2020 will be the year proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchains finally break out. Maybe. Two of the industry’s most hotly anticipated PoS networks are scheduled to (re)launch in Q1 – namely ethereum and Cardano.
The second-largest blockchain platform in the world by market capitalization, ethereum has been looking to shift to PoS since 2014. Co-founder Vitalik Buterin sees PoS as key to ethereum reaching maturity.
“Ethereum 1.0 is a couple of people’s scrappy attempt to build the world computer; Ethereum 2.0 [with PoS] will actually be the world computer,” he has said.
Conceptually, PoS has been around since 2012, but its applications thus far on blockchain platforms, such as EOS, Tezos, Cosmos, and others, haven’t been proven to outperform proof-of-work (PoW) platforms in usage or market value (bitcoin or ethereum, for instance).
With PoS, validators must own currency they are verifying: “forgers” always own the coins being minted. There is no mining, meaning no heinous use of electricity to solve maths problems. Supporters argue that PoS will be magnitudes more scalable, sustainable and secure than traditional PoW blockchain systems, but the jury is still out on its comparative strengths and whether governance can be made to work.
Cardano, rather than launching a new PoS system, is looking to upgrade its own pre-existing PoS platform as a public network.
The 12th largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Cardano is currently governed by a federated system of transaction validators made up of three organizations: the Cardano Foundation, IOHK and Emurgo, a structure that drew criticism for being over-concentrated. The public network will have 100 times more people running its software than bitcoin, ethereum or any other PoW system, said Charles Hoskinson, CEO IOHK, the company behind Cardano, in an interview.
“This marks the starting point for handing the [Cardano] protocol completely to the community,” Hoskinson said of next year’s network upgrade, dubbed “Shelley.”
Tim Ogilvie, founder, and CEO of multi-blockchain staking service Staked, argues that 2019 has already been a big year for PoS.
“You’ve had millions of dollars of proof-of-stake assets running without a hitch and not spending billions on electricity costs,” he stated. “Now, you’re going to see big projects like Cardano and ethereum taking these results even further. We’re definitely excited.”
“There’s probably five or six what we call large-market-size proof-of-stake coins and Cardano is one of them. It’s why we got into this business. All these big, exciting projects are either moving to PoS like ethereum or launching with PoS like Cardano.”
Cardano as a test case
Cardano is a running test case of the viability of PoS systems for a global audience. Hoskinson, himself one of the initial co-founders of ethereum, said the past two years of “research and engineering” have all been leading to this point.
Rather than relying on external computational cost and energy to power the network, as with PoW, PoS systems rely on internal incentive mechanisms to encourage user participation.
Coordinating the right amount of network rewards versus penalties to keep a PoS blockchain running smoothly and securely has taken years of academic research to get right, Hoskinson says.
Speaking to Cardano’s long roadmap, Kathleen Breitman, co-creator of public PoS blockchain Tezos, said:
“I can tell you for a fact it’s extremely unromantic and extremely unpleasant to watch a proof-of-stake network evolve. … It’s an extraordinarily hard task to switch to a PoS network or to launch a PoS network. The reason why is because there’s so much more coordination cost, more than anything else. It’s not a trivial task.”
Soon after the Shelley upgrade, Cardano plans to add smart contract functionality enabling decentralized applications (a development phase it calls “Goguen”). Following that, it hopes to increase scalability (the “Basho” phase) enabling upwards of 10,000 transactions per second. Ethereum, in contrast, presently processes about 15 transactions per second. Full development of the Cardano platform from Shelley to Basho, and an additional phase dubbed “Voltaire,” which is dedicated to on-chain governance, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
Cardano raised $63 million dollars in an ICO in early 2017. Then, in 2018, Hoskinson stated IOHK had earned “nine figures” in revenue acquiring new corporate and government partnerships for the Cardano blockchain. The most recent corporate partnership with sneaker manufacturer New Balance was announced last month during the annual Cardano Summit.
Hoskinson is constantly on the move, flights between locations and projects. Hoskinson says he travels between 200 and 250 days a year. As well as Goguen, Shelley, and Basho, his company, Input Out Hong Kong (IOHK) is also developing an enterprise blockchain solution (Atala). Hoskinson is more focused on the developing world than most crypto executives, piloting projects in Mongolia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and elsewhere.
Hoskinson has grown his team of two in 2015 to now 200 contractors and employees worldwide. Hoskinson is confident IOHK has amassed the technical know-how to bring the full Cardano project to full fruition.
Bob Summerwill, executive director of the Ethereum Classic Cooperative, called it a “world-class development team” with a strong focus on academic peer review. Though Buterin and Hoskinson spar over the particulars of their PoS projects, Summerwill stated personal rivalries distract from the fundamental similarities between Cardano and ethereum, which he described as “sibling projects with a lot of common genetics.”
As well as technical challenges, Hoskinson will have to stay in good stead with his project partners, something he has not always been good at.
Hoskinson was an original member of the ethereum founding team until June 2014 but was asked to leave the project. Hoskinson wanted a corporate structure for ethereum while Buterin favored a foundation.
Hoskinson also fell out with the Cardano Foundation, which was set up as part of the initial five-year contract to build the blockchain, signed with a group of Japanese businessmen in 2015. The independent nonprofit was set to manage community growth until 2018 saw a power struggle between Hoskinson the foundation, leading the nonprofit to adopt leadership from Hoskinson’s pool of business partners.
