Ethereum, like Bitcoin, currently uses an energy-intensive process called “mining” to create and distribute new cryptocurrency. Thethousands of peopleglobally who help make that happen, known as miners, operate millions of dollars worth of machinery in a race to solve computational problems and earn ETH, the network’s native cryptocurrency.
But at some point within the next year, Ethereum will undergo a major upgrade that will fundamentally change how the network operates and how new ETH is created. Ethereum mining will become a thing of the past.
So where will all the Ethereum miners go?
When the Bitcoin white paper was released in 2008, it borrowed a cryptographic concept as a way of making a decentralized network safe for sending money: proof of work.
The Ethereum blockchain, launched in 2015, uses that same consensus protocol. In a nutshell, it’s a way for making sure the computers agree on the transactions and the status of the database at any given time. This secures the network from attacks that could allow funds to be spent multiple times.
While proof of work is the algorithm, the Ethereum Foundation explains, “mining is the ‘work’ itself. It’s the act of adding valid blocks to the chain.” That work of leveraging computing power consumes a lot of electricity, a critique that environmental groups frequently make against cryptocurrencies.
Ethereum’s core developers have been working on changing the network’s consensus protocol from proof of work (PoW) to proof of stake (PoS), which requires significantly less electricity to maintain while also allowing for transactions at a much larger scale. That network, dubbed Ethereum 2.0, will maintain security through people pledging their tokens. Attacks can be warded off because bad or inept actors will have their deposits taken.
When the current PoW chain “merges” into the PoS chain and kicks off Ethereum 2.0 in earnest, which could be before the end of the year, according to Ethereum core developer Tim Beiko, mining is effectively turned off. Beiko toldDecrypt, “Miners should aim to break even before then.”
But where will they go afterward?
Michael Carter, a cryptocurrency miner and host of YouTube channel BitsBeTrippin’, doesn’t foresee a massive dropoff in mining before “the merge.”
But he has run the numbers in case, calculating Ethereum mining’s profitability over the coming months using 10 different scenarios—high price and high volume, high price and low volume, etc. And though he’s generally a supporter of the Ethereum ethos, he’s ready to switch his mining resources if another chain becomes more profitable.
He’s also in no rush to do so. Miners with decent cash flow can afford to play the long game by holding Ether and waiting for the price to go up.
After the merge, he believes that blockchain-agnostic miners have two easy choices. “Right now it looks like it’s going to be a mix between Ethereum Classic and Ravencoin,” he told Decrypt. Ethereum Classic, which had a market cap of $4.7 billion as of June 22, is the other chain that emerged from a 2016 hard fork of the Ethereum network. Ravencoin, which had a market cap of $436 million on June 22 and a selling price of $0.05, is the native asset of a network for transferring both digital and tangible assets.
Neither are as well-known or widely used as the Ethereum blockchain. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that, like Ethereum, their tokens can be mined with rigs that use graphics processing units (GPUs). ASIC, or application-specific integrated circuit, miners are more powerful, but Ethereum uses an algorithm that takes away most of the advantage.
So, GPU miners have an exit strategy. ASIC miners have a tougher road to hoe, according to Carter. “What’s going to be interesting is the amount of ASICs on Ethereum have everything to lose,” he said, “They can’t go really anywhere else.”
Or as one reddit commentator put it: “They will be USELESS.”
But just because Carter and others won’t necessarily jump ship before Ethereum 2.0 doesn’t mean all miners are happy with the arrangement.
In July, the Ethereum network is undergoing a major update that will alter how (and how much) miners are paid. The so-called “London Hard Fork” will include Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1559, which automates the amount of gas (read: fees) blockchain users pay then…burns it.
The ETH transaction fees will no longer go to miners but instead get turned to digital ash by being sent to an address no one can access. Miners, then, only get the newly minted ETH as a reward. Whilesupportersof EIP-1559 argue that this will benefit everyone because the reduction in supply will increase demand (and, in turn, price), not all miners see it that way. Rival mining pools have come to different conclusions, with some supporting it and others denouncing it.
EIP-1559 sets the unofficial game clock for the merge because it represents the point at which miners may start abandoning the Ethereum network. (Heck,the networkis abandoning mining in a few months anyway.) But by doing so, they risk missing out on a big payday.
