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Beyond the Blockchain Infrastructure Layer Wars: Embracing the Interoperable Future of Apps and Services

“Technical people don’t ask the right questions.”
– Henry Kissinger (1923-2023)

In blockchain technology, a heated debate persists surrounding the efficacy of various infrastructure layers. On X (formerly known as Twitter), proponents of Ethereum (ETH) and Solana (SOL) have been engaging in a ‘pissing contest’ debate, arguing over the merits of their respective platforms. [Here are two links to such discussions: Link1 and Link2]

These infrastructure layers are simply a means to an end, and this debate overlooks an important vision and fundamental aspiration: to become a global interoperable network of blockchains with Apps and services on top. This vision transcends the limitations of individual platforms, fostering a cohesive environment where applications and services can operate seamlessly across diverse protocols.

ETH, SOL, L1s/L2’s: Stepping Stones for Developers, Not Consumer On-Ramps

While leading blockchain protocols such as Ethereum or Solana play crucial roles in the blockchain landscape, they primarily serve as developer tools, enabling the creation of innovative decentralized applications (dApps) or augmenting Web2 ideas with Web3 capabilities. 

However, blockchain protocols do not directly cater to mainstream consumers. Instead, they serve as the foundation upon which consumer-facing applications will emerge. The applications, not the underlying blockchains themselves, will act as the real on-ramps for consumers, via user-friendly interfaces and intuitive experiences.

Moving Beyond Pointless Debates

The ongoing debate between vocal Ethereum and Solana enthusiasts often delves into technical minutiae and pedantic discussions over ‘degrees of decentralization’, transactions finality speeds, scalability factors, fees, validators conditions, governance methods, etc. These debates, while intellectually stimulating, tend to forget the overarching success factor for blockchain technology: to empower individuals to become regular users of blockchain-based applications.

Prioritizing User Experience and Market Reach

As blockchain technology matures, the focus of discussion, attention, and activity should shift from infrastructure layer ‘turf wars’ to cultivating a rich ecosystem of user-friendly applications that are interoperable across the patchwork layers of the underlying infrastructure. These applications will target diverse market segments, providing tangible benefits and exceptional user experiences.

Revisiting Blockchain’s Core Principles

We should not lose sight of the fundamental principles of blockchain technology amidst the noise of the current landscape. Blockchain’s inherent value lies in its ability to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions while eliminating the need for unnecessary central intermediaries. At this point of maturity, all leading blockchain protocols effectively achieve this core objective.

Beyond the above core principle, blockchain technology also encompasses mechanism design and smart programming logic as another blockchain ‘first principle’ of sorts. While each protocol approaches this aspect differently, most have demonstrated this capability. 

Consumer Indifference to Blockchain Infrastructure

The average consumer will ultimately care less about the underlying blockchain infrastructure powering their applications. Instead, they will prioritize functionality, convenience, and a seamless user experience. 

The field remains wide open for imaginative mainstream consumer applications. These applications may operate on diverse blockchain platforms or even transcend blockchain entirely, utilizing the technology’s underlying principles without explicitly exposing it to users.

Let me illustrate with two examples I’m familiar with.

To the user, Blackbird looks like a restaurant loyalty application. Tucked somewhere in a corner of its technology architecture, you will find blockchain technology in the form of unique, non-transferable certificates (NFT-based) that users earn as a status symbol reflecting their customer loyalty activity. Also, in there, you will find a private currency equivalent to airline points, except that rewards gained are redeemable for restaurant perks with very low levels of transaction friction.

In the field of decentralized finance, Prime is a cross-chain prime brokerage that allows users to deposit, borrow, repay, and withdraw cryptocurrency across 8 different chains seamlessly. This sounds like a banal feature when compared to traditional finance where interoperability is taken for granted (albeit with a lot of friction). That said, Prime represents the leading edge of where interoperability exists in blockchain technology.

Let’s Embrace Interoperability and Innovation

Blockchain ecosystem players should move beyond the infrastructure layer wars and embrace a more collaborative approach. Interoperability between blockchains is paramount to achieving the shared vision of a global, interconnected infrastructure. Applications developers should focus on building innovative applications that cater to diverse consumer needs, while infrastructure layers should continue to evolve and adapt to support this growth. 

Ultimately, the success of blockchain technology hinges on its ability to empower individuals through user-centric applications that deliver tangible benefits.

The future of blockchain is about the applications that empower users rather than the battle between different layers.

Could Decentralized Protocols Disclose their Performance Autonomously?

Forget DAOs, we need autonomous, real-time reporting for decentralized blockchain networks 

Let’s humor ourselves a bit. 

