Creating Your Own Blockchain Tokens With ARK
I first came across ARK in 2017 and their proposition to tackle the interoperability of different cryptocurrencies really stood out. So that has been my idea of ARK – a blockchain token, that uses Delegated-Proof-Of-Stake (DPOS), that aims to bridge all the different cryptocurrencies.
It was only in August 2018 that I had the chance to speak to Travis Walker, co-founder of ARK, when I realised I had misunderstood what ARK aims to be. ARK is so much more than what I had imagined; I was sold.
The following section contains an interview with Travis.
Introduction To Ark
ARK is a blockchain-based cryptocurrency that is designed to make it easy for anyone to deploy their own ARK-based blockchain tokens, which is a bit like “creating ERC20 tokens on top of Ethereum”, or “creating a website with Wordpress”. With their upcoming Graphic User Interface (GUI), it should be super intuitive that anyone can deploy their own tokens without the need for programming expertise, and hence their tagline – Point. Click. Blockchain.
ARK’s unique side-chain design, where every deployed ARK clone chain runs parallel to the main chain, allows for rapid transactions without clogging up the main network, which was quite a problem for Ethereum when the bull market, Crypto Kitty, and ICO craze raged concurrently towards the end of 2017.
ARK also uses a different consensus mechanism, DPOS, where 51 delegates are elected by the community to forge new transactions. ARK will also have a smart contract plugin module that every parallel chain can add to their own created blockchain.
On ARK’s website, the slogan says “Point. Click. Blockchain”, which suggests that you guys are trying to make blockchain really accessible. In terms of usability or user interface or programming languages, can you briefly describe how much easier will it be to create my own blockchain tokens on ARK?
Travis: Point.Click.Blockchain refers to the ability to spin up your very own ARK based blockchain. The graphical user interface(GUI) will be very easy to use and understand. Much like WordPress or Wix has done for website creation, the ARK Push button blockchain GUI will do for blockchain creation. Making it easy for businesses, start-ups, enterprises and casual users to create their very own customisable blockchain solution. You will be able to issue your own coin/token, set your own block times, set your transactions per second, set your number of nodes/delegates, set your own custom fee structure, add a virtual machine module(smart contracts), add IPFS module(large data storage) and much more. Nothing is ever built directly on top of the ARK chain, you get your own chain running in parallel with the main chain. And every ARK based chain will be interoperable.
Fast And Scalable
One of ARK’s key proposition is its rapid transactions. Blocks are added every 8 seconds, compared to the 10-minute block time on Bitcoin and 2.5-minute block time on Litecoin.
Even when we are looking at integrating tokens on top of ARK, they do not go directly into ARK’s main chain but are instead deployed on side chains. This ensures that transactions in the main chain will not be overly congested, and we can have as many concurrent side chains of ARK-based tokens, theoretically.
Is this 8-second block time and 25-transactions-per-block a hard rule? You also have the Dynamic Fees in place now, will that help to keep transactions fast by tiering the type of transactions based on their fees?
Travis: No, any ARK based chain can change these constants. ARK itself will remain 8 seconds, and we have no current plans to change that. But ARK Core v2, currently testing on our public DevNet, will begin testing at 150 transactions per block. Tx limits can be raised or lowered in DPoS very easily. At any point the network is maxing out per block, the delegates can just update as we increase the constant in the code.
On Staking and DPOS
Compared to the energy-consuming proof-of-work consensus mechanism, POS promises to be more green. DPOS is an adaptation of POS where there are 51 forgers in the case of ARK who are responsible for validating transactions in the ARK blockchain. These forgers or delegates are elected by the community.
Do all 51 delegates stake equally or is there a hard cap to an amount that a delegate can stake? Do the top 10 delegates stake more and earn more than the 41st–51st delegates?
