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Q3 Blockchain Commons Report

In summer 2020 (Q3), Blockchain Commons really came together as both a professional organization and as a collective to support open infrastructure for blockchain.

This quarter, in addition to the ongoing financial contributions from our Sustaining Patrons, we’ve begun receiving our first funds from Github Sponsors, which has totaled more than $8,000 to date, including mostly contributions from small sponsors. We’ve in turn been able to use those additional funds on a wider variety of projects. Simultaneously, we’ve also been revising our vision, strategy, marketing, and branding plan, to both set the future of Blockchain Commons and to explain its benefits to the wider world.

In summary, this quarter we:

  • graduated five interns;
  • beta-released our crypto libraries and our Seedtool;
  • debuted the Spotbit price system, keytool, and URkit;
  • dramatically progressed our Gordian system of linked full node and wallet;
  • established a wallet standards development community;
  • neared completion of Learning Bitcoin from the Command Line v2 and LetheKit v2;
  • supported open development & infrastructure;
  • and testified about legislation and regulations.

Here’s more information on some of our biggest successes this summer:

SUMMER INTERNS. We had a great success with our first internship program, which is intended to not only support Blockchain Commons priorities but also to train the next generation of developers for the industry. This year, out of more than 30 applicants, we brought in eight, five of whom finished their entire internship. They are: Gautham Ganesh Elango from Australia, Gorazd Kovacic from Slovenia, Christian Murray of Dartmouth, Nishit Shah, and Javier Vargas. Not only did they support some of our other priorities this quarter, but we also did our best to teach them about blockchain and business alike.

We received some good publicity for our efforts, and plan to offer more internships in the future:

SPOTBIT. One of our major intern team projects was the creation of Spotbit, now in late alpha and already in use by our Gordian Wallet. This is an anonymized price-data system that makes use of Tor, so that you can maintain the same level of privacy when accessing price data as you can when transacting Bitcoins. It is live at a Tor .onion site.

CRYPTO LIBRARIES. We have moved many of our C-language cryptographic libraries to feature-complete beta status. This includes our bc-crypto-base, bc-shamir, bc-sskr, bc-bip39, and bc-ur libraries.

SEEDTOOL. We simultaneously upgraded our seedtool command-line tool to feature-complete beta status. This is the showcase for our crypto libraries, as well as a handy seed generation and conversion tool in its own right. Our move to beta status for seedtool was done after we replaced SLIP39 technology with our own SSKR technology, due to our discovery of a major flaw in SLIP39 that makes it incompatible with BIP39.

KEYTOOL: We have released the first alpha of the keytool command-line tool, which offers all the various complex conversions of seeds (from seedtool) to derive master keys, descriptors, and public and private keys for use with cryptocurrencies and digital identity.

URKIT. We also created URKit as another working example of our bc-ur cryptolibrary, including additional functionality not found in Seedtool, such as animated QRs (see this YouTube demo and our paper on running URs on e-paper displays). This has led to one of our first community successes, as Foundation Devices has ported bc-ur to Python, which will enable them to support our emerging animated QR standard. URKit is also being integrated into the Gordian Wallet this week.

LETHEKIT. We are finalizing our second major release of LetheKit so that it supports all the same features as found in our feature-complete Seedtool. We expect to see that work done within the first few weeks of Q4.

THE GORDIAN SYSTEM. Our Tor-connected wallet and full node (formerly known as Fully Noded 2 and Bitcoin Standup for Mac) got a rename, but more notably we’ve been expanding the whole system. Our wallet is completing its integration with the newest QR and UR code found in our libraries, while Gordian Server now allows the option of installing Blockstream’s C-Lighting, and our Linux Bitcoin Standup scripts can install other optional bitcoin-related services, including C-Lightning, LND, BTCPay, Esplora and Spotbit. We have also created Catalyst frameworks for Tor and LibWally that allow for simultaneous development of Mac and iOS apps, so we now have a late alpha of the Gordian Wallet available for macOS based on our more mature Gordian Wallet for iOS codebase.

WALLET STANDARDS: We’ve begun hosting a strong collaboration in our Airgapped Wallet Community, to support finalizing the design of these next-generation wallet interoperability features and standards. Our QuickConnect to Tor feature has been adopted by full node vendors BTCPayServer, Nodl, MyNode, and RaspiBlitz. Our Account Map proposal has been adopted by Specter, BlueWallet, Magical Bitcoin Wallet. We have successfully managed multisig interoperability demos with other wallets, including Cold Card, Electrum, Cobovault, Foundation Devices. There’s much more to come.