“If miners leave before the merge, then the hashrate would just lower and other miners will be more profitable,” Beiko toldDecrypt. In other words, with fewer people mining, it’d become easier to get ETH for those who stay.
Given the scale of mining, which must be distributed to keep the network secure, that doesn’t necessarily result in a risk.
“We need some miners all the way up to the merge, but it is not a security risk if they slowly drop off before then,” said Beiko. “Realistically, though, most miners have already paid for their infrastructure so have an incentive to mine up to the last block given that their fixed cost is spent.”
While it’s possible that some mining groups with outdated hardware will “jump off” as the merge nears, Will Foxley of Compass Mining told Decrypt, “A lot of people are thinking that there actually could be a really large buildup of mining power leading into the merge because they’re going to want to get as much Ether as they can before the merge happens, knowing that the merge would increase the price of Ether.”
“Everybody knows that this is going to switch to proof of stake,” said Carter. But some have done more than others to prepare.
“The best performing pools I’ve seen…have been forecasting this event and have been taking the development seriously over the last few years,” said Foxley. For instance, F2Pool, the second-largest Ethereum mining pool, has already set up an Ethereum 2.0 validator pool.
Perhaps uncoincidentally, F2Pool also came out in favor of EIP-1559 in January, pointing to the increasing price of ETH over time, even as block rewards have decreased.
Moreover, “JK” of F2Pool,wrote, “We have already been given a costly lesson on the ramifications of not siding with the core users and contributors. The DAO hard fork, key developers and core contributors have consistently built on the current Ethereum, helping it thrive and grow to its state today.” Ethereum Classic, it said, has been slower to develop.
It doesn’t want to be left behind again.
SparkPool, which controls nearly one-quarter of the hash rate (meaning it’s able to mine one of every four blocks), is opposed to EIP-1559, calling it “wealth distribution” and “a tyranny of the majority.”
According to Foxley, SparkPool is also “aggressively against” the merge. But, he said, “I don’t think there’s much they can do, and I think they realize that.”
That’s essentially true, but not literally true. According to Beiko, ETH miners could simply create a fork of Ethereum that doesn’t turn to proof of stake and create “Ethereum Classic 2.”
It’s more likely that SparkPool and others will change with the times—and the Ethereum protocol—or be left behind.
Investors are coming together to pool their funds and profit from high-value NFTs through fractionalization.
But NFT fractions are a legal gray area and could be seen as securities.
How can regular investors afford the eye-watering sums NFT (non-fungible token) artworks and other collectibles are commanding? And how can they ever hope to profit from them?
By teaming up.
Investors are increasingly formingDecentralized Autonomous Organizations(DAOs) to pool their funds and gain exposure to the priciest NFTs through fractionalization.
In essence, NFT fractions, also known as “shards,” are derivatives of the underlying asset. They are created when a token representing the asset is issued, and they can be traded on a wide range ofdecentralized exchanges(DEXs,) such as Uniswap and SushiSwap. But investors be warned: Legal experts have cautioned that, in some cases, NFT fractions could represent securities.
Earlier this month, not one but two DAOs were formed by groups of individual investors—on the fly—with the express purpose of acquiring specific NFTs that would otherwise have been out of their price range.
A Discord channel brought together 54 EulerBeats fans who formedBeetsDAOand raised more than $500,000 in ETH to buy four NFTs during an auction of the algorithmically generated audio files.
The week before, another group of collectors came together and placed a $525,000 winning bid for an NFT version of aUniswap promotional videocreated by viral digital artist pplpleasr.
“Collector DAOs are going to be a game-changer for the NFT Space,” pplpleasrtold The Defiant.PleasrDAO, named in honor of the artist,plans to continue collectingher work as a group.
Going to pieces
But these were not the first DAOs to target NFTs and explore fractions.
Ark Gallery, a DAO for CryptoPunk collectors, launched last year. CryptoPunks have become insanely valuable as early NFT collectibles, since only 10,000 were ever issued, and nine are currently up for auction by Christie’s.
Ark allows people to own a fraction of one NFT, and vote on whether or not to sell it if there’s an offer. In that case, everyone gets a proportionate share of the proceeds, based on how much they own.
