To celebrate the occasion of enabling Ravencoin (RVN) for trading on the SFOX platform, the SFOX team was honored to interview Tron Black, principal software developer at Medici Ventures and contributor to the Ravencoin blockchain.
Black has been an involved advocate for crypto since 2013, with projects ranging from address-rating systems to a crypto holdings tracker; nowadays, he’s focused on Ravencoin, the blockchain that was built from the ground up to enable easy, compliant asset issuance. We got Black’s take on everything from the first Bitcoin conference, to Ravencoin’s origin myth, to the most exciting tokenization use-cases that Ravencoin’s latest upgrades are making possible.
If you’d rather watch this interview than read it, you can find it on the SFOX YouTube channel.
SFOX: Welcome, everyone, to SFOX’s interview with Tron Black. Tron is a principal software developer at Medici Ventures. Today we’re going to be chatting with him about his background, how he got into crypto, Raven, and Ravencoin — the most recent asset which we’re enabled for trading on SFOX and which we’re excited to be welcoming to our platform.
Tron Black: I’m excited to have Ravencoin added to the SFOX platform. It’s fantastic. We appreciate that.
SFOX: We’re excited, too!
All right, so let’s jump right in. We were hoping you could give us and our audience a little bit of background on who you are and how your career got started pre-crypto.
Tron Black: Okay, sure. I’m a very tiny part of Ravencoin, but I’m happy to give you whatever information you want — so, ask away!
SFOX: You had a career in computer science before crypto happened; how did you come to fall down “the Bitcoin rabbit hole,” as many crypto converts describe it?
Tron Black: Yeah, it’s really a phenomenon — when I hear other people say “the Bitcoin rabbit hole,” it just adequately, vividly describes what happens to new people discovering Bitcoin.
So, this was early on — pretty early, but not as early as some others — so, early-ish 2013, I think, I probably saw it in relation to an article related to the Cyprus banks. Back in 2013, the Cyprus banks basically slammed their doors closed and said, “Hey, we’re going to take just some amount of money out of everybody’s account just to kind of pay for this shortfall,” or whatever. And people got upset, and then other people went, “Wait a minute: the bank is holding my money and it’s not giving it back. That’s not how banking is supposed to work.” And you watched this happen where the banks said, “Okay, tell you what: we won’t take money from the bottom part; we’ll take more from the people who have more money in the bank.” And so they kept doing that, kept raising that bar, while people rattled their doors and kept getting upset. Eventually, they reached the threshold where they said, “All right, there are few enough people rattling the doors because we’ve reached the point where it’s only rich Russian oligarchs who are getting a massive haircut on their money.”
Because of that, there were a lot of stories about Bitcoin and how you’re holding your money, things like that. So, that’s where I found out about Bitcoin initially. Then it was a matter of asking myself, “How is this possible?” And I just started reading. This isn’t true today, but at the time, you were kind of scrambling for more information about Bitcoin — you didn’t quite understand what you were looking for. There were just a few explainer videos and things like that, and there’s the white paper, of course, which is really well written. So you’d go through those few things, but then you’d just be searching for more information about it. And so just that reading, absorbing it, trying to understand it, trying to understand how it works… It’s a very layered kind of thing. And also understanding how it all fits together, right: the reward system is incentivizing the people that are checking the transaction… There’s a lot to it.
So it was just that reading, that kind of not eating, not sleeping, and trying to understand it all. I hear from a lot of people who went through that same process as they discovered Bitcoin.
SFOX: After you fell down the rabbit hole and became a crypto convert, you decided that you wanted to become involved and contribute to this ecosystem in some way. Could you walk us through your thought process of how you decided to contribute in the ways that you have over the last seven years?
Tron Black: I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life: I got started early, early, early on computers — like, pre IBM PCs — not pre-IBM, but before they were doing computers. So this was like the early Tandy RadioShack stuff, the early Atari 800s, the Apple 2, that kind of thing. I was programming back when I was about 13 years old, or something like that.
Anyway, fast-forward: I was an entrepreneur most of my life; I was running companies; I did get an MBA because I was just interested in business and I had a computer science degree already, and it was kind of combining those two things.
I think my background did give me a different perspective on Bitcoin — not just the technical, but the business degree maybe gives me a wider perspective on things. I would say the most important differentiating aspect of my background, though, is the entrepreneur’s perspective, which is this: When there’s a problem, it’s actually a solution to someone else’s problem, which is a market opportunity. My brain works like that: any time I see a big problem, I ask myself, “Can technology solve this, and if so, has somebody already done it?” Most of the time I’ll look it up — you know, Google’s awesome — and I’ll say, “Ah, someone’s already done it. Other times, I’ll say, “Nobody’s solved this yet. This is a business.”
Because that’s how my brain works, when I learned about Bitcoin, I said to myself, “All right: this thing is fairly new; not everybody knows about it yet. What opportunities are there? What is different about this? What does it change?” And through that process of thinking, I came to the conclusion that it inverts the trust model.
With Visa and MasterCard, you basically give them your “private key” — your card number — and you say to them, “Please take this much, please take $30.95, and no more.” That seems crazy, but that’s how it works. And I was also in the credit card space in the sense that I was doing e-commerce from 1992 to 2000: I sold a company and they wanted me to do e-commerce for them, so I’d been doing that and I was kind of in that payment space.
So I said, “All right, this inverts the trust model. When you send someone your credit card number, if something goes wrong — say, you don’t get your package — it’s easy to call Visa and say ‘I didn’t get it.’ Visa will reverse the charges, and I make the merchant prove that they shipped it, or that they signed something, etc. That doesn’t exist in crypto: if you send out a tenth of a bitcoin and you’re expecting a package and nothing arrives, there’s no Visa to call, no “Bitcoin headquarters,” no way to reverse the charge. So if you don’t get the package and you tell the merchant, “Hey, I didn’t get the package,” if they just say, “Oh yeah… Sorry,” I’d be stuck.
I saw, then, that one of the things that are going to be needed is what you could call “VeriSign meets Yelp reviews or eBay reviews.” What you really need is a review, but you also don’t want that sock-puppetted: you want a review that says, “Hey, every time somebody sends crypto to this address, they get their hot sauce, or their socks, or whatever.” But you also need to make sure that companies and people can’t create multiple accounts and just rip people off serially by sending two orders, skipping one, sending two, skipping one, etc. You need to have a way of knowing who this person is.
