The Blockchain Era¶
The advent of the Bitcoin, invented and presented in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto was a disruptive change in the way people looked at finance.
By providing efficiency (i.e. worldwide clearing and settlement within 10 minutes) and cost-effectiveness (i.e. transaction fees at a few cents per transaction) Bitcoin, offered an attractive alternative to the traditional banking system and got a massive exposure in the media. Sadly, despite of more than 6 years of existence the Bitcoin currency did not reach the position one would have expected it to reach, this mainly due to imperfections in its architecture and design.
One such flaw in the Bitcoin system is its 7-transactions per second (tps) processing capacity, which makes Bitcoin hard to deploy in real world applications. At 7 tps Bitcoin simply cannot keep up with real world demands. VISA, for example, handles about 2000 tps, with a peak capacity of 56000 tps. Similarly, Bitcoin’s blockchain size of nearly 40 GB (August 2015), with its steep linear growing curve, will render it difficult to distribute in the future. It is thus highly inconvenient for most people to be constrained to wait at length while simply downloading a few tens of GBs of data simply to send a very small amount of money eg. buy an espresso.
Bitcoin can thus be understood as proof of faulty early conception for Blockchain technology. Despite some growing pains, Blockchain, as a publicly distributed ledger of transactions, has the immense potential to be the biggest thing since the advent of the World Wide Web. As we write, many a financial institutions are investigating this field and some of them even have their own blockchain research departments.
Blockchain, as a technology, can help banks to reduce their operative and infrastructural costs in various domains of application. Through seamless automation, clearing and settlement can run without any human interaction and under the control of an indestructible set of business rules. Similarly, Blockchain technologies enable banks’ assets to be exchanged without third party validation.
The problem of manipulation and censorship stems from historical paradigms.
In the former age of printed only media, only few people and companies had access to publishing and distribution of content. Specifically those willing and able to front the cost of extremely expensive printing facilities.
This often led to an imbalance in the distribution of formulated opinions and allowed colossal manipulations or misuses of the then existing information distribution monopolies.
In 1517 for example, Pope Leo X started to sell indulgences. The campaign was successful for some time but was challenged when an ordinary German priest named Martin Luther set a document called “The Ninety-five Theses” on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral.
Thanks to word of mouth and the availability of the printing press its content quickly (in a matter of weeks) spread to the whole of Germany. Eventually, Martin Luther’s ideas against indulgences spread throughout Europe.
Such dissemination of information would not have been possible a few decades earlier, prior to the invention of Guttenberg’s 15th century printing press.
This was one of the first major events that paved the way to rapid distribution of information as well as of the freedom of speech. Even so it would be some 300 years before the next disruptor. Ronalds, Cooke & Wheatstone and Morse’s invention of the electrical telegraph was the harbinger of a massive private communication era. With its unique coding system it permitted fast transmission of any kind of text based information. By the end of the 19th century, telegraph cables already covered all inhabited continents.
Then another disruptive invention, Bell’s telephone, boosted the telegraph system all the way to the domain of voice communication. Simultaneously, Marconi’s and others’ work on wireless telegraphy enabled wireless transmission. This diminished the importance of physical cables as the only transmission media. Hard-links were no longer needed. Thanks to their inventions, people could now listen to both government owned and commercial broadcast programming via radio.
Although the printing press, telegraph, telephone and radio were major advances for information accessibility they could not provide security even one as simple as a waxed sealed letter or a polyalphabetic cipher did for hundreds of years beforehand.
Except for military purposes, proliferation of encrypted communication was yet to come. Most people are not even aware of the consequences that non-encrypted online communication had. Government agencies were found buying data from software platforms, in order to pursue their goals.
The Edward Snowden’s case in 2011 only served to highlight this issue. PGP encrypted emails provide only a partial solution to this problem due to the lack of scalability and user convenience. A holistic approach to decentralized, non-manipulable, secure, trusted, efficient and cost-effective digital content distribution was needed.
Does it sound familiar? ;) *cough*DE*cough*CENT.
DECENT: Characteristic and Advantages¶
As there was no known comprehensive solution to the above mentioned problems, DECENT boldly came up with the idea of an open platform aiming at solving at once all of them.
DECENT is a Blockchain-based, open-source, decentralized, autonomous content distribution platform. It is community own and moderated and runs without third party intervention or manipulation. It is designed for creative people, authors, bloggers, publicists as well as fans and followers, allowing borderless publishing of any text, picture, video or music content.
