-By Song Shijun @Elastos
Introduction: Relations of Production
There is a famous saying on the Internet: “Blockchain represents new relations of production.” It’s a widespread opinion that’s resonated with many people. Relations of production means the rights of wealth distribution. Before we can discuss “new relations of production”, let’s look at the relations of production today.
In the agricultural society, the wealth is the agricultural product. And the landlords get the rights of wealth distribution through possessing the principle resource “land”. In the industrial society, the wealth is the industrial product. And capitalists get the rights of wealth distribution through possessing the principle resources “capital” and “machines”. In today’s information society, without any doubt, “information data” represents wealth. And “big data” companies own the data. They’re the distributors of wealth. They are corporations we have all heard of: Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, etc. There is no doubt that these corporations represent today’s “relations of production”.
But have you noticed? These representatives of wealth are different from those in the past. The wealth of the agricultural society was created by the farmers working on the land. The wealth of the industrial society was created by the workers working in the factory. Even when it comes to Microsoft, the representative of information technology from the last century, its Windows was created by its employees’ coding. What about the representatives of the Internet Age? Google’s content comes from other websites. Facebook’s content comes from its users. Taobao’s products come from its vendors. It’s their users who created their wealth, not their own employees. One cannot help but sigh at the status quo. These tech upstarts are becoming unicorns in a very short period very efficiently by using the internet to quickly aggregate the information and data of the users. They have gained enormous digital wealth, not through the traditional method of utilizing their employees but through the free online business model of taking advantage of their own users.
In the Information Age, possessing “big data” equals possessing wealth. This can also explain why Didi and Mobike’s valuations could keep going up even though they’re not making any money. It’s simple. They have been aggregating data. It’s like a real estate developer who doesn’t sell houses. Although he doesn’t have any revenue, he has been hoarding land non-stop. Of course the valuation will go up accordingly.
Who are the sacrifices of this revolution?
These enterprises have made our life more convenient through fierce competition. In the meantime, we have also submitted our personal data. Besides, according to the “winner takes all” principle, every company who gained the first place in a specific field will be the monopoly. Monopoly can help achieve high efficiency and low cost. But the users don’t necessarily get the chance to enjoy the benefits. What we see is that big corporations have been making more and more profit by being the monopoly.
They mainly profit from the following three ways:
1. Getting user data, including privacy, preferences, purchase history, access record, and Internet footprint. This is also the foundation of big data. By analyzing this data, they can tell if you’re remodeling a house, getting married or having a baby and then they will market specific products to you very “thoughtfully”. Some people find the AI technology good, some find it evil. No matter what, they have managed to profit through their technology.
2. If they can control the entrance of online traffic and take possession of the entrance Apps in a specific field or industry, even if they don’t charge users anything, they can still profit from advertising. Baidu’s paid listing and Alibaba’s “express train” are examples of traffic advertising people have a love-hate relation with.
3. They control the channels of liquidity. By being the entrance of online traffic, they exploit the content creators by adopting unfair profit sharing policies. If we want to sell a TV show, we must go to iQyi; If we want to sell an App, we have to go to Apple; If we want to publish a game, we have to go to Tencent. Of course, we also must give them enough profit sharing as well.
Besides, we have also found something “amusing”. The products these platforms have sold you don’t belong to you. Let’s say, we bought a game from the App store. If Apple went bankrupt one day, could we still play the game? If we want to give the game to our friend as a gift, could we do it? If we can’t even do that, does this game really belong to us? It feels like we got taken advantage of again. The product we bought doesn’t belong to us. Is it a theft? Or a robbery? Or a scam?
If they are only stealing the users’ property (such as data and App), it can only be counted as an economic crime. What’s more frightening is that as these giants become more and more influential, they will start to play God and judge everybody.
If I am an engineer and I’ve developed a very cool browser and I want to put it in the Apple App Store, Apple will tell me, “Sorry. We only allow Apps with the Apple rendering engine”. If I have filmed a documentary about a body art and want to air it on iQiyi, their staff might think that it’s too vulgar and would probably not give me a green-light no matter how artistically accomplished they. They rather not risk anything because it might supposedly give them bad publicity. If I have developed a game and want to publish it on Tencent’s game platform and the game happened to be in the same category of one of Tencent’s own games, there’s a high chance that it’ll definitely get rejected.
If Leonardo da Vinci and Van Gogh lived in the Internet Age when people publish their works through the Internet, their research and work might not get approved due to censorship. They are very likely to be buried in the ocean of information. This ultimately leads to some godlike power big corporations might eventually hold over users’ data. The world’s civilization and values would transform according to the monopoly’s expectations which would lower our creativity and diversity. Think about it. Have the so-called phenomenal entertainments shows in the past two years come from grassroots or We-Media platforms?
