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An ecosystem for commerce on ZeroNet

on Jul 23, 2016

Here is an model for commerce on ZeroNet which involves three types of players: consumers, sellers, and trust brokers. First, let us look at the role of trust brokers. Each trust broker offers a combination of arbitration and ratings services. For a competitive fee, a trust broker will list a seller as "approved" on their site along with some ratings information if the seller meets whatever criteria the broker defines. The ratings information might be a combination of consumer reviews, number of times arbitration was involved (per month, for example), and possibly even the result of some investigation into the quality/security of operations.

The trust broker is also a certificate signer. The arrangement with consumers might be something like: if you maintain a good reputation with our sellers and you fill out our satisfaction surveys, then the service is free (but if you do not fill out the surveys in a timely fashion, there is a fee). In fact, the fee might be proportional to how much of a detailed survey the consumer wishes to skip.

Now, consumers are paid for their feedback with an endorsement by the trust broker and the vetting efforts of the trust broker are paid for by the seller. Sellers would only sell to approved (i.e. those with a valid certificate) consumers and consumers would only buy from trusted sellers.

In this arrangement, it is advantageous that pseudonyms are used since there is currently no fully trustless way to transact goods other than information. Also note that there is a response to the objection that trust-brokers would rubber-stamp their paying sellers. Indeed, it is easy to detect a cheating trust broker since other trust brokers would rate the seller (or consumer) worse. Then there is a huge incentive to discredit the cheating trust broker and steal their customers. Plus, on ZeroNet, it is easy to keep tabs on competitors ratings and compare them.

ZeroNet offers an incredible innovation: cloning. With easy to deploy, clonable site templates for stores and brokerships, the barriers to entry into the market are incredibly low. So we can expect the provision of trust brokering to become pareto optimal within a short time. Furthermore, once there is a competitive market for trust brokers, sellers (and consumers) would likely wish to gain multiple endorsements.

Also, with the advent of merger sites, we can imagine the emergence of meta-stores which organize the contents of many individual sellers in an easy to use way and includes their scores. The cost of generating such meta-stores is likely to be around zero, especially if clonable ones emerge.

What is needed now is the following:

Easy, clonable stores.

It needs to be easy to set up such a store without doing any coding, like a new ZeroBlog. This means there must be a way to add new products, manage the list of trust brokers, view and clear pending sales. There also needs to some way to keep sales private. The nature of the transaction can be hidden in ZeroNet, but not the fact that it took place. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) One way to accomplish this is to handle transactions outside of ZeroNet. Another way is to transmit transactions to a trust broker. Then logic on the seller's site could scan the transaction logs at their trust brokers, looking for new transactions. This would not anonymize the user, but would hide the store attached to a given transaction.

Easy, clonable trust brokerships.

Like the easy, clonable stores, model trust brokerships need to be configurable after cloning without going into the code. There needs to be a way to approve users as consumers and to add and remove sellers and monitor their status regarding fees. There also has to be baked in logic to get new transactions and generate surveys for the customer and the seller. In fact, this makes the second alternative above for handling transactions seem more reasonable.

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Stealing the story

on May 03, 2016

Here is an article from a few days ago on Medium.

It is obvious that we now hold incredibly powerful tools. Decentralized, trustless mechanisms for registering names, exchanging value, running computations, etc. suggest a way to combat growing state power. Perhaps people will start using these tools to prosper and keep their assets safe from legal plunder. Perhaps people will balk.

It is scary to think about the financial meltdown of 2008-2009. Planners want to convince us that speculators and investment banking are the problem. It is a myth that state regulation is the only check in place on the behavior of Wall Street bankers. In fact, the state enables bad behavior. There is the program of using tax money to insure deposits (supporting the fractional reserve banking system) and the precedent that favored large financial institutions can unload bad assets on the USG. This is a simplification of course, but some kind of opposing narrative needs air. I am always happy to elaborate if anybody reads this and wants to hear more.

How can we be more persuasive when we talk to the people in our lives about why decentralization will make them more free and more prosperous? Also, is there good language to use to talk about tools like Bitcoin, ZeroNet, etc. comprehensively?

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on May 02, 2016

I have decided to give bitmessage a try. If you feel like sending me a message, here is the address for this blog:


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ZeroNet and markets

on May 02, 2016 · 1 min read

There is a lot of excitement surrounding OpenBazaar. Its biggest selling point is that, being decentralized, it is very difficult to stop it from operating. However, it makes no efforts to hide the IP addresses of network users. Furthermore it is not yet integrated with any existing anonymizing systems.

There is still demand for a decentralized marketplace where users cannot easily be linked to their IP address. ZeroNet is decentralized and it is easy to use it with Tor. So what more is needed to create a thriving marketplace? There are three fundamentals:

  • Sellers need a way to post items for sale and their prices.
  • Buyers need a way to locate items of interest.
  • Both buyers and sellers need escrow services to facilitate exchange.

The zite-cloning feature suggests a model where sellers set up stores based on easy to populate store templates. One can easily imagine simple stores which function as a good-price table and more complex stores that run auctions, etc. A seller can choose to accept whatever form of payment--Bitcoin, Monero, USD--they desire.

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Peer review

on Apr 24, 2016

In academic work, publishing research papers plays two roles. Writing and distributing a paper is one way to share work with other researchers. In many fields of research, it is no longer necessary to publish in an academic journal to reach the desired audience. Publication in a journal gives a paper a degree of legitimacy and a degree of prestige, depending on the journal.

During the peer review process, an author submits an article to one of the editors at a journal. The editor may consult a referee for a quick opinion about how suitable the paper is for publication. If the editor decides the article has merit, they find a referee who is willing to read the paper carefully and prepare a report. The report may have a component which is only visible to the editor and a component which can be seen by the authors. The report usually contains an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the paper and often a list of specific suggestions for improvements. Based on feedback from the referee the editor can accept the paper, ask for a revision or reject the paper.

This process is time consuming and has little benefit for working researchers. (Referees universally donate their time.) What is needed is a market for referee services which might include a combination of review and endorsement. However, the twist is that the referee would need to remain as anonymous as possible while maintaining a public reputation. Complete anonymity is unreasonable in this context as the pool of qualified referees is likely to be small in most cases.

Ring signing seems like a good candidate for anonymous endorsement. An endorser can use a ring signature to sign an endorsement as a group of people in such a way that it can be verified that some member of the group created the signature, but it is not possible to determine which member. In this system, an author could post an order for endorsement. Part of the order is a structure of rings and prices which likely would reflect the size of the rings and the prestige of the signers in each.

The market for review is more straightforward. Reviewing a paper is simply a service. An author would simply post a contract to review their paper for a certain amount in a certain time frame. The contract might even include terms under which the reviewer would endorse the paper at the end of the process.

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