Andrew Scott

@aclaytonscott

Burst — Part 6: The Burst Dymaxion

If you’ve done any research into Burst you’ve probably heard the term — I’ll unpack what it means.

The term Dymaxion was penned by Buckminster Fuller in the early 1930s; it went on to be applicable to much of his work throughout his life. Dymaxion, a portmanteau of the words dynamic, maximum, and tension; summed up the goal of his work, “maximum gain of advantage from minimal energy input.” In a sense, he was not only trying to market his designs, but also summarize his entire design philosophy.

The PoC Consortium (POCC) first mentioned the “Dymaxion” in relation to Burst in late 2017 in a cryptic tweet regarding a recently updated version of the Burst development roadmap. The POCC went on to explain the Dymaxion in full on December 27, 2017 with the release of The Burst Dymaxion whitepaper and several subsequent blog posts that examining parts of the whitepaper in detail.

A bit of background, The PoC Consortium (POCC) are a group of skilled mathematicians, computer scientists, and developers that are the de facto leaders of Burst in terms of technological development and direction. While they might rebuke being labeled the leaders of the community, most within the community would agree that the group’s technical expertise and development roadmap have given Burst a new lease on life.

So What is it?

In short, the Dymaxion is the name the POCC has given to what they consider to be Stage 2 of their master plan for Burst. They also state that the Dymaxion is not a specific feature, enhancement, or partnership, but is rather the foundation to support a more robust, feature rich version of Burst that will make it a more attractive option for partnerships and real world use.

Broken down to its constituent parts, the Dymaxion can be considered to be combination two broad feature sets:

  • Payment Channels
  • Anonymity

I’ll break down what each of these features means, how they’ll be implemented, and why each of these strategic changes make Burst more attractive as a platform.

Payment Channels

“Despite their technical elegance and possibilities, cryptocurrencies lack mass adoption because of two critical factors: usability and scalability. While usability can be addressed with sufficient engineering and development effort, scalability is often a theoretical problem of its own.” — POCC

The idea of payment channels is driving force behind the Dymaxion stage of Burst’s development. The POCC writes that when Bitcoin was introduced nearly a decade ago it was revolutionary in that it solved the pervasive issue of decentralized trust. However, it [Bitcoin] was not an immediate solution to a global digital currency due in part to a low Transaction Per Second (TPS) estimate of 3–7 transactions per second.

While new “Layer 2” technologies such as Lightning Networks will allow Bitcoin to overcome some of these limitations, they come with their own baggage, such as node uptime and transaction fees. Finally, as Bitcoin has come to be seen as more akin to a digital store of value rather than a currency for daily transactions, its image may no longer be serviceable as a global digital currency.

Clearly there still exists a need for a highly scalable currency that can natively support thousands or even millions of transactions per second.

Burst aims to solve this scalability issue by using a novel combination of various techniques introduced by other cryptocurrency projects. I’ll look into each of these below.

Tangles

Borrowed from the IOTA whitepaper, a Tangle is the name they give to the directed acyclic graph (DAG) IOTA uses in place of a traditional blockchain.

The main idea of the tangle is the following: to issue a transaction, users must work to approve other transactions. Therefore, users who issue a transaction are contributing to the network’s security. It is assumed that the nodes check if the approved transactions are not conflicting. If a node finds that a transaction is in conflict with the tangle history, the node will not approve the conflicting transaction in either a direct or indirect manner.

Lightning Networks

Lightning Networks (LN) were first proposed in early 2016 as a solution to the Bitcoin scalability problem in the Lightning Network whitepaper. The authors sum up the basic idea behind an LN in the paper’s abstract:

A decentralized system is proposed whereby transactions are sent over a network of micropayment channels (a.k.a. payment channels or transaction channels) whose transfer of value occurs off-blockchain.

Coloring

Colored coins were first discussed in late 2012 in the BitcoinX whitepaper. The basic idea is to tag or “color” bitcoin addresses to express additional information about transactions, which allows for transactions to express additional details beyond the purely transactional information.