So, that was my first foray into crypto: it was called Verified Wallet. I’d had a logo made; I’d started writing the software. Its goal was basically to verify people. Ironically, it looks a lot like the KYC information that’s being done by companies now. And we actually actually had levels of verification. So the first level was like, “Send us your email and we’ll send you an email back with a number; then, type in that number in the wallet, or click a link in an email we’ll send you.” Then, the next level went up to your phone: “Send us your phone number, and we’ll text you a number to enter in the wallet.” Then, the next level went up to physical address: “We’ll mail you a letter with a number and then you’ll type that number.” In all, we went up nine levels, and each level would be a different level of verification. The last one would be super high — like, you’ve gone in and signed something with a notary present, with cameras on you —so, at that point, we know who you are. And that way, once you had this ultimate level of verification, you could say, “All right, I’ve gotten verified — now I want to build a reputation for this address that I’ve verified to a certain level. So, as long as you keep delivering — people send bitcoin to your address, you send hot sauce to them — people review the address and say, “Oh, greatest hot sauce ever, ships quickly, blah blah blah,” and you start building a reputation.
That was my first idea in crypto. It got kind of derailed in the middle of the process. We were in the process of building it — well, I was building it as a one-man operation — and I found that there was another group that was saying, “Oh, all addresses have to have uniquely identifying information attached to them.” Nowadays, the crypto community has a wider group of people with different mentalities, but back then — not surprisingly — most crypto enthusiasts were kind of libertarian and all had a certain ethos. Those people went nuts about this other project — and I include myself in that group, except that I was building specifically to solve a problem for merchants to build trust. This other group, in contrast, was saying that all people’s addresses need to be known, a little bit like the KYC things going on now in the STO space.
So, anyway, the crypto community went nuts and said, “We can’t do this. The whole purpose of these addresses is that you’re supposed to be anonymous, or you’re not supposed to know who used which addresses.” I realized quickly that the cost of getting my own message out had just gone way up. My ability to say, “Oh, no, my product is different: this is meant to prove your identity so you can build a reputation” — I was going to get muddled with the different message of, “Yeah, you need to attach an identity to an address.” That got very expensive.
So, I decided to do something else, which was to solve another problem that I was having at the time. I was experimenting with crypto all over the place — I a little bit in Coinbase, a little bit in mining pools, a little bit in Mt. Gox, and a little bit in addresses. It was kind of getting out of control, and I didn’t even know where all my BTC was at that point. I needed some kind of tracker to tell me where my BTC is, how much it’s worth, etc. So, I built something called “Coin CPA,” which was basically tracking where my crypto was but also making it so that other people could log in and see where their crypto was. So I did launch that and it was out there; I ended up selling that. I got in trouble for using the term “CPA,” which is apparently a thing you’re not supposed to use unless you’re an actual CPA — even though we had an actual CPA on the team helping us. Apparently, that was a thing. So, we ended up going to pseudo court, getting in trouble for that, and paying a fine.
Near the end of that, I was actually moving over to tZERO. I heard Patrick Byrne in late 2014 in Amsterdam — I was consulting for another crypto company at the time — and he was talking about doing a parallel crypto equity to Overstock. And I said, “Oh my gosh, this is Overstock — they’re, like, 10 minutes from my house.” It took me a little while because they were still putting together a team, but I got on board as an employee of tZERO.
I ended up doing all kinds of cool projects with them, like the first bond issuance on crypto: we built it on Open Assets, and we did it with the Bank of New York. Basically, it was a big loan. Then, we worked on the design of a trading platform, and how that would work, and things like that. I left there, I think, in the end of 2015, to work for ANX International. They do credit cards out of Hong Kong. I worked with them for eight months and then came back to Overstock.
When I came back, tZERO was part of Medici Ventures, a venture firm. Great place to work, for anybody who’s reading this. It’s fantastic — very much the crypto ethos. We’re invested in roughly 20 crypto companies in six pillars: capital markets, money/banking, identity, property, voting, and supply chain — so, six verticals we’re investing in. We still have those investments, and some of them are housed here in the Peace Coliseum. So developers, myself included, get to help those companies; there are dedicated developers for some of the companies, and some of the companies are completely on their own with only a small investment from us in them.
SFOX: The crypto and blockchain space has changed significantly in the time since you first discovered it in 2013. What are some of the most interesting or prominent ways in which you’ve noticed it changing, and what, if anything, do you think those changes say about the state of the sector as we enter the second decade of Bitcoin?
Tron Black: I went to an early Bitcoin conference in 2013. At that point, I’d been playing with Bitcoin, thinking of ideas — this was when I had Verified Wallet on my mind and was working on that. I went to the conference in San Jose, which apparently was an early one that was two or three times larger than what the organizers had expected.
I went into that conference — and I had been doing software stuff before, sold companies and whatnot, so I had done COMDEX before. And COMDEX is this massive thing; it’s a little bit like CES is now, or only slightly smaller than CES is now. So I had expected the Bitcoin conference to be something like that: a big, big conference of lots and lots of vendors. I walked in, and it was basically the size of a high-school lunchroom with these two-by-six tables, with people standing in front of those tables with stuff they’d printed out on the tables. And there’s Coinbase and Brian was standing there in front of this table, and I chatted with him for a bit; I walked around the room and looked at the signs and said, “I have an account there, there, there, there…” I either had an account or had interacted with 80 percent of the vendors that were at the conference. I said, “This is a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be… This may be earlier than I’d expected.” I had been feeling late because I’d seen that the price of bitcoin had gone from pennies to 30 dollars to a dollar, and I think it was in the 50-dollar range at the time of the conference. And it was the same people there who are involved — I mean, Erik Voorhees was there, and ASICs were just starting to come online. Some of these companies are gone, but some of them are still around. It was pretty early.
An anecdote about that conference reminds me of how the sector has changed. There was a comedian at the conference, and he was going to tell a sort of George-Bush-bashing joke about Bush CIA intelligence, something like that. And he starts by asking, “How many Democrats do we have in the audience?” Of course, being San Jose, you’d expect a bunch of hands, but… nothing. Crickets. So then he asks, “How many Republicans?”, thinking this must be a GOP convention or something, right? There’s, like, one clap or something in response. Then somebody says, “Libertarian” — and almost everybody responds. It was interesting because it was almost like you couldn’t have been invited without being Libertarian — it was almost self-selected to be mostly Libertarian-thinking people.
I think that’s changed now: now, I think the crypto community includes people from all walks of life, from the financial industry, from both coasts, etc. So, I think the makeup of the community is changing: it’s probably more reflective now of the entire U.S. — or of the entire world, really. But at the time, at this conference, it was Libertarian-minded people, which was interesting — it was kind of self-selected. So for me, I felt like, “My people!!!” — I know where I belong! I just had that mindset, that sort of freedom mindset. Over time, I think, the community’s makeup has changed just because more people have been brought in from all over the place.
The other thing that changed was that there was what I’d call a civil war that happened, kind of, through maybe 2015, 2016, 2017, and that still has remnants of leftover hard feelings and maximalists. I watched that happen in real-time: I watched where it started and I saw why it happened — which was mostly because of censorship, which I’m very against. So I watched this conflict develop over time, and then it didn’t really end, but the resolution that ended up happening was basically a split between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash — and afterward, there was another split between Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV. But I watched that conflict happen and I’ve thought about it a lot: What caused it? Why did it happen? How do we prevent it from happening again — in other tokens, in other coins, things like that? I think about that a lot.
