An Open & Transparent Beginning

By The Elixxir Team, January 22, 2019.

The opening of our questionnaire  marks the first of many steps toward MainNet rollout of the Elixxir platform. If you are a member of our Node Community, or have seen our  Press Release, you will have read on Friday that the selection of our initial BetaNet Nodes is a 6 Step process that is “driven by the community”. (If this is your first exposure to the Elixxir BetaNet Node Selection process, please review the selection process info here)

“Community” has become a bit of an overused buzzword — both in blockchain and other industries — so with this post we intend to clearly detail what “driven by the community” really means within the context of Elixxir’s BetaNet Selection process.

First, some background on why we decided to take this approach.

As new full-stack blockchains have risen with claims of high transaction speeds intended to foster mainstream adoption — blockchains like Avalanche, EOS, and others — all have taken roughly the same strategy regarding governance. Some iteration of a limited set of nodes with skin in the game to lose should they end up as bad actors intent on wrecking the system. This includes non-PoS systems like DASH, as well as PoS systems like Algorand, as the stake acts as a limiting factor for participating in the network, and devaluing the currency devalues the stake. There’s a reason they have all taken this approach: It’s the only way for blockchain technology to provide the consumer utility & scale required of a real technology with mass adoption. Even Ethereum has accepted this inevitability and has publicly committed to switching over to stake-selected validators with a more efficient and scalable model via Casper.

The concept of Bitcoin mining was instrumental to getting this industry going. Allowing anyone wishing to take part in the network and simply begin operating a node at will to support the system allowed for the widespread participation we’ve seen since 2009. But the concept of mining has proven to have critical issues. Attempting to use such a network at mass consumer scale burns up massive amounts of energy. Also, ironically, the rise of Bitcoin’s value and the cascade of funding poured into the industry has made mining almost antithetical to it’s goal of a decentralized form of governance. A consolidated few have been able to dominate mining due to iniquities in energy supply, financing, internet connectivity, etc. These iniquities are multiplied in purely stake-based systems, where a larger stake provides outsized influence over consensus. The solution to this is a vetted-set model which rewards operators who have skin in the game, but doesn’t allow deep pockets to effectively purchase control of the network.

But the vetted-set approach raises a very legitimate and fundamental question: Can a platform claim to be distributed, open, and unpermissioned, if the developing team retains centralized authority over the vetting?

This is one aspect where Elixxir parts ways with other vetted-set full-stack blockchain platforms.

Previously, many new platform teams have made unilateral decisions on governance, then launched that governance into the world to see if it would work. We believe the technology built with Elixxir is far too important to enforce our own set of rules upon the public without feedback or input. For this reason, our BetaNet test is designed as a semi-curated phase where we can refine the governance of this open process and incorporate feedback from those who will ultimately support the MainNet system.

For the BetaNet, we are laying out an extremely open selection process where anyone interested in operating a node can help shape the process by which nodes are selected. Interested operators can then participate in each step of the selection process they themselves helped create. This process begins with our  questionnaire. The questionnaire will remain open from today, January 21st, through 11:59pm PST on Monday, February 4th. February 5th to February 17th will be used to analyze questionnaire results to determine decision making criteria; the raw, anonymized questionnaire data will then be published for public consumption on February 15th.

The targeted timeline for the following 5 steps are found below:

  • Step 2: Application — February 18th to April 19th. The application along with finalized node requirements will be made available for submissions
  • Step 3: Initial Screening — April 20th to May 8th
  • Step 4: Publish Applications —May 9th
  • Step 5: Initial Decision and Public Discussion — May 20th to June 10th. By June 3rd an initial set of selected nodes will be published for public review & feedback, which will end June 10th. June 10th will also be the final due date for the dispute resolution process.
  • Step 6: Final Decision — June 11th to June 21st. By June 21st the set of initial BetaNet nodes will be published in accordance with community input.

As with any project encompassing mass public participation, circumstances may arise requiring some flexibility to the above dates. Should reason require adjustments to the targeted timeline, the Elixxir team will publicly update that timeline as soon as a revised date is estimated.

Upon conclusion of this 6 step selection process we will then launch the BetaNet this summer, 2019 on top of the community-selected BetaNet Nodes. If our community-driven selection process is successful, these BetaNet node operators will be qualified participants who will be essential to testing & scaling the Elixxir technology platform for the first time outside of a lab-environment.

We believe this to be the absolute most fair way to launch a new full-stack blockchain intent on reaching the scale required for mainstream adoption. By leveraging the efficiency of vetted sets of node operators with skin in the game, and opening up their selection to the community-at-large, we intend to launch Elixxir as transparently & equitably as possible.

There is also some historical precedence for this methodology. Nowadays people tend to think of the internet as a public utility akin to the electric power grid or plumbing or running water. But there was a time early-on when this wasn’t the case, and attempts to standardize access to the Internet were high-stakes, and highly-contested. A new organization, the IETF, (Internet Engineering Task Force) emerged to help manage early standardization efforts and implement a methodology which, despite attempts by virtually every major Information Technology corporation to influence Internet standards in their own favor, ultimately led to the standard that brought us the Internet.

Our community-driven selection process draws from the IETF’s early methodology to create a robust, high-quality procedure for reaching agreement on this first vetted-set of BetaNet nodes. And the  questionnaire is the first small, but pivotal, step in this test-run as we work up to MainNet release.

So please join us in taking this first step, evangelize this first step to others so we can incorporate their early feedback, and get ready for Step 2, the first Application stage, on February 18th!

The Elixxir Team