LEARNING BITCOIN FROM THE COMMAND LINE. Our popular Learning Bitcoin course saw a massive leap forward, with the whole course updated to Bitcoin 0.20.1 and new sections written on SegWit, Bech32, descriptors, PSBTs, BTCDeb, HWI, and Tor. We also closed out three updated chapters on coding in a variety of programming languages, including supporting Libwally with C. All that’s left before completing v2.0 of the course are two new chapters on Lightning, which have been drafted, but not fully edited. Many of these updates received support from our summer interns. We should be able to announce the completion of v2 of the course in just a few weeks.

OPEN DEVELOPMENT & PATENTS: In addition to offering all of our new code this quarter under the spdx:BSD-2-Clause Plus Patent License, we have published examples of our open development legal resources, including our contributor license and our open software developer, internship, and security services agreements. We have also joined COPA (the Crypto Open Patent Alliance), as the best current solution to our long-standing commitment to a defensive patent strategy.

LEGISLATION & REGULATION: Blockchain Commons Founder Christopher Allen has spoken and given written testimony several times before the Wyoming Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology. This summer, he was appointed as a member of two sub-committees: Digital Identity, working on a legal definition for Digital Identity under self-sovereign principles; and DAOs, working on making new forms of blockchain-enabled corporations acceptable in Wyoming.

  • Written Testimony:   * 2020 Wyoming Blockchain Legislative Agenda: https://wyoleg.gov/InterimCommittee/2020/S19-20200522Wyoming2020LegislationAgendaLetter-ChristopherAllen.pdf   * 2020 Wyoming Identity Legislation Agenda: https://wyoleg.gov/InterimCommittee/2020/S19-20200612Wyoming2020IdentityLegislationAgendaLetter-ChristopherAllen.pdf
  • Draft Legislation     * HB0041 - Disclosure of private cryptographic keys: https://wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2020/HB0041     * Digital Identity Legal Definition: https://wyoleg.gov/InterimCommittee/2020/S19-202009233-01DigitalIdentityDraftingGuidance.pdf
  • Videos:     * 2020-06-12: https://youtu.be/91ZA8rppgSA     * 2020-07-27: https://www.youtu.be/wTQOgkcZ41o & https://www.youtu.be/watch?v=ASWzQoLqvWg     * 2020-08-25: https://youtu.be/oyYNUKSJ4Go & https://youtu.be/qZtW3eXSbtg     * 2020-09-23: https://www.youtu.be/o2yMs_I5Sn0

Thank you for your support of the Blockchain Commons this year!

We’re determined to expand on these and other projects, to make Bitcoin and the blockchain easier to use for everyone. Thus, we’re already getting started on our Q4 work, which we hope to include:

  • The move of the Gordian system beta to support Bitcoin mainnet (aka “real money”).
  • The publication of a GordianSigner app to the iPhone, Mac and Google Appstores, and (hopefully) the iOS Appstore approval of Gordian Wallet.
  • The release of our first Android app, GordianSigner, allowing more parties to participate in multisig transactions.
  • The publication of the second edition of our popular #SmartCustody Book, including reorganizing the text to make it more approachable, expanding our options to more kinds of hardware wallets, updating old scenarios, introducing new scenarios for multi-sigs, and covering the use of the well-reviewed Gnosis Ethereum smart contract.
  • The creation of signtool and verifytool apps to supplement keytool, leveraging the latest HD and Schnorr signature technologies and adding to our erector set of command-line app companions to seedtool.
  • The continued discussion and deployment of new airgapped wallet standards such as animated QR-based PSBTs.
  • A push forward on decentralized identity, beginning with the integration of PSBT & JSON-LD 1.1 signing into signtool.
  • A new externship program, where a company lends us an engineer to work on Blockchain Commons priorities and in turn learns about our work and the open-source community.
  • Evangelization to developers about code and projects completed in Q3 such as Spotbit, Learning Bitcoin, seedtool, and LetheKit.
  • Other open infrastructure activities, such as new regional Tor exit node (our first Tor exit node is now over year old!), did:tor DID (W3C Decentralized Identifier) method, and other Tor-based human-rights privacy tools and services.

Of course, this all requires support, so we encourage you to spread the word, to use your business and community contacts to bring in other people as Patrons at any level. We know that we’re offering important work here, and we want to be able to continue that work for the community.

Christopher Allen, Executive Director, Blockchain Commons