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The Next Phase of App Mining

The App Mining pilot program is pausing. We've outlined key challenges and next steps

Late in 2018, Blockstack PBC launched App Mining, a unique pilot program designed to incentivize developers to build apps on Blockstack and accelerate the growth of a user-owned internet.

Throughout 2019, App Mining has been one of several channels supporting app growth on the Blockstack network, helping to grow the total number of apps from 46 to over 400 as of today.

While the app growth has been exciting, there have also been challenges in running a program of increasing size and complexity. After working with the App Miners on some of the more critical of challenges, we’ve decided to pause the App Mining pilot in its current form until the key challenges outlined below, can be solved. While both the Blockstack PBC team and the App Miners recognize there are positive responses and signals to the program, there’s more work to be done to ensure the program is sustainable and in line with our mission and core values.

What’s Happening?

Blockstack PBC will no longer run the App Mining program. We’re calling for a major overhaul of the App Mining program and not incremental improvements. Any new version of App Mining will be driven by individuals or entities other than Blockstack PBC and likely will not launch until Stacks 2.0 is operational. The ~30M STX currently allocated to App Mining purposes will remain allocated to a future version of App Mining or a general developer ecosystem fund. Some entity other than Blockstack PBC will be responsible for managing these STX distributions. See this initial proposal for a Stacks Foundation as one option for future governance.

App Mining Challenges:

In the past year, we worked with the community and the App Reviewers to solve a number of issues and have steadily improved the program. The remaining challenges, however, we collectively believe deserve a bigger examination as they are core to the structure of the program. It’s especially important we do this now as further plans for Blockstack decentralization unfold and we realign the next phase of growth as the ecosystem.

These structural challenges were the theme of our most recent App Miner call. We solidified the three main challenges that need to be solved:

#1 Objectively Fair Distribution: The goal of App Mining is to consistently reward apps that are high-quality and have fully embraced an architecture that keeps users in control. Finding the right metrics and automated tests for this is complicated. We’ve made considerable progress in iterating over better ranking metrics, but there is room for this to be much better.

To be solved: How can we design a ranking system that rewards apps that deliver a high-quality user experience and put users in more control of their data and privacy? How will this system encourage more real entrepreneurship? Is this system scalable such that it can rank thousands of apps in different categories algorithmically?

#2 Privacy-Preserving Analytics: An important quality metric for the success of a decentralized app is daily active users. In an ideal world there can be a privacy-preserving, sybil-proof analytics mechanism that does not misuse user data and provides input to App Mining ranking. We currently do not track active users in Blockstack or App Mining, and this remains an area of future research (see similar efforts by Brave). We need reliable, privacy-preserving analytics mechanism before the program could resume. This metric can be one of the most important app quality metrics that feeds into algorithmic ranking.

To be solved: How can we develop a mechanism for tracking an app’s user activity that does not exploit users’ data and privacy?

#3 Decentralization: App Mining, by definition, is a distribution of Stacks (STX) to developers. During the current pilot phase, Blockstack PBC was running the program through a SEC-qualified offering lasting until fall 2020. This is not a sustainable method in the long-run. Given Blockstack PBC’s plans for further decentralization, an independent entity or entities needs to run App Mining, or the mechanism needs to be automated at the protocol level. Figuring out a “permanent home” for App Mining is important before the program can resume.

To be solved: What potential independent entity (or entities) or mechanism can fairly and effectively distribute Stacks tokens to App Mining participants?

As we explored solving these issues with App Miners and community, there have been some promising proposals and exciting possibilities opened up; ideas we believe will seed a better, future version of the program (possibly something that looks totally different from the current version). Some proposals include stricter rules for entry and qualification, adding tiers of support depending on the projects quality and success, or unique ideas around app stacking.

What’s next?

There is currently an allocation of over 30M STX reserved for App Mining which is enough for running a version of App Mining at the originally planned 1M STX a month for 2+ years. Blockstack PBC plans to continue exploring ways in which other independent entities can use this allocation for a different, upgraded version of App Mining in 2020 and beyond.

App Mining needs a dedicated team at an independent entity to move forward. In the meantime, discontinuing App Mining will allow the community to focus on this major overhaul. We’re excited to support an independent entity and the community and apply all the learning from this program. We’ll post more details as we work with our community on potential paths forward.

Participants in App Mining were already aware of the existing challenges and most are involved in the ongoing work to solve them. Final payouts before the pause will be made for the February run on or around February 27th.

Last but not least, a sincere thank you to the App Miners who have been the heart and soul of the pilot program and have been helpful, patient, and supportive during a groundbreaking year. These are early days for the Blockstack ecosystem and for the App Mining concept. Now let’s get to work on what a future App Mining structure can look like!

We’d love your input on formation of the Stacks Foundation. → Read more.


Important disclaimer

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has qualified the offering statement that we have filed with the SEC under Regulation A for our offering of certain of our Stacks Tokens. The information in that offering statement is 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. The offering is being made only by means of its offering statement. This document shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any state or jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or jurisdiction.

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 and the final 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 SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or any other financial regulatory authority or licensed to provide any financial advice or services.

Forward-looking statements

This communication contains forward-looking statements that are based on our beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to us. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “will,” “expect,” “would,”“intend,” “believe,” or other comparable terminology. Forward-looking statements in this document include, but are not limited to, statements about the future of App Mining and plans for a potential Stacks Foundation. These statements involve risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different. More information on the factors, risks and uncertainties that could cause or contribute to such differences is included in our filings with the SEC, including in the “Risk Factors” and“Management’s Discussion & Analysis” sections of our offering statement on Form 1-A. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. We disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

Muneeb Ali

Muneeb Ali

Dr. Muneeb Ali is the founder of Stacks, a decentralized network that brings apps and smart contracts to Bitcoin. He serves as the CEO of Hiro PBC, a Public Benefit Corp that builds developer tools for the Stacks blockchain. He has raised $75 million USD in funding from investors like Union Square Ventures, Y Combinator, Lux Capital, Winklevoss Capital, and others. Hiro (formerly Blockstack PBC) was featured in the CNBC's list of 100 promising startups to watch. Muneeb received his Ph.D. and Masters in Computer Science from Princeton University. His Ph.D. thesis was nominated for the ACM SIGCOMM dissertation award by Princeton University. Muneeb gives guest lectures on cloud computing at Princeton and his research publications have over 1,300 citations. He is one of the main characters in George Gilder's book Life After Google and was a technical advisor to the HBO show Silicon Valley.