It is not for the first time decentralised blockchains are under attack. But it is the first time the Decentralised Proof of Stake (DPOS) blockchain concept is tested on its in-build decentralised governance system.
You probably know which blockchain it is, but for those who don't: it is the Steem blockchain. The chain is currently under attack by a single company to gain full control. Even when this company states it is merely for a few weeks to safeguard its assets in Steem; The possibility to take over control is a flaw in what a blockchain is about.
One of the key fundamentals of a blockchain is the distribution of its network and content store across independent parties running and nodes hosting the network. This distributed character gives the blockchain its trust, the trust whatever information is put into this chain cannot be changed, by anybody. This trust will be broken the moment a single entity is able to take control of all the network nodes. At that moment a blockchain is degraded to a highly complex and inefficient database of which its content is as trustworthy as the controller of the chain.
We could argue many of the governments - national, local - and most of the companies - including banks - we trust and it rarely happens these governments and companies harm innocent individuals unnecessary.
So why do we need blockchains? What solution does it provide?
Blockchains can play an important role to store - digital and record of physical - assets, contracts and - personal - data. Assets can be our cash savings or stocks in some company. Contracts can be our home insurance or will. Personal data can be our ID.
Once this information is recorded, it is recorded and available forever. Since nobody is able to change the written information, the truth can never be disputed.
A major use case for blockchains can be found in the business sector, in probably any segment. Blockchains can for instance replace central banks and support the distribution of money; It can even be the source of money; Think of the Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI is something we will have to take very seriously since we are heading towards a future in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) will slowly takeover all jobs we can imagine leaving us without a source of income. UBI will give us a basic income of which we shall be able to pay for our basic needs in life.
For all these use cases, a blockchain must be trusted for nothing less - not even a tiny fraction less - then 100%. When that trust is broken, the blockchain lost its use for anything you can imagine; It becomes worthless technology in all aspects.
image: published by StrenBiz (source)
I personally think it'll take at least another decade before we have blockchains available that we can trust with eg our own biometric data. It may take yet another few decades before we have blockchain economies that allows us to step back from fiat currencies completely.
None of the major blockchains around have proven their trustworthiness in combination with being practical. Bitcoin seems to be quite trusted, but still, a few large companies own the majority of the network, hence quite centralised. Added to that, the Bitcoin network is very slow; Its for instance not possible to use Bitcoin blockchain for near realtime transactions, like for online or instore payments, ID verification, package and asset handovers and so on and so fort.
Other blockchains - like Steem - addresses the realtime aspect we like to have in so many of the tasks a blockchain can be relevant for. Steem is maybe the fastest blockchain around with a maximum of 3 seconds before a transaction is validated and recorded by the network. That in itself is a fantastic achievement by the architects of the Steem blockchain concept and implementation thereof. It gives us the technology to handle almost any use case mentioned earlier.
With its inbuild governance system with which it should've been VERY difficult - in practical terms 'impossible' - to break the trust of the network hence the trust in all information recorded and stored. However, about 12 days or so ago, we've seen a single entity taking over all the network nodes of the chain, and gained 100% control. Since then, about half of the network is in the hands of the decentralised Steem community again, but still.
What happened two weeks ago, shows clearly the Steem blockchain as it is, is not to be trusted anymore.
Therefore it is my firm believe and opinion we can only continue with the Steem blockchain when we drastically upgrade the governance system.
Since its inception, the Steem blockchain has had a few large stakeholders, Steemit Inc and a handful of whales, something like 40/50 of them. At Steem the amount of Steem one holds, determines the amount of power one has in the governance system. When ending up with a few large stakeholders owning a super large chunk of the total Steem, one can easily conclude this is not a healthy situation to continue with. How this can be solved, is a huge issue as far as I can determine.
Maybe we need to limit the amount of power an account can have; Maximise it to a certain level. Regardless of fact that an account owns eg 90% of all Steem, it may only have eg 1% of the total power. This will require users to verify themselves with eg a national ID; An aspect many of the large Steem stakeholders are not in favour of.
I'm a 100% sure the implementation of the ID verification solution can be done in a way, the chain itself or its users doesn't know the ID of an user. The chain is able to verify transactions with an off board - external - ID verification solution, preferably a decentralised - blockchain - based service. Something we shall definitely consider, regardless if we like to stay with Steem or fork out a new chain with a better governance system.
I personally don't have too much an issue continuing services for which Steem was initially designed for - social networks - without the governance being dramatically changed to increase the trust in the chain substantially. I'm not too afraid my blogging content will be deleted, or altered by some central organisation. Why would they?
However, Steem can do so much more than powering social networks. It offers money wallets. It can power payment systems. It will be able to hold contracts. For all those type of services, use cases and data, Steem must become 100% trusted in the sense that nobody will be able to take over the chain, therefore nobody will be able to change anything that is already recorded in the chain.
Its about time we start thinking how we gonna solve the issues we have with the chain. Regardless if we continue with the support of TRON, or launch a new chain, the current issues needs to be addressed. We need to implement the required changes ASAP. When forking out, the moment we launch and not a second - not even a millisecond - later.