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Author Topic: Innovation in the alt chains  (Read 5501 times)
Gavin Andresen
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December 23, 2011, 03:16:44 PM
 #1

So...

I've been mostly quiet about the alternative block chains, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed.

I had hoped that they would be full of interesting experiments with different transaction types or smart contracts or different fee-setting algorithms or maybe some innovative scheme for instant transactions.

Instead, it seems like you've been too busy dealing with low hashrates and transaction-spam attacks, and have been spending all of your time re-inventing a lot of infrastructure (exchanges and block explorers and mining pool software and etc.).

I'm curious to hear what other people think:  will altchain innovation pick up in 2012?  Am I irrationally biased and just not seeing the awesome power of (insert-your-favorite-altchain-feature-here)?

I think there's an interesting dynamic, where the larger and more popular an altchain gets, the harder it is to do things like schedule a block-chain splitting-change (because you have to get all your exchanges and mining pools and etc. to upgrade). I wonder if that means the experimentation will only happen with brand-new blockchains, and if a blockchain will only really take off it the inventor manages to "get it 99% right" the very first time...

How often do you get the chance to work on a potentially world-changing project?
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markm
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December 23, 2011, 03:39:20 PM
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In my opinion a lot of the delay has been simply waiting for merged mining in order to be perceived as having any chance against attackers.

The Coin Wars Two concept I just posted is one approach to trying to work-around this by permitting trading of coins of privately mined chains or even chains that are moving all accounts out of their old blockchain implementation to get away from the "you have to give miners the minting of the coins in order to get started initially" paradigm. (For example, chains that want to "back" any coins they allow to fall into other people's hands, keeping whatever they managed to sell them for as "reserves" with which to buy them back.)

How many chains can be practically merged-mined at once? Will any fast deployment of the entire allotment of coins chains ever reach enough transaction volume to attract miners on the bassis of transaction fees alone? Unfortunately the Coin Wars Two approach loses some of the perceived / perceivable benefits of using a blockchain, but what the heck, it might yiel;d some kind of insight(s).

Coin Wars Two is being implemented using an Open Transactions server, so smart contracts are definitely on the roadmap; but currently we have not quite finished getting markets working quite the way we want them to work so fixes in the markets system have delayed some further smart-contract work a few days lately.

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December 23, 2011, 03:57:18 PM
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Tbh, I think most of the altchains have been created as a way for the creator to get a bit more cash in his pocket. Not a lot have had impressive improvements (imo) and that all everyone is doing is just s/bitcoin/l33tcoin/ etc. Also, the need for someone to know C++ (not saying it's bad or anything) is a drawback, as I have alot of great ideas for things, but C++ hurts my eyes so to speak.
finway
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December 23, 2011, 04:11:25 PM
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Me too, no idea how the alt chains catch up with OP_EVAL etc.

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December 23, 2011, 04:33:41 PM
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The thing is BitCoin is very well designed and implemented. It's seriously hard to improve it without breaking the system in some way.

The alternative cryptocurrencies proposed so far have either been genuine but misguided attempts at improving some feature of BitCoin or cynical copy and paste jobs intended to get people rich.
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December 23, 2011, 04:42:28 PM
 #6

Gavin, I agree with your sentiment, on both the potential experimentation that could be happening as well as the actual failure to truly innovate.

Having said that there have been some minor variable tweak itch scratching of note: shortening the block reward (has anyone bothered to analyze the dis/advantages?), forcing miners to use the CPU (has that broadened the miner-base, produced any social or other advantage?), and... well that's it, actually, as far as I've noticed.

While Satoshi's public, proof-of-work transaction ledger seems obvious now, it is of course revolutionary. But I can't help feeling there's got to be a better way to prevent double-spending. I would like to see an algorithm that can be done on paper; an altcoin party trick; a truly anonymous, side-channel, no electricity, post-nuclear Armageddon stone age, isolation tolerant blockchain something. I certainly don't have the answer, but I miss discussions of that level around here. Where has all the creative intelligence gone?

