Blockchain-like things

When all you have is a hasher…

BTC flows (Source: NYT)

Blockchains. Distributed ledger protocols. Bitcoin, bitmessage, and the paranoiac world of digital cryptocurrency

A placeholder for where I would write notes on distributed proof-of-work/proof-of-stake consensus protocols if I had any thoughts on such creatures, although I do not in actuality have anything independent to add, nor any deep insights here.

If I had thoughts on this, I would like the thoughts to be upon distributed proof-of-veracity protocols, which would be used by news media to verify witnesses and reality of the facts in their stories, which seems timely in the age of fake news, alternative facts, and easy simulation of fake shit. I wonder if a blockchain market mechanism could facilitate this. :man_shrugging:

If you actually want to use blockchains for their current dominant boring-but-useful purpose (currencies), see transferring money. There are many blockchains of this idea. Bitcoin may be the worst one, but it’s (still somehow?) dominant so you want it for those network effects.

There are various uses that are not financial.

Bitcoin as art is a thing. See Rob Myers on Blockchain Geometries

If you want to use blockchains for (partially) offline internet access for some reason, that is also a thing; see Zeronet, which uses blockchains to implement a certain kind of sneakernet.

Other interesting uses: augur, an online betting exchange. That feels more apposite, somehow.

Or constructing direct farmer-to-latte-sipper gourmet ethical coffee markets.

Arbitrary distributed apps seem to be heralded by initiatives like Blockstack.

Or: distributed energy markets:

RMI said that a main challenge of the electricity sector is to integrate more renewable energy in a cost-effective fashion in an environment with flat or even falling demand. RMI says the only way to do this is by automating the demand side (consumers) and by allowing many more participants in the grid. That means even more automation at the distribution edge, and integrating this automation with wholesale markets. Blockchain is one part of achieving this goal.

Morris points to at least two potentially significant outcomes. One involves fairly routine accounting by addressing daily issues around utility billing. Blockchain better enables utilities to use individual smart meters and virtual IDs to create a secure and verifiable billing system that can deftly handle dynamic price signals as electric demand changes throughout the day.

A perhaps more interesting idea, Morris says, envisions blockchain as better enabling peer-to-peer energy trading. Individual devices would bid into energy markets and either consume energy or release energy depending on market signals.

Given how much energy bitcoins waste for the planet, there is something pleasingly perverse in this idea. Although why blockchains in particular might solve the problem is mysterious to me. Surely global ledgers are not the appropriate vehicle for local transactions? Isn’t the whole point of markets leveraging local price signals?

Distributed browser ad markets?


The Coda protocol, blogged because it has an elegant cryptographic, zero knowledge proof setup, and there is some functional programming structure called snarky built atop it. It looks nice, but I don’t actually have time to digest it. One can build such cute things with it as verifiable elections. They keep a reading list.

It has some relationship in terms of technology to Zcash.


Not sure.

sk-SNARKS look interseting.


pegnet is a grassroot crypto trading network that seems to be propagating via meetups.

Cheaper bitcoins

Randomised consensus-less bitcoin. (???)


blockstack and the affiliated token Stacks is another blockchainy cryptocurrency that targets distributed applications. AFAICT the central concept if allocating ownership of data via blockchain. The data is still stored in a normal cloud provider via some blockchain-facing protocol called gaia. An example app is Trove a bookmarking app for the browser. I have not read far enough down the whitepaper to work out the details of this model - are the hosting costs paid by stacks tokens? etc.

Colakides, Yiannis, and Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam). 2019. State Machines: Reflections and Actions at the Edge of Digital Citizenship, Finance, and Art. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Fauzi, Prastudy, Sarah Meiklejohn, Rebekah Mercer, and Claudio Orlandi. 2018. “QuisQuis: A New Design for Anonymous Cryptocurrencies.” IACR Cryptology ePrint Archive 2018: 990.

Guerraoui, Rachid, Petr Kuznetsov, Matteo Monti, Matej Pavlovic, and Dragos-Adrian Seredinschi. 2019. “Scalable Byzantine Reliable Broadcast (Extended Version).” In.

King, Sunny, and Scott Nadal. 2012. “Ppcoin: Peer-to-Peer Crypto-Currency with Proof-of-Stake.” August.

Meckler, Izaak, and Evan Shapiro. n.d. “Coda: Decentralized Cryptocurrency at Scale,” 8.

Nakamoto, Satoshi. 2008. “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” Consulted 1 (2012): 28.

Parno, Bryan, Jon Howell, Craig Gentry, and Mariana Raykova. n.d. “Pinocchio: Nearly Practical Verifiable Computation.” V KF, 16.

Sasson, Eli Ben, Alessandro Chiesa, Christina Garman, Matthew Green, Ian Miers, Eran Tromer, and Madars Virza. 2014. “Zerocash: Decentralized Anonymous Payments from Bitcoin.” In 2014 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, 459–74. San Jose, CA: IEEE.