Let’s look at the four sins of centralized applications:
1. Stealing user’s data. Illegal Possession. Illegal Profiting.
2. Exploiting creators by being the monopoly of traffic and channels.
3. “False sales”. The product doesn’t belong to the user.
4. Killing innovation. Choosing the direction of innovation based on their own preferences and tendencies.
Today’s Internet makes these giants succeed. They’ve amassed a huge deal of digital wealth and become the distributors of wealth. They are also making the highest rules of relations of production and constantly building their commercial fortress. We are nothing but common users who are “willing trade convenience with privacy”.
Tencent, the representative of old production relations, has already taken away 90% of the profit of the gaming industry. Should it get even more? When these giants are at their very peak, it’s also the beginning of the entropy production. Every revolution needs to prepare and wait for the new productivity (technological innovation). You could say it’s almost like the time before the invention of steam engines, electricity, computers and the Internet.
Blockchain was born in such capacity. People have high hopes that it could change the current paradigm and break the monopoly of those giants.
Sparks of fire — Blockchain
Since 2010, when 10,000 BTC could buy two pizzas, the speculative craze of blockchain began. After BTC, there were ICOs. After ICOs got banned, there were IFOs. They all became past tense with the fact that 90% of the newly launched projects in 2018 saw lackluster trading during their debut. Solely building a chain or releasing a coin doesn’t solve the problem. To fully have blockchain’s various features come into play, DApp is necessary.
There are several definitions for a Dapp. The Dapp we are talking about here means Applications that can independently run on personal devices without relying on any central server. To put in simply:
1. DApp can run on users’ personal devices such as cellphones and personal computers. It belongs to users and can be freely transferred to anyone.
2. DApp doesn’t rely on central servers to operate, doesn’t require dedicated communication servers to deliver messages and doesn’t require a central database to record data. The data is stored in the user’s personal space which could be cellphones or personal cloud storage space.
3. DApp is connected to the blockchain. All the digital property rights registration will be recorded on the blockchain. It can serve property rights transactions and sales by relying on the blockchain and being the platform for trading without an intermediary.
4. DApp can be freely packaged and generated by users. Users can use the signature to tag ownership. Its release is not subject to any institutional restrictions. All kinds of creativity and innovation can be freely expressed and realized.
5. DApp can protect digital assets ensuring the property rights not getting compromised or leaked.
For example, let’s say a game developer has created a game called “Angry Chicken”. Here are the differences between publishing it through DApp and publishing it through traditional gaming platforms:
If such DApps exist, the content creators will not need to rely on the platform to publish their content and profit from them. Users won’t need to store their personal data on the platform server and instead, they can own their own data. Users can also own their own DApp. Unique thoughts, creations, and innovations can be freely expressed through the DApp therefore the gene of human civilization, aka this modern era of decentralization, can be more diverse.
Based on the above scenario, the DApps where users are consuming content in, could also be resold back on the market. They could even deem DApps as scarce investments and achieve “consumption and investment”.
Blockchain has widened people’s imagination. As more and more users start to understand and realize its value and adopt the new blockchain-based cooperation mode, DApps will definitely be the technological foundation for the whole mechanism to work. It has made the revolution of relations of production possible.
The future is Elastos — DApp On the Go
To make DApps truly happen, we need the following technologies:
1. It should be able to be linked to the property rights on the blockchain. It can also be traded and transferred digitally.
2. The security of digital assets should be guaranteed in order to ensure that the property rights won’t be destroyed and the data won’t be leaked.
3. It should be able to achieve network communications without relying on the server. It should also be connected directly to other users’ DApp.
4. We can also adjust the consensus and other technical characteristics of the blockchain based on the business type, application scenario and the functional requirement of the DApp.
The structure of Elastos’ technical solution has three layers: The top layer are the DApps developed by third-party developers. It will provide features directly to users and operate on the users’ personal devices including cell phones and personal computers. The middle layer framework is the connecting point between the Internet service and blockchain. The bottom layer has the main and side-chained structure. It supports flexible extended side chain and diverse application demands.
At present, DApp supports two forms: Native App and H5 App.
• Native App refers to apps that can run independently on OS such as iOS and Android. By embedding Elastos SDK in the App, it enables a DApp to visit the blockchain and have the capabilities and features provided by blockchain.
• H5 App refers to apps combined with JS and Html & CSS UI. It runs within Elastos VM. The features of the blockchain have already been built in H5 App’s operating environment which is Elastos Runtime. They can be used directly. Besides, within the VM, the digital assets registered on blockchain will also be properly protected. Even DApp and its users will face restrictions when they want to import or export digital assets.