Another investment pool that launched last year,FlamingoDAO’s express purpose is to acquire NFTs. It already has $10 million in funds, 40 members, and has acquired around 600 to 700 NFTs, including a series ofNBA Top Shot“moments” and a rare CryptoPunk. They can be converted into fractionalized works and plugged into emerging DeFi platforms, should the DAOs members vote to do so.
“DAOs even the playing field, create more transparency,” said Scalar Capital co-founder Linda Xie on thea16z podcastlast month. “There’s lower barriers to entry in a lot of cases: you don’t even have to reveal your identity.”
And projects that aim to fractionalize NFTs are not confined to DAOs.
Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” sold for a record-breaking$69 millionto Metakovan, one of two investors behind MetaPurse, a fund that now boasts an NFT collectionestimated to be worth $189 million.
In January, MetaPurse announcedplans to tokenize “Everydays”viaB.20, a so-called “NFT bundle,” which allows token holders to own a share not just of the art, but also of virtual reality galleries that would display the art.
A chip off the old Lego block
Of course, fractionalized ownership has been hot outside of crypto for a few years now, for physical assets like private jets, boats, and paintings. Newer platforms like Rally and Otis allow for fractional investing in collectibles like trading cards, sneakers, and other sports memorabilia. Vincent, an aggregator of alternative investment offers that launched last fall, features an array of fractional opportunities, and hasseen searches for crypto investments soar.
And tokenization for fractionalized ownership has already been applied in the real estate world.Red Swan, an off-market real estate investment platform, has tokenized $2.2 billion worth of prime property in the U.S. and Canada and aims to allow building owners to sell fractional ownership of their properties.
But now NFT fractionalization services have sprung up quickly, aimed at allowing users to trade fractions of NFTs (individually or in bundles) as well as providing vaults for storage, liquidity pools, and other benefits.
They includeNIFTEX, which serves clients who are investing in NFTs, andNFTX, an NFT index fund that collects popular NFTs such as Axie Infinity, CryptoKitties, and Avastars. (You’d be forgiven for confusing the names of these platforms, all of which utilize the NFT acronym in some way—one investor in the NFT marketplace Nifty’s, not to be confused with NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway, recentlytoldDecrypt,“The naming is causing head-scratching.”)
There is alsoFraction, which allows for tokenizing individual NFTs,ShardingDAOfor fragmenting NFT collections, andNFT20, a protocol for creating and fractionalizing pools of NFTs, with participants immediately receiving ERC-20 tokens.
And more projects to expand the functionality and optionality of NFTs are on the way.
In order to achieve the highest possible levels of decentralization, some, like NFTX, have even become DAOs themselves.
Legal gray area?
Generally, NFTs are not seen as securities, at least not in the U.S. or U.K.,according to Chris Donovan, head of legal at Outlier Ventures, a UK-based fund that’s invested in NFTs.
But fractionalized NFTs, which embody royalty rights, and any NFTs sold with the promise of future gains or rights and services from the issuer, might fulfill the criteria of securities, Donovan acknowledges.
Last month, SEC commissionerHester Pierce confirmed that likelihood.
5️⃣✅ #NFTs have potential to solve this complexity
* clarify what rights are being transferred (if any)
* copyright ownership transfer executed via coded on-chain mechanisms
* monetisation via same on-chain mechanisms to ensure creators automatically benefit
(5 of 6)
— Chris Donovan (@Chris_JP_D) March 16, 2021
To remove some of the regulatory ambiguity, NFTs should clarify more explicitly what rights, if any, are being transferred, Donovan says. For instance, copyright transfer could be executed via coded on-chain mechanisms, which ensure that individual creators automatically benefit when the NFT fraction is re-sold. That doesn’t always happen, and perhaps it should. The SEC, after all, is likely taking notes.
DAOs and fractionalization are hardly new concepts in the Ethereum ecosystem, but their use cases for NFTs have multiplied dramatically in the last few months. The various building blocks of Ethereum’s DeFi ecosystem are often referred to as Legos, and with good reason: big, ambitious structures are being built up rapidly in this space.
DAOs are poised to go mainstream, thanks to the NFT boom, and a prospective new law.
There’s plenty of enthusiasm at the prospect, and venture DAOs in particular.
A group of crypto art collectors made global headlines last month by placing a $525,000 winning bid for apromotional video about the crypto platform Uniswap created by the fast-rising digital artist Pplpleasr. The artwork came in the form of the art-meets-tech mediumdu jour, the NFT, and the funds from the winning bid went to charity.
