During the past week, as is frequently the case on crypto Twitter, people lost their minds. This time it was because prominent Bitcoin personality, Rodolfo Novak shared a photo showing Novak, Adam Back (Blockstream CEO) and Justin Sun (Tron's beloved founder) together at the annual Satoshi Roundtable conference, hinting—read trolling—at a collaboration between Tron and the Blockstream Liquid Network. The reaction from many in the Ethereum community was one of considered, well-reasoned responses....
Lol. No, of of course it wasn't!
For those new to this circus, many of the vocal supporters of Ethereum, and in particular DeFi products on Ethereum have been upset that Udi Wertheimer, an Israeli bitcoiner (full disclosure: I’ve met Udi in real life, and he’s cool), has been stirring the pot for at least a few months.
Anyway, regardless of where you stand on Ethereum, Tron, or Justin Sun, I decided to see what was cooking in terms of DeFi on Tron. Or as Justin Sun put it, I decided it was time to:
Getting started with Tron
Because I didn’t have a Tron wallet, I asked around on Twitter and found some resources for both, which led me to TronLink. It appears to be very similar to Ethereum MetaMask, which I’m quite comfortable with using. So I set that up, and headed over to a centralized exchange to buy some TRX (Tron’s native currency).
Now that I had nearly 2000 TRX (about $47 at the time of writing), I was well on my way to exploring what Tron had to offer.
Perhaps due to it being a relatively small project, when compared to Ethereum, I was not familiar with what the larger Tron DeFi projects were. So I asked the Twitter hive mind (and our friend Udi) for help.
Finding Tron DeFi projects
A number of people highlighted something called the Bankroll Network. I headed over to take a look.
After spending a few minutes clicking around the website, I failed to understand what the projects did, and how they operated. Most appeared to offer some kind of airdrop, betting or multi-level marketing scheme. And while I’m all about taking extraordinary risks, none of these quite piqued my fancy.
So I spent some time on Google searching for Tron DeFi, and found a few other resources which spoke about lending, and options trading oriented DeFi products on Tron. This got me excited, but alas such jubilation was short lived after finding several dead links and 404s.
A few helpful Twitterers pointed me towards something called Tronprime, so I went to check it out.
Visually it looked much more to my taste, and used some familiar financial terms like “deposit” and “reinvestment.” In all cases, it seemed good enough.
I deposited 1000 TRX (~$23.5), and my wallet took me through a confirmation process, which seemed very similar to the one on MetaMask. There were some UX improvements, including the ability to turn off automatic signing, something I’m not aware of on MetaMask. It’s a useful feature as it prevents the dapp from taking unauthorized sums.
Steep deposit fees
I confirmed the transaction, and whoosh! My TRX was over to Tronprime. Unlike Ethereum, Tron does not use mining, and relies on a distributed proof of stake consensus mechanism. They argue that it’s cheaper and faster. In this case, it appeared that it was the case (though there are a lot of factors there).
After the money had moved, I noticed that I had already lost 20%. Maybe I should have read up on what I was doing first? But as they say, “time is money,” and in this case my 2 minutes was 200 TRX.
I looked up the FAQs on Tronprime, and saw that they charge 20% fees for deposits. Well good news is that it’s accounted for, but 20% is steep.
The next thing I noticed is that I really had no idea what the money was doing to earn a return. They talked about investing into other projects, and games. After searching for several of them, I was still confused, and fairly certain that it would be a good idea to not ask more questions.
I still had approximately 1000 TRX laying around, and decided that I might as well try something else. So I headed over to Polonidex, the decentralized exchange offered by Poloniex, which was purchased by Justin Sun last year.
While I’m not here to give design advice, the Windows 98 vibe and random assortment of fonts was a bit off putting, but the 1000 TRX were burning a hole in my pocket. So I decided to put half into Bittorrent token, and another quarter of my remaining stash into Tron’s Tether.
After a few more confirmations on the TronLink wallet, I was bag holding several Tron tokens.
Behold! The Tronscan block explorer
With that done, I decided to check out the transactions on the Tronscan block explorer, and came across several terms which were unfamiliar, including energy and bandwidth.
After several minutes of reading up, I am still unclear on exactly what they are.
What I do know is that they make up the transaction fees, which as it turns out were very inexpensive, generally less than a penny. In addition, everything happened pretty quickly, usually confirming within a few seconds.
Tron DeFi: The bottom line
So what were my overall impressions?
While I came into this really expecting there to be tumbleweeds, Tron does have a number of tools that were easy enough to use for anyone with an understanding of Ethereum or Bitcoin browser extension wallets. And despite some interesting UI choices, the projects I used, objectively functioned. What’s more? The user experience was fairly clean, didn’t have to guess about gas prices, didn’t have a reverted transaction. It just worked.
I didn’t really find anything novel or interesting for me, and may have inadvertently invested in a Ponzi scheme. That said, Tron itself didn’t appear to be anything people should go apoplectic over at the mere utterance of its name. Despite the hubbub, today there don’t appear to be projects on Tron that seek to truly mimic more traditional financial products, like lending and derivatives. And in spite of all of this there does seem to be at least a small community of friendly, helpful people who honestly believe in this platform.
I guess in conclusion I’ll say that even if you don’t take Tron seriously, disprove of Bitcoiners’ antics and the cringey marketing with Justin Sun’s face plastered everywhere, the apps I tried on the Tron network worked.
The views and opinions expressed by the author are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial, investment, or other advice.