With Journalists on Ethereum, Will Fake News Meet Its Match?

Before discussing the launch of a blockchain platform for newsrooms, there was one thing I had to clear up with the Matt Coolidge, co-founder and communication lead at the Civil Media Company: was he planning to put me out of a job?

«Our visions of world domination stop short of disrupting CoinDesk,» he said.

A truce achieved, it was time to move onto the details.

Read further

Ripple Smart Contracts Creator Targets Ethereum with New Tech Launch

Ripple's former CTO Stefan Thomas is going up against Ethereum with the launch of a new smart contracts platform.

Well, «new» isn't quite right – the platform Thomas released implementations for today is Codius, an open-source project that Ripple released in beta in 2014 but shelved the following year. Now, though, having announced his departure from Ripple in May, Thomas is re-launching Codius as the technical backbone for his new company, Coil.

Using Codius, Coil aims to change the way websites monetize their content.

According to Thomas, monetizing web content has so far relied on clunky «workarounds» like ads, paywalls and user data harvesting (think Facebook's recent debacle). But his new project, by using Interledger, an open-source protocol that was developed inside Ripple for sending payments across different ledgers, plans to allow users' browsers to make micropayments to websites they visit.

Codius could enable use cases such as a «revenue disbursement contract,» which could take in revenue as people watch a movie and pay that money out to all the parties that made the movie – and not in batch payments, but little by little. Or a Codius smart contract could help news outlets and their readers interact in that it could manage readers' authorizations and subscriptions «and act as a sort of switching board for your money,» Thomas said.

The implementation released today comes with tutorials for uploading and hosting Codius smart contracts (uploaders pay hosts to run smart contracts on their computers), to try and push developers to start using the platform right away.

And already several developers have disclosed they'll be building on the platform, as revealed exclusively.

Telindus, an Luxembourg-based IT solutions subsidiary of the state-owned Belgian telecom Proximus Group, will use Codius to «push forward novel direct e-commerce models,» Telindus chief architect Thomas Scherer.

Josh Williams – who has previously invested in well-known game platforms Unity, Zynga and Kabam – said he'd be using Codius in new ventures, including a gaming company that is currently in stealth.

Williams told:

«Teams in games and elsewhere are building on Ethereum and running into the cost and scalability issues we're all familiar with. Codius has great potential in addressing these concerns, and we are eager to work with it.»

Thomas echoed that sentiment, saying that as Ethereum has demonstrated the viability of smart contract use cases, it has simultaneously shown the world its own vulnerabilities, as Ethereum-based applications continue to run into scaling difficulties.

In contrast to Ethereum, Codius was designed to allow developers to write smart contract code in any programming language and have the smart contracts work as «smart oracles,» communicating with outside data sources.

As such, Thomas said, Codius has an opening.

«The people that are reaching out to us are saying, 'Hey, we're experimenting on Ethereum. We're running into scalability issues. It's too expensive, too slow. It's not flexible enough. We don't like writing in this awkward language,'» he said.

What's changed?

So why did Ripple set Codius aside?

While Codius generated its share of buzz in early 2015, before Ethereum's mainnet was live, according to Thomas, the idea seemed premature. Ripple engineers touted the platform as a model for interoperability at the time, saying it was able to handle not just XRP – the cryptocurrency most closely associated with Ripple – but bitcoin, ether and fiat currencies.

But the project hit snags, however.

Adding smart contracts opened up new ways to attack the ledger, and the technical architecture was cumbersome. Speaking in 2015, Thomas said that building smart contracts into a blockchain was like writing software directly into a database – difficult.

The team realized, in a recent interview, that computer science had solved that problem in the 1970s by developing a three-tier architecture, in which a «logic layer» sits between the database and user interface layers.

Codius would serve as that middle layer, Thomas said, adding, «You would have a bit of code that's accessing some assets on XRP ledger, that's accessing some data that's in Ethereum, and maybe it's making an HTTP call and so you have a much more flexible architecture. And most importantly you can have those kinds of contracts call other contracts as well.»

But building that kind of platform required efficient communication between ledgers, something that wasn't available at the time, and so Ripple began developing the open-source Interledger Protocol to allow for this communication.

Plus, Thomas said:

«We just didn't feel like smart contracts was a very mature industry at that point…. Frankly, the use cases seemed somewhat dubious in value.»

As such, Codius was shelved. But now, three years later, Thomas' doubts about the value of such a smart contract platform have disappeared.

Rather, he sees Ethereum's scaling issues – expensive transactions and slow confirmation times – as signs that smart contracts are ready «to move away from the mainframes, move away from Ethereum and go over to a more flexible architecture that involves multiple different ledgers.»