Of course, ask 10 different people about this issue and you may get 10 different answers, but my belief is that it was censorship and that started it — really, it was Gavin saying, “Hey, we’re gonna have this scaling problem” — and he was right — “at this point,” and so he’d created a solution for that and released it into the community. And then his solution was deemed — by censorship, basically — to be an altcoin, and it kind of started there. That was the genesis; that was the seed. People who didn’t agree that it was an altcoin, basically, were kicked out. So, they ended up starting another chat channel, and then they didn’t want to do censorship in that channel, which was r/BTC — first, there was r/Bitcoin, and then there was r/BTC. r/BTC was almost unreadable because it wasn’t there wasn’t much censorship, and r/Bitcoin was very “kumbaya”: everybody agreed because anybody who disagreed was booted.
That’s the way I perceive the history of how this happened. It did resolve with a split, so that’s, I think, the biggest change. Now, you still have what I would call hurt feelings and remnants from all of the stuff that happened — from agreements that were broken, etc., along that chain. I’m still a huge fan of Bitcoin; I’m not anti-Bitcoin-Cash; I’m friends with all of them. They all feel like experiments that are happening, and I think it’s great that they’re all happening. The market gets to choose what wins.
SFOX: It’s amazing to consider how the sector has grown since you first got involved: it was initially just Bitcoin, and now it’s not only Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Bitcoin SV, but any number of altcoins.
Tron Black: There are thousands of them!
SFOX: Yes, it’s amazing to see!
With that in mind, as you think forward to the next year, five years, and decade of crypto, what do you expect will be the core issues that communities will have to confront? If censorship is one of the main themes that you’ve seen so far in crypto’s history, what will we be grappling with next?
Tron Black: Yeah. So I’ll take the short-term first and think about the next year.
I think it’s gonna be interesting with Bitcoin entering into the halvening this year, somewhere in the May timeframe: it’s kind of the first time, at least for Bitcoin, where what you could call its “inflation rate” will drop below the U.S. target inflation rate of 2 percent. When I started in 2013, Bitcoin’s “inflation rate” was very, very high — and now, in a few months, it’s going to drop below 2 percent.
Basically, BTC will become scarcer: the miners who have to pay for their equipment, electricity, etc., won’t have as much BTC to sell into the market. So that’s the supply side of the supply-demand curve. So that should decrease supply; if demand stays the same, the price will likely rise. This is all speculation.
What’s interesting is that we’ve been able to watch other coins that have gone through extraordinarily fast cycles — there was one that basically did their halvening every month. And watching the effects of that — they’re not Bitcoin, and they don’t have much market cap, but you can kind of see what happens. And so we can kind of watch all these things play out before Bitcoin gets there. And it was interesting: as the supply diminished, the price went up; they kept getting into an issue where there wasn’t enough issuance to maintain the actual security of the network, which Bitcoin may or may not run into in the future.
That’s probably the best argument for allowing fees to rise: to be able to incentivize miners in the future when there’s only one sat per block rewards — you know, one 100-millionth of a bitcoin per block solved. Either bitcoins are going to be enormously expensive or there’s not going to be enough incentive unless the fees are there, so that’s a decent argument for rising fees. So, for the next year, I think, that’s going to be the most interesting thing.
A whole bunch of projects — like VC things, hedge funds, and crypto funds — will also hit the market. Some other ones are coming online that are a lot like Barry Silbert’s SecondMarket and GBTC. You can buy those through more traditional vehicles — for example, through a Schwab account or an IRA, you can basically buy an entity that’s holding bitcoin. I think there’ll be more of those available, which will allow people to get exposure through their 401ks and things like that.
I think that’s going to be really interesting to bring that kind of investment into the sector. If there’s institutional money — schools, family offices, things like that — that’s able to invest in crypto… There’s just so much money sitting on the sidelines right now. Once it’s easier for those entities to invest in crypto — and I think that SFOX is probably part of that, helping institutional money to flow onto the exchanges and into the ecosystem — I think that’s going to change things quite a bit.
As far as the medium-term, five-year outlook is concerned, I think we’re going to continue to see more institutional money, more tools, more DeFi, things like that. I’ve been impressed: I don’t think that the knowledge of them is very evenly distributed, but there are options currently, today, like Celsius, BlockFi, and things like that, where you can basically deposit crypto and earn interest. When the interest rates for a savings account are sub-1-percent and you can make 5 or 6 percent this way, it makes sense. So I think there’ll be more of those in the medium term.
As far as what the sector will look like in the long term — 10 years, 20 years — I don’t know. That’s harder for me to project. I do think there’ll be tons of cryptocurrencies. One thing I compare it to is how we used to have three TV news sources: NBC, ABC, and CBS. You could pick any of those three. And now, the news is completely decentralized, meaning that even the TV news sources are basically reading the Twitter feeds of people who are on-site at the fire or whatever the event in question is.
I think crypto will look like that: there is no limit or cap on how many different cryptocurrencies there can be. You could have one that just your family uses, if you wanted to. I think it’s a lot like news and blogs: you can start up a blog and be a news source for the company you’re in or whatever you wanted, and there could be an infinite number of those blogs — and there could be an infinite number of cryptocurrencies. There’ll be some that are bigger — and Bitcoin, of course, would fall into that category, as would Ethereum, etc. — but there could be tiny ones that could still trade against those.
That’s how I think it will play out. I don’t think there’s going to be a consolidation to one cryptocurrency. I think it’s more like news sources. What’s a “news source” today? It’s somebody with a phone standing at the actual event. I think it’s going to be a little bit like that.
SFOX: As you mentioned before, when you were first getting into Bitcoin, it was hard to chase down information about it; nowadays, of course, there’s no dearth of information about even the minutest facet of crypto or blockchain technology. If you were an individual, a company, or an institution trying today to get oriented in crypto and blockchain technology for the first time, how would you go about that task?
For background in what this technology means for the world, I recommend The Internet of Money Volumes 1–3, also by Andreas Antonopoulos. They explore the impact of Bitcoin and blockchain technology through analogies that help to relate it to things you’re already familiar with. Because it is kind of a weird deal: it has a unique property, so it’s like trying to explain computers to someone in the 1900s. “I don’t get it!” “No, look: it has a screen and you can talk to anybody with it!” So, analogies are important for describing it, and Andreas does a great job with that.
For understanding the markets and why Bitcoin is worth more than, say, Litecoin or Ravencoin — which are basically just code-copies with a couple of parameter changes — I recommend Cryptoassets: The Innovator’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond, by Chris Burniske and Jack Tatar. That’s a good one for why Bitcoin is worth anything. Because Bitcoin doesn’t look like a company: it doesn’t necessarily have discounted cash flows and things like you might model for a company. So, they look at the metrics of why Bitcoin is worth what it is, and things like that.
Those would be the books I’d start with; then after that, you’re going to be in branches based on your specific interests — so at that point, pick your own rabbit hole, I guess.