In a previous blog post, an SEC conundrum was exposed about expected disclosures meant to protect the consumers: if decentralized protocols have no central teams, who would be responsible for preparing and providing disclosures to the public? 

Of course, the extreme case of centerless decentralized blockchain consensus protocol is Bitcoin, closely followed by Ethereum. 

Transparency and disclosures are important. It’s a point the SEC has been harping on, and rightfully so. It is one of the key tenets of their raison d’être, “to require public companies, fund and asset managers, investment professionals, and other market participants to regularly disclose significant financial and other information so investors have the timely, accurate, and complete information they need to make confident and informed decisions about when or where to invest.” The objective of such disclosures is to prohibit deceit, misrepresentations, and other potential fraud.

Unfortunately, for many token-based projects, even some of the popular and centrally-managed ones, there are no transparency reporting standards, let alone plain transparency, or even any formal reporting. Information opacity and dissymmetry abound. 

However, most blockchain protocols have a variety of performance & operations-related dashboards and blockchain explorers that are rich with data, analysis, historical trends, and a variety of publicly or privately assembled valuable information. 

What if there was a way to string these information sources together intelligently, pluck out the most relevant data into a meta layer of sorts, and make that available in a format that would be digestible for interested “investors” or “token holders” and would give them an informed and accurate view about the network performance in a normalized manner?

Let’s take this concept further. 

That first meta layer could be fed into an AI layer that creates the narrative around the data.

Then, one could feed that narrative in a text-to-speech conversion later, and make that available to anyone who wants to obtain a voice update on how a particular project is doing. 

And since everything is real-time, that process could run as a continuous loop, and it could even be provided on-demand, at any point in time. 

Finally, another AI-driven query layer would be able to take human prompts and generate the right responses. 

There we have it. Autonomous reporting. There is no need for end-of-quarter reporting in blockchain networks. They run non-stop, so their performance indicators should be read non-stop. 

We have been advocating DAOs for a while, with no visibly spectacular examples to point to. 

How about we start with Autonomous Reporting?

The Writing is on Wall: The SEC is Unfit to Regulate Cryptocurrency

If the SEC Isn’t Fit to Regulate Crypto, Let a new Digital Assets Commission Take Birth and Rule instead

Gary Gensler is the problem today in crypto, but there was a silver lining in his refusal to provide a straightforward answer to a seemingly simple question by Rep. Patrick McHenry: Is Ether security or commodity? 

On the surface, it sounded like he was dodging the question and continuing to be himself, i.e. perpetuating the current SEC practice of confusing the market while maintaining their enforcement agenda. 

Let’s pretend there could have been a Yes/No answer. Chair Gensler is no dummy. He knows that answering more precisely would have instantly obsoleted his crypto agenda and revealed the nonsensical, illogical path they are currently pursuing. And he would have shot himself in the foot by exposing the cracks in the conundrum his agency is facing.

Let me explain.

Damned if it is, Damned if it’s not

If Gensler had said that ETH is a security, then it would be allowed to trade on approved security exchanges such as the Nasdaq or NYSE, right?

Yes, but nonsensical. 

Granted, it would be a boon for Ethereum because mainstream investors could buy it via the large and established broker-deal networks, but this would be bad for US crypto exchanges because they aren’t allowed to trade securities. They would need to de-list ETH and 99.99% of the other currently listed tokens on their platform. In one scoop, the whole industry would crumble. Gensler might be perceived as the villain here, but he doesn’t want to go down in history as the man who killed a trillion-dollar industry with one stroke (although he’s trying hard to kill it slowly by a thousand cuts).

Nonsensical scenario, of course. 

Assuming Ethereum was a security and eligible to trade on the Nasdaq, the issue is that it doesn’t make money like a traditional company, so what kind of reporting disclosures would “investors” expect? Specifically, the Ethereum Foundation (who originally issued the ETH tokens) doesn’t generate revenue from the Ethereum Network and is not “in charge” of Ethereum’s Protocol/Network revenues. So, who is going to file for that security listing? And who is going to provide the regularly scheduled disclosures that public companies are subjected to? 

Nonsensical. 

Speaking of disclosures, what will be considered as Ethereum Network’s revenues? Are we talking about the protocol’s gas revenue? Or stakers revenue? Or staking pools? Or transaction fees? Wait, the protocol itself can’t generate quarterly reports nor conduct earnings calls with “investors”. 

Nonsensical.

Now, let’s suppose the answer was that Ethereum is not security. Then, it would be officially sanctioned for trading on crypto exchanges, right? True, but Chairman Gensler is no dummy. 

