Is Steem Centrally Controlled?
I've been on the Steem blockchain since June 2016. A witness since May 2017 and a consensus witness (off and on for a bit) starting around February 2018. I believe in the potential of Steem to improve human wellbeing and demonstrate to the world how blockchains and cryptocurrencies can be used by everyday people.
During that time, there have been many attempts to raise awareness about the centrally-controlled, non-transparent nature of Steemit, Inc and the real concerns over the governance control their stake has on the security of the network. I've been vocal about problems with Steemit before and was encouraged during 2018 to see real improvements with regular on-chain communication from the Steemit team.
Progress has been made (AppBase, Hivemind, Resource Credits, Account Credits, etc) but many stake-holders have been upset with the amount of Steem being sold by Steemit to support this slow progress. 7 months ago I floated an idea to have witnesses and community members fund our own development so community-supported economics changes could be developed and voted on without needing Steemit, Inc approval or development time. If it worked well, it might also create a pathway for projects like SMTs or RocksDB to be outsourced to move things along faster. The hard costs and falling price of Steem make this quite difficult without Steemit using some of its stake to support it.
The unfortunate truth is few witnesses and stake holders enthusiastically support Ned or Steemit, Inc. You could even say for some there's a growing animosity which has been brewing for years. This is dysfunctional and detrimental to the Steem ecosystem. As an example, one single individual (not a consensus witness) who used to be a contractor with Steemit, Inc posted some code which would involve nulling out the keys for Steemit's account. In the very early stages of this blockchain, there was a situation where many accounts were compromised and the solution at that time was to include in Hard Fork 9 changes to restore property.
The witnesses at that time supported the fork in order to protect property rights Edit: see this comment for a more accurate history of how HF9 was deployed.
Fast forward to the present time, and we see a massive power down by the @steemit account. Yesterday, Ned went on air in Discord and when asked about the power down said it was a defensive measure to protect their assets. This is confirmed on chain with this memo right after the Power Down change:
Power Down and memo
Moving STEEM to secure wallets.
Based on Ned's comments and this message, it seems Steemit holds the following position:
Identifiable wallet accounts on the Steem blockchain are not "secure wallets" and are somehow at risk that witnesses might remove access to those funds.
In my opinion as a consensus witness, this is an inaccurate, damaging message which seems to call into question the immutability of DPoS blockchains and the credibility of the token-elected witnesses who are trusted to secure the chain. I'm deeply disappointed this wording was used and this action was taken by Ned and Steemit.
@ned, if this is truly your reason for the power down, I ask you to stop the power down because:
I will not implement, support, or condone any hard fork that effects the balances, keys, or security of any accounts on the current chain.
Doing so is against my personal beliefs about property rights and blockchain immutability. I understand there may be extreme circumstances at some point in the future (such as Hard Fork 9), but I would only act to the best of my ability according to the will of the token holders in protecting property (not removing it).
I share in much of the frustration outlined above towards the initial impressions of how the Steemit stake would be used, how it has been used so far, and the lack of decentralized governance and transparency regarding how Steemit makes decisions which impact the entire Steem community. That frustration does not, in my mind, give me any rights to modify private key access to property.
I'm frankly insulted by the narrative that top 20 witnesses were conspiring "for weeks" to steal the Steemit stake. I've been in conversation with many of the top 20 witnesses this week and this is not accurate. To my knowledge, these discussions caught almost all of us by surprise starting less than 7 days ago.
One person creating a PR does not constitute a real threat to the Steemit stake. If Ned reached out to me or other consensus witnesses, he would know this is not an immediate, credible threat.
In my view, the community wants more financial transparency and decentralized governance for the Steem blockchain and that can only happen if Steemit, Inc, the largest holder of Steem tokens by far which are being used to fund development for this chain and Steemit.com, decides to participate with the community openly and transparently. Moving such a large stake to an exchange where it could potentially be privately redistributed to impact governance is a move towards more secrecy and the opposite direction we want to go.
Ned said on air he encourages forks of Steem. Forks of the code for specific purposes are great and does lead to competition and innovation, but chain forks have the potential to divide us all. I'm hoping instead we all work together because I, like many, have devoted many hours of our lives to seeing this blockchain succeed, and we want to grow the network effect which creates value, not divide it. Though some have left, many of us stayed because we hope something will change.
Please demonstrate you do actually trust in DPoS, the security of Steem, and the witnesses who are elected by the token holders to represent their will in protecting property on chain by stopping this power down. Come together with witnesses and the community and show your commitment to more decentralization by helping us create a new model for how Steem and Steemit development is done going forward.
A thriving, healthy blockchain should not be impacted so much by a single individual. This is a problem. Right now, only Ned can fix it. If he decides to work with witnesses and further decentralize the control of Steem's future, we have a path forward. If instead, he continues distrusting us, not reaching out effectively to us, and making decisions entirely on his own then we will be left with a centrally-controlled blockchain which very few serious witnesses and blockchain application developers are interested in supporting long-term.
If this message resonates with you, and you are concerned about the future of Steem and what Steemit's massive stake moving to an untraceable format could mean for Steem governance, please share this message or write your own using the #stopthepowerdown tag.
This is the moment when we find out if Steem is centrally controlled.