Technology Road Ahead
Since the Nimiq Mainnet launch, we gained a lot of valuable insights from Nimiq operating live. Over the last few months, we made adjustments to meet the initial needs of the real world operation. Having reached a very stable ground-level, now it is time to revisit the greater technical roadmap in this post. Later on this week, we are planning to release our marketing strategy followed by our branding and styling guideline the week after. With these three publications in place, we want to provide a broad view on the future of Nimiq.
Important technical questions are: How to grow and scale Nimiq? What evolutionary aspects to focus on while keeping our Nimiq core values in mind? And what does our community desire?
A good moment for a quick recap.
What is the goal of Nimiq?
Nimiq set out to lower the barrier of entry to crypto, one of the most complex problems in our space. We want to offer a convenient way for the average internet user to get, interact, and pay with crypto. In short: Crypto made simple.
One question that might arise: Isn’t a centralized service such as Coinbase much more user-friendly?
While this is usually true from a UX perspective, any blockchain expert will agree that decentralization and censorship-resistance are the fundamental properties that make the key difference between our current banking system and the point of a real cryptocurrency. So the resulting challenge is: How can we raise awareness about the importance of decentralization and at the same time create decentralized interfaces that fit the user’s expectations and are equally usable.
How do we achieve our goal?
The problem of making secure systems usable is not new. A lot of developers and researchers have struggled with the concept of encryption, especially in the field of email encryption. Even nowadays, end-to-end encryption of emails is still very hard and almost exclusively done by people with deep technical understanding. In contrast to the failed example of encrypted emails, a technology that managed to bring end-to-end encryption to the masses is found in modern messengers. The key ingredients to make encryption usable for messengers certainly include the ability to have a level of control over the underlying protocol and some trade-offs in security when hiding the complexity from the user.
We imagine Nimiq moving in a similar direction: our protocol is tailored towards our use-case, being able to run nodes in the browser as nano-clients. And while having a fully decentralized blockchain underneath our UIs, we can sometimes introduce small centralized components to improve the user experience. One example could be an encrypted, centralized storage place for your contact book to easily sync it across devices. Of course, such centralized components need to be transparent, open source, and optional. This way we are able to maintain all our desired blockchain properties while offering better usability for the average user. In particular, we will not sacrifice being open for third-party services and censorship-resistant as Bitcoin while at the same time being reliable as independent, community-owned and driven blockchain.
Beyond this, we want to identify and implement applicable, proven research results to move along with the technical progress of the blockchain domain, most importantly concerning matters of scalability that remain one of the top challenges.
To turn this into a solid basis for our community to build an extensive Nimiq-based ecosystem on top, our approach will be based on implementing tools and entry points, writing documentation and providing demos.
Four Pillars: Wallet, Exchange, Payment, Blockchain
Our ultimate goal is to build the first complete and easy-to-use crypto payment system. Complete means encompassing the whole experience starting from owning fiat money, exchanging and using NIM, to also changing back to fiat. Easy-to-use means a simple and intuitive interface, a single flow solution.
In parallel, we are working intensively on empowering and supporting the community in building alternatives to our approaches in order to cater to the broad range of users with varying demands and wishes while also increasing the level of decentralization within the ecosystem.
The Four Pillars in Detail
The Nimiq Safe is, first of all, an easy to use online-banking-like system running entirely on the user’s device, handling keys, transactions, and contacts. Additional novel features using blockchain specific characteristics such as multi-signature accounts will be added.
The components are:
- Nimiq Safe UI
Simple and easy-to-use web UI
Dedicated native apps for mobile devices
Send NIM in a link for easy onboarding of new users
- Nimiq Accounts Manager
Integrating hardware wallets and the Nimiq Keyguard
- Nimiq Keyguard
A software wallet storing your keys securely in your browser
We envision an API providing crypto-crypto exchanges at first and fiat-crypto later. Initially completely without any UI only to be integrated into apps. In the future, we might consider adding a minimalistic UI. Apart from that, we are going to assess whether it is preferable to develop our own approach and/or make use of external APIs from platforms such as agora.trade, Nimex or current centralized exchanges instead.
