Synereo, a blockchain-based, decentralized social network and a platform allowing web applications to exist without centralized servers, has released information about how its technology improves over the bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains.
Synereo’s “Technology Stack” enables its social network to function without centralized servers, which are normally required for the processing of network activity and the storage of user information.
Synereo claims its architecture is better suited to storing larger media data like videos and images. It further claims its smart language is superior to other smart contract languages and could have prevented the recent Ehtereum DAO hack.
What ‘Technology Stack’ Brings
The Synereo “Technology Stack” provides, for the first time, scalable decentralized computation abilities on an industrial scale. In the near future, it will be possible to deploy fully operational applications on the system, without the applications having to be stored in a centralized location. This capability effectively changes the way the Internet works.
Synereo recently announced a grant project and has invited entrepreneurs to develop decentralized applications for its platform. The project’s purpose is to foster the development of a decentralized ecosystem that competes with the current centralized paradigm.
Synereo’s Tech Stack is composed of four layers built on top of each other.
The first layer, called RChain, often referred to as “Blockchain 2.0,” improves on standard blockchain technology, which supports bitcoin and Ethereum.
A blockchain, a distributed ledger, is a type of decentralized database that records the state of a system on devices called nodes that maintain the network rather than on a central server. Bitcoin’s pioneers invented the technology to track bitcoin transactions.
Ethereum further developed the technology to perform more sophisticated transactions, and essentially serve as a decentralized computer.
Beyond Standard Blockchains
All standard blockchains share one fundamental flaw: To stay reliable and coherent, the blockchain’s entire history has to be replicated on all devices maintaining it.
The bitcoin blockchain, for example, records each bitcoin transaction performed. It weighs approximately 80 gigabytes, and is replicated on the local storage of every miner sustaining the network, which numbers in the tens of thousands. This is wasteful and unsustainable, and undermines any more complicated use of the system.
The same is true for Turing complete blockchains like Ethereum or Lisk. Every node (device running the network) has to process each and every action performed on the entire system.
In contrast to those projects, Synereo’s “RChain” is a concurrent and “sharded” blockchain. “Sharded” refers to the subdivision of the blockchain into composable parts, which interlock to a unified whole, but do not need to be computed simultaneously, as is the case with the bitcoin blockchain. Concurrent means that this subdivision allows different processes to run in tandem without interfering with each other.
The RChain enables blockchain-based systems to be faster, infinitely scalable and cheaper to maintain.
Not every node in the network has to validate the whole state of the blockchain, meaning the work of building the blockchain can occur at much faster rates. Instead of mandating storage of the whole network at any given moment on any given device, each node only holds a single shard, relevant to its specific needs. This breaks up the work so different nodes focus on different problems simultaneously.
Such a system is truly scalable, since its growth provides ever more resources rather than driving it towards its overclocking. It also preserves resources like storage, energy and computing power, instead of wasting them on redundant replication. Not to mention generating massive amounts of heat on a warming planet.
Proof Of Stake
Every blockchain has a consensus protocol that ensures the nodes maintaining it don’t have the opportunity to corrupt or exploit it. All nodes compare their results, so to speak, to ensure that only entries everybody agrees upon are recorded on the blockchain.
There are different ways to do this, the classic bitcoin method being proof-of-work (PoW), which makes attacks expensive by forcing each node to complete complex mathematical operations to participate.
It is also very wasteful, both in terms of time and energy. Millions of devices perform useless operations for the purpose of making attacks on the network expensive.
Proof Of Stake Casper Design
Synereo’s Rchain’s consensus protocol, in contrast, is based on Ethereum’s Proof of Stake Casper design, where consensus is as cheap as possible for everyone, except for adversaries conducting an attack.
Each node must deposit a stake in a central pool to participate in the validation process. If a node produces anything that Casper considers “invalid,” its deposits are forfeited along with the privilege of participating in the consensus process.
The use of security deposits addresses the “nothing at stake” problem; meaning bad behavior doesn’t come with a price tag attached. Casper ensures there is something at stake, and bonded nodes that misbehave in an objectively verifiable manner will lose it.
Unlike Ethereum’s Casper however, Rchain nodes do not validate entire blocks, but logical propositions. A proposition is a set of statements about the blockchain, for example: which transactions must be included, in which order; which transactions should not be included; or other properties.
Because of this design and the concurrency enabled by the sharding of the blockchain, consensus can be reached for a large number of transactions at a time.
Storage And Content Delivery
While a typical blockchain records the overall state of the system — meaning the validity of transactions and the execution of smart contracts — it is not suited for the storage of heavy media data like videos, images and text.
Lucius Greg Meredith, Synereo’s CTO, developed a unique protocol to distribute such information among Synereo nodes and then retrieve it on demand.
This protocol, “SpecialK,” has been in development for more than four years and marks an innovative approach to distributed storage technology.
SpecialK represents an evolution of DHT-like, distributed key-value databases. It further provides a monadic domain-specific language, giving programmers with a familiar, unified API where they can access data distributed across the network. Data is distributed with both redundancy and sensitivity in mind, ensuring it is available where needed, when it’s needed, and concealed when it’s not.
Smart Contract Language
Rchain’s native programming language, Rholang (Reflective, Higher-Order process Language) is comparable to Ethereum’s Solidity. In contrast to Solidity, however, Rholang is a reflective programming language, based on process calculus, allowing for the parallel execution of processes and the composition of higher-ordered smart contracts by lower ones.
Rholang brings an advantage over traditional smart contract languages and blockchain scripts, falling in the same category as established programming languages. Java, C#, and Scala eventually adopted reflection as a core feature. This feature allows programmers to use programs to write other programs, on which more complex applications can be deployed. Minus this feature, industrial scale development would likely be impossible due to the complexity.
Rholang’s architecture also allows for better safety tests and simulations. The DAO hack, for example, likely could have been avoided had the DAO’s code been based on Rholang.
Synereo’s recently announced fundraising campaign is intended to fund the finalization of its Tech Stack, which is scheduled to launch after the next development round.
The Synereo platform will herald the advent of an Internet in which applications can exist without the need of centralized servers, allowing for a censor-proof, free flow of activity and information.
The future promises a true P2P economy, enabling large-scale cooperation between individuals without them being taxed by platform giants.
Synereo’s RChain and the full stack is expected to be fully operational in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Images from Shutterstock and Synereo.