I was asked to write an article about the features of a new technology in the Dash Ecosystem. It’s called Platform. It is an amazing project and I happily accepted the assignment. But I wrote it with some fear and trepidation. History is littered with amusing examples of people attempting to predict the effects of a new invention or technology. Two cases will illustrate my point nicely.
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'”
–Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
This is a fancy way of covering my…..backside when Dash Platform breaks the crypto world and the internet and the very fabric of money in ways which simply cannot be predicted.
It would be hard to describe Platform without some context. Let’s assume for this discussion that we are firmly in the middle of Web 2. Web 2 is a maze of companies, and your accounts with those companies, plus a different password for each account. Security is terrible, hacks and data theft are frequent and the user (you) often becomes the product when your personal data gets collected and sold.
Then what is web3? Just a buzz word or marketing hype? Tacking on the ability to pay for something with cryptocurrency? Maybe something about identities and privacy on the web. We would hope that Web3 would include better decentralization so a few big companies don’t own and control all your data and your access to data. Because that’s a lot like owning and controlling you.
Decentralized applications can give us the functions and features we want, but without the centralized company that owns and operates the website or app. Decentralized money that is not controlled by your bank and/or your government has to be part of web3 for sure. Something to do with smart contracts maybe? Everyone agrees that Web 3 is still pretty fuzzy. What about Web 4? Even fuzzier.
Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame recently rolled out what he is describing as Web 5. (Yes, he just skipped right over Web 4.) The central features of his vision are decentralized applications and decentralized nodes, neither of which are owned and operated by a centralized company. That puts users in control of their data and identity. It is the literal opposite of our current Web 2 model. And (in his vision) the economic foundation for Web 5 is Bitcoin. Of course, the Dash community will quickly realize he has chosen the wrong horse for this new economic model. Here is a concise video about his vision of Web 5.
While Mr. Dorsey’s stated goals are excellent, it remains to be seen if his dev team can actually deliver such a product. And while I do not particularly trust or distrust Jack, his choice of Bitcoin will be the Achilles heel of the project. It will never scale fast enough to support such an ambitious project.
I have to comment about the strange David and Goliath relationship Dash has with Bitcoin and Ethereum. There are somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 crypto projects according to various estimates.
Dash has always been ranked in the top 100, and has been ranked as high as number 3. Dash has a tiny fraction of the resources compared to Bitcoin and Ethereum. Bitcoin is currently worth about 450 times as much as Dash by market cap (367 billion dollars today) and currently has more than 3 billion USD available for continued development of the infrastructure.
The Ethereum Foundation currently has 1.6 billion dollars worth of assets to develop and promote Ethereum. That is completely aside from their enormous market cap of 198 billion dollars.
What about Dash?
Dash has never accepted big piles of Venture Capital money and never had an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) that raised millions or billions of dollars to fund development and so on. This financial independence is important so Dash does not get swallowed up by private or corporate money and give up their primary mission of offering honest money to the world.
Despite this huge disparity in resources, Dash is running technological circles around Bitcoin and is about to give non-Bitcoin crypto projects like Ethereum a serious run for their money. The success and tenacity of Dash to date is due to organic growth led by the community.
While we are very proud that Dash has not been taken over by corporate money, imagine what Dash could do with a paltry 15 or 20 million dollars of seed money to kick the development and marketing into high gear.
They have lost the vision…which is sad in one way, but an opportunity in another.
The problems of Bitcoin and Ethereum
Bitcoin was designed and intended to become honest, accessible money for the world. For all practical purposes, it has abandoned that goal. It’s not fast enough. It’s not cheap enough. Due to the lack of an efficient governance system, it has failed to scale among other problems, but Dash didn’t. It embraced that mission. With layer 1 (Proof of Work) and layer 2 (masternodes) and a functional governance system, Dash does better Bitcoin than Bitcoin. Typically transactions to anybody cost a penny or less. Once you send the money, it is received, finalized and spendable in 2 seconds.
Ethereum’s original goal was to produce decentralized apps and smart contracts. Here I quote Vitalik Buterin himself from 2014:
“Decentralized Applications have become more and more important over the last 10 years, and have the benefits of massively reducing costs and the barriers to entry, removing single points of failure, preventing censorship and ensuring transparency and trust between all the parties involved in an interaction.”
What does that look like in the Ethereum ecosystem today? The most basic question or smart contract costs ~$1,000 to deploy. A modest contract quickly goes to $4-5,000. That does not strike me as “massively reducing costs…”.
A substantial part of the cost issue when using Ethereum is the scaling problem. As the blockchain gets congested, “gas” prices skyrocket in an effort to reduce the congestion. That works in the short term, but is not a good long term solution.
But enough about Jack and Bitcoin and Ethereum. We now have enough context to talk about Dash Platform. What it is, and what it can do, and what that might mean for the future.
