Flying Under the Radar
Quietly, and without any fanfare at all, a stealthy development in the world of cryptocurrency took place in early January of 2018. Amidst the backdrop of seemingly daily ICO's, announcements and pre-announcements, and cookie cutter crypto projects, 'there came a tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.' My apologies to the estate of Edgar Allen Poe for my shameless theft from his dark, but beloved poem, but I literally and literarily could not resist the temptation as the image created, for me, describes perfectly the manner in which Ravencoin introduced itself to me.
The Ravencoin Project first came to my attention as I was browsing through some posts in an online cryptocurrency forum and the only words I recall were 'anyone hear about Ravencoin? It looks kind of interesting'. This understated 'tap tap tap' found me about a month after the Ravencoin Launch. I looked into it and was very surprised to see that it had not already been chewed up and spit out by the crowd that likes to hit new cryptos with all the mining capacity that can be mustered, then dump the freshly minted digital currency as quickly as possible for Bitcoin, Ethereum or some other more established currency. That is the pattern that I have observed on numerous occasions. But, after a month of the Ravencoin launch things still seemed to be very much in a state of infancy. Odd, I thought to myself, and somewhat intriguing.
I did a little digging around. I learned that the development team included Bruce Fenton, Tron Black and Joel Weight. The first thing that struck me right off the bat... these are real people with real names. They were not college students or teenage whiz kids hiding behind online pseudonyms such as 'CryptoRipper', 'LamboNow' or 'MagicCoinGenie'. And, their real names were associated with things like The Bitcoin Foundation and Medici Ventures. I also learned that Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com (OSTK) had lent his support to this project. Overstock.com was a very early adopter of Bitcoin (2014) and Byrne is also the creator of Medici Ventures, a firm dedicated to building blockchain-based financial technology solutions. I began to suspect that this quiet little open source project might have a lot more 'under the hood' than the first glance might pick up on.
My experience with Ravencoin so far has been as a miner with modest, yet effective gear and as a participant in a very vibrant and growing online community of project supporters. About a week ago (early March 2018) I contacted Tron Black, one of Ravencoin's lead developers, to get some clarification on the project, to 'pick his brain' on the driving force behind the project and, more importantly, what might lie ahead for it. At first I thought I would take his answers and sort of dice them up and scatter them about, but Tron's answers were so cogent and thoughtful, I believe the reader would be better served by publishing them in whole. After this question and answer session, I will have a few closing comments.
Q&A with Tron Black, Ravencoin Development Team
In general terms, where do you think the world is in its adoption of cryptocurrencies?
I think we’re near the beginning. Value (of all types), now moves as easily as e-mail. This will disrupt businesses that have become comfortable in their rent-seeking favored positions such as banks, and money remittance companies.
Again, just thinking about blockchain tech in a very global sense, where do you see this headed in the next 5, 10 years?
The use of the technology behind Bitcoin will continue to expand. Bitcoin has been tracking at 300%+ per year and I expect that to continue for some time. If Bitcoin fumbles for technical reasons, the value will likely shift to another similar technology like Ravencoin, Litecoin, or Bitcoin Cash.
The trend is that those that have the most to lose, such as the NY financial sector or certain governments, will over regulate in their jurisdiction. This will push or squeeze the companies and technical talent into other friendlier jurisdictions. This is a global technology and does not require physical infrastructure like buildings, which makes it easy to relocate.
Can you tell me how the Ravencoin Project came to be? Was necessity the mother of invention in this case? And, if so, what was the necessity? And, what makes the invention (RVN) unique to the multitudes of other cryptos?
This originated with Bruce and Patrick and has a fun and original Bitcoin feel. There are plans, not yet released to the Raven community on paper, but certainly talked about. There are plans to add assets to the Raven chain. This will be direct and integrated, as opposed to the clunky layer 2 solutions that exist today. The tighter integration gives Raven the edge in being an easier and more seamless solution.
I have heard people talk of the use of RVN as a platform used for the transfer of assets. In pragmatic terms, what does that look like?
It allows anyone to very easily issue a token. While it might be illegal in the US, an eight-year-old girl in a not over-regulated country could create a token that represents her lemonade stand business. Let's say she creates 10000 LEMONADE tokens. These tokens could be used to raise funds for the lemonade stand at AUD$0.01 per LEMONADE. These tokens can be sold and transferred easily by the owners. Let’s say the lemonade stand does extraordinarily well because the neighborhood is invested in this entrepreneurial project. Now Sally, our fictional eight-year-old, wants to reward those who believed in her project. She takes the profit from the lemonade stand and buys RVN. Then with one easy command, she sends profits - denominated in RVN - to LEMONADE holders. There could even be new holders of LEMONADE tokens that she’s never met. Scale this up to multi-billion dollar companies if you’d like, but don’t forget the eight-year-old. It should be so easy to use on a mobile phone, Windows, Mac or Linux that anyone anywhere in the world can use it.
Instead of a big countdown to launch, it seems that Ravencoin did not so much launch as it was just let loose to go where it would. Am I right on that? If I am, what was the thought process behind that mode of startup?