SFOX: Good advice — and it’s telling that you recommend books even as everything, including information, is becoming increasingly more distributed.
Tron Black: Yeah. I think if you just start out and try to pick some aspect of crypto to look at without having a framework to work with, it’ll end up being like that anecdote about looking at an elephant from too close a distance: the trunk might look like a leg, or vice versa. It’ll look like different things without having that framework to look at the whole thing overall, and I think those books will help to provide a framework. And then after that, you can go drill down.
SFOX: Let’s turn now to Ravencoin and RVN.
So many blockchains, starting with Bitcoin itself, center on their origin myth: Satoshi, this anonymous figure, created Bitcoin; Charlie Lee, a not-so anonymous figure, created Litecoin for different reasons — and so on. Who created Ravencoin, and why was it created?
Tron Black: Yeah. I love these stories. I love the fact that we don’t really know who Satoshi is — sorry, Craig! But yeah, I follow the stories, all the different people Satoshi could be, things like that — it’s just amazing.
With Ravencoin, the “branding” — the general concept of saying, “Hey, we’re going to take the most tested, secure coin, Bitcoin, and then create the ability to make assets on top of that” — that idea’s seed was Bruce Fenton, and he announced it in October 2017, I think. He started with it, and then some of the initial developers didn’t work out very well, so somewhere in the middle, he talked to Patrick Byrne, the CEO and founder of Overstock. Patrick said, “We have some developers who might be able to help with that.”
Between the genesis seed and then Patrick volunteering people from Medici, I heard about it. My passion is the kind of “pure” cryptocurrency and things like that, so I knew this was one thing I wanted to be involved in. So, I turned down some other options within Medici and then jumped right into Ravencoin. That’s the point when I got involved.
We actually looked at various options for codebases to fork for Ravencoin: we looked at forking Bitcoin, Dash, MultiChain — we also looked at Counterparty, which builds on top of Bitcoin. We looked at a whole bunch of different things, but we ultimately decided that Bitcoin was the most secure codebase. So, we decided to start from that.
We forked the code — not the chain, but the code of Bitcoin — and then some of it was just tweaking parameters. So, relative to Bitcoin, Ravencoin has a higher issuance schedule: there will be 21 billion RVN, with a B, as opposed to twenty-one million BTC, with an M. And that’s done by increasing the actual block reward 100x — starting with 5,000 RVN instead of 50 BTC — and then speeding it up — increasing the block speed from 10 minutes to 1 minute, which is well within the parameters of what’s possible. And we increased the maximum block size sum; I think there’s still room to increase it more if we needed, but we doubled that. It’s a two-megabyte maximum block size.
We started Ravencoin with those parameter tweaks, and that actually launched on about three months after Fenton’s original announcement, on January 3rd of 2018, Bitcoin’s ninth birthday. That was on purpose and had been one of our goals — not because it had to be that way, but just because it was fun and a kind of homage to Bitcoin and its roots. Ravenoin’s genesis block actually contains a quote discussing Bitcoin on that day from The London Times — the same publication which the genesis block of Bitcoin quotes. So that’s the quote that’s in there, which was perfect and kind of worked out amazingly — of course, there are a lot more people talking about Bitcoin now than there used to be, but we found that quote.
That’s how we started Ravencoin up. And then, of course, it didn’t yet have a market or anything like that, so everybody was notified that they could mine it, and that was the only way to get it, initially — we didn’t do any pre-mine; we didn’t raise any funds for it. Medici Ventures very generously allowed various programmers that we already had to be pulled from various projects to work on Ravencoin. We’d gotten together in a room near Christmas — from around October to December, we were working on it in a room near the cafe here, which had Christmas music playing. So, we have a little bit of PTSD from hearing Christmas music ten hours a day! But, we launched Ravencoin, and people started mining it. And it’s been running continuously now for over two years.
The goal was not just to make another Litecoin — because that’s a very similar thing in terms of taking the Bitcoin codebase and tweaking some parameters. The goal of Ravencoin was to give you the ability to create your own asset. I’d worked with Counterparty code, MultiChain, different technologies that do the same thing: add the ability to put assets into a UTXO on a blockchain. So after we got Ravencoin launched and working, that’s what we started working towards.
And so we got that done. We’ve got some great programmers here. We hired some people who were working specifically towards this goal. And we launched that on November 5th of 2018, a little less than a year after the genesis of Ravencoin — and by “launched,” I mean an upgrade, or a hard fork.
There’s really not much difference we can make if we want to change consensus. All we can do is change the code, and then we can suggest to the community, “Hey, this is better than what you’re currently running because it has these features,” and then everybody has to decide to upgrade. And by “everybody,” I mean primarily (1) the economic actors — coin payments, Binance, Bittrex, etc. — and (2) the miners. If individuals don’t upgrade, they can always upgrade later when they want to spend RVN — they just have to use their same keys and jump on the software whenever. So, we don’t really have control over whether or when an upgrade takes place; all we can do is suggest; so, in this case, we did a BIP 9, which is a way of kicking it over once the mined blocks hit a certain threshold. And so that launched.
We’ve also made a couple of other changes to the difficulty adjustment algorithm. That was one of our challenges. We had originally used Bitcoin’s difficulty adjustment algorithm, which adjusts every 2016 blocks: it looks back 2016 blocks and asks, “Hey, are these blocks taking 10 minutes in Bitcoin’s case, or one minute in Ravencoin’s case?” If they’re taking longer than those periods, then the algorithm makes it a little bit easier to mine blocks; if it’s taking shorter than those periods, then the algorithm makes it harder to mine blocks. What was happening was that people would jump on and start mining Ravencoin when it was profitable because the difficulty was easy, which meant that the blocks would go really, really fast, faster than one minute — and then the algorithm would make it a lot harder to mine. And then it’s no longer as profitable, maybe, as some other coin that they can mine with their GPU, so then people jump off of mining, and then blocks take longer, and then the algorithm makes it easier again. So we were getting this oscillation, and the oscillation was getting bigger. So we made an adjustment to use Dark Gravity Wave, which is an algorithm that adjusts every block by just a little bit while also limiting the thresholds in order to prevent an actual attack.
We also made a change to remove ASICs. In our original paper, we said we’d prefer not to have ASICs for Ravencoin mining. It’s not that we don’t like custom hardware; it’s not that ASICs are evil; the goal, really, is to have Ravencoin be more like the people’s coin. If you have a gaming machine with a video card in it, you should be able to flip it on at night and get some RVN. We’d prefer Ravencoin to have that character rather than being mined by massive data farms in places with cheap electricity that have bought custom machines. And so we did make a change to take ASICs off the network and then also to fix a couple of bugs at the time. We think there are some ASICs coming back online now, so there’s been a push to make another change.
