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Digibyte is an OG cryptocurrency. It has been kicking around in the top 40 cryptos by market cap for five years now, surviving the ICO wave where money flooded to projects that were built around hype and false expectations. Without any money, any paid ads, any company behind it—Digibyte has managed to survive and grow.
Now it has entered a new stage of development. Rather than stay a straightforward blockchain designed only for making payments, it has become a blockchain platform, similar to Ethereum. This means tokens—known as “DigiAssets”—can be built on Digibyte. Another key development is “Digi-ID,” which uses cryptographic signatures to replace passwords. The idea is to create a sort of universal sign in via Digibyte.
Digibyte’s founder, Jared Tate, was an early Bitcoin miner who used the proceeds he made when the Bitcoin price blew up to become self-sufficient. That enabled him to focus on Digibyte full time, Decrypt recently caught up with Tate to chat about his platform and where it’s headed.
What is Digibyte?
Digibyte is a community-built blockchain which aims to complement Bitcoin by being a fast and cheap alternative. Tate created it in 2014 and—like Bitcoin—is open source. Its core dev team has been expanding throughout the bear market, expanding from five members to around 12. A few of the devs are anonymous (even to Tate.)
"Here we are, five years later, we're still talking and working. I've never met any of them in person. Two of them, I don't even know their real name," he said.
One of the main selling points of Digibyte is that it uses five mining algorithms to protect the network. This means when a miner tries to earn the right to create the next block in its blockchain, they have to use different calculations to do so. This makes it much harder for mining farms—large warehouses full of powerful computers—to take control of the network, and thwarts single-algorithm-optimized ASICs from mining it. Other cryptocurrencies have taken note.
Said Tate: "That code we wrote back then has found its way into everything. Even Ethereum uses it with their adjustment system. Zcash pulled it up. It's in dozens of other top blockchains."
Digibyte has also pioneered a more efficient way to run a blockchain light client—a mobile app that contains a streamlined version of the blockchain that can run on a phone. While the Bitcoin blockchain contains much more data, Digibyte has a much higher number of blocks in its chain—which makes it harder to run a light client. Tate believes the technology behind the Digibyte light client will eventually be adopted by Bitcoin, once its blockchain gets big enough to need it.
What are DigiAssets?
Though for years, it's been technically possible to create a token on the DIgibyte platform, developers lacked easy to use tools. That's about to change.
“It's possible [to create DigiAssets] right now, but what we're wanting to do is build the easy to use tools and interfaces that will allow it to quickly scale out,” Tate said, adding, “the biggest key thing here is we've had the time to sit back, analyze, research and figure out how we could do things better, cleaner, more scalable, and more efficient.”
Pretty much any asset can be tokenized and put on a blockchain platform. Tate gives examples of physical assets like real estate; legal contracts such as wills and unique pieces of digital art. He said, “I've talked to people that are talking about doing everything from representing airplanes to race cars.”
“That's the beauty of using the cryptography behind the blockchain as you can limit digital items for the first time in the history of the Internet.”
One company already getting involved is San Diego-based Block 30 Labs. It’s building a suite of products on top of the Digibyte blockchain, including a marketplace for the exchange of digital assets.
Tate explained the Digibyte core team is working on adding support for Solidity, the programming language for decentralized applications (dapps) built on top of Ethereum. If this is implemented, then a dapp could be written in solidity but then ran on the Digibyte blockchain—a way of avoiding the congestions issues on Ethereum that happened in late 2017. This may appeal to developers who were considering building a dapp on Ethereum.
What is Digi-ID?
Digi-ID is an alternative to using passwords to sign into online applications. It works by using a blockchain-based signature. You generate the signature in the Digibyte app using the same private keys that keep your funds safe. This can then be used across any apps and platforms that support it, not just Digibyte dapps.
“Using almost the same system that allows you to sign a transaction on the Digibyte network, you can use those private keys to authenticate yourself to log into a website,” Tate explained.
This has a few benefits. It means you can use just one app to sign into a variety of applications—without giving any of them the same piece of data. The signatures are time sensitive and unique every time they’re created. That means if the website suffers a data breach—which does happen—it is less of a problem because the hacker can’t reuse the signatures to sign into anything, unlike passwords.
“The beautiful thing here is, it's open source. So there’s no company behind it. We really feel like—because it's using blockchain technology in such a unique way—we're going to see a fair amount of traction with it,” said Tate.
Digi-ID is actually based on an old-school of Bitcoin protocol, was created in 2014. The technology was trialled by payment processor BitPOS in 2016, but little progress has been made since then. Companies such as Antum, which allows users to create private and secure online identities, have started implementing the Digi-ID system and hope that it will spark a comeback of the idea.
Working with the community
One of the key things about Digibyte is that it has maintained a strong community following—which could be as large as a few hundred thousand people—which help to keep it running and growing as a network. Since there’s no big pool of money for the cryptocurrency—there was no ICO or company behind it—individuals have had to donate their time and effort to support the day-to-day things that have to be done to maintain it.
This has led to a sprawling, decentralized web of people that vaguely resembles a company. Some Digibyters have taken on responsibility for getting the token listed on exchanges—despite there being no money to pay for listing fees—while others have helped to manage communications, and provide support for people learning how to use the cryptocurrency.
This has led to hotspots in community activity across the world, with particular focus in North America and Europe, as well as in Japan, India and Latin America. Together the community has formed a Digibyte awareness team which helped to create the DigiByte Global Summit, occurring in Amsterdam next month.
“We're not here to hype Digibyte up, pump it up, and then, you know, just disappear,” Tate said, adding, “it's really taken on a life of its own and there's a very driven, dedicated community behind it.” Despite being an OG in the crypto game, Digibyte looks like it’s just getting started.