Ethereum killer?

Codius, though, is hardly the only would-be Ethereum-killer to emerge over the past couple years.

All of these projects, like Codius, tout the ability to process faster and cheaper transactions, but there's typically a trade-off involved – either in terms of security or blockchain's defining benefit, decentralization.

EOS, for instance, a delegated proof-of-stake cryptocurrency project which is currently in the midst of launching on mainnet, promises faster, cheaper transactions, because the blockchain only needs to be verified by 21 validator nodes, not by the whole distributed community of miners as in Ethereum and bitcoin.

Thomas, though, argues that Codius' design enables developers to balance their own priorities, rather than having to accept the network's compromises as a given.

«You can choose the level of decentralization,» Thomas told. «If you upload it to four or five hosts, you'll have a decentralization level that's similar to Ethereum [and] you'll have a cost that's still orders of magnitude lower. Or you can upload it to 100 hosts, and you'll have a much greater level of decentralization than you can get with Ethereum.»

As it relates to security, Thomas argues, Codius has several advantages over Ethereum and other smart contract blockchains.

For one, the network is built on HyperContainer, an open-source project that uses Docker containers to isolate a given contract's code and minimize its vulnerabilities to attack. And secondly, Codius developers aren't locked into a nascent programming language like Solidity, which they're unlikely to know as well as JavaScript, for example.

«I think that a lot of the issues and compromises, big hacks and so on have been directly related to the fact that these are all new languages whose security's not very well understood,» said Thomas.

As for price, Thomas contrasts Ethereum's transaction costs – which can exceed 60 cents and even a dollar – with those of Amazon Web Services' Lambda platform, which costs 20 cents per million requests. AWS is centralized, but Thomas still expects Codius' costs to fall «between those two extremes.»

For Thomas, rolling out Codius is the first step towards building a standard protocol for monetizing web content, as well as the ecosystem around it. Eventually, Thomas believes firms might decide to host websites on Codius rather than AWS, with Coil serving as a kind of «Spotify, but in an open way» – a protocol connecting consumers, internet service providers, websites and content creators.

And while the code is still «rough,» Thomas remains optimistic that Codius will prove a step forward for developers writing smart contracts that solve problems for today's businesses.

He concluded:

«From a cost, scalability and security standpoint, as well as the flexibility … it's orders of magnitude more viable for mainstream use cases.»
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Josh Williams worked at Unity, Zynga and Kabam. He was an investor in those companies.

Testing for Ethereum's Coming Consensus Change Is Moving Ahead

A hotly anticipated change aimed at ridding ethereum of its bitcoin-inspired mining process is moving forward in testing, with the platform's popular software clients now participating in review.

Following on an April software release that saw the idea formalized in code, the upgrade looks to transition the world's second largest blockchain into a new way to keep those running its software in sync. However, the current iteration of the idea (called Casper FFG) finds ethereum's developers proceeding with a plan that would enable both its new and old consensus algorithms to work together to protect the network from unexpected attack vectors that may arise during the transition.

Under the proposal, smart contracts will link miners that secure the network with a new set of participants called «validators.»

Read further

Ethereum Classic Claims Successful Blockchain Fork

Ethereum classic has removed its so-called «difficulty bomb.»

Designed to increase the difficulty of mining its blockchain over time, the code was a feature of the original ethereum codebase (which later split into ethereum classic and ethereum) in 2016. The successful network upgrade took place at block 5,900,000, according to available network data and statements from developers involved in the project.

While it is difficult to account for exact percentages in terms of how many nodes updated their software (owing to a lack of available tools), developers involved with the project told CoinDesk that most exchange nodes and mining pools reported updating their software well before the fork.

There was no indication of any ill effects or bugs in the hours immediately after the fork. The upgrade is expected to reduce the amount of time it takes to create a block.

As such, the upgrade puts both technical and ideological distance between the ethereum classic and ethereum blockchains.

While the ethereum community remains committed to transitioning to a proof-of-stake consensus system, the ethereum classic community has elected to continue using proof-of-work, as its members contend that, of the various ways to achieve consensus over block validation, it resists centralization best.

More specifically, advocates argue that proof-of-work systems require their validators (miners) to continuously invest in hardware and therefore in the blockchain.

Deliberation on the fork started as early as 2016, and due to the extensive discussions, the upgrade was not expected to be controversial or complicated.

What to Expect When Ethereum Classic Diffuses Its 'Difficulty Bomb'

Ethereum classic (ETC) is set to fork in the coming days as part of a bid to diffuse a so-called 'bomb' in its code.

