There has been an ongoing dispute between Robin and Team Nimiq that has now been made public. This announcement is intended to disclose this dispute, to avoid speculation about it and to provide full transparency to our community and stakeholders.
What has happened?
Team Nimiq would like to apologize to our community for having to witness an ongoing dispute between Team Nimiq and Robin after he decided to air his grievances on Reddit.
A disagreement about the way to further develop and market Nimiq erupted between Robin on one side and the entirety of the team on the other. This led to Robin removing himself from several responsibilities (namely vision and marketing) and focus solely on research. Upon Robin’s request, an agreement with the intention of providing funds and discretion to pursue research was signed in August. Unfortunately, Robin to this date failed to provide a plan about his research or his intention to spend these funds.
Team Nimiq disapproves his uncoordinated action to involve the public. In his now proclaimed effort to be transparent to the community, he failed to disclose that he in fact is demanding a substantial portion of the project’s funds. Going public in this unprofessional fashion was one of many attempts and threats to pressure the team into giving in to this demand.
Although Team Nimiq appreciates and values Robin’s skills and opinion, his actions over the majority of 2018 have been perceived as harmful to the project. We therefore heavy-heartedly announce that Robin is no longer considered a part of Team Nimiq and his views and opinions do not reflect or speak on behalf of the project or its members. Not because he was excluded but because he chose to exclude himself.
What is the controversy about?
On the way to the Nimiq Mainnet, Robin and team Nimiq developed different opinions regarding the order and priority of the next steps to take. The fundamental questions which caused a misalignment are detailed below.
However, we share Robin’s opinion that using a native, typed language offers advantages for performance and code quality. Thus, we started implementing a Rust client, as soon as the Mainnet was running stable and we felt WebAssembly support for Rust was sufficiently ready.
Proof-of-Work and Mining
Team Nimiq understands that browser-based mining is never going to be competitive with native mining. Nevertheless, we foresee potential future use cases and currently use browser-mining solely as an educational onboarding tool. We never made claims that browser-mining is competitive with native mining. We stand by our choice of the Proof-of-Work algorithm Argon2d as it provides temporary safety against dedicated mining hardware — although, obviously, at some point such hardware will exist. Nonetheless, as announced with the original white paper, we will continue our research to eventually upgrade the Proof-of-Work and Nakamoto consensus to a superior consensus solution.
Team Nimiq thinks of decentralization as one of the most important properties of the network and thus aims at maximizing decentralization. However, Robin’s opinion is that our network is centralized.
The current state of the network: The nodes form a decentralized network which on its own can be used to make transactions. In order to also decentralize the entry point to the network, we added an easy way for anyone to provide and use community seed nodes. The network is commonly accessed via the Nimiq Safe and Keyguard, which are open source and can be hosted by anyone and thus do not depend on a single domain. Moreover, we are investigating whether IPFS can serve as an alternative to hosting on nimiq.com. However, since IPFS would currently still require the usage of a centralized web gateway, we do not gain a significant advantage yet.
AccountsTree vs. UTXO
Another discussion touched upon our usage of an AccountsTree to store the blockchain’s state instead of a UTXO-based system. Team Nimiq argued in favor of state-based systems since they allow for simple balance proofs to Nano clients (i.e. cryptographically proving an account’s balance) and can compress the entire list of balances into a single hash. Robin was in favor of a UTXO-based system, due to his belief that state-based blockchains would be too complex, only blew up in size (which is not an issue in our case since we have pruning), and could not be sharded. One of his proposals to provide balance proofs was to build a Merkle tree over the UTXO set, which results in a data structure similar to an AccountsTree. Moreover, recent research also shows that it is possible to shard state-based systems (account based state commitments in Batching Techniques for Accumulators).
Although Robin introduced the idea of cashlinks, he started to vehemently oppose them. The primary reason being that this feature requires two transactions per cashlink, which Team Nimiq indeed acknowledges as a drawback of cashlinks. However, the advantage of cashlinks being open-ended is more important to us than the additional costs that come with it. Future off-chain scaling solutions might even be able to get rid of these additional costs altogether.
