This episode of ICO101 was a paid ICO preview conducted by host Aaron Paul. The following blog is the accompanying write up by CRYPTO101 writer Ryan LaMonica and reflects his own assessment of the project in question.
“Beyond all the different technical formalism behind Dusk, there is one simple thing to be understood about Dusk as a cryptocurrency: we try using cryptography to reconcile confidentiality and privacy with transparency. That is what we are trying to do.”
- Emanuele Francioni, Dusk Project & Technical Lead
This is what we’ve been promised all along. Blockchain and cryptocurrency projects have been waxing ecstatic for years about their protocol’s advantages for delivering freedoms – the freedom to conduct financial transactions; the freedom to raise capital; the freedom of knowledge transfer and communication – with the right balance between discretion and scalability with regulatory compliance. That’s a lot to tackle, but the Dusk team is passionate about these collective freedoms and believes they’ll be able to deliver on this promise. Let’s take a close look at what has them so excited.
Infrastructure, you’re up! (Dusk Roadmap, dusk.network)
Should privacy be a binary issue? It’s beautiful irony to listen to Dusk’s founders, Emanuele and Jelle, when they describe their aspirations to replace the traditional middle man of financial and knowledge transactions (i.e. broker) by settling into the middle of today’s spectrum for blockchain protocol. On one end, you have open ledgers. There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to this, depending on your motivations. We have all experienced the thrill (or dread) of reading FUD articles when a massive amount of value is moving on or off chain.
But what if your success depended on complete and true anonymity? Is there a way to avoid a socially-fueled run on a particular token when a benefactor decides to divest for reasons completely unrelated to the project behind the coin? Emanuele, Jelle, and the rest of the Dusk team believe that this is right where they want to be. They envision a future where a Dusk network participant can conduct their business within the privacy-oriented infrastructure but enjoy the confidence of knowing that other participants have been vetted through off-chain and regulatory-compliant mechanisms (KYC and AML). This creates a powerful capability at Dusk’s protocol level, aligning very closely with a method built upon the zero-knowledge proof. For now, just think of it as a participant’s ability to prove required knowledge without revealing further information.
All the Transactions, Dusk Style
Fast, anonymous, and secure – music to our ears, but we’ve heard this tune before. What makes Dusk any different? For starters, they’re killing two birds with one stone by using an anonymous network layer that embraces gossip-oriented communication standards and an enhanced version of the Byzantine Agreement protocol. As the kids say these days – wut?At a high level, here’s what we’re talking about. The Dusk network will be similar others in that it will use transactional nodes for purposes of block-generation. There will be an exclusive group of nodes reserved for the tasks of verification, voting, and notarization (VVN operations), referred to as provisioners. According to the team’s whitepaper, the use of provisioners in this way will harden the network and improve overall network availability by:
- decreasing network communications across VVN operations
- improving time to finality
- decreasing the chance for network partitioning
Provisioners Setup (Dusk Whitepaper)
This gives us a very general, elementary concept of the Dusk neighborhood. We can picture the nodes and provisioners, but how will they conduct their business? Why will they be able to work faster than other networks with their own array of nodes, supernodes, etc.?
By using consensus mechanism called Segregated Byzantine Agreement (SBA), the network begins to depart from traditional Byzantine Agreement (BA) consensus-driven networks that rely heavily on full knowledge of total weights available in the system (i.e. everyone’s balances). It uses this information to assign priority to propagated blocks (based on the priority of their originating members). With SBA, this information is not necessarily shared in the same way – though I am not entirely sure how a prioritization is still assigned and passed forward in the process to the sunset of verifiers within the community of provisioners.
SBA “at a glance” (Dusk Whitepaper)
At any rate, gossip protocol causes nodes to only relay pre-block proposals with the highest priorities. All other are discarded and this is used to drive the operation forward for the verifiers. Verifiers then confirm the priority, sign, and propagate the pre-block. Non-verifiers within the community of provisioners run a procedure to seek out appointment as voters. Voters will eventually reach Byzantine consensus across multiple rounds of voting. The continued use of gossip protocol eliminates the need for messages to reach the entire network. It is confined to the community of provisioners who will continue to cast votes until consensus converges and blocks are assigned.
Once consensus is reached, validators become notaries who are then responsible with distribution of newly minted DUSK coins to be sent to the addresses of block generators. Interestingly, this payment will be inversely proportional to the provisioner’s staked amount. This is an effort to balance the power of being selected to the Block Committee with the money intended as a financial benefit in return for running provisioners.
I would encourage you to check out Dusk’s white paper. It can be dense at times, but the team leaves enough “layperson” breadcrumbs throughout the document to allow for a decent understanding of the general process. It appears that the combination of gossip protocol with the SBA consensus mechanism is what gives the Dusk platform’s engine a speed advantage over its competitors.
Blockchain, Network, and Foundation
The Dusk team envisions use of its network for the purposes of fast, private, and cost-effective transfers of data:
- stores of value
- digital currency
These data transfer capabilities will manifest themselves in several service categories:
- conferencing (video and audio)
- file transfer
- data storage (cloud)
- data streaming
It’s important to note that the Project is keyed in on the additional goal of remaining agile enough to scale with its clients’ needs. The platform seeks to solve a recurring “thorn” in the side of other networks that have come before – scalability. Through the use SBA and gossip protocol, they are hopeful that Dusk will be robust enough to stand on its own after the development team (and maybe even the Foundation) has walked away to begin a new venture.
The Dusk Foundation is in place to guide the development of these services and pursue any applicable fundraising. The Foundation is not-for-profit and is aiming to chair an alliance of institutions that will focus on the advancement of the “right to anonymity and actively researching decentralized communication technology”. Here’s a video of co-founder Emanuele Francioni expressing his own thoughts on the motivation behind their efforts:
Numerous aspects of Dusk are very intriguing. The segregation of nodes within their network for specific tasking makes a lot of sense, but it is not clear to me how priority will be assigned to pre-block packages prior to making their way toward consensus via gossip protocol. On the other hand, the team’s simple use of mainstream mechanisms for participant verification prior to network engagement should instill some confidence for potential investors and clients. The technical and business teams bring a tremendous amount of experience and passion to the table for what resembles a clear use-case. It will be very interesting to follow their progress as they continue to develop Dusk and prepare for upcoming milestones.
About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing, and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter, @ryanlamonica.