If Hoskinson succeeds, he will need to keep everyone happy and probably for a significant amount of time. Pulling off such a complicated set of projects, making PoS work, and solving the governance challenges will probably take years. 2020 will be just the start.
As Hoskinson himself says:
“It’s still very early days.”
Rumor That Russia Will Investigate an Allegedly Fraudulent TON Offering in UK
Shortly after lifting the country’s Telegram ban, Russian authorities began investigating potentially fraudulent offerings involving the company’s unlaunched token, Gram. The token was at one time meant to serve a new blockchain ecosystem known as the Telegram Open Network, or TON. Reports indicate that Russian prosecutors are set to investigate a British firm that allegedly sold fraudulent tokens related to Telegram’s terminated blockchain project. The news was reported on July 3 by the local news agency, Baza.io.
According to the report, the action was brought to a local investigative committee by “several Russian entrepreneurs” that claimed to have purchased $11.7 million in Gram tokens. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov officially announced closure of the TON project on May 12. At that time, the Russian investors reportedly attempted to terminate their contract with the British company. Allegedly having Russian roots itself, the unnamed British firm reportedly wrote off $1.5 million in commissions, having returned just $10.2 million to investors, according to Baza.
This news comes soon after Telegram apparently settled its long-running legal battle with American authorities over the company’s $1.7 billion initial coin offering, or ICO. The ICO involved roughly $400 million in investments from United States citizens. On June 26, the U.S. court’s final judgment required Telegram to return $1.2 billion to investors. Telegram purportedly has already repaid the amount, with some U.S. investors confirming that they received a 72% refund. This amount is in line with Telegram’s original reimbursement scheme.
Russia’s interest in Gram comes against the backdrop of some meaningful regulatory changes. After two years of unsuccessful efforts to block Telegram messenger in the country, Russian authorities suddenly decided to lift the ban on June 18. The decision came just a few weeks before Russia conducted a seven-day long constitutional vote — the results of which could potentially allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his 20-year rule until 2036.
Ethereum DeFi Breaks Records in June, However, Other Categories Are Suffering
Results for the second quarter of 2020 show tremendous growth for decentralized applications across all ecosystems, primarily spearheaded by Ethereum (ETH) decentralized finance, or DeFi. Decentralized exchanges were at the frontlines of the rise as Compound token mining activity trickled down to on-chain swapping solutions. According to Our Network, Curve was one of the biggest beneficiaries of yield farming as it helped users switch between different stablecoins to maximize yield.
Curve is an automated money market that only supports swaps between different types of stablecoins and wrapped tokens. This limitation allows Curve to provide competitive slippage and fees for exchanging assets. Deposits on Curve rose almost three-fold in June, while daily volume reached peaks of $60 million — 30 times more than its previous average. Demand for USDT pairs was the highest, capturing more than 58.5% of the total volume. This is due to USDT having one of the most significant COMP yields for an extended period of time. Uniswap also benefited from the COMP craze, with monthly volume doubling in June. Kyber and 0x had more modest performances: despite posting fresh monthly highs, the project’s growth was in line with the rest of the year.
According to DappRadar’s Q2 report, the dominance of DeFi indirectly led to the decline of gaming activity. Over $8 billion was transacted on DeFi platforms in Q2, which led to gas prices soaring exponentially. Ethereum’s vibrant gaming DApp ecosystem suffered as fees came to represent a significant portion of each transaction. DappRadar reported a staggering 79% decline of gaming-related activity on-chain over the previous quarter.
EOS appears to be the main recipient of Ethereum’s loss as its gaming transaction volume rose by about 80% since the previous quarter. While this is positive news for the platform, it still hasn’t fully recovered from the damage caused by the EIDOS airdrop in late 2019. Volumes remain well below the highs of Q2 2019. Finally, Tron (TRX) saw growth in its DeFi ecosystem after porting several Ethereum projects on its chain. In addition to the previously-launched clone of Single Collateral Dai, a platform named Oikos.cash recreated both Synthetix and Uniswap on Tron. Nevertheless, total volume for all Q2 is just $15 million. The majority of Tron’s activity remains in the gambling and “high-risk” categories.
EOSIO-Based Social Media Platform Voice Launches Ahead of Schedule
Voice, a blockchain-based social media project developed by EOS creator Block.One, briefly went live one day before its scheduled launch. Based on the open source EOSIO protocol, Voice aims to use Blockchain technology to create a trusted social experience, free from bots and fake accounts. Revealed in June 2019, the project uses biometric authentication technology to verify every account, limiting accounts to one-per-person and promising to protect user data.
Voice’s main page temporarily displayed several posts from different accounts which featured multiple likes and comments. As of press time, the website is no longer available. It now displays “Error 1020” instead, which specifies that the website is “using a security service to protect itself from online attacks.”. In early June, Zalatimo announced that the platform is set to roll out on U.S. Independence Day. He noted that only registered users would be able to publish content or engage online.
After revealing their plans for Voice in June 2019, EOS’ parent firm, Block.One, invested $150 million in Voice during March 2020. The investment was said to provide Voice with resources to operate independently from Block.One. Numerous blockchain-related social media projects have been released to date.
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