Facebook would be so much better……without Facebook. Imagine all the functionality, but none of the invasive spying, data mining, hacking of user data and censorship. Virtually all of the social media products would be far better for consumers/users as decentralized apps with none of the predatory practices of the centralized companies.
Changes are coming
Another great feature will be DashPay Contract (DIP15) which will allow users to send money to anybody on their contact list, without associating either user to any wallet or account. DashPay’s decentralized usernames (Dash Platform Naming Service DPNS) enables that process to work with usernames.
And then there is Dash Drive and Grove DB. Together they become the Oracle of Truth. Drive gives us decentralized information, much like cryptocurrency gave us decentralized money. And Grove DB has database features that have never existed before. It’s based on Rocks DB (which is itself revolutionizing the online database world because of its speed and efficiency) but extends it in a way that you can verify that the information you requested is correct. Any information you store or reference there becomes “tamper evident.”
For example Wikipedia is a great resource, but there are problems. It’s centralized, which means it could easily be shut down or censored. Anybody can add new content or revise content. While that is a great feature, not all participants are trustworthy. People often maliciously change, add or remove content to make someone or some organization look better or worse. If some of the content on wikipedia is unreliable, how can you trust any of the content?
If a decentralized Wikipedia-like app was based on Platform we would gain censorship resistance (the huge advantage of decentralization) and the ability to tell if articles have been tampered with. By hashing each article (or whatever chunk of data you need to be tamper evident) and storing that on Platform, you get a chain of evidence that proves your data is still safe and unmolested.
The use cases are infinite. Bookkeeping and payroll that can’t be tampered with. Voter and election fraud problems could be eliminated almost overnight. Every country in the world who legitimately wants honest elections should jump at the chance to use these tools.
In summary, Platform is designed to be a goldmine and a toybox for D’app developers. Drive will do for data what cryptocurrency did for money. What developers can do with these new tools is still largely unanswered. I have barely scratched the surface. Back in the day we asked, “What can you do on a cellular phone besides make phone calls?”
TL:DR Better Bitcoin than Bitcoin. Easy and inexpensive Decentralized apps, a great Software Development Kit, Decentralized user names (DPNS), decentralized data storage, data contracts to begin with and Smart Contracts are on the horizon.
From a storage perspective, MVP will provide at least the below features, some that are rare to find implemented well and as far as I know non-existent to find in one solution.
- Incremental storage costs
With Dash, if you had a state transition that was 1MB and you updated it in a way that resulted in requiring 2MB of additional storage, you only pay for 2MB where other platforms you would pay for the full 3MB.
- Efficient, decentralized, quarriable storage
As far as I know, most platforms out there are either inefficient at retrieving data based on specific conditions and / or they are largely centralized. Dash Platform provides easy SQL like DB features.
- Decentralized API
Quick and easy developer on-boarding, no heavy blockchain specific experience needed.
- Data contract schema changes
This allows contract schemas to be modified without data loss or the need to create a new contract. This is a clear and obvious differentiator between Dash and smart contract networks which do not have the ability to do this.
- Decentralized, verifiable data
The ability to verify that the queried data is complete (or is incomplete) – This is a bit more techy and a developer could probably provide a way better description of a specific use case where it adds value…
Use cases: problems and solutions
PROBLEM: Individuals are often required to furnish information about themselves but usually need to do so via some original/authentic artifact; this can be time-consuming.
SOLUTION: Securely store your sensitive data on Platform (drivers license, passport, certifications, addresses, birth certificate, DOB, etc) in a way that any other institution (govt agency, employers, background checks, etc) could gain access to all or specific information via your authorization. The authenticity of these artifacts can be verified just once (probably by some in-person event) instead of 100’s of times for every party that requires it.
Personal Data Storage
PROBLEM: Browsers, cookies, surveys, new accounts, credit cards, etc are all ways that companies can consume your data and use it to profit by selling it to some third party; users rarely benefit financially from these practices.
SOLUTION: Securely store all of your personal data on Platform (name, location, career, likes, dislikes, DOB, hobbies, credit card spending, etc) in a way that any other institution (marketing firm, retailers, etc) could gain access to all or specific information via your authorization. Users could require payment to release the data.
PROBLEM: Gaming platforms are often built on chains that are high cost (this reduces your earning power) and/or on chains that have coins that have limited utility other than to sell them for fiat.
SOLUTION: Use Dash (L1 & L2) to store gaming NFT’s at a low cost and to get paid with a coin that can be used for many other things in the real world.
Fleet Card Payment Network (this is not a small initiative…)
PROBLEM: Existing fleet card networks are very expensive (card fees, employee fees, reporting fees, etc) and they have challenges in some regions of the world getting payments cleared in a timely manner.
SOLUTION: Use Platform to create a custom payment network that allows fleets to manage transportation costs just like they do with existing providers but at a fraction of the cost and with instant payments.