Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has built a new protocol for a “decentralized” Web that, he hopes, will de-fester the Internet of its Silicon Valley invigilators. The platform, called “Solid,” protects users’ data in a personal online data store, or “pod,” which is only accessible to the user. Messages, documents, photos, and the like can all be accessed seamlessly, without Nosy Zuck peering in and taking notes. No mention of blockchain, though.
It’s easy to see why. Blockchain networks are themselves engaged in a life-or-death struggle with a cabal of unappointed power brokers. Take the miners. Amid concerns over an imbalance of mining power on the Ethereum network, top Ethereum security developer Martin Holst Swende has proposed a new update—to be implemented alongside the coming “Constantinople” hard fork—that would render ASIC chips, the processing units widely used by powerful mining conglomerates, “unstable.” Dubbed ProgPoW, the update is hoped to drive heavyweight miners away and reinstate the authority of the guys doing it in their mothers’ basements.
Bitcoin miners, meanwhile, just averted a full-body slam in Montana, where cheap electricity prices have caused mining farms to flourish —to the chagrin of locals, who aren’t keen on the sleepless, unrelenting drone of ASIC fans ruining their lives. But instead of imposing a year-long moratorium, as the distressed locals hoped, the local government is instead investigating how it might regulate the problem away, as well as, er, whether it actually can regulate anything in the first place. Naturally, the mining companies, in their undying respect for community values, have dragged in a salvo of lawyers to challenge the local government’s prerogative.
Last and definitively least of the mining stories is “One Musician’s Creative Solution to Drive ASICs off Monero.” Howard Chu, an Irish fiddle player who moonlights as a Monero core developer, believes his new proof-of-work algorithm, “JSRandom,” will stave off Bitmain-type mining giants from Monero’s privacy-focused network by “randomizing” the puzzles that miners must solve to resolve blocks and earn crypto rewards. Without a single puzzle format for which ASIC manufacturers can create one-size-fits-all software upgrades, they’ll just have to hunker down and work it through case by case like the rest of us. Well not us, per se —we at Decrypt have parties to attend.
Beyond the miners, centralization in its myriad other forms is proving a pain. Noble, the Puerto Rican bank that backs “stablecoin” Tether, is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy and is “desperate” for cash. That, naturally, would jeopardize the $2 billion Tether currently holds in Noble’s vaults as collateral. Yet Tether investors, apparently, won’t cough up. If Tether wants a stablecoin, it first needs a stablebank. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal uncovered $88 million-worth of laundered funds on crypto exchanges globally, with $9 million of that purportedly coming from decentralized exchange Shapeshift alone. At best that’s embarrassingly negligent. At worst? We'll see. More and more exchanges are getting caught red handed fiddling with their trade volumes to create the illusion of liquidity. This does not look like it's heading to a happy ending.
What we need, then, is to give more power to the people. If they can afford it.