SelfKey, a blockchain-based digital identity system specializing in decentralized control of personal data, continues to tick off milestones as they strive to become the self-sovereign identity ecosystem.
Founded by industry leader, Edmund Lowell, and backed by a team of over 70 individuals, SelfKey is making real inroads in the digital identity space. Users can also access a broad range of products and services such as citizenship and residency by investment, company incorporation, fintech products, among others.
Their latest announcement is that they have begun testing an Alpha version of their Identity Wallet.
The SelfKey Identity Wallet is a desktop application that aims to take the difficulty out of current digital identity usage. Issues like data breaches are common and current KYC processes are slow, onerous, and insecure. Through an innovative use of blockchain technology, SelfKey is allowing people to have a reusable KYC profile that is under their control alone.
Although this is just an Alpha test, users will be able to create a SelfKey ID, a two-part KYC profile that includes both “attributes” and “documents”.
Documents are personal identifiers such as a driver’s license, social security card, utility bill or financial statement. Attributes are pieces of data that help substantiate a digital identity. Examples include name, date of birth, email, address or tax ID numbers.
Security is at the heart of this wallet’s design and the above-mentioned data points are stored on the owner’s device and only shared with express consent from the owner.
The wallet has a number of other notable functionalities and supports Ethereum-based tokens. This means that users can transact in ETH or KEY (SelfKey’s native token) and they can also track their portfolio’s performance using pricing data pulled from the CoinMarketCap API.
In keeping with the current Alpha stage of development, SelfKey is carrying out a controlled and selective distribution of its wallet to members of its community. The aim is to get real user feedback and improve the UX before the product is rolled out to the public. SelfKey is still testing additionally functionalities internally.
The initial testing group consists of 40 community members
SelfKey Founder Edmund Lowell had this to say about recent developments:
We are tremendously excited to start sharing the work done during these last months with our community. For us, it is a very important step to know their opinion and it will serve us as a safe way to improve our product and make it more user-friendly. Although we are satisfied with the work done these last three months, this is only the beginning. We keep working very hard with our partners to integrate the SelfKey wallet with their platform, in addition to actively seeking new partnerships to increase the SelfKey Wallet and KEY token utility, and the value offered to our community as quickly as possible.
SelfKey raised upwards of $21 million dollars during its token sale, and they’ve been extremely active ever since. Unlike many in the blockchain space, SelfKey already has a functional product, they have a KYC onboarding web app and have collaborated on a number of other token sales, most notably Airswap, CoinJanitor and Invox Finance.
SelfKey has also established some strategic partnerships with Kyber Network, Polymath, and LEXIT. They’ve also branched out and developed ties with some non-blockchain companies such as the corporate services provider NTL Trust and two Caribbean international banks, both of which plan to offer services in the SelfKey marketplace.
The SelfKey marketplace is one of the functionalities that is still being ironed out internally. Once complete, it will allow users to go through instant KYC processes for a range of products and services at the heart of investing and financial maneuvering. These include cryptocurrency exchange accounts, bank accounts, immigration by investment programs and company incorporation.
If you’d like a closer look at the SelfKey Marketplace, a demo is available on their official website.
Can ‘Dogfooding’ Altcoins Find Real Users in 2020?
This post is part of CoinDesk’s 2019 Year in Review, a collection of 100 op-eds, interviews and takes on the state of blockchain and the world. Leigh Cuen is a reporter with CoinDesk. These are her personal views.
If 2017 was the token boom and late-2018 was a crypto winter, then 2019 was the year of “dogfooding,” or “using your own product.”
Throughout 2019, leaders from more than a dozen leading crypto projects told me they were distributing tokens to stimulate usage, development, and growth. Which raises the question: If companies are giving tokens away, do they have a legitimate business with organic demand? So far, it appears there’s more supply than take-up for many altcoins.
As a reporter, I can sympathize that the crypto industry is still struggling to find a target audience beyond speculation-driven traders. In some ways, airdrops are reminiscent of how newspapers sometimes boost their circulation by dumping free copies into the hands of commuters. Sure they’ve distributed more papers, but to what gain?
Just to list one example of token hopium announcements from 2019: Ripple’s investment arm Xpring gave over 1 billion XRP tokens in a bid to foster a community of “creators, consumers and strategic partners.”
It’s these sort of moves that inspire blockchain consultant Maya Zehavi to define dogfooding as “when an organization uses its funds to eat its own product,” or when “when investors double down to fund projects that build on a protocol in their portfolio.”