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December 23, 2011, 05:47:38 PM
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Gavin, anyone who was truly interested in innovation would have volunteered to work with your team.  These alternative currencies are nothing more than "get rich quick" schemes.

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December 23, 2011, 06:05:44 PM
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I wonder if that means the experimentation will only happen with brand-new blockchains, and if a blockchain will only really take off it the inventor manages to "get it 99% right" the very first time...

You are right that there has been little innovation on the Satoshi blockchain. Bitcoin is like concrete, it gets stronger over time. Form follows function.
Bitcoin has unique traits that fill important needs. Tools can be invented to exploit these traits. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Any significantly advanced cryptocurrency is indistinguishable from Ponzi Tulips.
exahash
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December 23, 2011, 06:06:39 PM
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I'm curious to hear what other people think:  will altchain innovation pick up in 2012?  Am I irrationally biased and just not seeing the awesome power of (insert-your-favorite-altchain-feature-here)?

Yes and yes.

Keep in mind that Bitcoin is "old" compared to the alt chains.

There will probably be lots more, with numerous small changes.  Think micro evolution rather than the big bang.

If a new chain is too revolutionary, or its founders have too much "personality" it will probably be too hard to get much traction quickly (Bitcoin itself took a while)

Patience is in order.
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December 23, 2011, 08:06:45 PM
 #10

I agree it isn't the size of your hashes, it is how you use it.      Does someone have a timeline to compare where Bitcoin was at it's conception against where Solidcoin/IXCoin/Litecoin/etc is at currently.  Like when Bitcoin was six months old, what things were going on with it compared to where Namecoin was six months in?   Userbase, coin generation, actual usefulness in the world.

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December 23, 2011, 08:45:53 PM
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I agree it isn't the size of your hashes, it is how you use it.      Does someone have a timeline to compare where Bitcoin was at it's conception against where Solidcoin/IXCoin/Litecoin/etc is at currently.  Like when Bitcoin was six months old, what things were going on with it compared to where Namecoin was six months in?   Userbase, coin generation, actual usefulness in the world.
http://btcserv.net/bitcoin/history/
BitcoinPorn
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December 23, 2011, 09:01:03 PM
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Good job.  Now, links for the other coins that match that page :p

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December 23, 2011, 09:02:15 PM
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Tbh, I think most of the altchains have been created as a way for the creator to get a bit more cash in his pocket. Not a lot have had impressive improvements (imo) and that all everyone is doing is just s/bitcoin/l33tcoin/ etc.
I think you pretty much summed it all.

Does someone have a timeline to compare where Bitcoin was at it's conception against where Solidcoin/IXCoin/Litecoin/etc is at currently.  Like when Bitcoin was six months old, what things were going on with it compared to where Namecoin was six months in? Userbase, coin generation, actual usefulness in the world.
Even with that, it's hard to compare IMO: when it started, BTC didn't have some large cryptocurrency user base to pick in. And it didn't face a (kind of) well-established concurrent.

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December 24, 2011, 03:00:59 AM
 #14

I had hoped that they would be full of interesting experiments with different transaction types or smart contracts or different fee-setting algorithms or maybe some innovative scheme for instant transactions.
These things are very complicated and take a long time to understand, I doubt there are more than a few people in the bitcoin community that really understand them. I'm not even sure these things belong in the block chain instead of being handled outside of it (via Open Transactions or something similar).

Instead, it seems like you've been too busy dealing with low hashrates and transaction-spam attacks, and have been spending all of your time re-inventing a lot of infrastructure (exchanges and block explorers and mining pool software and etc.).
Extending the single-purpose bitcoin infrastructures (exchanges and block explorers and mining pool software and etc.) to be multi-coin is a real accomplishment.  Sites like allchains.info, blockexplorer.sytes.net, and the multi-coin exchanges are a big improvement over having lots of coin-specific sites.  You might not consider them innovative, but you aren't giving them enough credit.