A system similar in ease-of-use to the PayPals and Venmos, maximized for convenience for both merchants and buyers while being decentralized and acting directly on the blockchain without the need for an intermediary.
The components are:
- Checkout process
Focusing on easy integration for merchants and optimal ease-of-use and simplicity for the buyers while ensuring security on par with other major payment providers.
- Web shop integration
Consisting of a core component in combination with wrappers for particular e-commerce systems such as WooCommerce, PrestaShop, and Shopify. We will put additional effort on optimal code documentation inviting the community to create support for further platforms.
- Donations facility
Making donations as simple as clicking a link and signing a transaction.
The Nimiq Blockchain is the backbone for all the offered services. We are striving to improve and extend the protocol so that it is suitable for our plans. Our work here is focused on improving censorship resistance, the transaction volume, and our node implementation.
At the same time, we are working on porting the Node.js implementation to Rust to be prepared for growth with higher overall performance and a more maintainable codebase.
All Nimiq apps depend on the optimized Nimiq Keyguard and associated new Nimiq Accounts Manager. For that reason we are currently focusing on releasing these two fundamental technical components as soon as possible. In parallel we started working on creating an overarching design language for our UIs.
Our technical roadmap is composed of milestones related to the the four pillars described above as well as parallel efforts with less predictable timelines regarding community work, research of innovative usability concepts, and core technology advances.
- First version of new Keyguard and Accounts Manager.
- Official Nimiq style guide and corporate identity.
- Beta release of the Nimiq Payment plugin for web shops.
- Cashlink integration into Nimiq Safe.
- Donation feature.
- Marketing and growth roadmap.
- Style guide and corporate identity applied to all Nimiq UIs.
- Service for sharing your data between devices for improved convenience as opt-in feature:
Synchronized contact book
Backup your encrypted private keys
- Nimiq Payment system:
Beta testing with selected web shop owners
Beta version of hosted merchant server service
- First Nimiq full-node implementation in Rust.
- Enabling easy NIM-crypto exchange.
- Complete Nimiq node in Rust.
- Have first web shops using the Nimiq Payment system live.
- Release merchant server service.
- Enabling easy NIM-fiat exchange.
- Innovative multisig features for Nimiq Safe:
We are currently researching and exploring this topic to derive concrete applications and features and plan to implement those into Nimiq Safe by mid 2020; details in next section
- Content monetization system:
Providing integrated browser mining to content providers as an alternative to advertisement
- Recurring payments.
- At least one big (national) online shop using the Nimiq Payment system.
One of the mainstream adoption problems of crypto in general — besides the holy grail of limitless scalability — is the realization that with the advantage of being a trustless system comes the fact, that technically you alone are responsible for the security of your funds. There is the valid concern that the average person may not really want to handle the ‚all or nothing‘ (finding a place to store the essential private key, having it ready when needed, handling it safely online, etc.) of an unchangeable, unrecoverable-once-lost key, especially when it comes to larger amounts of value. Such individuals may prefer convenience and that is why thus far they have trusted third parties such as centralized exchanges and banks to make things seemingly easier.
If we can address this matter possibly by making Multisig wallets simple enough to have easier backups and become less single-point-of-security-dependent, then that could be a leap forward in the blockchain sphere. Multisig is a unique feature of the blockchain technology and opens a broad range of services and functions concerning various aspects of managing funds such as
- Easier security without single point of failure
- Backup keys
- Multi-party accounts for business, family or other group needs
- Democratizing funds
- 2nd factor device
Our goal is to explore, research, and build prototypes to better understand the opportunities and finally build winning features and UIs into the Nimiq ecosystem.
Next, we are planning to release our updated vision and mission driven marketing strategy this week and our branding and styling guideline the week after.
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.