Days After Launch, the EOS Blockchain Still Isn't Live

FEATURE
Brady Dale
Jun 4, 2018 at 23:00 UTC  |  Updated  Jun 6, 2018 at 13:06 UTC

Days after first initiating its launch in an unorthodox, distributed process, the EOS blockchain isn't yet live, but so far, the software appears to be progressing toward that goal without major issues.

As profiled by CoinDesk, after raising a reported $4 billion over the last year to create the software necessary to launch the blockchain, the company that created it is leaving it to its community to actually get it off the ground. That doesn't mean there haven't been material updates, however, or that Block.one, the company in question, hasn't been involved in the initial booting effort.

Rather, the company released version 1.0.0 of the EOS software on Saturday and already it's published one update to the code, version 1.0.1, a release that Block.one CTO Daniel Larimer described as preventing a "potential crash" in the update notes, along with other minor issues.

This means that, as of now, participants in the EOS initial coin offering (ICO), which ended on Friday, have purchased all the initial ethereum tokens that will ever be used to bootstrap the project. The plan was always for these tokens to be frozen at the end of the ICO, in preparation for a formal blockchain launch, meaning those coins won't be tradeable again until EOS is live. (It's unclear at this time how exchanges are managing their book-keeping while trading continues.)

The last big event took place June 2 at 10:59 UTC, when the tokens froze on ethereum and so-called "snapshots" were taken in order to preserve a record that can later be used to allocate tokens issued on the EOS blockchain to their owners. By all accounts, this occurred on time and without any issues (here's one description).

"Things are going about as we expected. A few road bumps, no show-stopping problems. I'm expecting the [blockchain] to be live in the next couple of days," Kyle Samani of Multicoin Capital, one of EOS's most prominent endorsers, told CoinDesk.

Still, it has been remarkable how unified block producers, or the entities jockeying to process transactions on the new blockchain (and thus receive its rewards), have appeared outwardly given the global scale of the launch.

"I've been part of calls of 60 to 90 people every day," Marc-Antoine Ross, the CEO of EOS Canada, told CoinDesk, adding:

"What I think is important is we all published agreement to launch one chain."

Bumps and bruises

But this outward coordination has not been without a lot of behind-the-scenes effort.

Indeed, a controversy broke out in the EOS launch community last week when a group calling itself "Ghostbusters" published a critique of the launch approach led by EOS Canada, another group vying to become a block producer.

EOS Canada had published a piece of open-source software called "EOS BIOS" on April 9, a suite of code that aimed to coordinate the launch of the EOS software. Its had dozens of subsequent releases since then, with version 1.0.0 coming out on Saturday. "A lot of block producer candidates validated this solution to launch the network," Ross said.

That said, the critique was seconded by other block producer candidates.

The May 28 blog post argued:

"Using the EOS BIOS process will create unnecessary risks for the EOS blockchain launch and ultimately all EOS token holders. Also, any negative press on insecurities in EOS blockchain launch or failed attempt to launch the blockchain will have a negative impact on EOS price and reputation."

It argued that the channels between the various nodes needed to be more secure, using layers that obscure IP addresses and encrypt data as it passes between block producers.

EOS Canada promptly responded with a call for "increased collaboration" arguing that some of the vulnerabilities identified were settings needed for efficient testing, not a production launch.

In a subsequent post, Ghostbusters described theirs as the "security first" approach.

Unity prevails

But while it looked like there could be a split in the larger EOS community, one that could result in two competing blockchain launches, the greater value in consensus, it seems, has prevailed.

On Saturday, participants in a livestream supporting the launch announced that the two sides had resolved their differences (which Ross confirmed), affirming that everyone has agreed to coordinate with EOS BIOS and it should have no problem integrating with Ghostbusters preferred security measures, according to Ross.

"We've opened our hand to the Ghostbusters," Ross told CoinDesk, "to make sure we have one strong network."

Members of the Ghostbusters coalition have not responded to request for comment from CoinDesk.

As such, there haven't been the forks or competing blockchains that many people feared. One group has launched EOS Classic, which basically recreates the existing token balances on ethereum, where people are used to trading them. The creators use something of a complicated process for users to claim their tokens, but MyCrypto CEO Taylor Monahan asked her team to look at it, and they don't see anything dangerous about an EOS holder claiming EOS Classic tokens.

"It looks like it is in the current snapshot in time, it has no way to steal private keys from what I can see," Monahan wrote, though she warned that sometimes scams can come in phases, so that could come next.

Just as Block.one reserved 10 percent of EOS tokens for the company, the EOS Classic reserves the same for itself, in what could be just another simple play for easy crypto money.

Casting ballots

Other fears relating to the launch have been assuaged so far, including those relating to the selection of block producers via voting, a necessary action needed to help EOS determine just who would be in charge of maintaining its blockchain.

As this vote was to be carried out by those who own EOS, a range of possible complications were theorized. These included that potential voting tokens could end up idle or lost forever because token holders never registered an EOS address (a necessary step to migrate their coins from ethereum).

This process has been going for a year now, and the designers of the process expected token buyers on ethereum to remember that at the end of the process they would need to take action in order to hold onto their tokens and create an EOS address and associate it with their ethereum address. It's not surprising that this message didn't get through to everyone who had ever bought any EOS.

So, in order to prevent the exclusion of crypto users who weren't following the EOS blog, the EOS community coded up a workaround so that users wouldn't lose their tokens. Basically, for all the laggards, they generated an EOS version of of their ethereum public key. That way, once the user created an EOS version of their private key (offline, preferably), they could claim their tokens.

"Think of it this way, your ethereum public key is just the wrapper around a longer array of numbers which are compressed into a 64 character string that you call your public key," EOS New York, another potential block producer, explained in a post on Steemit.

But there may never have been much reason to worry about the likelihood of enough votes coming together to launch the chain. It turns out that there are some very big whales out there, people who have a powerful vested interest in making sure that the system launches.

Redditor @Lannisan crunched the numbers from the snapshot balances and found that (if Block.one is excluded — and it should be because it has committed to sitting out the block producer vote) the 10 biggest wallets hold 39 percent of all tokens. In other words, those 10 could decide almost anything they wanted if they coordinated. The top 100 wallets control 65 percent of the tokens.

These numbers are again somewhat skewed by the fact that some of these "whales" must be exchanges, and some of the biggest exchanges have committed to not voting their users' tokens. Still, there are probably a few large holders out there who plan to vote once they feel comfortable with a mainnet release, so that it goes live. With so many large holders out there, it doesn't sound like hitting 15 percent of the tokens voting will be difficult, even if not that many actual people vote.

Ross would not commit to any kind of timeline for EOS to go live.

The block producers are running a variety of testnets now, any one of which might meet all the checks for the chain, the software and the security that they are looking to validate. When they all agree they have a configuration that works, a group announcement will go out calling for holders to prepare to vote for the first slate of block producers.

When it goes live, that's when we'll really start to understand Dan Larimer's latest technology.

As Siddharth Kalla, co-founder of the Turing Advisory Group, told CoinDesk:

"The real test of whether one should be alarmed or not would come once the network is live and running. The human side of security, voting, economic incentives, etc, are much harder to test than bugs in the code during the testing phase."

Egg candling via Shutterstock

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