BitShares is a cryptocurrency and financial blockchain smart contracts platform. The currency is currently ranked as the 8th largest by market cap, worth around US$23 million at the time of writing.
Founded by Daniel Larimer in the fall of 2013, BitShares has a three-second blocktime, which is as fast as you can send a transmission from the far side of the planet and still get included into the current block. There are also some unrivaled features; a decentralized exchange built into its wallet client, human-readable named addresses, the ability to issue your own crypto-assets to other wallet holders and trade them in the exchange, and an interesting governance model with user voting.
Despite the project’s interesting advantages, user adoption hasn’t taken off. The cryptocurrency’s price chart had been steadily headed downhill since trading started in July 2014. Today, however, that trend has taken a sharp turn upwards, with news of Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) platform adding a BitShares template package. The template deploys a BitShares node and a command-line wallet on Ubuntu Linux.
“Deploy a node on the fastest public blockchain in just a few clicks. The BitShares network delivers on the promise of blockchain technology including: 3 second block time, price stable currencies, named accounts, dynamic account permission, decentralized asset exchange, stealth transactions and much more.”
- BitShares Template description on Microsoft Azure
There are only four other blockchain services in Azure’s template manager, putting BitShares alongside Ethereum, Open Assets, Eris, and BitPay’s Bitcore. IT departments around the world wanting to test out a blockchain deployment for themselves will find these five packages among the easiest to evaluate.
It may seem odd for a cryptocurrency to be deployed from the Azure platform, it’s hard to imagine what type of business could need it. However, there are several uses for BitShares, including the ability to issue private crypto-securities.
A finance company could use the Decentralized Exchange (DEX) to make trades, they could issue their own stock or even just a coupon. Anyone in the world could then receive and trade them, just by downloading the open source BitShares wallet.
An upcoming Ethereum project, MakerCoin, has just launched a couple of crypto-securities using the platform. With tradable crypto-assets listed as “MKR” and “DAI” inside the BitShares Decentralised Exchange.
The cost of securing the three-letter trading symbols for these two securities was a significant purchase, so MakerCoin has placed some faith in the system. The decision was much like a successful startup choosing between Nasdaq and the NYSE to list their stock in, only in this case, the NYSE is a rival cryptosecurity platform like Counterparty or NXT.
Just prior to being accepted into Azure, there had been a string of other victories for BitShares, any of which could have attributed to today’s rise in the price of the cryptocurrency. The team recently figured out a way to reduce every user’s transaction fees, which have now been dropped substantially. Standard accounts can now transact with a flat rate fee of about four BTS, which is only around 4,500 satoshis. This is a far smaller fee than Bitcoin, as well as the old BTS fee structure.
The week also saw the first mobile wallet app launch, available now for Android on Google play. Other mobile wallets are not far behind, with the developer in charge of them, known as “KenCode” on the BitSharestalk forum, stating that iOS and windows phone support will be released this week.
A feature called stealth transfers, often compared to Coinjoin transactions, has also been built into some versions of the BitShares wallet. The feature is officially in public beta, but is also present inside the wallet listed on Azure.
Getting their software package listed in Azure was faster than anyone expected, according to package submitter Ryan R. Fox. Despite not being an official developer or employee of BitShares, Fox volunteered to submit BitShares to Azure due to his experience working with Microsoft. “I decided my familiarity with the Azure platform would allow me to see it through,” Fox told Brave New Coin, “I've been a member of the Microsoft Partner Network long before they introduced the Azure platform.”
“I started with a minimal viable release, so only the [Command-Line Interface] wallet is deployed. I do intend to update the template to include the GUI wallet and the addition of a local web server to provide the user with something pretty to see. All of the BitShares functionality is accessible from the CLI wallet, making it the proper choice to dig deep to gain insights into the platform. [User-issued cryptocurrency, The DEX, and Price-stable currencies are all] accessible within the CLI wallet. In addition, stealth transactions may be conducted.”
- Ryan R. Fox, Blockchain Professional
Fox has been a supporter of BitShares since 2013, and states that the systems future looks brighter than ever before, although he doesn’t see it taking the same path as a typical cryptocurrency. “Future innovation will likely come in a side-chain style project, first with Ethereum then Bitcoin. I don't see the current linear blockchain like we have today lasting beyond 5 years.”
Another of Fox’s predictions for BitShares is the addition of another type of cryptosecurity trade, this time a Bond marketplace, to compete with the T0.com-style cryptobond: “The experiments they are discussing with bond markets could prove to round out their existing decentralized asset exchange in the coming year.”
However, a larger aspect of BitShares that keeps him dedicated to the project is the democratic voting system. Built right into BitShare wallets. “Where Bitcoin uses proof of work to secure its network, BitShares uses a democratic vote to elect a set of block producers to secure their network,” Fox explained.
This process is known as “Delegated Proof of Stake,” (DPOS) and despite the likelihood of being vulnerable to the problems that come with any democracy, it is certainly one of the most interesting options to keeping a blockchain secure.
“DPOS leverages the power of stakeholder approval voting to resolve consensus issues in a fair and democratic way. All network parameters, from fee schedules to block intervals and transaction sizes, can be tuned via elected delegates.”
No matter how it’s secured, BitShare’s addition to Azure is certain to give it a large boost in visibility, and the many additions and upgrades this week seem likely to make it one of the more popular cryptocurrencies.