DECENT, acting as a resourceful and independent unit, allows information sharing without any boundaries and restrictions. It may even be said that the platform is very much dedicated to the freedom of speech. It is served by the P2P network and secured by cryptographic and Blockchain technology.
Sharing information is easy and protected. No third parties can control or influence the content.
The main characteristics of DECENT can be further explored below:
DECENT is owned directly by its users and will never be affiliated with any economic, media or political party. It is a piece of software that you can run. However, once people download and start running it, its creators no longer hold any control over it. Similar to how Bitcoin was developed, the DECENT foundation updates and improves the code which is open source so that anyone can see the changes made to it. Anyone can fork it, alter it for his/her uses or simply not update it. Its extent of its power lies with and is dependent on its users.
DECENT aim is to eliminate all political and geographical barriers in the publishing sector, so people around the world will have the same opportunity to express themselves freely. Thanks to its P2P nature, firewalls are ineffective. Since the content isn't distributed from a singular source (computer) but from many sources (computers) at the same time. Therefore it is practically impossible for any organization or government to block it or manipulate it in anyway.
DECENT is fully decentralized and is not dependent on any single server thanks to its blockchain. With no single point of failure access to the information is boundless.
On DECENT Network every author starts at the same level. They work to build a good reputation through the quality, reliability and engagement of the content they publish. Consumers can review the author’s reputation when deciding if the content is worth purchasing. The bottom line is – the better the content, the higher the chance for authors to gain exposure and profit.
Consumers buy content directly from their chosen authors. There are no cuts taken by DECENT and never will be.
Developers are free to build their own apps on top of the DECENT codebase and monetize them at will.
Without hidden fees or revenue sharing with middlemen or any third parties like media houses or digital storefronts.
The cost to publish mechanism makes extensive publishing of non revenue generating content very expensive for spammers, while keeping the resources available for legitimate authors.
Secure & Anonymous¶
Authors can publish the content anonymously. If the authors do not wish it, no one can reveal their identity. Similarly, all the content shared through DECENT is fully encrypted and available to the people. Further efforts such as VPNs or proxies can further protect user anonymity.
Thanks to DECENT Recommendations authors and their creations can receive ratings and feedback from verified content purchasers. This feedback is embedded in the blockchain so that authors can build a good reputation over time.
DECENT Technical Description¶
DECENT is a stand-alone Type I Decentralized Application (Dapp). Core network components are written in pure C++ using state-of-the-art libraries with open-source licensing. These components further create an entire plug and play system that allows asynchronous interaction via well-known web service: JSON/RPC over Websocket, or via fallback interface JSON/RPC over HTTP. This predetermines easy interaction via bundled applications or an integration via third-party applications.
To point out how all the promises are delivered, one needs some design notes to start with.
Let's assume that we want to create an Independent, Borderless, Stable, Fair, Profitable, Spam free, Secure&Anonymous, Recommendations-enabled application. First, we must solve an environment. What if we install several servers around the world? It will satisfy all the conditions save for anonymity, independence, borderlessness and spam-freedom. So obviously, one needs to move above all the regular infrastructure. There is a possible cloud solution that offers hardware, storage and network abstraction. Such a cloud presents many benefits and it might resolve some of remaining conditions, but all in all it is still rented and it is owned by some 3rd party entity.
A similar approach, a more volatile one, is to abstract to yet another layer - the application layer, in terms of building a decentralized application, not a whole mass as in case of the business applications. Clearly, application will not work without hardware or virtualized infrastructure. So the intentions are not to dismiss or to override infrastructure per se but rather to rearrange bricks.
An all-around, stable, ready-to-use design is to let the client connect to a server that will handle requests. This proposed design is comprised of cloud of servers that do not require a full mesh of network and do not need low-latency redundant high bandwidth fabric. The key design feature is a core overlay network built on top of the application server nodes. Such an overlay network is formed by nodes that are hosted by volunteers and it is peer-to-peer by design. Access to this independent network is then provided through access nodes that broker session initialization, direct and indirect peering, routing, relaying and proxying.
Because of insufficient number of IP addresses (v4) in the Internet network, access nodes are only capable of directly connecting peers with dynamic IPs, dynamic DNS, that are also behind NATs. This node is required to established a direct connection from the initiator. Other services could be used, e.g. IRC, if a self-hosted static address, reverse DNS record, dynamic DNS or opened destination port in NAT is recommended. The access node works as communication relay in the event that peers can not establish a connection directly. As the design is not full-mesh, access nodes are part of the routed network that rebroadcast traffic. This overlay network implements proposals from RFC5128 with Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP) over UDP (simpler punch holing). This also enables peer routing according to the network parameters, i.e. latency, TTL, … .