Our latest big change that we’ve been working on for a year — and this is where most of the energy has gone, at least for the coding — has been messaging, which is the ability for a token issuer to notify their token holders saying things like, “Hey, something’s happening: we want to do a vote,” or “we want to switch tokens,” or something like that. And then the other change is memos, which is the ability to include a message with every transaction — one that goes on-chain, or at least the hash of it goes on-chain (the message actually goes in IPFS). And then because we’re trying to build a toolset for people to compliantly issue tokens that follow the rules — mostly U.S. rules, but there are some other jurisdictions that have rules related to securities — we added some code that allows you to constrain tokens within a subset of addresses with identified and approved owners, which is part of the ruleset that securities need to follow.
Those are the changes that can be activated now; we just need more miners to mine those blocks, and we don’t have control over that. All we can do is suggest, and we think it’s in their best interest to adopt these changes because we think this toolset makes Ravencoin more valuable. But it’s largely out of our control beyond just saying, “Hey, this is this is the code and this why we think everybody should adopt it.”
SFOX: You’ve worked on a number of different projects that focus on asset creation and issuance. Why do you think that asset creation and issuance is an important tool to give people in their toolkit?
Tron Black: Let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of cryptocurrency in general. Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ravencoin, tokens — huge fan. That’s really my passion. There are tons of those, and if you want to make another one, you can just take Bitcoin, copy it, and give it a new name. That’s great — there’s not much work involved in that. If we need another coin, we can make it up.
I think the next phase is the tokenization of assets. That’s really what Ravencoin is doing: tokenizing assets. You could tokenize a fraction of artwork, or you could have a token represent a stablecoin as a sort of digital dollar. That functionality already exists on Ravencoin; that’s what we launched on November 5th. So we have that currently; that’s it’s active, it’s working, and people are tokenizing things. There are 22,000 different token names that people have gotten — most of those, to be honest, are price speculation on the name because the name has to be unique, but we do have people actually tokenizing things.
There’s a company out there called EquaStart that’s doing cap tables on Ravencoin: keeping track of the founder’s share of the company as tokens. So, if you want to tokenize and get your company started right, you can go there, and they’ll help with startup documents and all that kind of stuff. I think their goal is also to make it so that all founders can digitally sign to add a new member or a new owner so that everybody agrees and it’s not just some spreadsheet that one guy is keeping track of.
Another use-case is non-fungible tokens that can be used for certificates of authenticity. So let’s say you have some sort of artwork that could be copied — maybe it’s prints of a unique artwork, or whatever — and you want to make sure that those are genuine. You can create certificates of authenticity to do that. Let’s say there’s only supposed to be 100 prints: you could create 100 unique tokens the owner of each print should have the corresponding token, and if they want to sell it, they can sell the token with the artwork and that way, the buyer knows it’s genuine, authentic, etc. And the technology behind Bitcoin is making sure that there’s no counterfeiting of the token and that token transfers are all signed over and can’t be counterfeited because — the technology that’s behind Bitcoin does that extremely well because of its decentralized nature.
Everybody’s familiar with ICOs: this idea of ownership of part of a project or a company, or something like that. It’s a great idea — but there are laws behind those processes, and there are reasons for the laws. And one of those reasons is that if somebody has no intention of doing what they said they would do — imagine you’re buying into a project where they wrote a whitepaper and they have zero intention of following through — they walk away with the money and then you say, “Well, wait a minute, you said — “ And they say, “Yeah, who cares: I’m not following the law.” I think that’s part of the reason the laws exist: to prevent fraud where people say they’re going to do something, collecting money from people, and then running off. But I think that some ICOs were great ideas.
My own opinion on this is that we should have let the ICO market continue and just focused on rooting out fraud — cases where people basically just took investors’ money and then ran off with it. There’s always going to be people who take money, attempt to do what they said they were going to do, but just aren’t competent managers, developers, or leaders, and are therefore going to fail. ICOs of that kind were going to fail anyway. Then there were some ICOs that were just fraud. Those should be prosecuted: somebody should just go up and say, “Hey, you said you’re going to do this, and you didn’t even attempt it: you just walked away with the money.” That’s fraud; that’s more of an FTC thing. And then there were other projects that I think would work great. You know, the ones with seasoned people who had done this before; they write the white paper, they execute on it, and now you own a piece of this thing. It would be like a share; it could even pay back dividends and things like that.
The infrastructure that didn’t exist during the ICO boom was the “eBay ratings” of these things. Investors were going in blind and saying, “Oh, this paper looks good. I don’t know who these guys are, but let’s give it a shot!” Smith + Crown and some other companies had been trying to do this, but if there had been a system where a trusted source could say, “Hey, we’ve met with these guys and they have done projects like this before,” and if there had been public ratings for each project, I think we could have gone from ICOs to a very dynamic, robust fundraising mechanism that would continue to work.
The other thing that I think happened at the same time, because of the laws that had been in place for so long, is that retail investors, who are typically prevented from investing in these risky assets, didn’t necessarily have the skill set to invest in these things. As a result, there was a lot of fraud.
I think if we’d had a system where people understood that they had to do due diligence and learn from other investors, we could have gotten to the point of ICOs becoming a little bit like eBay: you look at a project and say, “Well, I’ll get this a little cheaper because there’s some chance of fraud and they don’t have a lot of ratings… I’ll invest 10 dollars.” And then the project may work, in which case that person starts building a rating — but they don’t raise very much because people are very, very cautious and will invest the cost of a cup of coffee.
That system is possible under this tokenization model. That’s what I would have liked to have seen — but in the U.S., we have these laws and so the ICO thing was basically ignoring all those laws. Those laws include that you need to know who’s holding the token (KYC and AML regulations); you have to limit the investor pool to accredited investors; you have to register with the SEC; things like that. So, the toolset that we’re building for Ravencoin allows you to follow these rules: for instance, if you send a token to someone and you collected their KYC information, you can be assured that person can’t send the token to someone else who hasn’t completed KYC, which would come back on the issuer. So we’ve built a toolset to allow tokens to move only amongst addresses that have been KYC’d, and that’s coming online now.
Ravencoin now has the toolsets for asset issuance in both highly regulated environments and non-highly-regulated environments — in other countries, overseas, or just for tokenizing art, a car, or one item — things that don’t hit the Howey Test. So we’ve got a toolset now for both regulatory environments. Restricted assets start with a dollar sign so everyone knows that that’s a restricted asset. And with a restricted asset, the issuer who issued it to you, even if you subsequently sent it to someone else, can freeze it in place: if he gets a legal letter from the government saying, “Hey, this may be being used for nefarious purposes; you need to freeze this place,” he, as the issuer, can do that — not only freeze it in place, but then also document, on-chain, why it was frozen. That toolset now exists on Ravencoin.
SFOX: What’s one misconception about Ravencoin that you would like to correct?
Tron Black: There are not very many detractors, which has been nice. The community’s been pretty friendly so far, knock on wood!
If there are detractors, I would say the misconception is that the early people had some sort of advantage — like we took money or we pre-mined. There was none of that. It was announced on multiple Twitter accounts — we can’t announce it to everybody, it was a new coin — but it was announced. So that’s one misconception.
