Last week we reported that, in a post on the official BitTorrent blog, CEO Eric Klinker announced a private alpha test for a P2P web browser called Project Maelstrom, based on BitTorrent technology. Project Maelstrom is one of the ongoing initiatives aimed at building a new Internet that works like BitTorrent.
That is, decentralized and free.
Also read: BitTorrent Moves to Decentralize the Web
When you download a torrent and open it with a torrent client, something magic happens: you start downloading file referenced by the torrent not from a central server, but from all the users who have downloaded the file. Each user sends you bits and snippets of the file, and before you know it, you have downloaded the whole file. The BitTorrent technology for distributed file storage and Peer to Peer (P2P) transfers was one of the biggest developments in Web technology since the Web itself, and opened the way to a distributed, fully decentralized Internet.
BitTorrent is an ideal technology for P2P file transfers – once a torrent is released and seeded by many users, there is no way to stop the wave. But the weak link is the Web: if the authorities don’t like a website, they can take over the central server and shut it down. Examples: The Pirate Bay, Silk Road, and WikiLeaks. But if there is no central server, the authorities can’t take down the central server.
As reported by Reason magazine, BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker said about BitTorrent’s Micro Transport Protocol:
It’s the best example we have of technology being used to solve what is perceived to be a policy problem. It’s only through the technology that the Internet’s rules are written.
Before announcing the developed of Project Maelstrom, BitTorrent launched the P2P chat application Bleep, currently in open alpha testing, which works through a server-less architecture built around a distributed hash table (DHT). Bleep is fully encrypted, with messages and other data only stored locally on users’ devices. Users can entirely delete their message history if they want. That shows how a distributed, peer-to-peer architecture like BitTorrent uses is more secure than one built on a cloud-based architecture.
Websites Streamed by Thousands or Millions of Personal Devices Worldwide.
Bleep and Project Maelstrom are two elements of a new Internet, decentralized and free, which we will start using in 2015 and, hopefully, will take over the Internet of old and its intrinsic vulnerability to hostile actions. Imagine: websites don’t live on central servers that can be blocked, switched off or seized by bankers and bureaucrats, but are streamed by thousands or millions of personal devices worldwide. It is easy to see that, by extending this approach to message boards, it will be possible to develop free and anonymous communication platforms. Once that happens, there is not much that the enemies of Internet freedom can so, besides licking their wounds and denouncing those filthy free people.
I signed up to be a Project Maelstrom alpha tester, but I haven’t been invited yet. Not much is known at the moment beside the initial announcement, which doesn’t have many technical and implementation details. Fortunately, PC World has an article with more information about Project Maelstrom and BitTorrent’s vision for a P2P web, based on exchanges with BitTorrent’s communications chief Christian Averill and product manager Rob Velasquez. Some highlights below:
Maelstrom is based on Chromium, the same open-source project found underneath both Chrome and Opera. In order for publishers and developers to take advantage of Project Maelstrom, they have to publish their content as a torrent. Project Maelstrom will support normal web browsing via HTTP/S, so that users will be able to browse normal websites as well. The Maelstrom browser adds the additional support of being able to browse websites distributed via torrents.
Developers will be able to embed anything in a torrent website that can be embedded in an HTTP-served website, like Google Adsense, Facebook like buttons and video streams.
Not much more is known at the moment, but make no mistakes: this is the beginning of a new and better Internet, decentralized and free.
Images from BitTorrent and Shutterstock.
Valuing Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Applications
Arguably the most interesting financial trend of 2017 is the spreading of cryptocurrencies, especially in the Ethereum ecosystem. With the ICO boom of this year, a lot of different business models have been connected to tokens or blockchains of their own. This brings up several questions in the mind value-conscious investors, as given the special properties of these coins, and especially considering the various distribution and usage schemes of the tokens, valuing them is tricky, to say the least.
Whether or not we are in a bubble currently is a layered question, as we are definitely in a huge speculative wave that will end badly for several coins, but the segment is in the early phase of adoption, and the market as a whole will likely multiply in the coming years.