“It reeks to me of desperation,” Blockstream engineer Warren Togami said of token incentives. “Marketing didn’t work, so instead they’re throwing money at the problem assuming competent developers and use cases that make sense will magically appear.” He thinks dogfooding is more successful when it isn’t strictly reliant on monetary incentives.
“What I’ve seen with both Linux from the late 90s and early 2000s, and Bitcoin, is the top developers are those who were passionate about working on it before money was offered. They cared most about the problems they were trying to solve,” he said.
Free or open source software projects, including Linux and Bitcoin Core operated according to different principles than simply giving tokens away, Togami, Red Hat alumnus and open source greybeard, said.
“Bitcoin had only volunteers for years, then more recently people working full time sponsored by companies, but with independence to do whatever is the right thing to for bitcoin,” Togami said speaking of Square Crypto, Chaincode Labs, DG Lab, Blockstream, and several others.
Other projects like the Neo Foundation operate a circle of companies using its technology and assets (formerly Antshares). The projects all rely on NEO. Meanwhile, horizontally-integrated projects like the ethereum-centric ConsenSys mesh dominate the broader cryptocurrency industry.
Shake my hand, I’ll shake yours
Few projects are relying on developers to “dogfood” new software quite like Handshake, a project spearheaded by co-creator of bitcoin’s lightning network, Joseph Poon, Purse CEO Andrew Lee, and Private Internet Access founder Andrew Lee, just to name a few.
Handshake was in development throughout 2019 and is expected to launch a mainnet in 2020.
Today, certificate authorities like GoDaddy dominate the market for buying and proving ownership of website domains. Handshake believes it can reduce the power of such centralized authorities while helping us evade government censorship.
The plan is to airdrop roughly $100 million worth of Handshake tokens at launch to thousands of developers with active GitHub accounts. Meanwhile, Coinbase is considering listing Handshake tokens on its exchange.
Investor and contributing developer Steven McKie, founding partner of the venture firm Amentum and co-founder of the independent Handshake Alliance consortium, told CoinDesk this strategy will accelerate the decentralization of Handshake’s blockchain network.
“We all have a for-profit incentive…to build the infrastructure,” McKie said, referring to exchanges and freelance developers who will receive the airdrop. “We can all bring in our different skill-sets and networks to make this thing whole, widespread on the first day.”
Primitive Ventures co-founder Eric Meltzer told CoinDesk his firm will run a Handshake node at launch. New startups such as the crypto exchange Namebase.io and the developer tools startup Urkel both plan to launch alongside the Handshake mainnet. VC firms like
But it’s questionable if there’s organic demand for the product among developers with the skills to develop protocols related to the internet’s core infrastructure. A token can only incentivize someone who wants it. Farsight Security CTO Ben April, who specializes in security solutions at the startup spearheaded by DNS (Domain Name System) co-creator Paul Vixie, said he’s not optimistic about Handshake because it doesn’t address surveillance of a censored website’s traffic.
“There’s a historical pattern where a new technology comes along and someone says I can apply this to DNS,” April told CoinDesk. “DNS is the wrong technology for [censorship resistance] …If I’m able to watch the network you’re on, I’m able to see you are getting there anyway.”
April doesn’t see much need for Handshake. Certificate authorities are already pretty diverse and open source efforts led by groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force are slowly addressing security concerns without any tokens or extra work maintaining a duplicate namespace. He thinks the process is already more decentralized than Handshake can offer in the short-term, and, even in the long-term, he doubts the benefits of Handshake would outweigh the hassle.
A token can’t create value, although it might help facilitate interactions on a network if players were to already believe it has value.
“Re-factoring everything I’m doing to a new model would require that the new model be clearly, head and shoulders, more valuable than what I have today,” April said. “I need to see critical mass.”
Requiring “critical mass” to succeed is precisely the challenge underlying the search for “mainstream adoption.”
It did not come in 2019, and I would be surprised if the Blockchain Fairy Godmother suddenly plops it on our doorstep in 2020. That’s why ConsenSys engineer Shayan Eskandari is talking to the incumbent nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) about Handshake and other groups associated with core internet protocols.
Although CoreDNS contributor Michael Grosser, founder of the DNS provider GitNS.com, agreed with April that Handshake doesn’t offer full stack censorship resistance, he was more optimistic about the Handshake Foundation offering an alternative to ICANN. Community building takes time.