There are a few people out there who say that RVN is a security. That just isn’t the case either, and we have a legal document that shows why, analyzing it in light of Howey, Forman, and so on. So, there are still people who jump in and don’t understand the history or don’t understand RVN from a legal standpoint.
Our biggest problem is not any misconception: our biggest problem is that we didn’t collect money and so we don’t have a marketing department. When you have EOS, which raised, potentially, billions of dollars, and then you have Ravencoin, which didn’t raise anything, it’s pretty much all word of mouth and miners saying “Oh, no, this is a good project.” Even this AMA is super helpful to Ravencoin because we don’t advertise anything like that.
What we do have that most other projects don’t have is community support. There are people in the community who have written explorers and run/moderate Ravencoin Discords, Telegrams, and all of that stuff — we don’t do any of that on-site. We’re basically just developing, and then I’ll chat sometimes about where we are and where we’re going — but that’s basically it. We don’t have a marketing department, but we do have an amazing community that’s doing a lot of that and getting the word out about Ravencoin.
SFOX: Where can our readers find the best roundup of the Ravencoin community resources out there?
Tron Black: It’s not a perfect resource, but go to Ravencoin.org and then click on “Community.” There are lots of links there. Part of what we’re trying to do is to avoid being like a company or any central kind of thing. But obviously, you have to have somebody jury the code — you don’t want dangerous stuff getting into the code. We do protect it in that regard — but the community page will link to lots of different communities. So just pick some and find the biggest ones.
The Ravencoin community on Discord is pretty big and has lots of channels, and the Ravencoin Telegram channel’s pretty active, too. Those are probably the two biggest communities. There’s also a Ravencoin mailing list you can join, and we’re working towards getting it so that other people can contribute to it. Right now, it’s curated in the sense that we don’t want anybody to spam out anything to anybody — there’s a risk of people using a big distribution list as a spam channel — but we’re trying to make it so that anybody who’s working on a Ravencoin project can basically announce it through that mailing list.
SFOX: Given that Ravencoin is aiming to be a fully decentralized project and doesn’t have a “Ravencoin Foundation,” how does Ravencoin address issues of governance and financial support?
Tron Black: There’s currently no Ravencoin Foundation, but I’m not against a foundation if somebody wanted to put one together. That would be a little bit like the Bitcoin Foundation: it’s not like Satoshi said, “Hey, we need a foundation — let’s start one.” I mean, I think he is an honorary member, but he certainly didn’t set it up. Anyone could do something like that for Ravencoin, and I think it would end up being a place that people could contact to kind of fan out and do their own thing — I don’t think it would be funding anything, but it could. So I guess I’m not against that, but nothing like that exists right now.
Medici Ventures is backing or paying the salaries of developers that are working on Ravencoin, myself included — both on other portfolio companies and also working on Ravencoin. I’m the only developer here still working on Ravencoin who’s been doing that since its inception — other people have spread out to various other portfolio companies. And the nice part is that everybody knows that if I were to get hit by a bus, Ravencoin wouldn’t blink — it just keeps moving on. It’s just code, and it’s available on our GitHub, and it’s free. People have forked it and made other coins out of it. I expect that to probably continue. I hope that we make better decisions, a strong coin, and a strong community. But really, it’s not by dictate: we just hope we do a better job than somebody else does. That’s it.
SFOX: I’m reminded of something that Samson Mow told us when we interviewed him a while ago: I asked him about how to distinguish real, serious crypto projects from potential frauds or scams, and he said, “If someone’s trying to sell you on a project, or sell a coin to you, it’s probably not a good coin.” In your view, is it a good thing or important to the nature of a decentralized project like Ravencoin that it doesn’t have a marketing budget — or, on the other hand, do you think that Ravencoin’s lack of funding is just incidental, and if someone were to throw marketing behind it, that would be excellent?
Tron Black: If someone were to throw marketing behind Ravencoin, that would be great. I don’t think that would hurt Ravencoin. But marketing can also be a pump-and-dump.
One advantage we currently have is that Ravencoin is growing organically — it’s not like we’re out there hyping it up and then people have these big expectations only for it to fail. You will see a little bit of a hype cycle: we don’t have a marketing department, but when Binance says, “Hey, we’re listing Ravencoin,” that’s exposure. So, we did have this kind of big run-up when that happened. It was a great thing for the coin, but it exceeded expectations and then it subsequently dropped down a bit, or whatever. I expect that’ll happen multiple times. RVN is a Coinbase candidate, so I hope they’ll add it at some point; Gemini, too, venues like that.
So I don’t necessarily see marketing as a red flag but I think there are pros and cons. I mean, I would love to have EOS’ budget — billions to basically let people know that Ravencoin exists. It would be great to tell the entire planet to come check Ravencoin out and evaluate it on its own merits. Not telling them anything about it, just come telling them to check it out. I would love to have that ability. But at the same time, it’s been amazing to have the community doing it and have it just grow organically — and it’s probably safer that way.
SFOX: Help our traders better understand the asset RVN. You’ve described Ravencoin as a platform for asset issuance: if its goal is to empower people to use to create and control their own assets, what role does the asset RVN and in that ecosystem, and what are the dynamics influencing its value?
Tron Black: I’ll compare it to something that people can relate to just because everybody is familiar with it: Ethereum, gas, and creating an asset on the ERC-20 contract, which is just one contract.
You can think of a Ravencoin asset as a better, easier-to-use, easier-to-understand ERC-20 contract. But that’s kind of all it does: there is no smart contract, so there’s no programmability. We do have atomic swaps, the ability to swap RVN for an asset, or asset for an asset, where you construct a transaction, you sign it, you send it to somebody else, they sign it, and either it all happens or none of it happens.
RVN issues for the tokenomics of Ravencoin. You have to burn 500 RVN in order to create an asset — so that’s burned; it’s gone; it’s in a provably burned to address with no private key. So, each asset of the 22,000 or 23,000 that have been issued so far has gotten rid of 500 RVN forever. To become a qualifier requires a thousand RVN burned; you have to burn 1500 RVN to create a restricted asset. All those RVN are burned, so nobody gets them — they just no longer exist.
RVN is also used for the network’s fees. It’s not a free network to use, so if you have a token that represents a share of artwork or something and you want to transfer it to somebody else, it costs a very small fee in RVN, which the miners get. So you can think of it like gas is to the Ethereum ERC-20 contract. That’s what RVN’s for.
RVN can also be used just for value transfer. Just like bitcoin and just litecoin, it has that same property — it’s had a value since it’s been on various exchanges, it’s trading on 30-some-odd exchanges now. Its volume, at times, on venues like Bittrex, has exceeded that of the ETH/BTC pair — at times; not always, but it’s had very high volumes. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million dollars every 24 hours, ish, for that token. So, it has pretty good liquidity and pretty good volume. There’s lots of exchanges it’s trading on; it’s been built into multiple wallets — Trust Wallet, Edge Wallet, etc., so you can get lots of different wallets to avoid relying on just one. RVN has even been built into the wallet of a chat app based on Signal.
