Understanding Bitshares

Bitshares is a broad term which encompasses all Distributed Autonomous Companies that spawn from ideas and code put forward by Invictus Innovations.

Invictus Innovations is a (regular) company fronted by Co-Founder, Daniel Larimer. Invictus creates Distributed Autonomous Companies (DACs) under the Bitshares banner. These DACs are released to the public and honour Bitshares PTS and Bitshares AGS holders with part ownership in these DACs.

Distributed Autonomous Company (DAC)?

Bitcoin solved the problem of creating a distributed trust-less network of exchange and can be considered the world’s first DAC.

DACs are abstract, self-regulating, unmanned companies. They provide services that are intended to be valuable to their customers and do so in a predictable, automated way. Naming something a DAC is an attempt at defining any project that uses software made popular by bitcoin, to become self-organizing and self-enforcing.

The concept of a DAC serves as a useful analogy that helps people form a mental picture of what software does or intends to do. It aids people with the understanding that peer to peer, cryptographic blockchain technology is not limited to the field of digital currency.

As a result, people within the Bitshares crowd prefer to define crypto-currencies as crypto-equities. To make this mental step yourself, simply refer to the unit of account as ‘shares’ instead of ‘coins’. Using the analogy of shares is an interesting way of changing people’s perceptions of such technologies and encourages people to form the same expectations on crypto-equities as they would a regular company. Namely, to be enriched as shareholders from the process of the company generating profits.

Bitcoin’s business model of distribution and payment through minting new coins is a beautifully elegant way of encouraging resources to be committed to the security of the network while distributing coin supply globally and equitably. As a new concept, this model was completely necessary in order for bitcoin to bootstrap itself into existence. Despite this, bitcoin and related technologies are not profitable from an economic understanding when the network is viewed as a whole. This is because bitcoin’s expenses of securing the network through mining are significantly more than revenues generated from transaction fees. The shortfall is covered through the issuance of new shares (bitcoins) that dilute the value of existing shares. This is not a desirable business model as bitcoin is continually generating a loss and tapping its equity to cover expenses.

DACs created by Invictus will use bitcoin’s revolutionary technology and attempt to improve upon its economic efficiency and functional scope. It is proposed that all DACs should attempt to operate profitably, and distribute these profits to shareholders as dividends. Dividends are allocated to shareholders on the basis of their percentage holding in the DAC and are effectively generated through the process of destroying shares, thereby gradually increasing an individual’s percentage stake in the DAC over time. Shares are destroyed through the process of the DAC charging for transaction fees or other services it provides.

Many different DACs are planned to be launched under the Bitshares banner that will target industries Bitshares believes can be profitably decentralized. These industries include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Banking/exchange
  • Insurance
  • Domain name registration
  • Voting
  • Lending
  • Gaming
  • Music

At first glance it seems as if Bitshares has taken bitcoin, renamed it a DAC and announced that it will release lots of new DACs that do really cool stuff. All talk no walk right? We’ve seen this sort of thing before and we tend to avoid it in the pursuit of substance.

This could prove to be the wrong assumption to make with Bitshares.

So what value does Bitshares intend to bring to the game?

First and foremost, Bitshares claims to use a more efficient method of securing a blockchain and processing transactions, while still providing profit incentive for participating nodes. It claims to be able to deliver these services (that bitcoin provides through mining) at a fraction of the traditional cost, without the risk of consolidation of mining pools and associated loss of decentralization.

Bitshares plans to replace the traditional proof-of-work with a form of pure proof-of-stake. To see a pure proof of stake chain in action, have a look at Nxt. Bitshares block chains will inherit many of Nxt’s efficiencies but will do so using a slightly different approach. Firstly, instead of leasing a balance of coins to a pool and sharing block rewards as is seen in Nxt, Bitshares will use a delegate system (delegated proof of stake – DPoS) where users vote for delegates to manage the task. Bitshares and Nxt also differ slightly when it comes to how each project aims to achieve capacity for a high volume of users. Nxt plans to implement ‘transparent forging’ which will allow network users to know which nodes will author the next few blocks, allowing people to send transactions straight to these nodes, speeding up the network. Within the planned Bitshares system, these nodes will already be known much further into the future due to the delegate system.

Whatever way you look at it, Bitshares needs to implement a pure proof of stake system for each of its proposed DAC’s, it’s not economically feasible to have separate proof of work chains for each project. Thankfully, proof of stake is not completely uncharted territory, Nxt has proved it is a perfectly workable solution.