But while the purchase garnered plenty of publicity, few media outlets mentioned the novel social arrangement that made it possible: a decentralized autonomous organization or DAO. Thanks to this revolutionary organizing structure, a disparate group of more than 30 individuals—previously intent on outbidding each other—were able to rally around asocial media call, organize funds and place the winning bid in a remarkably short period of time.
A DAO, in essence, is an organization that exists only as a set of smart contractsor rules enforced on the Ethereum blockchain. Historically, in the crypto industry, they’ve been used by groups big and small to manage protocol development, fund investments, or fulfill various other missions.
The non-hierarchical structure of DAOs has proved particularly popular when it comes to collaborative asset management. And now, with the help of the NFT boom, and proposed laws to increase their legitimacy, DAO proponents say they’re about to go mainstream.
Just this week, a group of 54 people who met in a Discord room formed a DAO (“BeetsDAO”) and pooled 300 ETH (more than $500,000) to buy four EulerBeats NFTs in an auction on OpenSea.
“DAOs are the perfect tool to manage these tokenized assets, this new trend—NFTs,” José Nuno Sousa Pinto, chief legal officer forAragon, one of the first DAO-creation platforms, toldDecrypt.
He and other enthusiasts are convinced that the day of the DAO is dawning and that, in time, this novel type of organization will become nothing less than a new breed of corporation.
“We believe [the] DAO will play a starring role as the world makes the shift to Web 3.0, paving the way for fully decentralized companies that can secure the same levels of significance and influence that centralized tech giants currently enjoy in the Web 2.0 world,” Jademont Zheng, a partner at China-based Waterdrip Capital, which backs DAO-creation platformMetis, toldDecrypt.
Deconstructing the DAO
In interviews withDecrypt, Zheng and others said the rise of a decentralized Web 3.0—also called the Internet of Value—is seeding a new style of organizational structure. This structure revolves around decentralized apps (dapps) and communities managed by their members, who all have decision-making powers.
Typically, DAO members use tokens to vote on topics such as fund allocation. In the case of many DAOs, the impact of a member’s vote can increase based on the amount they have contributed to the project. The outcome can be based on the degree of participation as well as voting preference.
As for the autonomous part, a DAO can be seen as operating like a machine, with the job it is instructed to carry out determined by a series of pre-written smart contracts.
The concept hasfirmly taken rootin the fast-growing Decentralized Finance (DeFi) industry, and has become like a favorite piece of Lego in Ethereum’s tool-box.
“Much like what we’ve seen in DeFi—where all these different systems are able to talk to one another—we think the same thing is going to happen to organizations,” Cardozo Law School professor Aaron Wright toldDecrypt. Wright is a cofounder of digital contracting platformOpenLaw, and he predicts that the separate functions people build for their own personal DAO projects will one day be stacked together to build larger organizations that may come to define Web 3.0.
“Once the Wyoming bill is implemented, it should let a million—if not a billion—DAOs blossom.”
But to critics, a DAO-driven web raises numerous legal and corporate governance issues, or the prospect of disaster—which is what happened in 2016, when the first-ever DAO (confusingly namedTheDAO) almost caused the newly-launched Ethereum network’s demise.
Hugely ambitious in scope, the project raised $150 million for a decentralized venture fund and was the most successful crowdfunding campaign of its time. But an undetected flaw in the code saw The DAO fail within weeks of its launch, and hackers steal$55 millionof the collective’s funds.
The Ethereum community, controversially, voted to roll back the blockchain so no one lost any money. The decision secured the future of the fledgling platform, but the surrounding controversy put the development of DAOs back several years.
“When it blew up, because of the name, The DAO, people thought that all DAOs were inherently bad. And so it took a few years to actually make people change their minds,” Aragon co-founderLuis CuendetoldDecryptlast year.
Aragon and radically transparent governance
While DAOs stayed in the shadows after the 2016 debacle, the experiments around them never really stopped. Projects such asAragon,DAOstack, andColony, learned key lessons (and the importance of audits) from the original DAO. They have continued building and running DAOs for some of the largest DeFi protocols, includingSynthetix, Aave, and Compound. And all delegated more control to their users in 2020 after their projects surged in value.