Colored coins is a concept designed to be layered on top of Bitcoin, creating a new set of information about coins being exchanged. Using colored coins, bitcoins could be “colored” with specific attributes. This effectively turns them into tokens, which can be used to represent anything. — Danny Bradbury 2013

Bringing it all together...

So how do these three technologies factor into making Burst a highly scalable payments platform? Luckily, because all of the above technologies already exist and are in use in one form or another, the task comes to engineering, orchestration, and verification, rather than doing theoretical research.

In short, each Burst node would run an instance of the Burst Dymaxion Daemon (bdd). This bdd would essentially play the role of a Lightning Network node. The bdd would participate in the instantiation (opening) and settlement (closing) of Dymaxion Layers (DL), which is the term given to a colored tangle. This setup would allow tangles to be opened during one block and scheduled to close a predetermined time later allowing for blockchain-independent payment channels to exist for periods as short as one block and as long as days or weeks.

Node operators would have the ability to configure which DL (i.e. colored tangle) they’d like to participate in, so operators would be able to run their own payment channel and token on top of the Burst blockchain. Because transactions in each DL would be settled by the participating nodes and not the Burst blockchain itself, these transactions would not contribute to Burst’s overall TPS capacity, allowing for theoretically infinite transaction capacity.

To visualize the result of this you can think DLs as being their own payment networks, each allowing their own rules and tokens, powered and secured by the greater Burst network and blockchain. A company, group of companies, or even an individual could launch their own cryptocurrencies without the technical complications, expenses, and pitfalls of starting a traditional cryptocurrency. Not only would it be easier to do, but due to it’s reliance on the Burst blockchain and mining process, it would also be more environmentally friendly and secure than most cryptocurrencies.

Example Burst Transaction (i.e. Traditional)

Example Burst Transaction (Dymaxion Layer)

Anonymity

The Dymaxion plan isn’t just limited to high transaction capacity and payment channels, it will also include new anonymity features to bring it up to speed with other popular anonymous cryptocurrencies such as Monero or Zcash.

While Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are often (mistakenly) thought allow user to spend money anonymously, in truth they’re actually only psuedo-anonymous at best. On any open blockchain while the actual owners of the wallet may not be known, transactions themselves and the flow of wealth is trivial to track. Privacy coins aim to provide true anonymity through clever uses of cryptography.

Ring Signatures

Ring Signatures are a cryptographic technique, most notably used by Monero, to provide anonymity in transactions.

In cryptography, a ring signature is a type of digital signature that can be performed by any member of a group of users that each have keys. Therefore, a message signed with a ring signature is endorsed by someone in a particular group of people. One of the security properties of a ring signature is that it should be computationally infeasible to determine which of the group members’ keys was used to produce the signature.

zk-SNARK

Similar in result to Ring Signatures, albeit less accessible, zk-SNARK is a proof construction that is used by Zcash to provide anonymity.

The acronym zk-SNARK stands for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge,” and refers to a proof construction where one can prove possession of certain information, e.g. a secret key, without revealing that information, and without any interaction between the prover and verifier.

Used in Practice…

In practice, these anonymity techniques can optionally be configured when creating a new DL (tangle). This means that anonymous transactions will be possible within the Dymaxion Layer, but truly anonymous transactions will not be possible on the Burst blockchain itself.

So Where are we Now?

At the time of writing, the BRS 2.2.0 “Pre-Dymaxion” version of the BRS software has just been released by the POCC. This change includes a number of features including support for PoC2, multi-out transactions, dynamic transaction fees, and increased block capacity. The Pre-Dymaxion release is the first hard fork in support of the Dymaxion and support all of the changes described above.

If you liked this make sure you check out the rest of my series on Burst.

Part 1 — What is Burstcoin?

Part 2 — macOS Wallet Setup Tutorial

Part 3 — Proof-of-Capacity

Part 4 — Network Analysis

Part 5 — How to Buy Burst

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