Elixxir Selects BetaNet Nodes

By The Elixxir Team, June 21, 2019.

Today marks an important milestone for Elixxir, reached with the help of the wider Elixxir community. Thank you to everyone who submitted a questionnaire, applied to run a node, and participated in the Node Forum. We are honored by your support, and motivated to pursue the Elixxir vision laid out by David Chaum, our Founder and CEO.

An important part of that vision is building a global community of node runners, so we are proud to announce: Elixxir has selected 600 node applicants to be part of our BetaNet program.

What is the Elixxir BetaNet?

The role of the BetaNet is best understood in the context of Elixxir’s larger development agenda. Our path forward consists of three stages: an AlphaNet, a BetaNet, and a MainNet. We are building these stages concurrently; this summer we are simultaneously launching the public AlphaNet and preparing the BetaNet for launch in the fall. Each stage brings us closer to achieving Elixxir’s vision of a decentralized, metadata-protecting platform that combines privacy and scalability.

A helpful comparison is the NASA manned space missions of the 1960s, which were grouped into the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Each program achieved important milestones, but it was Apollo that fulfilled President Kennedy’s vision of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Similarly, it will be Elixxir’s MainNet that fulfills Elixxir’s full vision. And just as NASA’s Gemini program was ultimately a stepping stone towards Apollo, so is Elixxir’s BetaNet a stepping stone towards MainNet.

Our engineering team has identified three primary challenges for Elixxir to master to achieve a fully decentralized, metadata-protecting platform:

  1. Launch and maintain a public-facing cMix platform
  2. Configure a scalable and dynamic network
  3. Achieve a sustainable, decentralized consensus structure

The BetaNet will be focused on accomplishing the second of these challenges. This means that our node selection decisions flow from this mission focus.

What Elixxir needs from nodes, and how we have chosen them

As we have reviewed node applications, the Elixxir team has been impressed by the quality of the submissions and the passion and excitement of applicants for Elixxir’s work on decentralized privacy. We were moved to design the BetaNet program in a way that provides meaningful involvement for as many node applicants as possible.

The BetaNet will initially run a cMix network with five-node teams. To minimize latency, we have divided most of the world into five geographic bins. Each five-node team will have a member from each of the five geo-bins. This means a balance among the five geo-bins is important early in the BetaNet.

As we make progress with the BetaNet we will build support materials for node runners such as setup guides, troubleshooting manuals, and other documentation. But at the outset these tools won’t be in place. While we deliberately chose nodes with diverse backgrounds and experiences, we also placed an emphasis on experienced node runners and applicants who have demonstrated initiative and enthusiasm on the Node Forum, Discord and Telegram channels, and on other social media platforms.

Elixxir will also work to build flexibility into the BetaNet so that nodes of different capability levels can be supported, but this flexibility may initially be limited. Accordingly, as part of this first step, we sought node applicants able to meet the specifications we published in January.

While we hope to make as much progress as possible in helping node runners develop expertise during the BetaNet, our actions will be guided by the overarching goal of preparing for a successful MainNet, rather than creating the perfect BetaNet.

These considerations guided our selections for the BetaNet node program.

The three groups of the Elixxir BetaNet node program

The Blue Group consists of 150 nodes, with 30 from each of the five primary geographic bins (the Western United States and Canada, the Eastern United States and Latin America, Western Europe and Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Asia). Members of this group will work in the initial phases of the BetaNet, and will have the earliest timeline for participation.

The White Group consists of 160 nodes, with 30 from the five primary geographic bins and 10 from Oceania. Members of the White Group should expect to be brought online as BetaNet development continues, and will also constitute a “ready reserve” to draw from if Blue Group members are unable to continue in the program.

The Teal group consists of 290 nodes who met Elixxir standards in completing the node application. Members of the Teal Group will work on the BetaNet as development continues, with a focus on adversarial testing, including “red team” assignments.

In recognition of their important contributions to Elixxir, members of these three groups will be eligible for the following incentives and privileges:

  • Exclusive access to Elixxir software in development
  • Membership in a Discord node community, including regular Q&A chats with Elixxir team
  • Special missions on the Prelixxir Access List
  • Invitations to exclusive Elixxir events and happy hours
  • A cryptographically signed certificate of appreciation and recognition that the applicant is an early and valued contributor to the Elixxir node program

Next steps for group members, and our way forward

The Elixxir team will be publishing a detailed roadmap for the BetaNet in a couple of weeks. This timetable will include milestones for each group such as a deadline to “opt in” to participate, when equipment should be purchased, and when capability will need to be demonstrated. Before asking node runners to formally commit their time and resources, Elixxir will define the standard for successfully running a BetaNet node, and incentives for doing so.

In the meantime, all members of the Elixxir community will want to follow the launch of the public AlphaNet this summer. The best way to take part is by downloading the Prelixxir app to your smartphone.

-The Elixxir Team