Aragon now underpinsmore than 1,600communities, including the DeFi projects Aave andCurve. They use the platform and services for financial transparency, asset management, and protocol governance.
A community can adapt a DAO and program it according to its own goals. The aim is to make “governanceradically transparent, unlike conventional, closed-door companies,” by establishing a new kind of jurisdiction, and “a set of rules for technical contracts that regulate the interaction between the users,” explained Sousa Pinto. Aragon even provides a dispute-resolution court.
He claims that DAOs are the best way to engage communities that have thousands of members, and predicts mainstream entities, such as businesses, charity, and community organizations will soon adopt them too. “It’s a wonderful piece of technology: it’s transparent, it’s fair, it’s honest, [and] it’s public,” he said.
Butnot everyonethinks DAO-based governance will prove all that revolutionary. Dragonfly Capital, which is invested in DeFi projects reliant on DAOs, such asCompound,Maker, andOpyn, declared in an August report that DAO governance, so far, “looks almost identical to traditional firm governance.” Those with the most tokens generally call the shots and can dictate how their communities are run, they argued.
Meanwhile, the processes by which DAOs are governed are evolving alongside technical innovations. For instance,Vocdoni, a protocol acquired byAragonearlier this year, is soon set to releasedigital voting solutionswhich don’t require participants to pay pricey fees in order to go on-chain to vote, thus encouraging greater participation.
Moloch and the second coming of venture DAOs
Recent DAO experiments have produced a variety of radical ideas. But perhaps the most revolutionary is a new wave of venture-focused DAOs, and hybrid fundraising concepts that are designed with regulators in mind—unlike theICO crypto crazeof 2017.
MolochDAO, which was created to manage grants to fund the development of Ethereum 2.0, the network’s ongoing scaling initiative, has been instrumental to the new wave of venture DAOs. Its developers focused on simple smart contract solutions and expressly designed the program to minimize the possibility of an attack.
In 2019, developers from the Ethereum community forked its code. The fork served to modify smart contracts so as to develop more sophisticated DAOs, such asMetaCartel VenturesandMarketing DAO, which have the ability to distribute and transfer shares and other assets between members. Since then, MetaCartel Ventures, a for-profit DAO focused on early-stage investment in Ethereum-based projects, has raised almost $24 million from its 64 members.
The spirit behind such initiatives is to foster a healthy venture capital ecosystem that provides DAO projects with easy access to funding, and helps the technology to flourish. It also offers experts working with these cutting-edge technologies the opportunity to invest in the same advancements.
Most crucially, MetaCartel and its ilk provide a way to raise money quickly and efficiently and, unlike most ICOs of the 2017 era, in a manner that does not run afoul of U.S. securities laws. MetaCartel Ventures, for instance, has taken pains to register as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in crypto-friendly Delaware.
In the US, it’s possible to enjoy limited liability and some of the other benefits of legal entities without a manager, because “LLCs are creatures of contract,” and DAOs operate primarily via software-enabled smart contracts, said OpenLaw’s Aaron Wright.
The LAO and the law
Launched by OpenLaw in April 2020,The LAO, an acronym for Limited Liability Autonomous Organization, is a further step towards reconciling radical crypto solutions with the legacy world. It’s a venture DAO with added legal protections baked in, aimed at investors who want to be compliant while earning rewards from the next wave of Ethereum projects.
Like MetaCartel DAO, the LAO has adapted Moloch’s framework, enabling the organization to accept capital, as opposed to just paying out. To date, the project has attracted $25 million in funding. So far, it’s invested around 30% of the funds in 40 projects, including what’s now the largest NFT marketplace, SuperRare. Another of the investments, cited by Wright, is Tornado Cash, which seeks to improve privacy protections.
The LAO is even capable of incubating projects of its own. In March, it spawned another DAO, this time targeting institutions. DubbedNeptune, it will focus on providing much-needed liquidity for DeFi and blockchain projects.
Wright observes that many of the people building DAOs have absorbed learned hard lessons about security and compliance. The LAO’s 68 members (it’s limited to 100) have been vetted to ensure they obey relevant know-your-customer and anti-money laundering laws. And, in the U.S., only accredited investors are eligible to join.
While the LAO seeks to be a model of regulatory compliance, it’s not always clear if other DAOs are being as mindful. This is particularly the case in the U.S., Wright says, where legal minefields abound, especially in relation to token projects that might be deemed to be securities.