As I concluded in my comparison with the Dot-Com bubble, selective investing in the ICO-boom is vital for long-term investors. To make things more complicated, traditional valuation models generally fail with cryptocurrencies, because of the hybrid stock-commodity properties of them and the novelty of the technology, coupled with the questions regarding the future usage patterns.
Is it possible to set up a framework to analyze all the different business models and value the connected coins? Or is it possible to, at least, determine hard guidelines to follow when selecting the coins to hold or forget? I will answer that question below and in the coming second part of the article.
ICO Analysis: EOS
EOS.IO software by block.one wants to “Decentralize Everything”. Mr. Larimer has already put two notable blockchain systems live: BitShares and Steem. Both of these systems remain online and recently benefited from increased interest in the crypto-asset space in general. To this date, EOS has raised $200 million in revenue from token sales.
Brock Pierce, co-founder of block.one, told Reuters that EOS is designed to be a foundation for blockchain business applications. Attendees heard a lot about EOS at last month’s Consensus conference put on by Coin Desk. Block.one claims its platform has eliminated transaction fees and can process millions of transactions per second.
The startup, which recently started selling the EOS token to create a decentralized distribution of tokens to be used with the EOS.IO software has introduced the concept of automating business processes, monitoring assets, and creating multiple applications based on prior technology introduced by Mr. Larimer, who is the inventor of the “Proof of Stake” and the “Decentralized Autonomous Corporations” concepts.
According to its website,
(…) block.one provides end-to-end solutions to bring businesses onto the blockchain from strategic planning to product deployment.
Token Analysis: Is NEO (Formerly Antshares) ‘China’s Ethereum’?
NEO has been called “China’s Ethereum”. The Western market first collectively learned about Antshares, a smart contract and decentralized application (dApp) platform, just ahead of the company’s rebrand to ‘NEO’ – which is Greek for “newness”, novelty and youth. That merely one exchange offers bitcoin-NEO trades has led to a bottleneck in supply. Prices skyrocketed in the weeks ahead of the rebrand. Antshares’ ICO was in the fall of 2016.
NEO development began in 2014 and the blockchain-startup ONCHAIN is overseeing its enterprise version. Already the platform offers more languages than Ethereum supports. NEO’s partners include crowdfunding platform WINGS and multinational technology corporation Microsoft. Reports last year of a partnership between Alibaba and the former AntShares were false, though the companies have worked together.
NEO’s collaboration with Wings is for research and development purposes. With Ali Cloud and ONCHAIN, NEO is working on a proof of existence e-mail repository.
That NEO representatives seemingly have the okay from the government – having attended a government-sponsored industry conference – could bode well for the blockchain project. As ONCHAIN’s CEO, and Antshares founder, Da Hogfei, tweeted:
— Da Hongfei (@dahongfei) July 13, 2016
NEO Price History as Antcoin
The token price, still trading under its former ticker ‘ANC’ or ‘ANS’ across the web on this article’s publish date, and until the rebrand is complete in the third quarter of 2017, skyrocketed particularly from June 19-20. The platform increased from $1.65 on June 15 to $10 at the time of writing on June 20. It then corrected and currently sits at just shy of $7, according to CoinMarketCap. Antshares’ all-time high sits at $11.79.
The decentralized smart contract platform’s first price history, according to CoinMarket Cap, started this past fall. The project’s native token started trading at a price of 55 cents before settling between approximately 10 cents and 30 cents. ANC trended south until the end of October 2016, when it reached a nadir of 8 cents. The price then skyrocketed to 31 cents. After a quick price increase, the price drifted downwards until March 2017 when it, along with much of the crypto-asset complex, increased in value.
Per the rebrand, not only does Antshares become NEO, but Antcoin (ANC) becomes ‘GAS’. “So, it is no longer a ‘dividend interest’ sort of asset, but a utility sub-token for network functionalities,” a NEO community member told Hacked.com.
Under the Hood
NEO smart contracts are based on NEO’s Virtual Machine, which is similar to Ethereum’s Virtual Machine. NEO plans to soon release its “Smart Economy” platform, which has also been termed “Smart Contracts 2.0”.
