One of the most important decisions we’ve made at nCent Labs is to create our own base layer protocol, rather than build on an existing “Turing Complete” chain like Ethereum, EOS, or NEO. The fact that Ethereum was released only three years ago — considered alongside of recent developments in sidechains, sharding, and alternative consensus mechanisms — made it significantly more challenging for us to trust the long-term predictability of the platform (See my answer to the question: Why Not Ethereum for Everything?). As with all of our design decisions, we’ve prioritized our “ship-first” philosophy and our commitment to a scalable incentives infrastructure.
Every design decision we make optimizes performance tradeoffs to be the best chain possible for incentive networks. It’s certainly worth detailing how this decision sets nCent apart from other blockchains.
What Makes nCent Different
The nCent blockchain is an open, distributed, cryptographically secured ledger providing a verifiable record of the execution of an incentive program. It records, in particular, every time an electronic token is created, transferred, redeemed, or expires. What’s more, it records the flow of NCNT through the system (as a fungible representation of incentive) as well as exchanges between NCNT and other currencies. A system of this kind requires a protocol with the following functionality (below you’ll find a comparison between nCent and other blockchains with respect to these features).
Why We Had to Build Our Own Chain
In what follows, we’ll consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of these blockchains in turn. Let’s start with Bitcoin, which is a reliable decentralized system that utilizes Proof-of-Work as an incentive system for larger payments. Bitcoin is a remarkable innovation, and in some sense there is no coin that can or will “replace” Bitcoin and it’s unique value proposition to the world. Bitcoin, however, suffers from higher transaction fees, is inherently scale constrained, and lacks support for smart contracts, secure scripting, and application incentives. Ethereum has also provided a platform that has achieved wide adoption, but it has proven to be unreliable when stress tested by even simple applications like Cryptokitties. For many basic incentive markets, gas is simply a prohibitively high cost. The Stellar Development Foundation has created a fast processing, higher throughput system with low fees. Still, it’s not as customizable, decentralized or amenable to application development as we would like.
For these reasons, we’ve decided to build nCent as a new protocol explicitly designed to overcome the aforementioned shortcomings of past protocols for incentive markets. Furthermore, our protocol must contain certain primitives for incentive markets. Some of these are fast provenance (for tracking say, the referral history of a token), Sybil proof incentive design while maintaining virality (trading off network propagation and progress with fraud), and distributed exchange (for user to derive value from multiple parties without them being in a trust relationship with each other). Furthermore, the protocol will contain novel progress incentives, or a type of incentivized virality in how the protocol works.
More specifically, distributed consensus of the blockchain will be maintained without the mining of Nakamoto consensus. Instead, the nCent servers will achieve Federated Byzantine Agreement by way of the Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP). This means that the nCent blockchain will be verified by validator nodes that are powered by the system’s own protocol incentives. This is a form of consensus that is open, scales well, and is vastly more efficient than mining. Unlike Stellar’s formulation of SCP, nCent will provide explicit protocol incentives to run validator nodes, ensuring that the system will achieve a level of decentralization uncommon in most delegated trust schemes. What’s more, token provenance is maintained by the server and summarized in the network state that represents the tip of the blockchain, which distinguishes the nCent system from simple currency blockchains. Finally, the nCent blockchain also records the code specifying the behavior of stamped tokens, bid entries for the exchange of NCNT and other currencies, and oracle entries establishing inputs for active tokens.
nCent will enable a wide array of use cases and incentive markets using this specialized, native chain approach. To learn more or discuss further about our work at nCent Labs, feel free to email me anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay in the nCent loop, hear me tweet and join our international telegram channel.