However, “if you have a very flat, non-hierarchical organization, where ownership and decision making is very participatory, and all the information related to the organization is available, I, personally, make a strong argument that those interests should not be considered securities,” he added.
Wright has also helped to draftlandmark legislationin the crypto-friendly state of Wyoming that seeks to clarify the status of DAOs. The bill recently passed a key hurdle in the state Senate. Last year, Wyoming also became the first state in the U.S. to issue a charter for crypto banks, and has already issued licenses to two:KrakenandAvanti.
If enacted, the new bill will grant DAOs the legal personality currently enjoyed by traditional corporations. “It should let a million—if not a billion—DAOs blossom,” said Wright. “It still takes a lot of work to set one of these up lawfully,” he explained.
In fact, Wyoming is not the first place to moot giving alegal personality to DAOs. Malta began the process in 2019.
The Maltese efforts, however, have been criticized by entrepreneurs. The legislation is overly complicated, they say, and too much responsibility is vested in a manager, which is contrary to the spirit of a DAO. But Malta was first to lay the ground, andfurther amendmentscould grant DAOs legal personality and reduce the responsibility placed on managers.
But not everyone is in favor of such legislation. Preston Byrne, a partner at Anderson Kill Law,warnedthat it could be usurped “by token hawkers to justify selling “shitcoins and half-baked code.”
He called for Wyoming to scrap its bill and claimed—having experimented with legal DAOs, as early as 2013—that the concept is unworkable and fraught with dangers. In any case, the impact of Wyoming’s initiatives could be limited given the state’s small population, minimal ties to the financial industry, and the fact that federal securities laws are paramount in the U.S.
“We Can DAO it”
There are similarities between fundraising or venture DAOs and ICOs. Commentators have even theorized that, had it not been for the disaster that befell the original DAO, Ethereum projects would have embraced DAOs as a fundraising tool much earlier.
Unlike the LAO or MetaCartel Ventures, which restrict who can participate, fundraising platformDuckDAOallows anyone who holds its token to invest in early-stage startups, and members are encouraged to help with aspects such as user acquisition and marketing for the projects the DAO has funded, which include NFT platform Bondly and synthetic crypto-asset Base Protocol.
“Web 3.0 projects need support in the long term.”
DAOs such as DuckDAO andDAO Makeralso operate public token sales. DAO Maker’s fundraising initiative, the refundable Strong Holder Offering (rSHO) was endorsed by Maltese regulators in February.The project identifies applicants who are likely to become long-term token holders, and thus valuable community members, through chain analysis and scanning their wallet addresses for a history of positive behavior.VAIOT, a startup that develops AI-powered services for businesses, chose the rSHO as its fundraising method because it complied with Maltese legislation.
“As we were the first project regulated in Malta, we’ve actually cleared the trail for other projects and proven that you can benefit from both strict regulatory frameworks and innovative, customer-oriented sales processes,” Christoph Surgowt, CEO of VAIOT, told Decrypt.
In Asia too, enthusiasm for DeFi and DAOs is growing. Fracton Ventures, a Japanese startup, is keen to emulate the success of MetaCartel and the LAO. Its founders—Toshi Kamei, Naoki Akazawa, and Yudai Suzuki—are working to bolster the DAO ecosystem initially through establishing links with Web 3.0 startups and Asian institutional investors, allowing them to tap into the vibrant DeFi space. “We can DAO it,” their slogan says. A graphic prepared by Fracton depicts the progression of decentralized projects like this:
Currently, almost all investment DAOs are in North America, said Suzuki. There’s a lot of interest in Asia, but people don’t find it easy to tap into the networks that are forming in the US, in part because of the language barrier.
The Fracton trio is acutely aware of the long-term funding issues faced by young startups. Kamei was previously a producer and investor atMistletoe, the social impact fund led by Taizo Son—brother of SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son. He believes that VC funding goals are often not well aligned. “Web 3.0 projects need support in the long term. We think a Web 3.0-specific investment model will fit in these spaces,” he said.
A DAO for every occasion
These days, DAOs are not exclusive to Ethereum. Dora Factory, which is part of the Polkadot ecosystem, is building an open infrastructure for DAOs using the network’s own suite of tools. It closed its firstfunding roundin February.