Yes, you’re correct. It was launched to let everyone get RVN. Nobody started with an advantage. The genesis block was mined, and the software was released to the public minutes later and everyone started at the same time. I personally got a slow start because I was helping make sure it was a fair launch. There was some early criticism that it wasn’t announced on specific channels, but those concerns have largely been addressed.
Why did we not see an ICO or a premine? How is the Ravencoin project being funded?
The main reason it wasn’t an ICO or a premine is the philosophical orientation of those behind the coin. I have a fondness for how Bitcoin started at zero with a fair and largely unpublicized launch and I believe that Bruce and Patrick feel the same way. The growth of mining, markets, value, and community just grew out of the technology. The Raven core development is being funded by Medici Ventures which is part of Overstock. The community, markets, and value have been just natural organic growth which develops as others recognize the value of what is being created. We don’t want this growth to be artificially generated from hype. We’d much prefer a strong, natural, organic community. I expect this to grow as it becomes more clear what Raven can be.
Ravencoin uses a new form of hashing algorithm, x16r. What is significant about that algorithm? Is it truly ASIC resistant?
There were discussions on how to make the Raven a community coin, and to protect the coin in its early days from being dominated by huge mining operations. One idea, which was great, but technically unfeasible was to change the algorithm every few months. The danger is that when the algorithm switches, it goes to an algorithm with fewer miners, or too many miners making it difficult to keep the difficulty in a reasonable range to have a reliable block time. While eating dinner before a Bitcoin meetup that gathers at Peace Coliseum, Joel and I were trying to reconcile these issues when we came up with a solution which uses the information from the previous block, and is random enough to make it challenging for custom circuitry.
Since none of the algorithms are particularly difficult to implement in silicon, and a silicon controller could be written to use the previous hash to determine the sequence, the algorithm is tricky, but not impossible to make into an ASIC.
But, as fair warning to anyone who wishes to take up the challenge, we have a commitment to change the algorithm if we see, or suspect an ASIC has been developed. This will be easy for us for a number of reasons that I’d prefer not to reveal publicly at this time.
Humans have a unique ability to imagine and to create. As the creators of Ravencoin, where does your imagination go in the coming months and years? What is your dream for this?
My dream is to have a neighborhood lemonade stand that I can support and get rewarded in RVN when that lemonade stand business franchises into other neighborhoods. I’d like to see a multi-billion dollar company use the same technology to issue shares. I hope I don’t need to leave the US to see the lemonade stand. For me, the lemonade stand represents any dream or project that needs capital, and the neighbors represent everyone that should have the freedom to risk their own money to support a dream or project.
What is the single most important aspect of the Ravencoin Project? If you could distill it all down to one drop of the barest essence of it all, for you, what IS that drop?
Freedom. It is time to unlock creativity powered by capital from everyone. I can’t change the laws or regulations, but I can build software that makes token issuance, transfer, and rewards so easy to do that the regulation enforcers will have to make a decision whether they really want to arrest an eight-year-old lemonade selling entrepreneur.
A Few Closing Thoughts
We have all heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but imitation can take many forms. I knew a singer once who could sing like a bird. He could hear a world class performance and then just nail it in perfect form. However, he could not perform anything new. I wrote a few songs and tried to get him to do the vocals. It was horrible. He was a mockingbird. He could imitate anything, but create very little. When keeping this in mind, I get the sense the homage Ravencoin is paying to Bitcoin is not just at the surface level, but in the very spirit of the project. Open source. Fair launch. No ICO. No premine. Just release the code into the wild and let it grow organically. Organic adoption will create a real foundation for growth. It may not be as eye-catching as a 'flash in the pan', but those flashes often vanish almost as quickly as they appear. As my father used to tell me, slow and steady wins the race.
Judging from what I have seen so far, I am excited about Ravencoin (RVN). The project is being spearheaded by people with relevant resumes and with a passion for leveling the playing field for individuals who are too often fiscally bullied around by government and institution alike. There is also a very practical side to a well designed crypto-currency that I experienced firsthand over the last few weeks. Up until recently, Ravencoin had only traded in self-regulated OTC trading and I volunteered to be an escrow agent. It was amazing to me that in the course of a few minutes, parties from Germany, Brazil, Thailand, The Netherlands and the United States could exchange value. It was, as Tron stated above, just as easy to send Ravencoin as it is to send an email. One person became a little frustrated when the Bitcoin network was running slow, making his payment take about a half hour. I joked 'Well... we could be doing this through international banking channels'. Suddenly the beauty of it all became apparent as we concluded our business with no dependence upon banks and no regulatory interference.
Finally, what is the name Ravencoin all about? When I first heard it I thought it was an odd name. But, keep in mind that this opinion comes from someone who has played in a good number of rock bands over the years and never liked the names of any of them. Then I learned a bit about the literary history of ravens. Clever. Crafty. Bringers of truth.
And don't forget, gently tapping on the door.
Disclosure: I am/we are long RVN, BTC, ETH, LTC, STRAKS.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.