When such a network swarm is formed remote-procedure calls (RPC) are processed in. Such a calls deals with user interactions in decentralized, stable, secure and anonymous manner. In addition, independency and borderlessness is provided by a voting community all around the world. Regardless, the design is purely open-source, so that it could be auditioned, overviewed and forked. Stability, fairness, spam-freedom and profitability are delivered through tokens that are only presented within the network. The token system balances usage and assures the purpose of processes presented in DECENT. Lastly, an anonymity is guaranteed via hashed accounts and nicknames.
The majority of communication is between the participating nodes (except access nodes) of the transaction. These transactions are generated by user interactions with network and these nodes maintain blockchain database copies. Blockchains grows over time, these nodes handle growth by chaining new blocks on top of the previous ones. Some of these nodes also fulfill a different role, that of a validator. Blockchain technology is immutable by nature so it is a read-multiple, commit-once procedure. Once, there is a commit, someone has to validate the truthfulness of that commit. Validators are independent and community driven but they must reach a consensus when a new block is committed. The proposed consensus algorithm is written down the lines.
The above mentioned design is backed by heavy cryptography, in order to deliver a high level of security and anonymity.
Consensus algorithm (DPoS)¶
DECENT Network uses a Delegated Proof of Stake (DPOS) mechanism in order to achieve the consensus of various nodes in the network. Delegated Proof of Stake (DPOS) is the fastest, most efficient, most decentralized, and most flexible consensus model available. DPOS leverages the power of stakeholder approval voting to resolve consensus issues in a fair and democratic way. Please note, that changing miners too often may undermine trust. Deterministic selection of block producers allows DECENT to decrease the block production time to 5 seconds. Furthermore, the election of miners happens is on a daily (24hr) bases. Perspective miners present themselves for voting on a forum. If miner is untrustworthy, they can easily be demoted. The main miners delegation is covered by community of voters, as well.
POW requires miners or physical computers to be turned on and processing the transaction. This can be inefficient since better computers are created and optimized for mining which may lead to centralization such as bitcoin. Bitcoin maybe viewed as being centralized in China due to the fact that a small group of people holding a larger (greater than 51%) share of the mining power.
DPOS is greener and requires no energy. You have to essentially lock up your tokens to mine or process transactions, in order to confirm your commitment and good-will.
Differences by example¶
the_truth = Agreed data structure (Block) containing valid future state of
rand = 8 byte random number
Proof of Work:¶
I'll race you to find the hash value of
the_truth+rand that is less than the
agreed difficulty level, prize for the winner.
When someone wins, I'll check I agree then calculate a new version of
the_truth and start a new race.
Proof of Stake:¶
I'll bet you that
the_truth will be the agreed future block
- Within 5 second block times, a POS miner needs to operate a node with minimal network latency so it can get the new head-block as quickly as possible and then submit its result to the network with enough time to propagate to the next block producer. The introduction of a mining pool would add additional latency that would dramatically reduce the percentage of time available to actually do work.
- Because the vast majority miners are elected, highly accountable, and granted dedicated time slots to produce blocks, there is rarely any situation where two competing chains can exist. From time to time, network latency will prevent one miner from receiving the prior block in time. If this happens, the next miner will resolve the issue by building on whichever block they received first. After 14 confirmations (about 30 seconds) the transaction has been confirmed by 2/3 of the active miners which means there is no possibility of reversal without manual intervention.
- While the system is robust against natural chain reorganization events, there is still some potential for software bugs, network interruptions, or incompetent or malicious miners to create multiple competing histories that are longer by a block or two. The software always selects the blockchain with the highest miner participation rate.
- The hard requirement of minimal network latency is also a safety against poisoning attack when an attacker impersonates, because of lower latency, the healthy node and it could lead to malicious behavior,
- A miner operating on their own can only produce one block per round and will always have a lower participation rate than the majority. There is nothing that any miner (or minority group of miners) can do to produce a blockchain with a higher participation rate. The participation rate is calculated by comparing the expected number of blocks produced in a given period of time to the actual number of blocks produced.
On the first sight, PoW concept propose high degree of randomness by computation in comparison to DPoS. In contrast, DPoS is backed by democracy voting of community. Clearly, numeric computations, if well designed, are bullet-proof in trust. In comparison, democratic voting accompany us for many centuries and it is the cognitive behavior of every one of us to ratiocinate between good and bad.