Who's down with BTP?

ICON inches closer to interoperability

Earlier this month, the ICON community was given an update on the progress of the “blockchain transmission protocol” or ‘BTP’ for short. Here is a description from The Iconist:

Last but not least, ICON is continuing efforts with BTP and is preparing its Proof of Concept (POC) of BTP version 0.5, with an expected launch in the coming weeks. More details will be shared once the team releases their design plans for BTP version 1.0. ICON hopes to commercialize this BTP technology (private to public interchain) by the first half of 2020 and is optimistic about the progress made thus far. 

Many were excited by this new announcement, but it’s significance may not have resonated with a large proportion of the community. Accordingly, I’d like to spend a bit of time on why its development is important (in fact, it may just be the most important development in the ICON project at this moment).

So what exactly is BTP? Here is a brief description from the ICON github page:

Blockchain Transmission Protocol (BTP) is a standard set of rules that allow users and smart contracts on a blockchain to communicate with other blockchains.

This, in a nutshell, is the critical component driving ICON’s promise of “interoperability” -- allowing blockchains to communicate with other blockchains. While it’s easy to describe, it’s not an easy feat to accomplish from a technical standpoint. 

We likely all know how complex a blockchain platform is just on it’s own. A ledger dispersed across thousands, if not millions, of different computers and servers in a manner that prohibits security breaches or other tampering. Transactions are literally happening at every second, and they all must be reliably entered and tracked across the entirety of the ledger.

With bitcoin in existence for 10 years, we may take this technology for granted by this point, but it still remains an amazing technological accomplishment. 

The promise of ICON’s BTP is to create a communication bridge of sorts between two blockchains. In other words, a user on Blockchain A has a command that must not only be reliably imprinted upon Blockchain A’s ledger (with it’s grand distribution and high transaction volume), but must also be reliably imprinted on Blockchain B’s ledger (with all of that blockchain’s complexities as well). 

If you’re of the mind that this doesn’t seem that hard, here is a diagram from the ICON whitepaper attempting to show how BTP works:

Here is the written description:

BTP consists of NotaryRequest(Tx) which confirms whether the transaction from the transmission blockchain is confirmed in Nexus and Notary(Tx) which transfers the transaction confirmed by Nexus to the receiving blockchain. Transactions initiated in the transmission blockchain are identified on the Nexus through the Light Client of the corresponding blockchain and registered in the Notary Channel. Transactions registered in the Notary Channel are delivered to the receiving blockchain, and the receiving blockchain verifies the signature of the delivered Notary block to verify the consensus in Nexus, and thereby processes the transaction.

So, this is definitely complex stuff. There are a handful of people who have expressed frustration that we’re only just now getting close to having a functional BTP product. But building such a complex process, and building it correctly, isn’t something that can be done overnight.

We are, however, getting closer. 

BTP’s ‘Roadmap’

It has been stated that the path of BTP implementation is as follows:

  • First, allow BTP from one private blockchain to another private blockchain. 

  • Second, allow BTP from one private blockchain to a public blockchain. 

  • Finally, allow BTP from one public blockchain to another public blockchain.

So where are we now? As referenced above, ICON is currently working on BTP version 0.5 and its proof of concept.

Just what is that proof of concept? As expected with most “proof of concepts”, the basic goal is answering the question “Does this thing work?” Accordingly, the goal with BTP 0.5 is to answer that question. Thus, the objective is not overly complicated. Here’s the final sentence to the introduction to BTP 0.5 on the github:

This PoC is intended to explain how to transfer a token between blockchains and provides python projects to run as an example.

And here is a more elaborate description:

For example, assume that Sender on “Blockchain A” wants to transfer a token to Receiver on “Blockchain B”. In that case, a pair of token scores should be deployed, one for each blockchain. The Sender sends a transaction to the token score on “blockchain A”, including an identifier for the destination blockchain, address of the Receiver and amount to be sent. Then, the token score on “blockchain A” records the transaction data as a BTP message on “Blockchain A”. Servers called Relayers always looks for BTP messages. When the Relayer finds a BTP message, it forwards the message to blockchain that corresponds to BTP message information. Finally, the token score on “blockchain B” will receive the contents of the BTP message then mint proper amount of tokens to be sent to user B.

Presumably, “Blockchain A” and “Blockchain B” would be two private loopchain-based blockchains. (Remember, “loopchain” is not only the name of the company building private blockchains, but also the name of the propriety blockchain technology being deployed.)

Much like blockchain was a “proof of concept” for blockchain, simply sending a transaction between two different blockchains serves the same purpose. To those who may be underwhelmed by this feat, just remember this is not the end of BTP’s development, but only the beginning.

What today is simply sending a token between blockchains may tomorrow be verifying a digital ID between blockchains (my-ID Alliance).

With all that in mind, the development progress of BTP may be the most important (and exciting) thing for ICONists to keep an eye on over the coming months.


News from ICON World

ICX listed on Binance US!

Ever since Binance ended it’s U.S. access, there had been much speculation over when (or even if) ICX would one day be listed on their new entity, Binance U.S. Fortunately, ICONists didn’t have to wait too long, as it was announced that ICX would be listed on the exchange. ICX, along with ENJ, are the first tokens outside of the Top 10 (based on market cap) to be listed on Binance U.S.

