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Two week old mainnet project (Nimiq) about to be forked — is this a new low for cryptocurrency?

It seems like an awful long time ago, but cryptocurrency enthusiasts around the world were collectively clenching their buttocks on August 1st 2017 as they awaited the results of the contentious hard fork that led to the creation of Bitcoin Cash.

Of course nowadays we don’t even blink an eye when yet another Bitcoin is announced. Bitcoin Gold, Diamond, Private and the soon to be released Prime have all had their 15 minutes of fame since August.

So it was to great amusement of this author when some members of the Nimiq community greeted the news that their two week old mainnet project was about to be forked with a mixture of confusion and anger.

Loyal Nimiq holders do have grounds to be bemused by this development — no other cryptocurrency project has seen the privilege of a fork taking place at this stage in their lifecycle.

Regular readers of Orphan Blocks will know that we made Nimiq one of our “under-the-radar” picks back in January. Initially we viewed the project with a little bit of skepticism, especially when they triumphantly celebrated the news that they had brought the WhalePanda on board their team.

But as we espoused in our January piece, unlike many other projects in the cryptocurrency space - Nimiq is a serious piece of engineering. This is not another dApp built on Ethereum with an over elaborate whitepaper. In fact the whitepaper for Nimiq is just a medium blog post — but the real selling point is the 72,990 lines of beautifully architected code in Nimiq Core.

Robin Linus and his team’s meticulous approach to product development and the premise of a browser based blockchain was enough to win our seal of approval in January despite the fact that the team had just missed the important milestone of launching their mainnet by the end of 2017.

The inventor of the Nimiq blockchain, Robin Linus introducing the project in a vlog.

However as we approached the end of first quarter of 2018, certain sections of the community were beginning to get antsy. Readers who have been following the development of the Lightning Network will be all to familiar with the ethos the Nimiq team were promoting — “it will be ready when it is ready”.

For many in the community, this was enough. For others the lack of clarity was beginning to become disconcerting. Nimiq has always been notoriously terrible at communicating updates. They release cute vlogs on a frequent basis but the vlogs often ignore actual complaints or queries from the community and focus on what Nimiq wants to communicate instead.

To their credit, concentrated discussion and complaints on their social media channels would lead to an eventual response from the team but on the whole, the progress being made and the wonderful community that the team has fostered alleviated any major concerns, even when the price slumped 68.2% from our first recommendation of the project.

However one important issue that is raised repeatedly is Nimiq’s approach to marketing. In a sharp and rather fresh contrast to other blockchain projects (for example, Justin Sun’s Tron — which we wrote about in more detail earlier this year) the team had always focused their efforts on their product over hype and vapid promotion.

But whilst accepting the slippage on the technical deadline — people were beginning to ask questions of the Nimiq team as far as their marketing strategy was concerned.

The dismissive Nimiq response was predictable in this thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/Nimiq/comments/83w8ez/offmychest_nimiq_biggest_problem/

As long term investors in the Nimiq project ourselves (and conscious of the fact that we had also promoted it to our readers) we found ourselves agreeing with those calling for the team to explain exactly how they would promote the adoption of the project after the mainnet release. Worryingly, it seemed like there was no plan for marketing.

It’s to the team’s credit that they are meticulous and commited to releasing a high quality product but that of course does not mean that everything else has to be sidelined in the interim.

Startups do not live and die by the quality of their code. The world’s largest social network had notorious problems with the quality of their code but that didn’t stopped Facebook from dominating their industry and likewise Nimiq’s dismissive attitude and tendency to work at their own pace belies the nature of the space they are in.

The sad reality is that they are competing for eyeballs and despite their considerable efforts in developing their blockchain, they offer an untested Javascript port of Bitcoin’s PoW algorithm which in the first week of launch was dominated by one mining pool.

This is actually one of the root causes for the Nimiq fork that we are about to explore — but even those members of the fractured community that aren’t throwing their weight behind the fork have raised concerns about marketing in recent days/weeks.

So what is NimiqGold?

NimiqGold is the proposed fork of Nimiq that takes place on May 20th 2018. Very few details (team members, whitepaper etc) have been released except for the actual rationale behind the fork on the web site which has since been removed. This was a snippet caught on archives:

“…but we have accelerated plans for marketing and growing the adoption of the coin. We will continue development of smart contract functionality and air-drop NIMg to every single Ethereum holder…”

The majority of the Nimiq community responded with incredulity at this proposed fork. Some labelled the project a scam. Others attempted to doxx members behind the project. And a minority threw their support behind the project.

The community got a chance to hear more about the fork when the owner of the nimiqnews.com “fan site” posted a one-to-one interview explaining some of the motivations behind the fork:

This was followed up by a well balanced piece explaining why the owner of the site was not in favour of the fork: https://nimiqnews.com/home/2018/4/30/marketing-is-not-a-product

What is the fork proposing?

Whilst details are a little thin at this point; the following has been officially confirmed:

  • A free air-drop to all holders of Nimiq and Ethereum of NimG on a 1:1 distribution basis. That is, for every NIM or ETH you own, you will also earn the equivalent NimG. This is a similar strategy to the ZCL/Bitcoin merge fork Bitcoin Private by Rhett Creighton.
  • A total of $1,000,000 for an incubation fund. Teams will be welcomed to pitch NimiqGold with startup ideas. Ideas promoting NimiqGold adoption that are chosen will win $20,000 to build and launch their concept.
  • The project lead mentioned that talks have begun with a few exchanges in order to list the new NimG coin. NimiqGold has previously stated that the exchange was a priority for the team.
  • Increased focus on the web browser mining functionality which currently does not yield high rewards on the Nimiq network — although how this will be achieved was not expanded upon.
  • Smart contract functionality has also been promised although the community manager for NimG again refused questions from the community on how this will be achieved.
Snippet from the nimiqnews.com interview

As the snippet above shows, there is a tacit implication that NimiqGold is not going to bring a whole host of technological improvements to the table. Rather the intention of the fork is to simple pursue a different strategy and bring whatever elements of the community that are despondent with the core Nimiq team along with them.

Understandably, the Nimiq Core team and some of the more loyal members of the community might perceive this as a cheap stunt to profit from the work invested into the project already. Whereas those backing the fork project see NimiqGold as the standard blockchain solution to when a community splinters.

It does beg the question whether forking at this stage of the development of the project constitutes a cheap money grab or as one of the NimiqGold team members suggested, does it open up discussion in the community as to what strategy the Nimiq project adopts?

We are not sure we know what the answer is but one thing for certain is that Nimiq has certainly etched it’s name into the cryptocurrency record books.

The official Nimiq team response is something that will be eagerly awaited, but it seems for now that NimiqGold has been relegated to joke fodder. Whether that might still be the case on May 20th remains to be seen.

If you enjoy Orphan Blocks then please join us on Telegram: https://t.me/orphanblocks or follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/orphanblocks

Disclaimer: In the interest of disclosure, one of the authors at Orphan Blocks has connections to the NimiqGold fork.

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