But, as the NFT craze (or bubble) reaches its peak, it’s the DAOs that have formed around NFTs that have been getting attention.
the future of art collectives is DAO’s. guppies will be outbid by orgs. you will buy “shares” of an ethos instead of individually bidding. no one will be able to beat art DAO’s. this is just the beginning
— jamis.eth (@_jamiis) March 27, 2021
The PplpleasrDAO, which was formed for the express purpose of winning the Pplpleasr artwork, has since bought three more of the artist’s works andplans to continue investing.
It’s not, however, the first DAO devoted to NFTs.FlamingoDAO is a LAO project formed in October 2020. It already has $10 million in pooled funds, 40 members, and has acquired around 6-700 NFTs, includingNBA Top Shotcards, and a rareCryptoPunk, according to Wright.
The LAO plans to spawn more DAOs in the near future. “Our broad vision is this: Silicon Valley should not be a highway in California. It should be a network of investment vehicles, primarily backed by the communities that create innovation,” said Wright.
And there’s no reason to think other types of organizations can’t be DAOs. There is already a writers’ DAO,mirror.xyz, which is getting increasing attention (we’ve noticed, guys.) It has a regular$WRITE RACE, a weekly showdown between writers who want to join, and the community votes for the writers they want to see on the platform.
Meanwhile,Decryptrecently created its own NFTs and launched its own token to reward reader engagement. According to Sousa Pinto, a DAO could be a useful means of engaging readers, while also deploying the very tools Decrypt writes about on a daily basis. “Voting would be the essence of the participation,” he emphasized. “Voting is the new ‘like’.”
Sousa Pinto believes that, after the tokenization of assets, the next trend will be the tokenization of companies. But this won’t involve regular shares. Instead, there will be tokens, which can be traded on different markets, and which correspond to different types of participation—or stakes—in the company. “That’s very important because it gives engagement,” he said.
Amid the renewed interest, developers have introduced DAO-specific tools, such asdecentralized automated payroll systems, to serves as HR departments, and ensure contributors’ efforts are rewarded.
But all this enthusiasm is not shared by everyone. TheMIT Technology Reviewconsiders the idea of entrusting the masses with important financial decisions a bad one, that isn’t likely to yield returns. They say that many things will have to change for DAO-related projects to succeed on any scale.
And scale is also a problem for Ethereum, including the high fees which are a barrier to DAO development. To counter this, projects such as Metis are building so-called Layer 2 solutions, while others maintain that transacting on-chain should be reserved for necessities, such as asset transfers and decisions affecting security.
In the broader picture, DAOs may overcome many deficiencies—governance and otherwise—inherent to conventional organizations. But DAOs still have plenty of issues of their own that must be addressed, such as simplifying voting procedures and reducing the overall complexity of governance mechanics.
Finally, for now, DAOs are just a fledgling niche in the broader world of crypto and finance—indeed,the top DAOs still have only $931 million in assets under management, according to analytics trackerDeepDAO. But they are fast attracting new converts as, already, more than 65,000 people are serving as DAO members. Whether they’re interested in owning a fraction of a high-profile NFT, a Decrypt articleor a place at a massive, virtual boardroom—their ranks are growing at a rate of 400 per week.
This year, we show how to set up and run a Bitcoin node using Umbrel.
It’s much easier to do and has a really nice interface.
With the solid state drive, it’s a bit more expensive—but much faster.
In late 2019, I set myself the challenge of building a Bitcoin node on a Raspberry Pi. It went well but it was a rather complicated process. My second attempt ran into a host of problems, which proved to be insurmountable.
But it’s now 2021, and there are far better tools available to the would-be node runner. This time around, putting together a Bitcoin node took just a couple of days’ work, and $200.
Here’s how I did it.
Putting the Raspberry Pi together
This time around, I tried using Umbrel to set up my Bitcoin node—and it was impressively simple.
First you have to order the parts. The basics you need are a Raspberry Pi 4, a charger, a 1 TB solid state drive (SSD), a 16 MB SD card and a heatsink case, to keep the whole thing cool. Umbrel’s website has a list of the specific parts that you need. You will also want an ethernet cable to connect the Pi to your Internet router, and may need an SD card reader if you don’t already have one.
Once they’ve arrived, you’ll want to put the Raspberry Pi into its case.