As of this writing, U.S. residents can now trade ICX on Binance U.S.


Is Korea going ‘all-in’ on DID?

Here is an excerpt from a translated story in Paxnet news (a leading Korean news site):

As part of the advancement of the digital financial discipline system, the Financial Services Commission has set up a legal system that can accept biometric information and distributed identification (DID) as a new means of identity verification.

On December 4, the FSC announced 'Fintech Scale-up Promotion Strategy for Accelerating Financial Innovation', and introduced MyPayment (instruction of payment to financial institutions without customer funds) and introduced biometric information and DID for financial innovation. It said it will establish a legal system that can be accepted as a new means of simple payment.

Henry Lee, head of strategy for ICONLOOP, weighed in with a tweet thread:

While it’s hard to tell the immediate direct impact of this news, one thing is clear: the Korean government is aggressively seeking to integrate DID into the country. This only bodes well for my-ID.

Speaking of which…


The growing alliance

The my-ID Alliance has added another partner. From The Iconist:

The MyID Alliance confirmed Tuesday that NHN Payco had joined the initiative as an alliance partner.

A core subsidiary of NHN, the Korean internet giant engaged in a variety of cloud, fintech, entertainment and advertising businesses, NHN Payco offers a wide range of financial services such as mobile payments, money transfers, loyalty points, big data-driven credit ratings, advertising and mobile security solutions.

NHN Payco joins the MyID Alliance as a “growth partner,” i.e., partners that are adopting my-ID’s blockchain ID service into actual services.


ICON Foundation unstakes

Following a great deal of discussion among the ICON community, the ICON Foundation decided to unstake 8m ICX they had currently staked to their P-Rep candidacy.

The gesture was done in order to help reduce the top-heavy centralization that had become a concern among ICONists. RHIZOME team member William McKenzie wrote about this very issue in his recent article, “Vote Disparity in the ICON Ecosystem.”

An additional solution has been proposed to simply just have the ICON Foundation unstake the excess votes and remove them entirely. This solution, in the short-term, would aid the problem of vote disparity, however, it does not address the problem in the mid-long term.

ICON’s action was widely praised by the community, and it’s encouraging to see them take feedback into such consideration. However, it’s likely that this won’t be the end of the conversation and concern regarding centralization of the ICON network.


Somesing gets listed

SSX, the IRC-based token of the Somesing platform, has been listed on an exchange! Click here to see how SSX is currently trading in terms of price and volume.


Resources to grow the ecosystem

Three new initiatives were announced this week to further facilitate growth on the ICON ecosystem:

  • Insight-ICON has announced they will be soliciting ideas from the community for their more than 250 Insight fellows to possibly tackle in the near future.

  • The ICON Foundation has announced their grant program and opened the application process.

  • VELIC has also announced their own grant program


Two new P-Reps

There are two new P-Rep candidates, both of whom have had a strong presence in the ICON community:


The broof is in the pudding

Broof, the digital certificate service built on the ICON public chain, will be issuing certificates to graduates of MIT’s CEO Program.

I had some thoughts on the significance of this news:


What’s the value of TAP?

Those who closely follow the ICON project are likely aware of ICONbet by now. While I hadn’t paid much attention to the platform when it first launched, I decided to do some deeper digging into not only the DApp, but how much holding its token could be worth.


Blockchain News

Ethereum’s Istanbul Hard Fork Is Now Live - Another iteration of Ethereum 1.x, Istanbul is the network’s eighth hard fork overall with the first code changes being approved in June 2019. (Eth 2, the network’s major transition to proof-of-stake (PoS), is expected in 2021.) Being non-contentious, all ethereum clients – which host and independently upgrade the ethereum protocol themselves – have agreed to the new software. (CoinDesk)


Developer Flags Big-Money Loophole for Stealing All the ETH in MakerDAO - Micah Zoltu, an independent software developer who is also one of the co-authors of the original white paper for the decentralized prediction market Augur, published a blog post on Monday describing an attack on MakerDAO that, he argued, could empty all the ETH from the system. (Users lock ETH into the Maker protocol to generate loans of the dollar-pegged DAI stablecoin.) (CoinDesk)


South Korea plans to tax crypto gains - The government is reportedly seeking to levy capital gains tax on cryptocurrencies regardless of the bill's passage. To that end, the government will need to have a precise definition of cryptocurrencies and decide how it will tax crypto gains - in line with stocks or real estate capital gains, per the report. The government will also reportedly have to get trading records from cryptocurrency exchanges in order to levy taxes accordingly. (The Block)


South Korea’s central bank to hire digital currency specialist - Bank of Korea, South Korea’s central bank, is looking for a PhD-level specialist on cryptocurrency to lead its digital innovation research department.

According to local reports, Bank of Korea has said that the individual will focus on researching the viability of a blockchain-based payment system. (Decrypt)


Jack Dorsey wants to decentralize Twitter - Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has revealed he wants to create an open standard for decentralized social media. And the goal will be to have Twitter conform to that standard. (Decrypt)


Deutsche Bank says crypto could replace cash by 2030 as fiat system looks ‘fragile’ - In the “Imagine 2030” research report, Germany-headquartered Deutsche Bank said cryptocurrencies may have been “additions” rather than “substitutes” in the finance world thus far, but the next decade could change that as regulatory hurdles get past. (The Block)


Yikes…