NEO is designed to solve the same problems as Ethereum. NEO’s incorporation of sharding and concurrency in its computer science model solves scalability problems. Ethereum has yet to make such changes to better scale that smart contract and dApp platform.
Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance
By using Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) for its blockchain operations – a consensus method proponents claim offers better security for blockchains – NEO places itself in the company of the well-known blockchain project Hyperledger, and the lesser-known Stellar. “Specialized bookkeeping nodes” reach consensus via “delegated voting” per NEO’s dBFT model. It takes a two-thirds vote for approval of a current copy of a blockchain.
“After investigating and studying the crypto-industry and blockchain technologies for several years, we came to the conclusion that the delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance alternative (or dBFT) is best suited for such a system,” Erik Iz, co-founder and core developer at Antshares, stated on BitcoinTalk. “It provides swift transaction verification times, de-incentivises most attack vectors and upholds a single blockchain version with no risk of forks or alternative blockchain records emerging – regardless of how much computing power, or coins an attacker possesses.”
Nest Smart Fund
With the rebrand in NEO’s past, the team is looking forward to expanding its western-focused marketing efforts, a NEO community member told Hacked.com. Moreover, it’s partnered on a “do over” for the cryptocurrency community.
“Nest is a whole new form of smart fund written in Antshares smart contracts,” writes NEO about its new ‘DAO’ style fund called Nest Fund, which uses NEO smart contract technology.
The DAO, or ‘decentralized autonomous organization’, had set out to become a decentralized venture capital fund based on Ethereum’s smart contract code. It failed.
NEO adds about its attempt at a similar fund: “Nest aims to, with the power of blockchain, eliminate and neutralize problems like high threshold, high risk, low efficiency and moral risks. Participants invest, manage and exit with smart contracts instead of application to certain organizations. Antshares’ Blockchain enables everyone to join the Nest, with a 0 threshold and 100% transparency, with a safe and free exit option at any given time.”
For a cryptocurrency community that likes to be right – they told you so about Bitcoin, after all – Nest could garner serious interest for users looking to make a point, and prove the ideas behind crypto right.
Numerous Blockchain Products
Nest Fund isn’t the only blockchain-based service or product offered by NEO. Other than its parent, ONCHAIN, NEO leads projects including blockchain-based browsers, a web-based crypto-asset wallet, as well as an online crowdfunding fund that is not the aforementioned Nest. The team also partnered with Microsoft Azure to bring blockchain technology to the server experience. This project is similar to partnerships pioneered by Azure in the west.
Antshares is available on just five exchanges currently, and that limits the amount of buying demand for ANC. Just a single exchange buys and sells ANC for Bitcoin. Now, as many westerners learn of NEO for the first time, the demand will only increase.
But a lack of information available in English about NEO could slow demand. When NEO’s implementation of blockchain technology receives increasing press in the English-speaking world – and it likely will considering its corporate partners – there could be further price implications. The crypto-asset is currently the 23rd largest, according to Coin Market Cap. On CoinCap.io, it is the 21st largest.
Only time will tell with NEO, but there are lots of intriguing projects in the works at the blockchain company, including authentication work with Chinese authorities to map real-world assets with smart contracts. The company also has numerous patents, including ones for cross-chain interoperability. It’s partnered with numerous blockchain projects, like Bancor, Agrello, Coindash and Binance.
Due to NEO’s corporate partners – among whom are included Microsoft, etc. – and its under the radar Ethereum-esque functionality, we give the project a 7.75 out of 10.
In order to use the new version of the platform, NEO, Antshares users do not need to do anything other than download the new client/app when it is ready later this year. ‘ANC’ becomes ‘NEO’, and ‘ANC’ becomes ‘GAS’.
ANC – as it is still currently referred to throughout much of the digital asset realm until the rebrand to ‘GAS’ is completed – can be purchased on the western-facing digital asset exchange Bittrex. In the east, the asset can be found at exchanges Yunbi, Yuanbao, Jubi, and 19800.
Featured image from NEO company presentation
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