Travis: Every 8 seconds a block is validated and added to the chain, the validator/delegate receives 2 ARK for each validated block. There is no difference between being number 1 or number 51 in each round, as every delegate has the same task. Every round is also randomized, so every 6 minutes and 43 seconds the delegates positions are shuffled. The only difference is being near the tail end of the top 51 you run the risk of falling out of position to someone with more votes. There are a hundreds of delegate nodes trying for a forging position, but only the top 51 will ever forge. The rest become relay nodes. Again these numbers are customizable for any ARK based chain.
I have a perspective that the earlier adopters or the wealthier adopters will be the core of the delegates, and that it will become relatively more difficult for someone new to be part of the delegate, especially if he joins the ARK ecosystem 3 to 5 years later.
Is this view accurate? Does that lead to some form of centralisation in terms of forging, which can be exploited by early adopters of ARK?
Travis: No. Anyone can be a delegate. Make a proposal, offer a service, contribute to the ARK ecosystem and see if the ARK community responds with votes. Recently a few new delegates moved into the top 51, they did have cool proposals and the community really took to them. With ARK’s DPoS, 1 ARK = 1 Vote, and each address can only vote for one delegate. So if you have 100 ARK, you get 100 votes for whoever you vote for. If you want to vote for 2 delegates, then you must split into 2 addresses(ie: 60 ARK in one address and 40 ARK in other address, giving the first address 60 votes and second address 40 votes. You can split however you like.)
Another misconception is locking of tokens. In ARK’s DPoS there is no token lockup. You are free to send or receive tokens to your address at any time and your vote weight automatically adjusts.
Smart Contracts and SmartBridge
SmartBridge has already been one of the differentiating factors about ARK as it allows different cryptocurrencies to be operable with ARK tokens. Picture a module that exists between the two different chains so that they can communicate.
Could you tell us a bit more about SmartBridge?
Travis: SmartBridge is a part of every ARK transaction. It is the vendorfield which allows you to send text, data or functions in each transaction. This is step one of interoperability. Using that vendorfield ARK is able to talk via every transaction. If the other blockchain doesn't have the same ARK abilities, we use the other part of SmartBridge called an encoded listener. An encoded listener is an intermediary hub/node, which interprets everything in between two specific chains. Reading the vendorfield and performing functions like token transfers and contract issuance. This can be seen with our community managed ACES project https://arkaces.com/. ACES(ARK Contract Execution Services) has working 2 way transfers with Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. You can even issue Smart Contracts on Ethereum from ARK without touching Ethereum, the encoded listener does everything for you.
AVM(ARK Virtual Machine) is similar to the Ethereum Virtual Machine giving the ability to issue contracts on ARK based chains. The AVM will be a plugin module for ARK based chains and will not be built on the ARK main chain. We want to keep the main chain clean and fast, don’t need projects slowing it down like cryptokitties.
ARK Tokens And Speculation
The tokens are the most important part of the ARK ecosystem but the value of the tokens is rarely discussed. In fact, it has risen to almost $10 at the peak of the Bitcoin’s rise in December 2017.
Is there any reason why you guys do not talk about it? Is it something that you guys have decided not to focus on, and just let the speculation work out on its own?
Travis: We don’t talk about the price because that's not why we are here. We are not building ARK to line our pockets, nor someone else's. I do agree that rise in BTC and all ALT’s corresponding was pretty euphoric, but that is bound to happen time and time again as this industry grows. We are not building ARK for speculation, we are building ARK because we are passionate and believe there is a place for interoperability and ease of use, at all levels from developers to everyday users.
Speculation is rife on the cryptocurrency market. Manipulators and pump-and-dump groups capitalise on the greed and naivety of first-time crypto investors.
What is your take on this? How do you think it might affect cryptocurrency adoption?
Travis: From a personal view, the industry is new and it will take some time for distribution to happen. As it becomes harder to manipulate larger coins like BTC, those capitalizing will move to easier markets and so on. The only thing that can affect this is time, adoption and distribution.
As a proponent of cryptocurrencies, I will definitely tell someone who is interested in a crypto project to ignore the speculation. Look at the fundamentals and understand its purpose.
What about someone who has his mind set on speculating in ARK? What would you tell that person?
