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Dash hasn’t been hanging around. In the last five years, it has lived up to its namesake and achieved everything from developing masternodes to humanitarian efforts and even a respectable market cap. It is now accepted at more than 4,000 merchants worldwide, you can buy it at 700 ATMs and get hold of it on 90 exchanges. But how did it get to be this ubiquitous?
It started on January 18, 2014, when Evan Duffield—an early Bitcoin adopter—took the code from Litecoin and forked the network to create Dash, making a few improvements as he did so. He changed the algorithm from SHA-256—which Bitcoin and Litecoin use—to the X11 algorithm, making it ASIC-resistant, which prevents more powerful computers mining all the coins. At launch, it was originally called Xcoin but this was changed to Darkcoin--due to a name conflict with a service that allows users to buy Bitcoin on credit--to remind would-be users of its secretive credentials, it’s harder for observers to use blockchain records to track payments. As a result, it gained popularity in countries with despots for leaders, like Venezuela.
Due to hyperinflation--and the government’s appaling management of the economy--the Venezuelan petro’s value has fallen off a cliff. When paired with the government’s blockade of foreign currencies like the dollar being used by citizens, cryptocurrencies have become a viable alternative. Even though Dash decreased in value 92 percent during 2018, it outperformed the beleaguered petro, which has an inflation rate of 150,000 percent. Today, Dash has become one of the most widely adopted currencies in the region—there are more than 2,500 merchants that can accept the currency, you can see the list of merchants here. While the network has become a safe haven for Venezuelans, Dash has been showcasing how fast a cryptocurrency can evolve.
Five months into its launch, masternodes were launched taking it further from its bitcoin roots. Masternodes require miners to lock up a certain portion of Dash in order to receive block rewards from processing blocks. This incentivizes users to stay honest, and also, has helped Dash to become one of the few networks to not succumb to a 51% attack—unlike Ethereum Classic. While it’s been free from thieves, it’s also been free from commercial pressure.
In late 2015, Dash became self-funding. By introducing superblocks—which gives a recurring payment to the core development team—it no longer relied on the interests of third parties to keep it in the black. Traditionally, cryptocurrencies are either created by for-profit companies or have part-time developers who have to maintain other jobs to pay their rent. Without funding, the developers have less ability to spend time on protecting the network and responding to attacks. But Dash isn’t an exclusive members club: anyone is able to submit proposals for the network and compete for up to 10 percent of the reward.
While Duffield remained in the driving seat for the majority of the cryptocurrency’s existence—raising questions over how centralized the network really is--in April 2017, he stepped down into an advisory role. This devolution in power went one step further when the Dash Core Group, a steering committee for the network, handed over control of its assets and intellectual property to the Dash DAO—an automated governance mechanism. This meant Dash became under full control of the DAO—although legal experts question this. Way to go Dash!
So as the candles are blown out and everyone overloads on cake, what’s next for Dash? More of the same, it looks like. As well as making it easier for customers to connect to merchants—for subscriptions and direct debits—it is introducing a new light client. The wallet will connect directly to the Dash Network, meaning the user doesn’t have to rely on a third party to instigate payments on their behalf. A sure footed move for a network that’s light on its feet.