As well as appearing to be forward thinking when it comes to securing and verifying their planned networks, Bitshares have some really cool plans for new DACs, and a growing pool of resources to pull these plans off. One of the first DACs to be launched will function as a bank/exchange that plans to allow for asset value tracking, similar in scope to mastercoin’s proposed contracts-for-difference feature, but without the use of a third party data feed.

you had my curiosity... now you have my attention

Gentlemen, you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention

How do you get in on this? – Bitshares PTS

Bitshares PTS is the rebrand of the original ‘protoshares’. Bitshares PTS is a fork of bitcoin’s code that was launched on the 5th November 2013. There is nothing remarkable or innovative about Bitshares PTS, other than the fact that holders are guaranteed at least 10% stake in any future DAC that Invictus makes. Because ownership of Bitshares PTS is constantly changing hands, there needs to be pre-defined moments where balances are noted for the purpose of share allocations of new DACs. These moments are called ‘snapshots’ and if you hold Bitshares PTS during a snapshot, you are able to redeem your proportion of shares in the new DAC.

Bitshares PTS can be held or they can be traded. Due to the fact that they represent ownership in future DACs, their value can be seen as a proxy for the market’s prediction of the combined value of these future DACs.

How do you get in on this? – Bitshares AGS

Edit: The Bitshares AGS crowd sale closed in July 2014

AGS stands for Angelshares. Bitshares AGS is not a blockchain like Bitshares PTS and shares are not easily tradeable (although they may be in the future). Like Bitshares PTS, Bitshares AGS holders will also secure at least 10% ownership of all future DACs that Invictus makes.

Bitshares AGS was started in order to raise proceeds for future Bitshares development work. 10,000 Bitshares AGS are available for purchase per day, over a 200 day period, for either bitcoin or Bitshares PTS. The amount you receive out of the 10,000 released on a day is dependent on the percent of the day’s funds total you personally contributed. To claim your shares in a DAC using Bitshares AGS ownership, you simply need to prove you have the corresponding private key of the address you used to send the funds.

Once the Bitshares AGS crowd sale is over, people wanting to get a stake in future DACs would simply purchase Bitshares PTS on the open market, as they have exactly the same function as Bitshares AGS, only with tradability.

Currently it is cheaper to secure future ownership in DACs using Bitshares AGS, although if you buy, you’re in for the long haul, and will find it very difficult to liquidate.

What about DACs made by third parties?

Specifically, why would a third party that creates a DAC using the Bitshares toolkit decide to honour Bitshares PTS and Bitshares AGS with ownership?

First understand that Invictus is the only entity currently doing any significant work in the Bitshares space, and has declared that it will reward PTS and AGS holders with ownership of at least 10% each (this is a minimum, shares in Bitshares X were allocated 50/50). It is quite likely that Invictus will be the first to release a DAC within most sectors. This means any competitor that wants to offer a similar service will have to try and convince an invested community to move, and to do this it is likely they will need to offer incentives. The best way to do so is by giving a portion of equity to PTS and/or AGS holders.

I imagine this will be the way it goes for quite some time, but eventually I can see PTS and AGS holders having less influence on product success over time as the market grows, meaning they may not get allocated equity in new ventures far into the future. But if this is indeed a correct interpretation of the future, I’m fairly certain by then, early PTS and AGS holders wouldn’t be disappointed with their ROI.

Bitshares: the full picture

bitshares treeSo Bitshares is an over-arching name for all DACs that originate from Invictus’ ideas and code, that reward Bitshares PTS and Bitshares AGS holders with ownership. Currently no DACs have been launched, the first, operating within the banking/exchange field will be released in the very near future. The successful implementation of this DAC could prove Bitshares to be a powerful player in the bitcoin 2.0 space.

It is intended that there will be many DACs in the future operating under the Bitshares banner. Each an independent project with different creators, blockchains, goals and communities. Bitshares PTS and Bitshares AGS give you a chance to invest in these projects before they are even dreamed up, which is certainly unique.

It seems Bitshares strength (and weakness) is in its proposed fragmentation. Good DACS will rise to the top while bad ones will wither and die. The scope for innovation is broad, and the playing field will hopefully prove to be diverse.

I’ll keep my eye on you, Bitshares.

2 Comments

  1. liondani

    May 6, 2014 at

    Nice explained. Seems a very promissing project. Sure worth investing!

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