As cryptocurrency and blockchain technology sees a resurgence in popularity, in part, thanks to world’s richest man, Elon Musk, rather publicly entering the arena, it was inevitable that mainstream attention would shift toward high prices and crazy gains.
But while the focus, for now, is on meme coins and market movements, it is not only the so-called perma-bulls thinking 2021 holds significant advantages over the mania of 2017.
One major factor in this confidence is cryptocurrency's evolved capacity to compete and integrate with traditional financial products. This new wave of use cases for our 'magical internet money', dubbed DeFi in broad terms, offer viable, intermediary free, alternatives. Peer-to-peer lending, decentralised exchanges, and even futures markets are now not only possible on-chain, in some cases, they improve upon the existing institutional offerings.
As community manager for indie-project Dune Network, I recently played my small part in bringing to life something pretty special: a decentralised evolution of a process previously considered the preserve of the corporate world.
Now, if you start a sentence with the words, “Mergers and acquisitions”, most folk soon find somewhere better to be. But bear with me...
At the turn of the last century, monopolies plagued most industries in response to the ‘Panic of 1893’. In what some might describe as a self-perpetuating cycle, smaller companies would merge, either with similar firms or larger competitors. With increased powers of negotiation, they are empowered to reduce production costs, improve the quality of the end product, and, in some cases, become more accessible to a larger user base. In other words, they become competitive. Eventually, these merged companies then grow, sometimes dominating their markets in a quasi-monopoly and forcing competitors to reconsider their position.
Circular or not, as smaller fish combine forces and become big fish themselves, the real winner is the larger ecosystem. The um, pond? has to grow to be able to accommodate its more efficient inhabitants. Maybe this analogy is turning a little fishy, (I couldn't resist that one) but the take-home message is there: in a capitalist economy, mergers raise the bar of common standards and the benefits this brings trickle down to everyone.
At present there are over 4000 projects listed on CoinMarketCap. With so much fierce competition fighting for market share in an emerging space, only the strongest and most adaptable stand to survive. As they say, cream floats and, well, you-know-what, sinks. However, it can be hard for those projects bringing actual value to the table to steal the spotlight for long enough to shine.
At Dune Network, we know this all too well. Over the last 18 months, using minimal funding, we’ve achieved some pretty incredible things. From launching TheGarage to the creation of Dune LOVE Lang (with functional dApps such as Dune Playground running collect-call smart contracts) and more.
This is in stark contrast to Ethereum, which, despite high gas fees and successive setbacks, holds over 14% of the overall market cap of all cryptocurrency combined.
Now, I have nothing against Ethereum, but it's hard to hide my frustration at the obvious irony in our comparative struggles. In Dune Network, we have an incredibly usable product with an amazingly passionate community, and a talented team of developers with PhDs to spare. Despite this, reaching a wider audience in the face of eye-watering exchange listing fees and the deafening noise of 4000+ marketing teams is never easy.
And so, in early December, after much consideration, the team took the bold decision to put forward a proposal to the community: to merge forces with another project — Free TON.
At a little over 8 months old, Free TON is a fresh face on the scene. Born from the open source remains of SEC stifled former Telegram ICO project, Gram, it has since been repackaged, reworked and redeployed in a decentralised fashion to become TON. The platform has seen a flurry of continual development ever since, and with thanks to the massive financial clout the original project received, it boasts some impressive statistics.
On paper, only a handful of cutting-edge competitors come close to what Free TON can do. Running on an ultra-secure Byzantine Fault Tolerance based multi-chain proof-of-stake consensus mechanism (try saying that three times fast!), blocks are produced on average every 0.2 seconds. And due to infinite dynamic sharding, this upper limit is theoretically limitless. As if this wasn’t enough, Free TON also offers innovations such as self-healing 2-dimensional ledgers and infinite hypercube routing.
As a wise man before me probably once said though, “Tech alone, does not a feasible project make”. Maybe it was Yoda, or perhaps I’ve just made it up, but either way, the statement holds weight. After over a decade, Bitcoin still reigns supreme at a whopping 62% of the market share at the time of writing. Sixty-minute blocks with a 1MB cap, how 2010? Yet it continues to beat off the upstarts with a big stick. Why is this? Because Bitcoin stands for more than just a store value. The principles of decentralisation penned by Satoshi extend beyond bartering and trade, they represent a movement which has realigned our perception of what is possible.
Unlike many other of Bitcoin’s younger proteges, Free TON has chosen to test this principle with full force. Everything occurring within the ecosystem is funded and developed by a system of community-based proposals and contests. These proposals are scrutinised by the members of the community, before either receiving constructive feedback on how to improve the submission or being passed to a jury and voted upon. Even the way in which the jury and submission process work are up for constant debate.
As with all fresh ways of thinking, this method for attracting talent and use-case to the ecosystem divides opinion. Some fear, with the potential total supply of TON Crystals standing at around 5 billion, it could lead to accelerated depreciation of the coin’s value.
To me though, this is almost the same as saying Bitcoin has no hard cap because it can be divided into Satoshis. It misses the point of the ecosystem structure entirely. Just as Bitcoin miners and node operators take responsibility for the parameters of the chain and worth, Free TON community members take responsibility for the partners and projects they take on board and thus, the emission rate of the coins not yet in circulation.
And herein lies the crux: the future of Free TON is entirely flexible, and thereby accountable, to the will of its community.
While in June 2020, a similar announcement came from the Solana and Kin communities, there are significant differences in what we have achieved with this latest move.
While Kin has migrated platforms several times, Dune Network is a platform in its own right, bringing with it an ecosystem and ethos. Dune will not become a token on the Free TON chain, it will be a new limb on the already impressive torso. A main end goal of the merger itself will differ also, with the Origin Labs team creating a system to swap $DUN to $TON, which will be able to act as a template for subsequent similar moves, should the community decide.
So, the decentralised merger between Free TON and Dune Network may be a first of its kind, but if all goes well, it aims to not be the last. Through its unique model, Free TON possesses the potential to amalgamate itself with other projects, enveloping the worth, talent, use-cases and users of the platforms it gains. And importantly, the power of the decision-making is in the hands of those the decisions affect most.
If cryptocurrency is to be the evolution of the existing financial markets and infrastructure, then it needs to be able to do everything legacy finance can do, and more. Free TON is proving they are a project who are not afraid to learn from their mistakes, nor to tinker and tailor and adopt experimental processes and try new things. This attitude has already started to see some impressive partnerships emerge. Cointelegraph, Bitcoin.com, Decentraland, and WorldChess.com to name but a few.
The work at hand has only just begun for those of us at Dune and Free TON involved in this latest milestone. The network must move from proof-of-stake to proof-of-authority for the duration of the swap, the swapping infrastructure must be tested and finalised, and this isn't to mention the technical difficulties of integrating the communities as one.
As they say though, anything worth doing ain't easy.
Before I sign off, a brief personal aside:
As a relative latecomer to the crypto-sphere party, and about as illiterate with coding as they come, some say I’ve been luckier than a bag full of rabbit’s feet to earn a job role and career for myself in this industry. The learning curve is steep, and communities can seem close-knit and unwelcoming to “noobs” with questions the old guard has heard a thousand times or more.
However, as an emerging technology, crypto needs newcomers! No matter your level of knowledge or skills, the future opportunities it presents will require people from all walks of life, and I’m proof of this!
Free TON is one project in particular within the sphere with a meritocracy based system. If you’ve got the passion, and think you can add value to the space, I’d encourage anyone and everyone to get involved.