Applying that insight more broadly, the few crypto companies that didn’t collapse or struggle have conservative strategies focused on research and development, such as Tendermint. They aren’t reliant on tokens. They view blockchain technology as a prospective alternative, not as an immediate source of revenue or public infrastructure replacement.
There is perhaps no system on the planet that exemplifies Zehavi’s above-mentioned variety of dogfooding better than ethereum.
Ethereum cofounders like Joe Lubin (of ConsenSys) and Vitalik Buterin have poured their wealth into a thousand ideas aiming to incentivize both ethereum development and “decentralized finance” (DeFi) experiments, including MKR tokens.
This strategy has become the envy of altcoiners everywhere. Placeholder’s Chris Burniske and Electric Capital co-founder Avichal Garg both praised this method when discussing their visions for the future of the privacy coin zcash. But it remains to be seen if this new type of dogfooding, arguably a bastardization of the original term, works in the long term.
This is still a matter of fierce debate within the industry.
Bitcoin researcher and engineer Jeremy Rubin tweeted in May 2019 that blockchain enthusiasts need to come up with better ways to fund their work. Blockstream’s Togami retorted that merely being an open source project doesn’t mean the team is entitled to funding, especially not via tokens traded by retail users. The technology still needs to make sense and solve a problem.
As it stands, Togami said 2019 continued to show him that token incentivizes are “perhaps not the best way to attract top talent” for such problem-solving.
Lisk (LSK) internal pressures seeing huge 40% employee cuts
- Lisk project has cut a chunky 40 percent of its staff and some quitting.
- The company said the move is part of efforts to improve its operational efficiency
The Lisk (LSK) project has reportedly fired some 40 percent of its workforce, with reports also suggesting that employees quitting the company in droves.
However, the Lisk hierarchy noted that the move is part of efforts to improve its operational efficiency. Community members are somewhat sceptical saying the project is looking like another potential failed altcoin experiment.
Lisk co-founder Max Kordek, posting on the project’s Discord, wrote:
Today, at Lightcurve, we laid off 21 of our employees and terminated the contracts of three employees who were yet to join. This concludes the recent wave of terminations you may have observed. We are now ready to go completely dedicated into 2020 with a solid team of 31 individuals on the Lightcurve side.
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Here’s How Much of Each Major Altcoin Is Owned by Whales
IntoTheBlock has documented what percent of each cryptocurrency is held in the richest addresses. What they found shouldn’t surprise anyone.
It’s difficult to assess the extent of inequality within cryptocurrency ecosystems. After all, they could be exchanges or custodial groups—but, in some cases, a few whales really do own a large portion of the circulating supply of some cryptocurrencies.
IntoTheBlock (@intotheblock) decided to do some digging and find the actual numbers. Here’s what they found.
Breaking Down the Cryptocurrency Numbers
Concentrations of ownership over cryptocurrencies are not surprising. In a decentralized system, some will get advantages and hold more. However, there are limits to how sustainable extreme concentrations of wealth are in a decentralized system. These are the numbers for some of the top altcoins and how concentrated they are.
- Ethereum (ETH)—151 addresses own around 39% of the circulating supply.
- Bitcoin Cash (BCH)—112 addresses own 29% of the supply.
- Litecoin (LTC)—131 addresses own 47% of the supply.
- Bitcoin SV (BSV)—103 addresses own 24% of the supply.
- Cardano (ADA)—41 addresses own 39% of the supply.
- Tether (USDT)—132 addresses own 63% of the supply.
The standouts in IntoTheBlock’s findings are Litecoin and Tether. Both seem to have higher concentrations of wealth than the rest of the cryptocurrency industry. How this will impact the trajectory of these projects remains open to debate.
What It Means
Some people may scoff at the insinuation that high concentrations of cryptocurrency assets in just a few addresses is even a problem. After all, if you are using a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin Cash, it may not even matter. This is because Bitcoin Cash and other proof-of-work currencies do not have a governance model.
Ethereum and Cardano, on the other hand, do. So, concentrations of wealth could very well end up impacting the ecosystem at large—and may even lead to decisions against the majority of Ethereum users.
So, the impact of high concentrations of assets depends on the respective cryptocurrency’s ecosystem. Governance can seldom work if there is oligarchic-like control of a large portion of a decentralized system. It’s an issue that developers will have to keep in mind as they’re building these governance models. We can’t let cryptocurrencies fall into the same issues that currently plague traditional fiat marketplaces—these concentrations of wealth should definitely be up for discussion.