Voice, a token/rewards-based social network being developed by Block.one, has reportedly switched away from running on the EOS public blockchain. Observers noted its recent FAQ page now says its beta phase “will be run on a purpose-made EOSIO blockchain.” Block.one has protested that media reports of their intentions are inaccurate, but it represents a hiccup in confidence for the EOS mainnet, which has at times staggered under the weight of third-party applications.
Blockchain media site CoinDesk reported the change on January 17, 2020, noting the following quote from Voice’s FAQ: “In time, we would like Voice to leverage the EOS Public Blockchain, and potentially others that can meet the performance and governance demands of Voice.”
The wording of that statement is curious, suggesting a vaguer wish to “leverage” the public EOS chain at an indeterminate future point, but also leaving the option open to use an alternate implementation.
Block.one says reports are ‘misleading’
Block.one CEO Brendan Blumer tweeted that CoinDesk’s report was inaccurate, saying the EOSIO implementation was only for Voice’s beta testing phase. Using a public chain remains necessary for transparency and censorship resistance, he wrote.
Feb 14 is a technical beta where we can test and iterate. In the future, publishing to public chains will diversify moderation and strengthen censorship resistance. We let Coindesk know their article was misleading, but they refused to edit. Let’s fix journalism with your #Voice
— Brendan Blumer (@BrendanBlumer) January 18, 2020
Blumer’s words reflect Block.one’s initial announcement in June 2019. In its press release, Block.one had said: “Being built on the EOS Public Blockchain, which runs on the EOSIO protocol, means that interactions on Voice will be public, allows for transparency to be a core part of the experience. Everyone–the user, to contributor, the platform–plays by the same rules. No hidden algorithms, no invisible interests.”
Transparency on a public ledger is indeed important, particularly for a social network aiming to combat the shortcomings of closed-system options currently available. However the system also needs to work, and maintain its ability to scale alongside other applications that may join the chain.
Both EOS and Ethereum have experienced past difficulties with applications that strain computing resources (sometimes deliberately), like EIDOS on EOS, and CryptoKitties on Ethereum.
EOS, EOSIO and Block.one
To understand the significance of these claims, EOS’s structure needs some explaining. ‘EOS’ is the native token powering a public blockchain that runs on the EOSIO (eos.io) software protocol, a Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPOS) system. It is designed to run smart contracts and distributed applications (DApps).
Private company Block.one developed the EOSIO software which it released in June 2018, although anyone may create another implementation of it for private or public use. Such implementations include the independently-developed Telos.
Since Block.one developed the software that runs the EOS public blockchain, any move away from it for a marquee application like Voice would reduce overall confidence in the network. For this reason, it remains likely Voice will use the EOS public chain for at least some of its functions.
The importance of scalability and stability
Debate has raged online over the years on whether smart contract platforms like Ethereum and EOS can scale to the levels they need to be useful to large-scale projects. For Ethereum in particular, it supposedly depends on a major upgrade named “Caspar,” which would radically shift Ethereum’s mining algorithm from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS).
Switching the main protocol from PoW to PoS (as EOS uses already) also represents a fundamental change in economic incentives for the miners who keep a blockchain secure. PoS’s main claim is that it’s more energy-efficient than PoW. Others, including Dr. Craig Wright, argue that only PoW can keep a blockchain truly secure, since power rests with those who’ve invested large amounts of time, energy and money in their operations. PoS awards voting power (including the power to change the protocol itself) proportionally to the number of coins a user holds. Those coins can change hands easily, and the party controlling them at any given time cannot be 100% identified.
Large enterprises have also indicated that a stable protocol is essential to consider building any application on a blockchain. Moving from PoW to PoS, especially on an uncertain timeline, is anything but stable.
Bitcoin Satoshi Vision has demonstrated it can scale to any dimensions while still using a PoW system. Its unlimited block size protocol will activate on February 4, 2020, with “Genesis,” and soon after the basic protocol rules will be “set in stone”, unable to be altered by anyone.
While questions over EOS and Ethereum’s scalability and/or stability remain, those blockchains will struggle to gain enough traction to compete with more closed technologies. Following Genesis, Bitcoin BSV will begin to target large enterprise users with a platform that also enables complex smart contracts and tokenization, on a “universal ledger of truth” open to anyone. Maybe the Voice should just build their product on BSV, it was designed to scale massively and is ready today.
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