Besides the technical disagreements, Team Nimiq, along with parts of the community, was unsatisfied with Robin’s attitude towards marketing and general publicity. He publicly voiced his disbelief in most marketing practices numerous times and would only start efforts when he felt the protocol fully satisfies all of his ideas. Although, a lot of his statements are agreeable and the shadiness of many marketing practices, especially in Crypto, are evident, his extreme point of view denied Nimiq to gain more visibility and thus traction. Team Nimiq still agrees that the best path forward is sustainable marketing driven by substance instead of shady hype marketing practices. This is a principle that Team Nimiq has always reinforced and one that it continues to stand on.
Evolutionary development vs. perfect from the beginning
Finally, another friction point was how to approach the development of the blockchain protocol. Team Nimiq believes that such a protocol needs to continuously evolve to keep up with technological progress. Therefore, the opinion was to first deliver the Mainnet according to our promises and then to continuously improve it. Features are incrementally developed and then deployed so that we can get feedback on real-world use cases allowing us to make decisions based on the information gathered, while we also increase awareness about the project to get user adoption in a sustainable way. Major protocol upgrades can be introduced by community governed hard forks. Since Q4 2018, Team Nimiq has been conducting research for the first protocol upgrade to Nimiq 2.0, focusing particularly on scalability.
Robin’s opinion was that it is unrealistic to evolve the protocol in such a way and that it is better to build a new blockchain from scratch that would have all the features he envisioned ready from the beginning and that this tech will then drive adoption.
We still believe that both opinions lead to the same goal of a scalable blockchain, just using different means to achieve it. Hence, we supported Robin in independently starting his own research, leading to the restructuring agreed upon in August 2018.
Why not disclose this conflict earlier?
Transparency is at the core of Nimiq’s identity and an obligation to our contributors and community. Until this very point, Team Nimiq was determined to find an amicable solution in order to prevent damage to the project and its stakeholders.
There were many attempts to solve the differences: from countless personal conversations to trusted third parties as mediators, to the Nimiq Research agreement stated above. We may have kept this internal conflict private for too long in hopes for a constructive solution. Team Nimiq has always been collaboratively aiming for such a solution. This has become more and more difficult given that Robin began to act in a way that was perceived by the entire team as increasingly irrational.
Robin’s latest posts to Reddit are an example: Team Nimiq is of course responsible for the project’s performance — for achievements as well as shortcomings. To state that the team alone is responsible for the decrease in market capitalization is not valid, given the unarguable influence of external factors. Additionally, he downplays his own responsibility by being absent from the team as well as the Nimiq community.
What does this mean for Nimiq?
What Nimiq is like without Robin can best be seen by the progress made in the last 6+ months. The leaps forward were entirely accomplished without Robin’s contribution.
Efforts like the new roadmap, the brand redesign and the new marketing strategy happened entirely without his involvement. On the business side, promising partnerships are being formed, new exchanges and potentially the first NIM-to-fiat swap are in the pipeline. On the product side, the design team finished a complete overhaul of the Nimiq Safe and onboarding experience, and a new website is on the way. The Core Team just recently published the prototypical implementation of a full-node in Rust. There are even first research results (in review), as this field as well has been taken over by the members of team Nimiq.
On top of that, strategies on how to foster mass adoption in challenged communities have been released and a set of professional marketing experts and agencies have begun their work. All of them receive a part of their payment in NIM to go easy on the project’s resources.
In line with that, there is an ongoing effort to reduce overall spendings. Some of the team members even stepped forward and reduced their compensation on their own and an effort to establish a project-wide and vested NIM compensation is already happening. The accusation that anyone is solely interested in financial gains is just not true.
With this announcement, this ongoing distraction now ends.
On Friday the 11th, at 4 pm CET Team Nimiq will hold a Reddit AMA to answer all questions that may remain in the community, commenting on the Robin situation but of course being open to all technical and product focused questions as well. With this ongoing conflict now coming to an end, we will be able to share more open and transparent communication in the future.
Team Nimiq is more motivated and committed than ever to push forward and to change the world with the most accessible and censorship-resistant payment system.
Go Nimiq and Pura Vida!
DISCLAIMER: None of the statements must be viewed as an endorsement or recommendation for Nimiq, any cryptocurrency, or investment product. Neither the information, nor any opinion contained herein constitutes a solicitation or offer by the creators or participants to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or provide any investment advice or service.