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NEO DevCon Sees Microsoft Judge Network’s Potential Uses

Chinese ‘Smart economy’ network NEO has announced it will host its own DevCon in 2018 in conjunction with Microsoft.

Billed as “China’s first dev competition,” the event will feature support from several other emerging Blockchain entities including Onchain and Elastos.

Final entrants will be eligible to win prizes of up to $150,000 from a bounty pool totaling almost $500,000.

“Contestants are encouraged to deliver excellent apps with the support of NEO Blockchain and Microsoft’s development environment and tools. Such efforts being made, we are one step closer to a mightier Blockchain developer ecosystem,” an accompanying blog post explains.

The announcement and Microsoft partnership will be music to the ears of an investment community which has seen the value of NEO tokens slip following China’s multifaceted ban and Bitcoin’s rapid rise to over $8,000.

Prices hit over $45 for the second time in the token’s history over the weekend, having since settled around the $36 mark.

“Experts from Microsoft China” along with NEO founder Da Hongfei and others will judge entries from dev teams, while a “live online night course” Dec. 1 will act as a primer.

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Ethereum Wallet Status Pledges $1 Million for New Bug Bounty Program

Ethereum mobile wallet Status, which recently raised more than $100 million in a token sale, has announced a $1 million bug bounty.

Announced at ethereum’s annual developer conference Devcon3 today, the program invites people to submit possible solutions to issues currently facing the wallet.

While the initial bounties will be used to compensate people that find bugs within Status’ own software, as well as perform other useful tasks, a spokesperson told CoinDesk that more funds will be raised to provide bug bounties for other open-source projects in the future.

On top of that, employers can browse the bounty site for emerging talent – a potentially useful feature, since many firms complain there aren’t enough developers to fill the many roles open in blockchain-focused projects.

Also announced at Devcon, Status has developed a hardware wallet – a dedicated storage device that supports ERC-20 tokens and uses near-field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth to transfer cryptocurrencies when needed.

Status’ mobile wallet (for both Android and iOS) allows people to send and receive ether (ethereum’s native cryptocurrency) and also lets users browse the collection of decentralized apps (dapps) built on ethereum.

With its coffers full following the recent token sale, Status is one of the core sponsors behind the Devcon3 conference in Cancun, Mexico, this year.

Magnifying glass image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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The Long Term Vision of the ‘Blockchain Genius’ Revealed – Ethereum

The next big step for Ethereum’s technical development on a three-to-four year period roadmap has been unveiled by Vitalik Buterin – Devcon project creator and Ethereum co-founder.

The plans on which Buterin has been working quietly for some time now are called by him as a “modest proposal” at the heart of which stands a tech-change called “sharding” for ethereum’s blockchain.

As ethereum nodes need to store everything that ever happened on the network, Buterin stressed that there’s a need for solutions that mitigate expensive storage costs that could escalate exponentially as the system expands.

According to him the activity on the blockchain is reaching its limits against which Ethereum is running against.

“Scalability is probably problem number one […] There’s a graveyard of systems that claim to solve the scalability problem but don’t. It’s a very significant and hard challenge.
These are just known facts.”

However, the sharding strategy could be the solution to the first problem to come. The idea is that each node will only have to store a small chunk of the total network. Yet, the vision is that the underlying math would hold the system accountable, and if they need it, nodes could rely on other nodes for data.

This to be executed in practice would be more difficult than thought without nodes sending other nodes false information.

But, the visionary is putting on table a new sharding system which would solve both governance and scalability.

The strategy is to divide ethereum into various kinds of shards. Today’s ethereum network being the main one and then there are the other shards.

In this way, different and more aggressively-approached changes could be made to the smaller shards while the main one is going to worked on with cautious.

Other universes where all this stuff we’ve been working on these last few years can be rolled out much much faster.” – [other shards except the main one – universes]

Other plans were included in the discussion too as developments on the ethereum virtual machine (EVM) which is the tech that compiles the smart contract code and communicates to the network.

Another project would be in-the-making-tech project, the eWASM which would make it possible to run ethereum in a web browser.

On the ideas and project ‘train’, the “stateless client” hopped in as a way for users to sync faster.

Buterin final conclusion:

“Basically we’re just inches away from a proof of concept in python.”