Most of attacks on the alt-chains were possible against bitcoin too, bitcoin was just lucky that no one attacked when it was young and didn't have the value it has now.  Even so, a well-funded adversary could easily spam the bitcoin block chain.  Be glad that these issues are being worked out on the alt-chains where the stakes aren't as high.

There has also been a lot of experimentation with the fundamental economic models.  No one knows if  a coin should be deflationary, inflationary, or stable-value, nor do they know the best way to accomplish the goal.  Pre-mining to provide funding for improvements versus no premine and no funding for improvements has been another area of experimentation (it looks like pre-mining lost). The economic basis for a coin can't be changed easily (if at all) so it isn't surprising that is the first area that is worked on.

Merged-mining is pretty innovative, as is namecoin,  both were developed this year.

I'm curious to hear what other people think:  will altchain innovation pick up in 2012?  Am I irrationally biased and just not seeing the awesome power of (insert-your-favorite-altchain-feature-here)?
I think you are trying to get people riled up so that they try and prove you wrong.

I wonder if that means the experimentation will only happen with brand-new blockchains, and if a blockchain will only really take off it the inventor manages to "get it 99% right" the very first time...
Your probably right on this.  It is very hard to make substantial changes to an existing block chain.
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December 24, 2011, 10:15:22 AM
 #15

bitcoin had the luxury of a few years to establish itself before people started judging it.  All of the alternate chains need to "prove" themselves quickly which is why some of them came up with weird retargeting things.

Beyond that is where the innovation really needs to start, but I agree that faster blocks / small tweaks haven't been that much worth the market accepting a new coin, rather than sticking with bitcoin.

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December 24, 2011, 01:23:05 PM
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I don't know much about it, but there is definitely one radically new blockchain under development.
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December 24, 2011, 01:32:05 PM
 #17

STOP THE THREAD EVERYONE, a big piece of no information has slipped out, contact the bloggerverse so they can put out a press release regarding the announcement of an announcement

I don't know much about it, but there is definitely one radically new blockchain under development.


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December 25, 2011, 12:55:38 AM
 #18

2013 will be the year that bitcoin goes mainstream, but not a way that you would currently recognize. 2012 will be a year of transformation, the impetus of which will not come from the Satoshi client (Gavin's great work notwithstanding).

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December 25, 2011, 02:45:09 AM
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2013 will be the year that bitcoin goes mainstream, but not a way that you would currently recognize. 2012 will be a year of transformation, the impetus of which will not come from the Satoshi client (Gavin's great work notwithstanding).

Your beliefs are nice— but where is the evidence?

Litecoin has been a little inventive responding to various flooding attacks, but nothing I could call genuine innovation.

SC has been a nice demonstration that you can break the centralization of the system completely and abuse central authority substantially while keeping a solid base of believers— a fair warning for bitcoin itself: you can't count on loss of confidence from the believers as evidence that you're doing it wrong.  But nothing really innovative there.

Namecoin brought us a real implementation of merged mining... an innovation which should not be downplayed. But what has it done for us lately? Smiley  (namecoin would be a good target for a lot of other improvements, like flipped chains— but there doesn't seem to be much interest in taking it further at the moment)

As for the rest— mostly they've just failed ... sometimes due to technical attacks from their minor changes to the bitcoin algorithim. They now stand as monuments to the general wisdom of the particular magic values bitcoin was started with.

At the moment the satoshi client is the primary basis of innovation in the decentralized cryptotoken field. This is sad considering how hard it is to innovate.

So, yea, speculate that the advancement will come from elsewhere if you want... but it's just speculation without some evidence to back it up.

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December 25, 2011, 03:05:08 AM
 #20

None of the alt chains have had a serious commitment to project management.  Perhaps Gavin should write an O'Reilly book "Encrypted P2P Transaction Systems" (and with a picture of a marsupial on the cover).

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