So, RVN is useful for you if you want to create assets and transfer assets. You do need to have RVN: it is used as part of the network; it’s not just an ancillary thing. It is used to protect the network and also to create assets.
When you create an asset, it’s a unique and different process than ERC-20. On ERC-20, you give the asset a name, but you get back a contract; the contract is unique, but someone could reuse your name because the network doesn’t really keep track of whether different contracts are using the same name. That gives Ravencoin some big advantages for people creating a token that they’re going to use for branding: you can be assured that this token with this name is your token, so you can brand your token’s name. A contract name, on the other hand, is 40x characters, so it’s difficult to brand.
The other advantage that Ravencoin has over ERC-20 is that when you create the asset, in addition to picking a unique name, you can add metadata about what this token is for and what it represents. That information goes in IPFS, “interplanetary file system,” and you get back an IPFS content identifier that goes on-chain. The Ravencoin blockchain and IPFS work together super well — so well, in fact, that we’re extending the connections between them in this new release.
With IPFS, you put a file in there and you get back a unique identifier; that identifier will always be that file. Always. It’s possible that if nobody’s interested in that file, including the person who created that file, that file could disappear. But currently, somebody at Ravenland has created a swarm of Raspberry Pis that are scanning the Ravencoin blockchain to get the files out of IPFS and store them. So, there’s a swarm of people storing these files, meaning that, right now, if you created metadata about what your asset is, there’s no way it could get lost because the swarm would pick it up and keep a copy and then you always would know that this asset means this. And those files can be PDFs, movies, text files… We have a spec that we kind of suggest, but not everybody follows it because you can put anything you want in there. The reason we did a spec was to help in the use-case of computers crawling the blockchain and building a database of what each asset is for, who issued it, and how to contact the person about this. So our spec is basically a JSON file that points to other data. A lot of people have followed it, so you could have a crawler go through all of those and build a database of tokens and what they’re for — but not everybody follows it. Some people are putting in pictures, videos, movies and all kinds of things.
Going back to the ERC-20 comparison, the advantage with Ravencoin is that you have your token, your guaranteed unique name, and anybody, without asking or going to your website, can consult this IPFS database and know exactly what that token represents. And that’s been powerful. It’s because it’s been so powerful that we’re moving to this messaging and memos update — “messaging” meaning that, as the issuer of a token, I can talk to my token holders, and “memos” meaning I can attach a memo saying what each transfer of an asset or RVN is for. The memo could be an invoice; it could be the reason for the transfer; it could be the cost basis… I mean, it could be anything — you could put in a movie with every transfer! We don’t decide: it’s a filing system, so we don’t ask you or dictate what you’re going to store. Those are just ideas of what you could store.
SFOX: And whatever you store could also be restricted in order to be compliant with whatever regulations you want it to be subject to, right?
Tron Black: Correct. We have some suggestions on how to be compliant; I actually wrote an article on how to do this. I’m not a lawyer — I like to say that a lot because I don’t want anybody to think that this is legal advice. But we do have this article; if you go to ravencoin.org, my Medium is there, and you can go and see a bunch of articles I’ve written about why and how we built it.
I do suggest you get your own lawyer to vet what I’m saying because I’m just a guy — I don’t have a law degree. Check it out, make sure that it works for you — and even if it doesn’t work for you, tell me why it doesn’t so that we can improve it. We want to give people a pathway to doing legally compliant security tokens. It’s a toolset to help you follow the rules.
SFOX: It says on Ravencoin.org that the developers are committed to changing the hashing algorithm if ASICs are ever developed for the network. For the benefit of our less tech-savvy traders, could you walk us through the implications of that? Would that kind of algorithm change disrupt the network and functionality of Ravencoin?
Tron Black: Yeah, it would disrupt the network: everyone has to change the code when the hashing algorithm changes, so the network is disrupted. We don’t like changing the hashing algorithm because it’s disruptive. We try to strike a balance between that and trying to keep the character of Ravencoin.
You can go read what people think of Ravencoin and how they think it should be. There’s a lot of people who say, “I like Raven because…” and the “because” is that they can mine it on a regular CPU — it’s not dominated by a bunch of data centers. It’s something that’s approachable: I can set it up on my machine at night and get some RVN. People like that. This character of Ravencoin also brings people into the community since they can just run a computer, get some RVN, and then ask, “What is this?”
Bitcoin is getting better about this now, but for a time, I think, it became less approachable. People would ask questions and get shot down right away. This probably varies by channel; but if the channels in which people were learning about Bitcoin weren’t friendly, then people could get turned off to crypto in general. And I mean, there are other coins they could jump to, and they have — and I’m sure there are friendly Bitcoin channels; I don’t want to throw Bitcoin under the bus. But we definitely would like to keep the character of Ravencoin as fun, approachable, and educational as possible — for people who didn’t learn about bitcoin when it was this small thing where you could get a little bit really cheap, play with it, and give it to people. I mean, there was the story of Mike Caldwell giving away the Casascius coins: he was able to get them down to about two dollars and he would give those out to people. Well, at some point, those became worth twenty-thousand dollars, plus a premium because they’re collectible.
This idea that I can just give you just some RVN and I can buy some just brings people in, and they learn about Ravencoin and they learn about crypto. We’re doing that, and at the same time, we’re also trying to build a bulletproof platform for security tokens — so it’s a little bit of a mixed message there! We’re trying to build a bulletproof issuance platform but also make it super friendly for you to give RVN away to your friends; we’re kind of being both of those, and we’ll see where it ends up.
SFOX: As you look back over the history of Ravencoin so far, were there any key events or turning points that helped Ravencoin to define itself?
Tron Black: Yeah, there have been a couple. I would say the genesis launch was defining in the sense that we ended up getting an actual quote from the same magazine that Bitcoin quoted in its genesis block. The idea that we were able to follow almost that same model and be similar to Bitcoin’s early days, that was a defining moment.
We had another really interesting defining moment which I wrote up on my Medium. There’s an article, I think it’s called, “Remember, Remember the 5th of November.” We had tried to launch asset creation on October 31st of 2018, which was kind of the birthday of the Ravencoin white paper. We had some miners that weren’t switching over. I was at World Crypto Con and there was a mining show; I had some friends there who were helping to put that together, and we needed to get past this 90-percent threshold that we had set. We had chosen that as our threshold and we weren’t getting there each time the blocks cycled.
Then, the whole community got involved: miners were calling other miners and bringing GPUs online and people were renting hash power and there were memes that were being written and shared. It was this amazing thing, and I woke up finding out that we weren’t passing this threshold. So I walked down, kind of oblivious, to the show. And people were telling me, “It’s happening!” And I said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” So they were explaining it to me, and it was an amazing day.