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ZoKrates Seeks to Bring Best of Zcash to Ethereum with Devcon Debut

It’s perhaps no surprise Jacob Eberhardt is being given the stage at ethereum’s annual developer conference.

With scalability and privacy top of mind for the blockchain network, now valued in the billions, the Ph.D. researcher at the Technical University of Berlin is set to debut a new programming language at the Cancun, Mexico, event, one designed to help ethereum improve on these key weaknesses.

Called ZoKrates, the goal of the project is to provide developers with a toolkit that could help them realize the potential of a much-anticipated blockchain privacy tool called zk-snarks.

Pioneered by the cryptocurrency zcash, ethereum’s recent software update, enacted in October, paved the way for the easier use of the code, and because it effectively unlocks the use of this feature, the implications of ZoKrates are potentially vast.

For one, it’s designed to be simple for any ethereum developer to deploy, which could lead privacy features to begin surfacing in decentralized applications and tokens. And second, because zk-snarks compress information, ZoKrates has the potential to help scale the ethereum platform by moving computations off the main blockchain, easing data storage.

In short, ZoKrates allows information to be obscured off the main ethereum blockchain and then uploaded into a smart contract the network can still verify, all without exposing contract information.

Eberhardt told CoinDesk:

“Zk-snarks were discussed a lot, but the gap between the theoretical concept and its practical application seemed huge. This gap, I try to bridge.”

Cost benefits

Also of note is how exactly Eberhardt believes he’s accomplished the feat.

To start with, ZoKrates is a type of ethereum smart contract. A custom version of the self-executing code that runs on top of the network, the tool serves as a way to transfer a zk-snark operation onto the blockchain and to verify that that information is valid.

As Eberhardt describes it, a ZoKrates contract verifies that a computation, or set of transactions, occurred correctly – or in his words, it “transforms a program into a set of conditions.”

This moves ethereum one step closer to offering private transactions on its blockchain. Yet, like bringing privacy to ethereum in the first place, the endeavor is far from simple.

For one, verifying a zk-snark is still expensive. When encrypted information is read and accepted onto the ethereum blockchain, it requires a lot of computational effort, which in ethereum is measured in units of “gas.” Crucially, though, the cost of verifying a ZoKrates contract, while high, remains uniform at all times, regardless of the complexity of the computation.

At present, a ZoKrates verification fee is about 1.6 million gas. Put simply for possible users, anything above this figure would be cheaper to run on ZoKrates.

As for what occurs on the blockchain itself, computations would still need to fit in ethereum’s block size constraints. However, rather than filling blocks with transaction data, the distributed ledger would feature proof that the verification of any transactions had taken place.

Challenges ahead

While the possibilities are exciting, the project isn’t without its hurdles, though.

Eberhardt identified two major challenges: for one, ZoKrates is still very much under development, meaning that while the code has been open-sourced, it’s not ready to be used in production applications.

On top of that, Eberhardt is currently working solo on the project, with some input and discussion from ethereum’s zk-snarks lead Christian Reitwiessner. For that reason, Eberhardt said, the development timeline can’t be predicted.

And, of course, as always in the blockchain world, there are concerns about zk-snarks themselves, and alternative concepts are competing for attention.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Zcash Company, the for-profit entity that develops the zcash protocol.

Shredded paper image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Devcon3 Attendees’ Blockchain Insurance Can’t Stop Mexico Police Corruption

Travellers attending the Devcon3 Conference in Cancun, Mexico are among the first in the world to get licensed Blockchain insurance cover.

As part of a rollout from Blockchain startup Etherisc, those flying to Mexico can get automatic refunds for delayed flights via smart contract.

The trial is underwritten by Atlas Insurance and allows conference-goers to “share the risk of a delayed or canceled flight with fellow travelers,” a press release explains.

“Passengers can choose their preferred premium, view their estimated payout, and make their purchase in ETH or major fiat currencies.”

Devcon3 is an Ethereum-focused gathering of top developers from the cryptocurrency development and business space, running from Nov. 1 through Nov. 4.

The core Ethereum team will be in attendance, with co-creator Vitalik Buterin among others presenting on the cryptocurrency.

While the Blockchain insurance offer is pertinent, the increased security jars with reports that attendees are being sought out for bribes by local police.

Entrepreneur and Ethereum developer Julien Bouteloup, who was himself a victim, reported on Twitter Monday that “at least four” Devcon3 members had been arrested on bribe demands up to $5,000.

