Tendermint Exploring Possible Public Blockchain Launch

Pete Rizzo
May 17, 2016 at 16:45 UTC  |  Updated  May 18, 2016 at 14:15 UTC

Blockchain app specialist Tendermint is in the early stages of preparing to launch a public blockchain that could find it issuing tokens in a bid to create a platform comparable to bitcoin or Ethereum with alternative capabilities.

First proposed in an ambitious white paper in 2014, Tendermint grew into a project centered on exploring how consensus could be achieved in blockchain systems without relying on electricity-intensive processes like mining. The startup's tech is now used as a consensus layer by blockchain development platforms like Eris, and due to its construction and goals, has often been associated with private blockchain projects.

In interview, Tendermint co-founder Ethan Buchman acknowledged that the move from the team may seem surprising, and that the business plan for the effort remains in formative stages.

Still, the decision comes after months of what Buchman said has been work to separate Tendermint's consensus algorithm from top-level applications. The public blockchain, he continued, would attempt to highlight this work to a wider audience.

As part of this effort, he said, Tendermint may seek to become the first public blockchain to implement sharding, a proposed solution to blockchain scalability that is also on the roadmap for Ethereum.

Buchman told CoinDesk:

"We've created an interface for writing an application in any programming language running on Tendermint. The main centerpiece will manage all the shards. You can have a bitcoin shard, an Ethereum shard, you have enormous flexibility."

As far as how its previous target market of enterprise firms would interact with a public blockchain, Buchman said this value proposition has yet to be fully defined.

In this light, Buchman said the public blockchain effort could serve as a way to bolster the technology it makes available for private solutions.

"We're hoping to get 20,000 to 200,000 transactions per second on many different applications and have a baseline security model in place," Buchman said.

Implementing sharding

In remarks, Buchman sought to position Ethereum and its still in-development Casper protocol as taking an approach that is more complex than the one sought by Tendermint.

Still, the goals of the functionality are the same. Sharding would allow for multiple blockchains to exist within the same network so that businesses could run the equivalent of a private blockchain (with separate validators) but on a platform that leverages the security of a public platform.

Buchman compared this effort to sidechains, the still in-development project from Blockstream that seeks to allow for a similar goal: that private and public blockchains could become interoperable, with assets moving freely between them.

"The idea here is each shard is a sidechain off of a main chain. The difference is because we have many of them, we factor this into the design," he said.

As an additional value-add, Tendermint's public offering, he said, will seek to have logic for new shards, as well as validator shards that could have a freely defined application state.

This means users could elect to use or not use bitcoin's UXTO transaction model, the merits of which have been debated by the participants of the Hyperledger project, for example.

Crowdsale possible

With a large-scale public blockchain, Buchman acknowledged that Tendermint would still need a method of distributing tokens as a way to secure and popularize the network.

But, Buchman said it remains to be seen if Tendermint would pursue a crowdsale as the original Ethereum team did, ultimately raising upwards of $18m in bitcoins in 2014.

Such a distribution model, though, could have downsides. For one, Buchman pointed out that the crowdsale model tends to attract speculators, not necessarily individuals who are interested in furthering a technology.

Overall, Buchman stressed that Tendermint wants to find a model that perhaps better lets it identify individuals who are interested only in the technology and who are not motivated by quick financial gains.

"We want to be a little more responsible in a sense. We might encourage people to give a training session or seminar, and then you would distribute the coins to everyone who attends," he explained, adding:

"We're trying to avoid drumming up blind euphoria."

Shards of glass via Shutterstock

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