Please note that this quick article is intentionally simplistic and my goal is give a brief overview of REN and some of the core fundamentals without confusing the hell out of you. Yes, if you’re a token investor without a CompSci degree it is safe to keep reading.
According to the REN Project (formerly Republic Protocol) REN is “an open protocol that enables the permissionless and private transfer of value between any blockchain.”
REN is an ERC-20 based token. The REN Project utilizing this token is a fascinating effort that started out solving a very difficult problem with the current state of crypto based assets. How can we guarantee (with open source software of course) that anyone can exchange their crypto tokens for others, with the entire transaction being both permissionless AND 100% private? This is actually quite a challenging problem to solve cryptographically and prior to 2018 nobody had done it effectively.
Enter the Darknode
The early aim of the REN Project was to create a decentralized, hidden order book providing an order matching engine between two or more parties. Sounds simple enough but the software works without revealing any information regarding the crypto traded, the order size, or anything else about participating parties. Ren dubbed the physical machine that facilitates these private transactions Darknodes, and they were released as an open-source software network so that anyone could participate. These Darknodes powered the previous Darkpool (RenEx) and are now going to power RenVM, once released to Mainnet.
Darknodes earn fees for the transactions they facilitate. For the tech behind Darknodes, Ren uses secure multi-party computations and a cryptographic concealment scheme known as Shamir Secret Sharing.
Zero-knowledge proofs are used to verify the secure multi-party computations which happen without leaking any underlying information about the trade or the parties involved. With REN, the computing parties are decentralized nodes, acting as an order matching engine, which essentially locates orders based on crypto type, quantity and price. By the time they released mainnet for REN and polished the protocol by 2019 these orders were matched with end-to-end privacy, integrating liquidity from different blockchains and putting atomic swaps to shame. Badass no?
And the network is healthy with currently 158 nodes online and growing as of this writing. You can see this information on the REN network with a lovely tool called RenTracker. Any individual or group of individuals can obtain a darknode(s) and the only requirement is you stake at least 100,000 REN and ~1 ETH for gas. These darknodes earn fees when you match orders on the REN network. REN currently has a limit of 10,000 darknodes and the team have made it really straight forward to host a node.
For detailed instruction running a REN darknode check out: https://renproject.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/sections/360001838973-Manuals
Evolution of RenVM
The RenVM documentation sums it up succinctly:
For many decentralised applications, in particular decentralised finance, solutions for privacy and interoperability are fundamental pieces of the puzzle that are still missing. Trustless privacy and interoperability is absolutely necessary for achieving truly decentralised applications that are secure, usable, and liquid. Dark pools, DEXs, leverage, lending, collateralization, transferring digital assets and many other use cases are now made private, interoperable, and practical through RenVM.
The team at REN Project, as CTO Loong Wang has pointed out, soon realized they had solved a very difficult problem when providing true private and trustless transactions between blockchains. In late 2018 they announced they were taking the protocol even further with RenVM. According to Loong RenVM was initially an experiment, building a general purpose virtual machine to explore new possibilities for the technology. From the ground up Ren was built on a decentralised virtual machine which could be replicated over thousands of machines: the RenVM.
By early 2019 the REN Project was focusing solely on RenVM powered by Darknodes.
As RenVM evolved it lead to partnerships with other protocols and the goals now became to bring interoperability to DeFi. DeFi is already providing end-to-end private interoperability via its own open source libraries, and also claims to:
“…believe that financial services should not be built in opaque silos, but rather that market-level information should be transparent to all participants while still preserving individual privacy.”
It was always understood by ICO buyers that the REN Project, based in fintech-friendly Singapore, was attempting to build a sophisticated privacy layer and it looks as though they were finally getting very close to a resounding success. As they put it, they were building the infrastructure to connect the unconnected.
Remember that in February 2018, Republic Protocol sold out their ICO in record time for 35M USD, distributing 60.2% of the fixed supply of REN to investors. These notably included Polychain Capital, FBG Capital, Signum Capital, ZhenFund and Huobi Capital along with a few other whales. The token price didn’t move much in 2018 but investors suspected big things were happening beneath the surface.
And the updates kept coming. To those paying attention to the REN monthly tech updates, like this recent one from July, one could see that the network was taking shape. Some of the screenshots, like this one of of the REN Command Center, looked absolutely stunning:
As we move through summer 2019 aka the Great Shitcoin Culling, REN has outperformed nearly all other ICO projects by an order of magnitude. A privacy layer has long been sought by the overall crypto community and investors are obviously taking notice.
The price of REN continues to reflect development progress but it’s important to note that while testnet/mainnet has been released for the REN protocol, this has not occurred yet for RenVM. In the most recent update Loong teases that the team has:
“…been busy testing, improving, and stabilising the RenVM Testnet in preparation for its upcoming release. Over the last month, we have continued this rigorous testing and are now in the final stages.”
REN vs LINK Comparisons
I first found the comparison being made on 4chan’s biz board who pretty much singlehandedly memed Chainlink to $4 in 2019. Chainlink (another great middleware story) would be the only token that compared to RENs explosive growth in 2019.
The similarities between these two projects cannot be denied, and the crypto memelords have already begun to take notice.
- Similar sold out ICOs.
- Similar accumulation periods with a fairly flat price.
- Both operate via incentivized nodes.
- Both have strong devs and are open source.
- Both are middleware aiming to solve difficult problems.
- Both appear to have an incredible future.
- Both have memetastic leadership: Sergey vs Loong Wang
REN’s CEO is Taiyang Zhang but CTO Loong Wang delivers the bulk of the team updates. The meme-abilty of the CTOs name aside, Loong has spent a great deal of time eloquently explaining RenVM, and how the project solves the privacy interoperability problems in a number of interviews. Here are the better ones I found:
- A must read text based interview with Loong describing the evolution of RenVM, privacy and interoperability between blockchains — from July 2019: https://defiprime.com/ren
- This podcast will be a great overview if you are wondering how RenVM works in more detail — from May 2019: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hashing-it-out/id1376906132?i=1000439188131
- Podcast with Loong, Building the Foundation for Private Finance — from Apr 2019: https://wyre-talks.simplecast.com/episodes/e9432194-e9432194
- Early RenVM announcement in Korea — from Dec 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SloxuhSJVH0
For a more technical overview of REN be sure to check out the official Lite Paper from Q1 2019: https://republicprotocol.com/litepaper.pdf
If you’re an investor you might want to check Bitcoin Bravado’s REN Report from July 2019. As of this writing RenVM is expecting to launch their testnet very soon with a mainnet launch hopefully complete by end of 2019. For the latest update check out the REN Project’s medium.
For more information on the REN Project — the team is very active on social media, please see these links:
- Website: renproject.io
- Twitter: renprotocol
- Reddit: r/renproject
- Medium: medium.com/renproject
- Telegram: t.me/renproject
- Unofficial Telegram for Price Chat: t.me/RENpricechat
Disclaimer: The author of this article is LOONG af $REN since mid 2018.