Set for block 5,900,000, the change, in which all users of the original ethereum blockchain will need to update their software, is meant to disable a feature that is designed to increase the difficulty of mining the protocol's rewards ahead of a shift to a new consensus algorithm.

Such changes, originally envisioned as part of the roadmap now continued by the ethereum blockchain, would render ETC mining unprofitable if allowed to persist.

Read further

A Daily Show Comedian Showed Up to Roast an Ethereum Conference

«No one knows what the fuck is going on.»

That's according to Ronny Chieng, senior correspondent on the satirical news program The Daily Show, who took the stage at Ethereal Summit on Saturday with ConsenSys founder and CEO Joseph Lubin and Kavita Gupta, founding managing partner at ConsenSys Ventures.

Chieng, who spoke with Lubin in December on the show, again criticized the big promises and hype of the industry. He argued that many people in the industry use complicated jargon and words that were «invented» two or fewer years ago to camouflage the fact that they don't actually know how the technology will change the world.

Read further

Moral Food: A Fish's Trek From 'Bait to Plate' on the Ethereum Blockchain

It's a little bit like «Finding Nemo» — except at the end, you get to eat the fish.

During the Ethereal Summit, hosted May 11-12 by ethereum startup/incubator ConsenSys in Queens, New York, attendees were given an immersive experience to highlight the benefits a blockchain could have of tracking goods as they move along the supply chain. While blockchain's use for supply chain management is being tested for a whole host of products by startups and tech heavyweights alike, during the summit, Viant, an ethereum-based supply chain management startup, focused on tuna.

The experience started by showing attendees a short documentary film called «Bait to Plate,» that charted the journey of a person-sized Yellowfin tuna caught in the waters off Fiji, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.

Read further

Ethereum Summit Attendees Commit to Governance Plan

Notable stakeholders in the ethereum community are pledging support for a governance plan produced by attendees of a recent conference focused on the technology.

Organizers behind the EIP:0 Summit committed to four new governance steps on Wednesday, according to a statement. Notably, Parity Technologies, Aragon and the Web3 Foundation have already pledged their support in signing the statement of intent.

As previously reported by CoinDesk, the two-day summit hosted earlier this month addressed governance issues in the ethereum ecosystem resulting from the network's growth and diversity of opinions on technical direction. At present, it is difficult to gauge sentiments among the different parties developing, investing in or securing the software.

To that end, the plan's signatories have committed to creating a statement of shared values for ethereum, supporting the creation of «open-source tools to collect key signals and metrics,» having a governance call every month and organizing a second, larger EIP:0 meeting.

Key signals include ethereum transaction volume, the number of deployed contracts, the number of GitHub contributions and other factors.

One way to incentivize that technological development could be through grants, the statement said.

Perhaps most notable, however, is the support that a second EIP:0 Summit is receiving.

For instance, Afri Schoedon, a developer and communications officer at Parity, said in a tweet that "[the Summit] must be as inclusive as possible. And if 350,000 people show up, we have to deal with it."

The statement similarly noted that a future summit would have to build on the existing model, including by «expanding opportunities for interaction from viewers not in physical attendance (time, location and participants to be determined).»

The full list of signatories to the statement includes L4 Ventures, developer Lane Rettig, Giveth founder Griff Green, Ethereum Foundation member Hudson Jameson and startup Gnosis.

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance Is Back - And It's Got a Roadmap to Prove It

Since its formation nearly a year and a half ago, it's safe to say that the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) has been quiet.

Apart from a steady stream of new members, there has been a lull of live projects, one that has led some to theorize the consortium might not deliver on standards for enterprise use of the world's second-largest blockchain. In a Medium post last month, for instance, the CTO of competing DLT consortium, R3, even went so far as to stake such a claim, contending that the lack of progress proves ethereum is unsuitable for enterprise.

Read further

Even Ethereum's Top Developers Think A Blockchain Split Might Be Inevitable

Ethereum may be on the brink of a blockchain split.

At least, that was the mood at a meeting of top ethereum developers late last week where a discussion around a code proposal called EIP-999 led some to speculate that the creation of two competing blockchains is now a possibility. Indeed, it's now believed the proposal, which which seeks a technical fix that would return $264 million in funds lost due to the error of their owners, is so contentious, a minority of users may chose to defect.

Those in favor of the proposal point to frequently lost ether due to buggy code, arguing that the platform should ensure against such mistaken losses. But on the other side, many warn that editing code after deployment could damage not only the security but also the integrity of the platform.
Read further