Mastercoin's leadership team admits it has been fighting an uphill battle.
The project, one of the first in the crypto 2.0 space – perhaps by virtue of its early status and public controversies – continues to be dogged by outspoken critics who seek to decry the project as dead. The decline has been sharpened by the spike in interest surrounding competitor Counterparty, which after launching in 2014 forged a partnership with Overstock and has seen new entrepreneurs use its platform to release assets on the bitcoin blockchain.
In 2015, however, Mastercoin is seeking to turn the page as Omni, rebranding in a new bid to change this narrative. As a result of the move, many of the remaining Mastercoin leadership, including chief architect JR Willet, CTO Craig Sellars and board member and BitAngels co-founder David Johnston, will migrate to Omni to solidify their message and clear up marketplace confusion that they feel has held back their efforts.
Speaking to CoinDesk, the Omni team sought to reframe its offering as the only crypto 2.0 protocol that provides a tested platform that can support ambitious projects like decentralised recordkeeping network Factom, decentralised Internet provider MaidSafe and currency-backed token project Tether – all of which use the rebranded Omni layer.
Despite public perception, the Omni team remains confident that it has identified its core weakness, messaging, which it believes has failed to properly tout the core technological competencies of the project to the wider community.
Johnston told CoinDesk:
“It’s funny we’ve done these huge projects, but haven’t trumpeted them to the community. I think having the projects more involved in that structure – they have a way to trumpet themselves.”
Johnston is speaking of how Omni will seek to promote its efforts, by relying on the community of projects that uses its protocol to speak to its attributes. He also touched on misconceptions that have been partly proliferated by the project’s past decisions.
One of the first projects to hold a crowdsale, Omni argues that, because of such misconceptions, the Mastercoin Foundation was often looked to as a company that should be responsible for building on top of, instead of evangelizing for its platform.
“No one would look at the Bitcoin Foundation and say, ‘Why haven't you built Coinbase yet?’” Johnston continued. “That’s totally outside of the competency, but people had that misconception that the Foundation was going to do everything.”
Mastercoin Foundation continues
Going forward, the Omni project wants to make sure its efforts are more distributed.
Two of Mastercoin’s projects – its decentralised exchange and Omniwallet, for example – will be operated by the Omni Foundation. Conversely, the Mastercoin Foundation will continue to be responsible solely for distributing mastercoin tokens to developers.
“We’ve left one role for the old foundation, which is to hand out the developer tokens and that board will be elected by the people that own tokens in the system,” Johnston said. “The proof of stake – that’s what it does – it’s responsible for handing out developer tokens, and they’re giving out half the first year, one quarter the second year and so on.”
“All [the original Mastercoin crowdsale participants] still own their same tokens,” he continued. “Nothing changes with that.”
By contrast, the Omni team framed its efforts as largely geared toward inspiring developers to innovate and build on the platform. Johnston portrayed Omni as a project that would empower those building on it to take the lead in its efforts.
“It’s a community-driven effort meaning that MaidSafe, Tether and Factom – and all the people that are using that protocol are members of the foundation – they’re sponsoring the developers to work on the decentralised exchange and improve the code,” he said.
Focus on messaging
Throughout the conversation, the Omni team strived to emphasize that while Counterparty may have succeeded at bringing in new developers, its platform is the one that supports those with the largest market capitalizations.
Michael Terpin, CEO of PR firm Social Radius, which is now working with Omni, cited the fact that MaidSafeCoin, an asset on the omni protocol, has a $13m market cap at press time – which is greater than that of both Counterparty’s tokens and Mastercoin, now Omni’s, tokens combined.
“Counterparty has put some focus on promoting what they’ve been doing,” said Terpin. “Mastercoin was focused internally, and there was some backlash to that. I think going forward, we’re going to be more proactive in communicating to the marketplace what we’re doing.”
As to how exactly Omni would inspire its developers to be more vocal about the Omni protocol, Sellars was less clear, though he said efforts are on the way to highlight the technological capabilities of the platform.
“Amazon doesn’t come out and say, ‘Hey we’re using HTTP, because it’s the foundational layer. It’s ‘Well, of course they are’. So, what we’d like to see is broader and wider adoption such as we become a foundational layer, and that communication is the responsibility of the innovators and not anyone at Omni,” Sellars said.
Johnston indicated that the Omni Foundation will seek to hold elections open to all its members to create a new board.
“It’s a totally clean break, it will all be elected by the community,” Johnston said.
Johnston further explained that the former Mastercoin community has been a part of what it's long described as its “great transition” to Omni, first discussed in October. Since then, Omni said it has been open with its community in blog posts and on Reddit about the transition, and that while far from the headlines, it was soliciting feedback on its work.
“It’s about a six-month discussion and it was a vote by the foundation to do this,” Terpin said. “The old board elected to make this transition.”
The case for the technology
The Omni team also continued to stress the benefits of its partnerships, citing one recently completed agreement between Comstock Mining and HOPE Gold Coin Charitable Trust. The 150-year-old gold and silver mining company licensed five tons of gold and gold-equivalent to allow the project to back the value of HOPE Gold Coins, a new cryptocurrency on the Omni protocol.
Sellars also emphasized that all of the tools available on Bitcoin Core are now available to Omni developers, and spoke to the positive feedback Omni has received on the ease of use of its technology.
But while just one in an increasingly divided crypto 2.0 space, Sellars ended on an inclusive message to the community, citing his excitement about all applications, from Counterparty to colored coins.
“I see Omni as being an all-inclusive platform, if there was a way for all these projects to leverage the work we’ve put in over the last 18 months, I would be ecstatic,” he said, adding:
“In essence we’ve released software and that software can be expanded and we’re hoping the community steps up and uses us as a base to expand their own platforms.”
Image via Omni
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