Travis: Kind of a vague question haha… Speculating how? This could go two ways. Either way, I have a constant saying about cryptocurrency markets. You need to step back and look at the entire lifespan, not just the last few months or the last ATH (all-time high). You must step back and see the overall picture and see that we are still in the infancy of this industry. Look at the prices over years, not hours. Walking into crypto expecting to be rich in hours is like walking into the casino and expecting to walk out with the progressive jackpot.
On Decentralisation And The Future Of Blockchain
Personally, I feel that the greatest value of decentralisation is transforming peer-to-peer transactions (monetary or not). I also feel that for true decentralisation to be achieved, a system likely has to go through a period of centralisation first. For example, centralised coin exchanges must exist before decentralised ones can work out. In terms of cryptocurrencies, the circulating supply or the consensus mechanism may also have to be somewhat centralised in the name of “protecting its users” before it can eventually hit the stage of decentralisation.
Do you feel the same for ARK, that it has/had to go through some stages of centralisation? What role do you envision ARK to play in our decentralised future? How would users adopt and use ARK tokens on a day to day basis?
Travis: I think any new network goes through a more centralized period. After an ICO or funding round, or in the early stages of a token when price is low, you are always more prone to whales having increased control or the team having a lot more say and influence in how the community thinks and pushes the platform. As the tokens themselves get more distributed around the world and as those initial whales sell off, the token becomes more decentralized and influence starts to shift as those new enthusiasts and supporters start to become more comfortable voicing their opinion, building out communications channels, and discovering their own levels of influence and ability to effect change. The same goes for development. Initially, when you are trying to build a community it is essentially just your team working on the final product. But with ARK, we have consistently attracted new community developers who have been submitting wonderful commits to github and now we are starting to see an uptick in ARK Improvement Proposals (AIP's), which are essentially ideas for how to make the protocol better, coming more and more from the community. This organic growth I think will be typical of most projects.
As far as what role ARK can play, I think ARK is a base protocol and what we consider a blockchain platform. There are different layers to development in this space and ARK stands at the base layer, providing a technology and a network to build the outer layers on top of. This would equate to something like Ethereum. It is meant to be used to easily build and deploy blockchain based application in both the private, permissioned ledgers, and open, public ledger style implementations. We see ARK as being the fundamental building block that many applications and services in the industry will be built on moving forward.
In order to increase the number of use cases for the ARK token, we need to continue to facilitate those developers to use the platform to build robust applications. ARK is both a currency and a technology platform which allows for a base use as a currency or store of value, but also, through our built-in bridging capabilities, allows for easy use of the ARK token on Bridge Chains as a currency and key asset that can be used to access the use case of any ARK powered chain.
Considering that there are alternatives to the blockchains like the Hashgraph and the DAG, do you see those as competing alternatives to the blockchain? Each solution has its strengths and weaknesses in scalability and security for example, were there any particular reasons that prompted your team to choose a blockchain design or did it just happen as it is?
Travis: We don't see anything or anyone as competition, we see everyone as future partners and future growth of the industry. We chose our design because we believe in it, and we have proven that it works. We started ARK in 2016 and have been hard at work to build our vision ever since. If other projects help this industry advance then we are all for it, and as we progress we may even bridge to them in the future.
All in all, ARK is a blockchain system with its native tokens, from which many other applications can be built upon. It addresses various limitations like transaction rates and interoperability with its parallel chain design. As a currency, the wallets, and the upcoming ARK Pay will make ARK more usable as currency-type tokens. The upcoming GUI (expected Q1 2019) will open up the building of your own ARK-based tokens, while the ARK VM will allow for smart contracts to be executed on ARK.
ARK's design has been very well thought out and laid out so far, and it comes down to execution and deployment next, and the team has made it really easy to follow their progress on their Roadmap. Check out their website if you would like to learn more about ARK and join them on this journey!
A huge thanks to Travis (Twitter) for granting me this interview and being very patient to answer the many questions I have regarding ARK. If you found this article useful, please share it so that more people can learn about ARK.