Attaching the case to the Pi is very straightforward. First, you need to take the small blue square, which is a thermal pad, and take off the plastic bits on either side. Then stick it down on the silver square (Broadcom CPU) in the middle.
Then you want to place the Pi careful inside the lid of the case. Angle it slightly toward the four smaller ports on one side for it to fit in. Once it’s in snug, but the base on top. Then simply put the four screws in and it’s ready.
To connect the hard drive, simply plug it into the USB port. Similarly, the power charger just goes into the USB C port. And the ethernet cable goes into the ethernet port—this connects your Pi to the Internet (allowing you to access it from your computer).
Loading the Umbrel software
To start with, you’ll need to download the Umbrel OS onto your computer. It takes about 10 minutes to download. You also want to get balenaEtcher, a software that you’ll need to put the system onto the SD card.
Once those are both downloaded, insert the SD card into your computer. Then you want to use the balenaEtcher software to flash the Umbrel “.img” file that you’ve downloaded. It’s a straightforward three step process and takes about three minutes.
Once you’ve done that, take the SD card out of the computer and put it into the end of the Pi on the opposite end to the ethernet cable. And then you’re pretty much done.
After about five minutes, go to http://umbrel.local and you should be able to get set up.
In my case, it wasn’t working, so I had to download Angry IP Scanner, to find the right link. Once I found the IP address associated with the Umbrel node, I just put that in my desktop browser and it took me to the landing page.
Setting up your Bitcoin node
Umbrel makes setting up your Bitcoin node a straightforward process, with a beautiful UI (a big help for getting wider adoption of Bitcoin technology). You start by choosing a name for your device and creating a password, which has to be at least 11 characters long.
Then you have to write down your mnemonic code, which comprises 24 words. These words enable you to access your Bitcoin wallet so it’s important to keep them safe. Finally, you need to accept three conditions, including that the software is in beta and that you’re not going to put more funds on the Bitcoin node than you’re prepared to lose.
Then the dashboard appears and you have easy access to your Bitcoin node inside your desktop browser. It really is impressive.
For any readers who remember reading my 2019 Bitcoin node article, they will remember that I had to use Terminal to “SSH” to the Pi. For a non-coder, it was awkwardly complex—and when things went wrong on a later attempt, I struggled to troubleshoot anything, spending many frustrated hours on it. As a result, using the Umbrel software was a breath of fresh air.
Exploring what you can do
Umbrel lets you get started right away. In the background, the node is processing all the Bitcoin blocks in its history, which will take around two days. But for now, it uses a SPV node, which means the node has a list of all the blocks but hasn’t verified that each one is legitimate. This means you can interact with the Bitcoin blockchain—but you’re not helping to maintain it yet. (The alternative would be that you wait two days before you can do anything)
The dashboard is very clear. It shows you that your node is processing the Bitcoin blockchain—with mine already at 28% after an hour or so (although it will slow down). You can also see your Lightning wallet to interact with the Lightning network and send Bitcoin both faster and cheaper.
You can perform simple tasks like sending Bitcoin to your wallet (although the site cautions against using it to store large funds). And once you have Bitcoin, you can make it accessible on the Lightning network.
When using Lightning, you can request payments. That means you specify how much you want someone to send to you and it creates a QR invoice. If someone else scans that invoice, they will automatically be presented with the amount that you are requesting, and they may choose to pay that invoice if they so wish.
There are a few limitations to using the Lightning network, such as having to start by sending money first. Plus there are limits to how much money you can send through the network in one go.
What’s also interesting is that you can install apps to make the most out of your node. These apps include BTCPay Server for accepting Bitcoin payments as a company, Specter Desktop for connecting your hardware wallet to your node, and several Lightning apps for viewing and connecting to the network.
There’s also a blockchain explorer app called BTC RPC Explorer. This is a straightforward Bitcoin block explorer but all the data comes directly from your Bitcoin node. So even if all the Bitcoin block explorers in the world were taken down, you would still be able to search the history of the Bitcoin blockchain.
One final comment is that Umbrel runs through Tor and does so by default. This helps to protect your privacy when connecting with other nodes. You can also access the node from another computer via Tor, using a link that’s provided.
With its slick UI, Umbrel brings the notion of building your own Bitcoin node into the 21st century, making it practical for everyday people to take control over their own money.