Finally, we get to the actual launch of the thing, and after it gets past the threshold — 2016 blocks have to go by, which, for Bitcoin, takes two weeks, but for us, because our blocks are faster, it’s 1.4 days — we’re waiting for this countdown. It’s counting down to the second, and it’s going to happen at roughly 6:00 a.m. I’ve got scripts to try to get the assets on Ravencoin that we want to get — assets like Overstock, tZERO, things like that. We’re trying to get certain ones and we have no advantage over anyone else. The best we can do is have all the developers try to get it at the same time — and then the software is going to figure out who gets it.
Finally, the update triggers, and I have written a script so that I wouldn’t have to get up at 6:00 a.m. — although I did, because it was a big event — so I’m watching the script count down, and it triggers. And it’s like, “Sorry” — and there’s some sort of error about “dust.” And it just repeats this error, and then the channels, the Telegram, Discord, all light up: “What is this dust thing? Why am I not getting my asset?” It’s just scrolling at a million miles per second, flying by, and I don’t know what it is. I’m on the phone with another developer trying to sort it out.
We basically find out that there’s this code that’s in there only on the main net, not on the test net. We tested this process of activating on the test net over and over, and now this code exists that we hadn’t seen before because it’s only on the main net. And the code is basically saying, “Hey, you can’t send a 0 RVN transaction, you have to have at least some amount.” It was legacy stuff left over from Bitcoin, and we had missed it.
So then we’re trying to figure out what to do. Do we launch this thing over? How do we solve this? We’re trying to figure this out, and we’re talking about it like in this academic sense — and then, all of a sudden, one asset gets created: VOTE. And we realize that somebody has the ability to create an asset, meaning they recompiled the code or mined it themselves or something. Sure enough, they had figured out what it was, taken the code, rebuilt it, had mining pull the issue… And we said, “Uh oh: whoever this is is going to be able to issue whatever prime assets that everybody’s trying to get.” It was no longer academic.
So, we found the developer — great developer, friendly guy, awesome. We chatted with him, figured out what the issue was, changed the code, and started building binaries to get everybody out there.
The big conundrum was that we wanted our assets but we couldn’t create them until other people were able to create them. And so we’re like waiting, waiting, waiting, and then they all suddenly got created, and we said, “Okay, now we can do ours” — click, and we get some of ours, but we don’t get all the ones we wanted. We bought some of the ones we missed; with others, we felt like we were being extorted, so we haven’t bought them. But that was a super defining moment for Ravencoin.
Hopefully, the next transition will go more smoothly, which is being activated now right now. This transition is also something of a defining moment in that we have set an 85 percent threshold for this next activation of the new features and we’re at 75 percent. We’ve contacted the miners and mining pools we know and said, “Please upgrade,” but we need another 10 percent. It just shows that we’re not in charge: all we can do is recommend. Some of these mining pools maybe only speak Chinese. So, we’re not sure when it’s going to activate, but we’re in this process now, and there’s a website where people can monitor our progress toward it. So the present is another defining moment for us.
SFOX: And what a testament this present situation is, as you said, to how truly decentralized the network and the project are.
What are the major challenges facing Ravencoin now? What in its future most excites you?
I would say the biggest challenge is probably just awareness. I think that’s increasing, but we don’t have the marketing budget. There’s all the good stuff about being decentralized, but the bad part is that makes it difficult to raise awareness.
I live in this bubble where everybody I know knows about Ravencoin, but only because I or someone I know told them about it right, or Patrick told them about it at Overstock or whatever. So in my world, everybody knows what Ravencoin is, but that isn’t true of the world at large. So if I step outside of my bubble, I ask people, “What?! You haven’t heard about Ravencoin?! What in the world?!” There’s a lot of people who don’t know about it. So we just need more exposure about what Ravencoin is, what it could do, and what it is capable of.
I feel like we’re a fair bit ahead of a lot of other projects — I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but I feel like we have this feature set that lets you do lots of amazing stuff. The use-case list is vast. I’ve written on my Medium account about all the things you could use Ravencoin and IPFS for. Things like asset tracking, supply chain management… all kinds of things, and we’ve written papers to kind of show you how it’s done. So that’s the next stage of Ravencoin: hopefully, people see what it is, and then more community develops, and more people join through more word of mouth, etc.
The next phase after that, I think, depends on how that first phase goes: if the awareness hits a critical mass or tipping point, then scalability is going to become an issue. We could certainly increase the block size — with the community’s permission, which I don’t think would be a problem if scaling became a real issue. It isn’t a fight that we’re having. And the other thing is that if we hit scaling issues that we can’t solve — because blockchains are not as fast as a centralized solution — it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have forks of Ravencoin for specific things: maybe this fork is used for certificates of authenticity, or for different cases. So that’s a possibility. We’re talking down the road: right now, we have no scaling issues. We have plenty of space; we’ve never hit any limits or had to increase block size limits.
There’s a lot of room currently, but none of the blockchains, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, have the capacity to do a Nasdaq-level kind of trading, or things like that. That’s something we can work on in the future, but computers get faster and things like that, so some of it will be mitigated by just improving technology.
SFOX: Well, you’ve gotten me excited about the future of Ravencoin. Tron, do you have any final thoughts that you want to leave our readers with?
Tron Black: To anybody who’s reading this, at least check out Ravencoin. Just see what it’s about. I don’t usually like to talk about price and things like that; I basically like to show what it’s capable of.
Like we talked about earlier, the springboard for learning about that is pretty much Ravencoin.org. And then there’s just lots of community channels listed there; they’re not really in order, it’s kind of spread out. One of the reasons for that is that we are trying not to favor any specific channels over others.
People can add themselves to the website. That website, Ravencoin.org, is on GitHub; it’s under “Raven project.” You can go to GitHub, pull it down, modify it, and basically do a pull request with your community or information. We’ll look at it to make sure it’s not dominant cheating or trying to push somebody else out or whatever, but if it looks reasonable like you’ve been fair with where you put yourself, then it gets added: we click “Go,” and you show up on the website. So we’re literally just making it a place to get started with Ravencoin and branch out from there.
Ravencoin is very community-driven. We can use all the help we can get. If you come and like it, tell others about it. Build something on top of it. If you are an aspiring developer, come build something. You can literally contribute to the code, to the Ravencoin core. If you’re a mobile developer, you can contribute to the mobile wallets for Android and iOS. If you’re a front-end developer, we have explorers you can contribute to and make better. So, Ravencoin is a place for everybody. If you just want to write about it, great. Join in.
You can DM me on Twitter, @Tronblack; on Telegram, I think I’m @RavenTron; and, find me on Discord — I don’t know what my handle is there. One of the things I try to help do is connect the right people together. If you want to do issuance for a project and need legal help, I can route you to the correct people.
Thanks to Tron Black for his perspective on the potential of Ravencoin, the history and future trajectory of crypto, and where tokenization is headed in the next decade.
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