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We’re pleased to share the Blockstack whitepaper 2.0 which builds on two years of R&D work, peer-reviewed research, and presents a more detailed specification of our technology. In 2017, we published the initial Blockstack Technical Whitepaper; technology evolves fast in crypto networks, and our design and production network has several improvements and new components since then. The Blockstack whitepaper 2.0 updates the technical architecture and presents two new components: (a) the design of the Stacks blockchain and consensus mechanism, and (b) a new smart contract language that optimizes for predictability and security.
This paper is co-authored with Prof. Michael Freedman from Princeton University who recently received the 2018 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for scalable, performant distributed systems. Mike has been a technical advisor to Blockstack PBC since 2015.
The Blockstack whitepaper 1.0 laid out plans to build services for authentication and storage. Today, we have over 100 independent applications built on top of Blockstack that utilize Blockstack Auth for identity and Gaia for decentralized storage. After delivering on those goals, we’re now incorporating what we’ve learned into the next evolution of Blockstack.
Overview of the Blockstack Decentralized Computing Network (click to view slides)
The need for cloud service alternatives has only become more obvious since our team began articulating their ideas in peer-reviewed research. From 2016 when Yahoo! admitted to losing information for 500 million people, to today where Facebook allowed for the sale of 87 million users’ data to an external strategy firm, there have been numerous wake-up calls that users can’t trust large corporations to secure their data or to keep it private.
We envision a future where such violations of user trust by digital services are simply impossible. Here’s how we’ve moved towards that future over the last two years—and where we plan to go next.
The Stacks Blockchain
Perhaps the most significant development has been the launch of the Stacks blockchain. Our whitepaper 2.0 describes the design of a new blockchain and the consensus mechanism, the foundational layer of the Blockstack network. Development on Stacks blockchain v2 is already underway, and the paper describes our transition from Version 1 of the Stacks blockchain to Version 2.
The key evolution in this will be the transition to standalone consensus and security. We’ve decided to draw on the proven security of Bitcoin by using Tunable Proofs and a form of proof-of-burn mining in the near term. Over time, Stacks will become a standalone blockchain as native proof-of-work mining provides greater and greater security through a ‘tunable’ consensus algorithm that will gradually give native Stacks mining more weight than the proof-of-burn process. With V2, users and apps will also be able to pay fees for registration and other operations with the native Stacks token. Our Tunable Proofs mechanism leaves the door open to further research and careful introduction of new types of consensus mechanisms.
A New Smart Contract Language
Stacks Version 2 will also support smart contracts, with an emphasis on security. In contrast to other notable systems, smart contracts in Stacks will be Turing-incomplete, making it easier to predict both their interactions with other parts of the system and the cost of executing them. Given what we’ve learned about the vulnerability of smart contracts in recent years, we think this is the safer approach. We plan to release full details on the new smart contract language in a separate blog post.
The Full(er) Development Stack
If we want to create a world where digital tools “can’t be evil,” we have to make it easy for developers to build useful tools on our platform. Towards that end, Blockstack provides a wealth of developer tools, including developer libraries for mobile and desktop platforms, and blockstack.js. Another powerful tool developed by the Blockstack team is Radiks, a plug-and-play way for Blockstack apps to aggregate and learn from user data across Gaia storage instances, without compromising privacy.
These resources serve Blockstack’s broader goal of ‘light’ blockchains by encouraging developers to push resource-hungry features off-chain, as much as security allows. This adds up to a more efficient, and therefore a more decentralized system. The importance of this approach is clear from looking at ‘heavy’ blockchains like Ethereum, whose high level of on-chain activity has made the chain so big it effectively requires specialized hardware to run a full node. This, in turn, leads to centralization and fragility for the network.
Scalable Data Storage Options and A Better User Experience
As part of keeping the Stacks blockchain lean, Blockstack uses a decentralized off-chain storage system called Gaia to store application data and access control. The system can connect applications running on Blockstack to a range of underlying cloud storage providers, such as AWS and Azure, as well as to private servers. We’ve smoothed the process of selecting storage options; users get cloud-like performance from their encrypted data lockers. All of this should give users and developers more intuitive and direct control over their data.
These are just the highlights of what the Blockstack community and team have accomplished over the past two years, and a preview of upcoming plans. We’re proud of how consistently we’ve delivered on our vision while continuing to research new ways to help users control their data without sacrificing the infinite possibilities of the internet.
As we’ve shown through a growing number of partnerships worldwide, we believe that our decentralized computing network needs to be global by definition and should not concentrate in any specific region. For those interested in diving deeper, we’ve worked hard to make the new version of our whitepaper clear and accessible not only in English but have translated it to Chinese, with translations to Spanish, Korean, and Japanese languages coming soon. The sections of the whitepaper that cover new components are Section 2 on the “Stacks Blockchain,” and Section 3 on “Smart Contract Language.”
And of course, we’re not done after this release—not even close. The transition to a new, decentralized internet will be a long one. That’s not just a matter of adoption, but of continually solving every challenge that stands in the way of a decentralized future where fundamental digital rights are provided and protected. We’re committed to that mission, and we hope you’ll join us, whether as an app developer, investor, or user: we all deserve a better internet.
Rule 255 Disclaimer:
This communication may be deemed “testing the waters” material under Regulation A under the Securities Act of 1933. We are not under any obligation to complete an offering under Regulation A. We may choose to make an offering to some, but not all, of the people who indicate an interest in investing, and that offering might not be made under Regulation A. We will only be able to make sales after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has “qualified” the offering statement that we have filed with the SEC. The information in that offering statement will be more complete than the information we are providing now, and could differ in important ways. You must read the documents filed with the SEC before investing.
No money or other consideration is being solicited, and if sent in response, will not be accepted. No offer to buy the securities can be accepted and no part of the purchase price can be received until the offering statement filed by the company with the SEC has been qualified by the SEC. Any such offer may be withdrawn or revoked, without obligation or commitment of any kind, at any time before notice of acceptance given after the date of qualification.
An indication of interest involves no obligation or commitment of any kind.
Any person interested in investing in any offering of Stacks Tokens should review our disclosures and the publicly filed offering statement relating to that offering, a copy of which is available at www.sec.gov. You may obtain a copy of the preliminary offering circular that is part of that offering statement here.
Blockstack is not registered, licensed or supervised as a broker dealer or investment adviser by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or any other financial regulatory authority or licensed to provide any financial advice or services.
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements:
This blog post contains forward-looking statements that are based on our beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to management. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “may,” “will,” “could,” “would,” “should,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “is designed to,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “project,” “potential,” “continue,” “ongoing,” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words.
These statements involve risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that may cause actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to be materially different from the information expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this blog post, we caution you that these statements are based on a combination of facts and factors currently known by us and our projections of the future, about which we cannot be certain. Forward-looking statements in this blog post include, but are not limited to, statements about: Blockstack’s plans for developing the Blockstack network and ecosystem and the evolution and future of computing. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this blog post will prove to be accurate. Furthermore, if the forward-looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not regard these statements as a representation or warranty by us or any other person that we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame, or at all. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.