If he had declared Ethereum to be a commodity, then he would have opened two cans of worms at the same time. First, Ethereum would slip away from the SEC’s regulatory purview. His most visible bargaining toy would be taken away, and probably tilt toward the CFTC’s purview. [Now, you understand the essence of the ongoing turf war between these two commissions.] Second, every other token would start claiming they are similar in nature to Ethereum, hence deserving of the same classification.  Then, the SEC would have their hands full dealing with a flurry of such inquiries. This would put them on the defensive, instead of remaining on the offense currently, which allows them to pick and choose which enforcement actions they wish to embark on.

Nonsensical.

If the Token Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit (and Not Regulate)

Although his predecessor’s staff via Director Hinman already stated that Ethereum would not be classified as a security, Chairman Gensler preferred to remain on the fence citing the proverbial “facts and circumstances” as a rider to any definitive conclusion.

It is true that in 2014, the Swiss-based Ethereum Foundation was the entity that issued the ETH token, and that event itself was a security offering. But when Ethereum was launched more than a year later, it suddenly caught fire and became decentralized very quickly, resulting in an overwhelming demand for its utility by thousands then hundreds of thousands then millions of users and developers worldwide. Ethereum became a commoditized utility. Its value accrued because of its decentralized status, not as a result of the efforts of the self-effacing Ethereum Foundation.

What this points to is that a traditional regulator may not be fit to regulate cryptocurrency. Although many tokens have security characteristics, several of them equally do not. Cryptocurrency and digital tokens represent a new asset class. With a new class, new rulings are expected.  

It is now obvious the SEC has not been able to grapple with the idea that this new asset class deserves a different kind of regulatory treatment than constraining it within the confines of the existing system. 

Since there is a turf war between the SEC (security side bias) and the CFTC (commodity side bias), why not let a new, impartial agency emerge and regulate these new tokens with clarity?

If that were the case, it would become a lot easier for each token to get classified either as security or utility accordingly. But only after that ruling clarity comes into light.

If the US Congress isn’t able to force the SEC to change its course quickly either by voting on a Bill or by convincing Chair Gensler to open up his mind, then US cryptocurrency activity as we know it is dead. 

Of course, we are awaiting a proposal by Rep. Warren Davidson to limit the powers of the SEC Chair and replace that role with an Executive Director that reports to the Board.

In parallel, why not advocate for the creation of a new Commission to govern the regulation of digital assets? [It is an idea I already floated in October 2021, The US Needs a Dedicated Crypto Regulator.]

Let’s call it simply the DAC: Digital Assets Commission

The DAC would be responsible for drafting new comprehensive regulations for the issuance, usage, and trading of digital assets. The DAC would take into account the existing Securities Act and the role of each existing regulatory body. It would also prescribe the interrelationships between these bodies and clarify where issuers, users, and traders stand with cryptocurrency-based projects, companies and organizations.

Let’s be realistic, the writing is on the wall. The crypto industry has clearly reached a deadlock with the SEC. It’s time to look for strong options, now.

Publishing in the Decentralized World

I’ve been lurking around what’s possible when you want to publish content across a peer-to-peer network, and not on a central server or one owned by a hosting company.

And I’ve been watching the new wave of “domain/name” registrations on the blockchain, as an alternative to using central registries as we are currently used to.

UnstoppableDomains recently approached me, asking if I would consider publishing content with a new domain wmougayar.crypto. They kindly offered that domain to me.

Yesterday, I took the dive. I connected my Metamask to a new account on UnstoppableDomains, claimed my domain and registered it on the Ethereum blockchain, chose a template, published it on IPFS, then wrote my first blog post.

The whole experience was like being into a new world. I compared it to publishing my first website in 1995, or my first crypto transaction in 2013. You only get it when you actually do it.

To read my journey on the decentralized web, head over to wmougayar.crypto, but here’s the catch. If you’re on Chrome and desktop, you need to install this special Extension. If you’re on Android and mobile, you can use the Opera mobile browser where the capability for browsing .crypto domains is built-in. Both experiences become seamless.

This is clearly a v1 of what’s possible, and certainly, this experience is not optimized for mainstream adoption yet. But like most new technologies, they often start being a bit awkward and are mostly used by early adopters.

To read my post on the other side of the web, head over to wmougayar.crypto and let me know what you think if you do take the same dive in publishing one.

