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Tag #Ethereum

Three smart contract platforms to watch

Smart contracts are a must-have feature for blockchain platforms. But smart contracts come in many forms. This article compares three different approaches.

 

Bitcoin was the first form of decentralized programmable money. Bitcoin’s built-in scripting language enables users to specify simple conditions attached to transfers – for example, requiring that two of three accounts have signed a transaction.  

 

But blockchain can be used to execute far more complex and powerful logic. Since Ethereum launched in 2015, a slew of smart contract platforms has followed. Different platforms take different approaches – and each has its own benefits and risks.

 

Ethereum

The first and still the largest smart contract platform, Ethereum offers Turing-complete contracts. This means that theoretically any computational operation can be replicated on the Ethereum network. In other words, you can build pretty much anything.

 

Of course, the delays and bottlenecks of the blockchain mean you wouldn’t generally want to do that, but the point stands: Ethereum is an extremely powerful platform. That power is certainly an advantage, but it also brings vulnerabilities.

 

Ethereum is arguably too powerful, and too complex. Ethereum’s history is littered with examples of times when hackers were able to exploit vulnerabilities or features in a smart contract: The DAO, the two Parity wallet hacks, and many more. These were missed because the way Ethereum’s smart contract language, Solidity, operates means ‘edge cases’ are possible and it’s hard to figure out where all the security holes might be. Moreover, the fact that you can execute code of any complexity means it’s possible to write code that executes unpredictably – for example, it may be impossible to know how much it will cost to run.

 

Ethereum, then, is an amazing platform with exceptional innovation – but its power means it can also be risky. When you’re dealing with financial applications that process millions of dollars of users’ funds, that’s not a chance you want to take.

 

EOS

Funded by a year-long, $4 billion ICO, EOS has been called the ‘Ethereum killer’ – though it hasn’t yet delivered on this title. EOS is more like a blockchain operating system that enables a wide range of use cases. It’s massively more scalable than Ethereum, and doesn’t have transaction fees (removing that element of Ethereum’s vulnerability by default). But it’s also far more centralized, with just 21 Block Producers, and concerns that they could collude or be coerced to falsify blockchain data.

 

For its smart contracts, EOS uses WebAssembly (WASM), which enables developers to code in C++ and compile to WASM for use on EOS. It solves many of the issues of Solidity; as EOS’s GitHub explains, ‘In the world of blockchain, any non-deterministic behavior, unbounded computation, or unbounded use of RAM can take down the blockchain for everyone, not just a single user’s web browser. Single-threaded performance, fast compilation/validation of Wasm, and low-overhead calls to native code are critical to blockchains.’ It’s worth noting that C++ wasn’t designed for blockchains, and its standard can be messy, with implications for edge cases.

 

Ergo

Ergo’s approach is similar in many ways, avoiding the most common issues that have plagued Ethereum. ErgoScript, which is based on Scala and designed specifically for execution in a blockchain environment, supports formal verification. it is always known in advance that a script will execute properly, and how much it will cost. 

 

Ergo’s key difference is the use of Sigma Protocols, a powerful class of zero-knowledge protocols that enable very flexible use cases off the peg. In short, while you can do anything with Ethereum, trying to is often a bad idea. It’s either expensive, complex or risky. Ergo enables developers to implement use cases – including ring and threshold signatures, as well as other specialist cryptographic operations, for greater privacy and multi-party computation – easily and safely.

 

In itself, ErgoScript isn’t Turing complete. This is an intentional design choice taken to avoid the exploits that have seen tens of millions of dollars stolen from Ethereum applications or locked in its smart contracts. However, the Ergo platform can be used to create Turing-complete applications, but iterating operations over multiple blocks. This offers the best of both worlds: the safety provided by preventing unrestricted functionality, but nonetheless enabling complex dApps on the blockchain.

Tokenised car ownership with BitCar

When Lambo? We don’t know. When Ferrari 599 GTO? Now!

 

Lambos are a popular meme in the crypto world, and who doesn’t love a beautiful, fast car? While most of us can’t afford a whole one (we’re still waiting for $1m BTC), BitCar offers the next best thing with shares in a classic Ferrari.

