Antshares promises “Digital Assets for everyone.” The organization's platform and cryptosecurity is designed to be a useful asset digitization platform for the mainstream user. Existing in the space between Ethereum and Counterparty, “Antshares is about building a financial system bridging the real-world assets.”
The blockchain startup behind Antshares, Shanghai-based Onchain, runs the open-source project without owning it, much like the company behind OpenBazaar, OB1. While Onchain, founded in 2014, lists several blockchain-related services on their website, the overarching goal is to build a large open-source community, making Antshares truly decentralized.
“Antshares is a decentralized and distributed network protocol which is based on blockchain technology. People can use it to digitalize assets or shares, and accomplish some financial business through peer-to-peer network such as registration and issuing, make transactions, settlement and payment.”
While there is a passing resemblance between Antshares and asset digitization platform Counterparty, the two are worlds apart in practice, both figuratively and literally. Not only does each have aspects that the other hasn’t fully explored yet, but the two platforms are presented to completely separate crowds on different continents.
It’s no secret that Chinese bitcoin trade volume dwarfs the rest of the world, typically 75 percent or more of the bitcoins traded at exchange each day trading for Yuan. In spite of the trading dominance, when it comes to the extended economy of cryptocurrencies and other non-exchange businesses in the space, most companies do their business in English, even if they are based in Europe or Hong Kong.
This leaves a lot of projects closed off to non-English speaking Chinese, and the average Chinese bitcoin user that doesn’t speak English might have never heard of popular projects elsewhere.
However, Antshares is far less developed than its western counterparts. There is only one wallet, and no exchanges for the cryptosecurities. The central reason for such a difference in the supporting ecosystem is that Antshares is being designed very differently, and the system is still incomplete.
An upcoming ‘mainnet’ client will be the central hub of all asset issuance and transfers across the blockchain. Therefore the existing wallets can only send and receive antshares, much like any other cryptocurrency wallet.
One of the advantage that Antshares may have is the matter of compliance. “Antshares has built-in KYC and AML APIs,” the whitepaper points out.
“Third-party payment providers, banks and other financial institutions may utilize the Antshares protocol with compliance.”
Antshares could also be compared to Ethereum in the way it runs smart contracts, instead of simple tokens across its’ blockchain. Until the mainnet client is complete you can only read about this functionality in the whitepaper, which describes a rich and vast ecosystem for finance-minded smart contracts to be issued and traded by anyone.
As with Ethereum, the first token to run on the open-source Antshares blockchain is the platform’s “gas,” a fee-payment token named “antcoins.” There are a possible 100 million antcoins, generated with each block over the next 22 years. Meanwhile, there are the same amount of antshares, the token that is used for asset transfer, which were all generated up front in the first block.
The current Antshares Initial Coin Offering (ICO), which is also the project's second, has about a week left until they sell out of the rest of their Antshares earmarked for early adopters. At press time they’ve raised 4,878 bitcoins for the 20 million shares, or about $2.8 million, according to their ICO page. Last September a similar ICO successfully raised 2,100 bitcoins at the time, and all funds raised in both ICOs “shall be allocated for the development and marketing of Antshares Project,” according to Antshares.
The antshare smart contracts are very simple contracts. According to their Github page they were designed for use as smart financial products, and “could be used for recording titles and assets like equities, creditor’s claims, securities, financial contracts, credit points, bills and currencies.” The page explains how they could be applied to areas like equity crowdfunding, equity trading, employee stock ownership plans, peer-to-peer financing, loyalty programs, private equity funds, and supply-chain financing.
David Li, head of overseas operations at Onchain, reiterated the point of simplified contracts during an interview. The contracts aren’t interactive enough that they can be used to hack the system, like we saw happen to Ethereum this summer already. “We do not face systematic risks like the DAO,” Li explained.
They do, however, bestow voting rights for the Antshares platform itself. Since Antshares uses delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) instead of Proof of Work to secure its’ blockchain, users voting on the blockchain’s use is necessary in place of mining.
“We have a very different consensus mechanism than the bitcoin blockchain.”
- David Li head of overseas operations at Onchain
Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance attempts to improve on other blockchain security models where “consensus nodes are required to maintain a state table to record current consensus status,” according to the dBFT whitepaper by Antshare’s CTO, Erik Zhang.
It’s an improvement on the pre-blockchain “Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance” scheme proposed by Castro and Liskov in 1999. “IBM and Chain.com use similar models,” Li told BraveNewCoin.
dBFT takes blocks and votes from all bookkeeping nodes and orders them in a way that they are convinced will constantly achieve consensus on the state of the blockchain. If they’re right, it’s a far more efficient way to achieve a similar security to bitcoin’s blockchain, without all of the mining.
The mainnet platform will also, according to the whitepaper, have some advanced personal identity features, allowing for instant authentication with existing banking infrastructure, much like digital certificate companies do today.
The system is also said to be compliant with rules set out by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), as are 38 digital certificate companies in China that provide digital certificates of personal identity. Local rules for digital certifications will need to be followed in each country, but Onchain developers are confident that many other countries will follow suite due to the platforms design.
To get the asset digitization plans off the ground quickly, some real-world use is being planned from the start, and two partnerships have already been forged. Chinese startups Bitrees and WeLand are the first to start issuing contracts on the Antshares blockchain.
Bitrees is described on the Antshares blog as “the first big data analysis service of blockchains/crypto-currencies in China.” WeLand does return crowdfunding of physical products, which involves shipping large amounts of physical products. Both companies will be working closely with Onchain to get the asset digitization process perfected.
The Antshares client wallet software, which looks a lot like a bitcoin core wallet in Chinese, is still in Beta. According to Li, an English version is currently in the works. The wallet currently requires the latest versions of Microsoft .NET and C++ upgraded on your windows system in order to run, at least while it's in Beta, and it requires users to download the full Antshares blockchain. A mobile client for Antshares is also planned. “It’ll be released at around the same period of time of the mainnet launch,” Li explained.