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Introducing $WAM, my Social Money Experiment

It’s no secret I’m a fan of creative usages of crypto-tokens, and the resulting mini-economies they create. As a refresher, please refer to 2 seminal blog posts I wrote 4 years ago:

The Theory of a Blockchain Circular Economy and the Future of Work and

The Relationship Between Cryptocurrency Tokens, Value and Work.

Since then, I’ve had direct experience and involvement in the first social currency that showed a decent adoption, Steemit, as well as with Kin, another large-scale cryptocurrency for socially-minded mobile apps. 

[disclaimer, I was an early advisor to/holder of STEEM, and am currently on the Kin Foundation board, and hold KIN]

While both Steemit and Kin reward the end-user for their activity, the user is required to use their common currency, STEEM or KIN. There is nothing wrong with that model, as it fits a wide range of use cases. Kin, for example has been adopted by 57 mobile apps, and garnered more than 4 million monthly active users in that ecosystem who participate in a variety of earn/spend social actions.

This brings us to wondering: How about a personal token for a brand or individual that is tied to their unique online presence, and one they directly own, control and use to coordinate how value is created across their community’s touch points? 

That’s where Roll comes in. Roll is social (crypto) money that a personal brand can use to incentivize a variety of earn/spend activity for their community. Think of it like a personal loyalty points program, with the difference being:

  1. you receive and manage your points as crypto-tokens in a special wallet, which means that you have custody of these tokens, and no one can take them away from you or arbitrarily force an expiry date.
  2. you can spend them inside the community where you earned them, or across other services in the crypto universe- that’s the equivalent of using your United MilagePlus at a hotel or restaurant seamlessly.
  3. you can exchange them for another cryptocurrency like ETH or BTC without asking anyone for authorization, so the equivalent would be to redeem your mileage points for their actual face value in dollars/euro/etc, with the additional twist that these points might appreciate in value based on a various demand/supply factors related to the economic strength of that specific currency. 


To get this started, Roll has minted 10 million $WAM tokens, and that supply is fixed. It will never be increased nor change. Roll holds 12% of that supply, and I was given 2 million initial $WAM that I plan on distributing across the community I touch via this blog, social media or events I produce, such as the Token Summit. Every month, for the next 3 years, I will be issued a new number of $WAM that I can continue deploying. 

How do you start? 

You can earn $WAM via an action you take, or via a redeem code I share with you. 

Specifically, here are some options to consider:

  1. Redeem code: Just click on this link, and if you complete the steps which include signing-up for Roll (or downloading the App), you will find 100 $WAM auto-magically appear in your wallet. Note this is available only to the first 30 that respond within 3 days. So, it’s a one-time offer (and I will receive your email from Roll).

  2. Subscribe to any one of the 5 blockchain-related news content portals that I’m personally curating. Each new email subscription between June 10-15 that doesn’t un-subscribe for at least 1 week will receive 50 $WAM into their wallets. 

OnCoins – General blockchain market news

OnEthereum – Ethereum ecosystem news

OnDeFi – Decentralized Finance news

OnStablecoins – Stablecoins and Digital Currency news

OnDGov – Decentralized Governance and Decentralization news

3. Leave a comment on my blog with an idea on how to “spend” $WAM, and I will send you 200 $WAM. One idea could be to redeem them as a discount for a future Token Summit ticket, or potentially for early access to my next book, or something exclusively available to token holders, but I’m looking for creative/interesting/valuable ideas. 

As a sidepoint, last week, during a virtual presentation on Decentralized Autonomous Associations, I pre-announced $WAM and offered 100 $WAM to the first 50 users that subscribe to the Decentralized Governance news portal, and they will be receiving their $WAM shortly.

$WAM is an ERC-20 token. This means that the Roll wallet allows you to send your $WAM to another ERC-20 compatible wallet you may already own, and in the future, you will be able to trade it on the Roll Exchange (similar to Uniswap).

How do you spend $WAM? 

Currently, the “Spend” options for $WAM are limited, which is why I’m asking for feedback in point #3 above. Another spend idea  is that $WAM could be used as a currency to purchase a digital asset on the OpenSea marketplace.

Recap:

Sign-up to one of the curated news portals. Start here: OnCoins.org

Redeem the special code to earn $WAM if you sign-up and download a Roll wallet

Learn more about Roll. Here’s a great podcast the 2 founders, Bradley Miles and Sid Kalla. (Some of you may remember Sid as a speaker at the first Token Summit in 2017 when he was an analyst at Smith+Crown)

Or, download Roll for iOS on the Apple App store and Roll for Android on the Google Play store, and get familiar with it. 

Finally, here’s a handy FAQ on Roll.

Let the good times Roll with $WAM. I had to say it 😀.

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