 

Timeshares to timestamps

Fractional ownership of expensive, rare and luxury items has long been a Thing. From the heydays of timeshares in the 1980s to the square foot of Islay that every purchase of a bottle of Laphroaig gets you, we’re used to the concept of parcelling up commodities we can’t own in their entirety in the knowledge that owning a little is better than owning none.

 

Fractional ownership is an ideal use case for blockchain, for several reasons. It’s easy to create a token to represent the item to be divided up and sold – in this case, a classic Ferrari. The transparency and immutability of the blockchain means owners can be sure their fractions won’t be diluted by the creation of more tokens, and no one can lose or erase their record of ownership. Owners can prove exactly when they bought their shares and when, thanks to the full record and timestamps on each block of the blockchain. Moreover, they can quickly and easily sell their stake to anyone willing to buy it on a global secondary market – something that’s not so easy with a conventional approach.

 

Smart ownership

BitCar have used Ethereum to create a token representing ownership of a Ferrari 599 GTO – an absolute classic and a rare item of which only 599 were made. Having bought the car at a very competitive price ($561,000), the idea is straightforward: customers buy fractions of the car (from as little as $25) and then five years down the line, the car is sold and tokenholders receive the sale value in ETH. The funds are automatically airdropped to the account holding their tokens. The whole process is managed by smart contracts via the BitCar platform.

 

Whatever the crypto markets do, the expectation is that the Ferrari will appreciate in fiat terms – aside from being a rare model, the Chinese market is opening up in the coming months, and supercars are a highly sought-after status symbol. At the very least, tokens are an alternative stablecoin, but the likelihood is the sale value will be significantly higher. The car itself is stored in the UK and occasionally exhibited at events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed. 

 

So here’s how it works:

  • You’ll need MetaMask
  • Go to https://go.bitcar.io/platform
  • Log in and click ‘unlock your wallet’
  • You’ll then need to click the bar at the top to register as a member
  • Read and agree to the terms, obviously not simply scrolling to the end and clicking ‘Ok’
  • Fill out the form
  • Approve the smart contract request via MetaMask (you’ll need some ETH in your account for this)
  • Now refresh your browser, log in using MetaMask and you can click the image of the car in the centre of the screen to buy some fractions
  • You’ll need some ETH to buy fractions, as well as BitCar tokens – there’s a list of exchanges where you can get them.

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An ETH holder just had a very bad day

TL;DR when you’re making a large transaction, do NOT mix up the amount and the transaction fee.

 

An ETH whale just had a very, very bad day. Take a look at this transaction and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with it: https://etherscan.io/tx/0x1f73b43dc9c48cc131a931fac7095de9e5eba0c5184ec0c5c5f1f32efa2a6bab

 

That’s right. The whale transferred 0.1 ETH, and paid a transaction fee of 2,100 ETH.

 

Cryptocurrency can be an extremely efficient way of moving value around the world. For example, last year a Bitcoin user moved $194 million of value – 29,999 BTC – with a transaction fee of just $0.10. That episode showcased the true potential of crypto to many people. Even the most efficient services in the traditional financial industry would have cost $7,500 to move $1 million.

 

But this fat-fingered or distracted Ether user neatly demonstrated what happens when it goes wrong. He paid approximately $309,000 to move $15.

 

Oops.

 

And it wasn’t the only one, either. This was actually one of several transactions with insanely high fees That makes it look more like deliberate malice, or a malfunctioning dApp – or a piece of software designed to move funds around, but that mixes up two variables. The fact that different pools mined the txs suggests it wasn’t an elaborate form of money laundering, as one reddit user claims.

 

Whatever, someone just lost a lot of money. Potentially a single large holder went from whale to minnow in the time it takes to confirm a few transactions. Alternatively, some crypto project has just burned a good proportion of its ICO reserves. No doubt we’ll find out more soon enough.

 

What we do know is that a bad day for him was a very, very good day for the miner who got those tx fees

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