“We have now an accidents spreadsheet to record Devcon 3 Arrests and Crime Incidents,” Bouteloup added in a blog post about his experience, requesting any further victims to get in touch.

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Proving Ground? Ethereum Gears Up for Show of Force at Devcon Event

Ethereum is out to prove itself at its annual developer event, set to begin next Wednesday.

Once arguably the most active corner of the booming cryptocurrency market, it’s safe to say enthusiasm for the project has cooled, if only by comparison. Despite meteoric growth that has seen the protocol rise to $29 billion in value, not to mention hundreds of ICO projects launch using its technology, ethereum may be underperforming against its own high expectations.

That’s because to many supporters, the project, launched in 2014, had seemed destined to become the first to pass bitcoin in market value (and other key metrics) this year. And while there was a big run in June, the so-called “flippening” never came to pass.

Still, suggestions the protocol is struggling are only surface level, according to those involved.

“I think they are hitting on all cylinders,” author William Mougayar, who advises the non-profit Ethereum Foundation, told CoinDesk. “It’s a real platform with several pieces on top.”

Ahead of Devcon3 this week, being held in Cancun, Mexico, attendees are also hoping for a strong showing of technical talks and project updates that demonstrate the protocol’s progress.

Speaking to this restlessness was ConsenSys head of global business development Andrew Keys, who voiced his hope that the conference can show to the world the pace of development that is ongoing in the ethereum technical community. 

Keys told CoinDesk:

“I think it’s time to put up or shut up. We’ve had enough proof-of-concepts. [It’s] time to get things into production.”

That said, others had a perception of what they hope Devcon3 won’t be.

Developer Hudson Jameson, employed by the non-profit Ethereum Foundation, stated that the event was designed not to be an “ICO-fest,” words denoting the backlash that’s growing as more projects seek to leverage ethereum in fundraising (and not always to positive headlines).

Rather, Jameson said he expects the conference to serve as a forum for technical discussion, with time spent examining the state of efforts aimed to make ethereum more private and more scalable.

Growing pains

Still, while some see Devcon3 as a showcase of where ethereum is going, others see it as a showcase of the platform’s current limitations.

Though there have been countless ethereum test-runs recently (with even the United Nations trialing the technology in its global humanitarian efforts), few are using ethereum – or other blockchains – outside of a laboratory setting. And that’s partly because the technology is a work in progress.

Ethereum’s recent upgrade Byzantium, one of the largest-ever updates to the platform, brought improvements to the blockchain, but there was still a lot it didn’t do.

Still to be achieved are long-promised shifts, such as the migration to a more eco-friendly and egalitarian mining protocol, and top-level applications that make the technology easier to use.

In this way, National University of Singapore computer science Ph.D. candidate Loi Luu argued the fork, while successful, didn’t meet expectations across the board.

“I think many people were not happy with the recent hard fork since it wasn’t significant enough,” he said.

Further, it took longer than expected for the not-quite-revolutionary change to occur. First, Byzantium was divided into two upgrades to make developers’ jobs easier, then the first fork was delayed.

Others, however, were keen to write off any complaints. Gnosis co-founder and developer Stefan George said he was happy that the fork “finally happened,” arguing hat it lays the groundwork for the project’s goals.

Open questions

Along those lines, developers stressed that ethereum’s weaknesses will be a point of focus at Devcon3. Scalability is one of the biggest hurdles – after all, if all goes according to plan, ethereum would like its applications to replace centralized services like Facebook some day.

Luu stressed the need for more research in this area, expressing hopes that Devcon3 will help galvanize work toward that goal.

“Ethereum is getting more mainstream now, people are expecting some scalability solution to be deployed real soon,” he said.

Notably, developers of proposed scalability solutions such as Raiden Network and TrueBit will be speaking at the conference, providing updates on their state of progress.

Also putting pressure on the talks will be the perceived need for developers to move quickly in line with the expectations of the market.

George, for one, cited Dfinity – another blockchain billing itself as a “world computer” – as one he’ll be looking out for in 2018, but he foresees that there could be others. Still, he argued that rival platforms could be beneficial for the platform, potentially forcing ethereum’s global community into action.

He concluded:

“Serious competition will be good.”

Image via Pete Rizzo for CoinDesk

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.