized systems. We also help companies secure their systems by performing security audits.