The ecosystem is moving, a blog post on the danger of protocol stagnation

A blog post by Signal messanger developer moxie0 about development problems and possible threats that the Safe Network will also face after launch. Highlights the danger in the “We’ll just change/fix/update/write new code to address that after launch” attitude (e.g. shall we start with 9 decimal place Safecoin now and “simply” upgrade to 28 later when needed).

History is teaching us that we probably won’t be able to make many changes after launch. The problem only gets worse as the Safe Network becomes really popular. Or will it - perhaps there is a non-centralised development governance method(s) that can be established from the start that help mitigate this well established trend?

From the Signal messenger blog post:

We got to the first production version of IP, and have been trying for the past 20 years to switch to a second production version of IP with limited success. We got to HTTP version 1.1 in 1997, and have been stuck there until now. Likewise, SMTP, IRC, DNS, XMPP, are all similarly frozen in time circa the late 1990s. To answer his question, that’s how far the internet got. It got to the late 90s.
That has taken us pretty far, but it’s undeniable that once you federate your protocol, it becomes very difficult to make changes. And right now, at the application level, things that stand still don’t fare very well in a world where the ecosystem is moving.


Positive Incentives was the missing layer to the cake in the 90s IMHO. There are some PoW projects that I could suggest that continue to experiment with governance. I’m still hardcore PoW because of the Positive Incentives it gives to it’s members to maintain the protocol and even upgrade it. No need for those monkeys in suites to be involved. You know the ones that pretend to actually do something but really just throw poop for an hour then collect a paycheck from taxation.


I would argue that the internet standards today are work of many and when many are involved nothing changes, where in the safe network the only one who decides for changes is maidsafe and when one party decides it can make the changes that are needed!

PoW is not immune most development has been shifted to layer 2 but the underlying protocol has already been frozen in time. The infamous row over block size and it’s ultimate rejection (causing a major split in the Bitcoin community) is exactly the sort of dynamic moxie0 is referring to.

That is true right now before launch. After launch it becomes a permissionless network which will increase the number of stakeholders as it becomes more adopted, new browsers produced by third parties etc. The higher value the network the higher the stakes will be and thus the harder to ship changes to the core protocol.

Ethereum’s shift to PoS could be interesting to watch as a counter-example - if that community manages to pull it off that is. Other blockchain projects that are already very small communities and/or not very distributed in comparison to Bitcoin/Ethereum still have the freedom to make core protocol changes without much resistance.

That’s exactly what I thought about when reading what moxie0 wrote. I can suggest this thought process. Even though it seems to be a horrible thing. that is the major split in that community. I think it is more of a positive than a negative. Not suggesting that every project have the same dramatic experience in hopes of achieving the platinum level medal. I think the true test of whether a project will survive is if the ego can be put down on both sides. Figure out how the findings, discoveries, and strengths on both sides can be used to make that unicorn.

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Follow up post, the team reply to points made by Moxie.


SAFE Network governance is one of the things people often ask me about, but AFAIK SAFE governance is yet to be defined. It would be great to get a sense of how governance might/will work.


At the moment, there’s nothing but Maidsafe. They provide (almost) all of the development work on the core code and they make all the decisions about the network (with the notable exception of feedback received on RFCs). For this situation to change, other groups are going to have to spring up and start contributing.

It makes sense, as time goes on, for other groups to start fighting for their own interests within the SAFE network and I imagine that after it goes live and people actually have a stake, those with the greatest stakes will start trying to pull and push the network towards the features and benefits they want.

As time goes and, and we get closer to and then past launching, it would probably benefit Maidsafe to begin this conversation - talking about how the community can have more of an official say, how votes take place, etc., but the reality is that at the moment the stakes are just too low for anyone to care that much. Sure: some people own thousands (tens perhaps) of dollars worth of Maidsafecoin, but until Maidsafe slips up in their duties as custodians of the network, we’re unlikely to see the weight of these people shift against a centrally governed network with Maidsafe at its helms.

It would be great to get a sense of how governance might/will work.

The long and short of it is likely to be incredibly simple: Those people who know Rust and are able to contribute to the core network code at launch are likely to be the people guiding it. At the moment that’s nearly exclusively Maidsafe. I imagine that the people who create the most popular apps which run on top of the network will likely have a disproportionately large sway also.


I thought there was a plan for integrated updates in SAFE tech. Isn’t that what Maxwell is?


If I were to draw comparisons to bitcoin, I think it’s true that those who work on bitcoin core hold a lot of sway. However, miners also exert influence on the network and whether/how it gets forked. While SAFE doesn’t rely on mining, I do think it’s worth discussing how various parties may come to have a stake (pun only partially intended) in governing the network.

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I agree with this. I hope that soon the protocol/backend will be pretty solid (again partially intended pun) and akin to a protocol. So updates will be almost all maintenance/security fixes etc.

Changes to backend/data types and whatnot will need some kind of agreement (I have ideas, but not for now) and that will have to be very inclusive (remembering Henry Ford’s statement about give the masses what they want and we would all have faster horses). So democracy fails when you include innovation, that is a huge problem trying to create inclusive systems/proof of stake or whatever governance and society overwhelmingly rejects change. Innovators are a minority and that may be a good thing. Segwit split the bitcoin community a good bit, block sizes as well, maybe that’ all good though? did it work out? ( I suspect it kinda did)

However the apps are very different, they will need more auditing to confirm they stick to some agreed rules (no snooping, no backdoors etc.) and that in itself is a huge task. i.e. mix a human and money and you often get dishonesty.

A constant concern I have is protecting minorities and that goes against current democracy many times (in nature it almost always fails). As we evolve it’s better, but many changes like getting rid of slavery, votes for all etc. were not decided by the majority AFAIK, but by small determined groups continually pushing. Recently referenda on equal rights etc. seem to have gone the right way and break this mould, who knows? As I say as we evolve we will get better. I don’t think the system to do this is simple, but the psychology is near impossible. In life we have president/pm <- group of politicians <- people and it kinda works, or we have found nothing better yet. It’s a deep deep hole to travel down and it’s non obvious how to really solve governance if humans are involved.


I find the Tezos model works good enough, the iluminated minority of developers propose updates and the stakeholders vote over these.

I think something similar could be made in the safe network adding a vote to every answered get request.

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I think BTC has solved the governance question pretty well. Only those who have “skin in the game”, who risk resources and capital for the network get to vote. Those who invest in the network have real incentive and understanding how to keep the protocol going and how to make it better. Dishonesty and corruption flourishes when we take away the “skin in the game” factor.

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The Protocol development is not an area for democracy. It is charge for high skillful devs.

And the Farmers will choose the most profitable and secure updates like as BTC miners.

P.S Miners did’t develop code but choose.