Elastos framework comes from the Elastos OS powered by Kortide Ltd. which has the built-in CAR component programming technology and support from other programming components. It also includes P2P carrier nodes that DApps can use to interact with other DApps to communicate securely with other users without a “traditional internet” environment. The framework also embeds the light node of the blockchain which enables DApp to interact with Elastos’ main chains and side chains through the light node. Through the light node, the digital property rights registered on the blockchain can also be manipulated.
The Elastos framework doesn’t exist independently. It consists of a group of CAR components and packaging the group of CAR components forms the SDK. Embedding groups of CAR components into the Elastos VM enables Elastos Runtime. The Elastos framework connects DApps, P2P nodes and blockchain together.
In this case, Elastos can also protect the digital property more comprehensively through VM. Traditionally, DRM was used to protect the digital property which required DRM App developers to strictly comply with the protocol and not leaving a backdoor for others to steal the content. These thresholds have limited the creators’ choices which ultimately made it impossible for DRM to become the common technology across different platforms and organizations. However, as the operating environment of DApp, Elastos VM protects digital property rights from the bottom. Even if DApp developers want to do insert malicious code, they can’t transfer the digital property rights and personal data outside of VM. This allows content creators to freely choose DApps and DApp developers. It also enables DApp to be used as the universal technical solution for copyright protection across organizations and platforms.
Traditionally, due to factors like complicated network environment, multiple routers, and dynamic IP, it was hard to achieve direct communication between two network nodes. And the central service was often responsible for sending, receiving, and forwarding data. At the same time, driven by their personal interest, software providers were also more inclined to use central communication servers to openly collect the user data. To truly achieve DApp, Elastos provides the carrier to support P2P direct connection. Through the carrier, any two nodes can achieve direct communication without the need to construct a central server to relay data.
At the bottom of the whole system, Elastos’ blockchain serves as the “credible root”. The underlying blockchain will carry the user ID, digital content property rights (token), transaction, deposit certificate, traceability records, etc.
However, different applications have different requirements for the blockchain. It may be necessary to optimize the implementation of the blockchain from different angles. If that’s the case, why not customize a chain for each application? Since a single main chain cannot meet the needs of all applications, why not adopt a flexible, dynamically extended side chain to support different applications? Elastos uses the “main-side chain structure” to support on-demand expansion of the side chains and each side chain can use different consensus mechanism to even redevelop the application in order to customize specific side chains.
The biggest value of blockchain is credibility. The public chain has the greatest transparency and credibility. But the biggest risk a public chain has is the attack from the computing power. We will work with the Bitcoin community through merged mining alongside with Bitcoin to help secure the safety of Elastos main chains by using the computing power of bitcoin mining hashpower. In the meantime, the side chains of Elastos that decide to implement PoW(Proof of Work) consensus mechanism can also be combined with the main chain for mining purpose which can pass the computing power of bitcoins to the side chains. This essentially means that if there are DApps built on elastos decide to use PoW, they can be merged mined by piggy backing on elastos’ own mining hashpower which is compounded by bitcoin’s mining hashpower, thereby securing the network of side-chains even more. Or, if DApps decide to implement another consensus mechanism like PoS(Proof of Stake), they’re free to do that as well. By consuming the world’s electric power, Bitcoin has made the safest main chain happen. And Elastos can pass the credibility of Bitcoin to hundreds of thousands of applications (DApp) which would make the most of the electricity Bitcoin has consumed, thereby not wasting any more energy in the process. Therefore, the public chain of Bitcoin can be the “credible root” for applications all over the world. So far, Elastos is receiving 50% of Bitcoin mining hash power already.
2018 Dapp opens a new chapter for blockchain
With Elastos’s three-tier architecture, developers can easily own highly trusted DApps. The DApp digital asset will be recorded and traded on the blockchain, then it will be played or used in Elastos Runtime. This allows digital assets to form a closed loop from distribution to transaction to usability. It provides content creators liquidation channels without any intermediary so they won’t be exploited by centralized platforms.
At the same time, all the data will be stored in the user’s personal device. The user owns all the digital content property rights and they can be freely used and sold. If there’s an advertising firm that wants to build an ad model through big data analysis, it will no longer need to purchase data from centralized platforms. Instead, it can pay individual users directly to obtain the data which ultimately benefit the true owners of the data.
These DApps are also stored in the user’s personal devices. The user has the ultimate disposition power and can use them freely as the property rights are respected and protected. It allows users to use purchased DApps as investments to potentially profit in the future.
New ways of distribution of wealth, new business models, new organizational and cooperative relations will inevitably bring in new relations of production. A variety of personalized creativity and innovation can also be freely expressed through DApps. Diverse thinking and content can also be freely achieved so the world can continue to move towards “out of control” mentality and into a safer world for everyone.