Know The Coin: Interview with DigiByte Ambassador Josiah Spackman
Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode of Know The Coin with ChangeNOW! Today’s guest is Josiah Spackman, DigiByte ambassador, crypto enthusiast, and just an all-around awesome person. Josiah was kind enough to contribute his time to hang out with us and talk about what an great project DigiByte is!
Welcome to the show, Josiah! Could you kindly explain like I’m 5 about DigiByte in a couple of sentences or, rather, your vision of it?
DigiByte is more than just me sending you value and you sending me value. Although we obviously excel in that area compared to a lot of other blockchains out there, such as Bitcoin or Litecoin, DigiByte is also about storing data on the blockchain. So, over and above just the sending of wealth, we are all about growing-on chain, and storing things such as assets on the blockchain.
As far as I understand, DigiByte is also good for storing data and not only data, but a decent amount of it, right?
Yeah, sort of. Let’s give you an example. A lot of people are familiar with projects like Storj, so when you backup your data, it’s not your data that gets backed up on a blockchain. The blockchain is simply used for sending and receiving the coin, or rather, Storj tokens. With DigiByte, the idea is that you may only store a few bytes of data on the blockchain, at the moment up to 80 bytes, so usually you will store just a hash of a document. For example, if you have your last will and testament, you would run it through some hashing software and then you would store this hash on a blockchain, rather than attempting to store hundreds of megabytes. So yes, you can store data itself on a blockchain over and above just transferring wealth between two people.
So, if I were to go into Base-64 and encrypt the data, I would be able to store it on the blockchain?
Yes. Up to 80 bytes worth. We even had people store full images on the blockchain and we can reconstruct things like that as well. We are going to be coming about with DigiAssets which will allow greater accessibility for storing items on blockchain, things like airplane tickets or concert tickets. We’ve got a lot of things you can store on-chain, and we are super excited about it. I suppose, it eases the way people can get access to their data.
Cool! Would you mind telling our readers a couple of words about yourself, your background and your team?
I got involved in DigiByte almost 5 years ago now, shortly after it got launched back in January 2014. I was mining Bitcoin myself, then I discovered Litecoin and thought it was much better. Shortly after I came across DigiByte and I was impressed — you can do everything just like Litecoin, but you can do it even faster. I appreciated the forward-thinking nature and the constant growth of the entire project. We’ve made faster blocktimes and a whole bunch of other improvements like that over the last 5 years. We’ve been dedicated to the idea that it’s not just a completed project, but that we constantly grow and improve upon it. It’s not enough being the best but taking one step further on a regular basis. I became more involved in a public way about 18 months ago, originally writing guides, for example, how to mine DigiByte, but also in general kinds of knowledge, tutorials and other sources, and specifically doing live streams and interviews.
Pretty cool! And how many people are there working on the code, taking core decisions, and everything like that?
That’s an interesting question. I was looking at the GitHub statistics just the other day and I saw that on the DigiByte core repository there have been 600 contributors, just to the core wallet itself. I know one of them is just a guy who simply changed the copyright information from 2018 to 2019. But he came along and did that, so technically he is a contributor.
There’s not just one project for DigiByte, so we have things in addition to the core wallet, SPV-core, we’ve got an Android wallet, an iOS-wallet, a whole bunch of testers, translators who translated Digibyte mobile wallet in over 50 languages. So, it’s not that we have some small team of people working on the core wallet, but we’ve got this beautifully distributed team. Some people are on and off. There are a lot of people out there, for sure.
This is awesome, because usually, when I ask this question, people usually answer with a finite number, like “Yes, we have 10 people working on the code”, or “We have our founder and a group of people in charge”, etc.
And pretty pictures on their website with LinkedIn profiles?
Exactly. And actually, I wanted to talk about community a little bit, because you have such a robust one and we all admire it. When we introduce an update regarding DigiByte, we can give you guys a shout out on Twitter, and people will come flooding in and saying “Thank you” or some words of support. I’m not sure there are any other communities in the crypto sphere which is almost as involved as DigiByte community is.
Yes, and I suppose it is super cool for a project to be appreciated. The thing that we do is encourage our community is to get involved, because it is very much a community-led project. There may be community members who come up with ideas, and they chat directly with developers. We have this unique type of the community like you’ve mentioned, I suppose
This is really awesome, and I hope we will be able to retain a relationship with the community not like us as a project, but like us as people. Now, let’s talk about DigiByte itself. How scalable is the blockchain? I’ve come across some info about 280 000 transactions per second after 2035; is there a possibility for DigiByte to go any higher than that?
That’s based on approximations, averaging out the number of blocks per day, a number of transactions per second. The average is going to be around about 280 000 transactions per second by the year 2035. Long story short, when back in 2015 we did this, — we set up a bunch of services with different providers around the world, like the real blockchain would, and we simulated it. We fast-forwarded things to the year 2035 as the last block was mined on that blockchain. Nothing interesting really happened, it kept working. Which was a bit of a surprise for us. So, we have our growth planned up to 2035 and this works for sure.
Wow. This makes the blockchain incredibly stable, because, I’ve heard, the simulation was being run in such a fashion that the blockchain was still able to work after several dozens of years.
Basically, what we did was improved propagation, because the thing that comes up all the time is can you actually get that much data out of people? We took a whole bunch of Microsoft research that was done in conjunction with a university, and we modeled all of our block sizes and propagation based on this model, and it appeared it was definitely doable.
So, there’s no blockchain bloat or the TPS slowing down, because of the block difficulty and stuff like that, right?
Yes, so we can literally go in 2035 and it just keeps ticking over. It sounds nice, but I wish we had something that had broken down. But no, it just works.
It’s incredibly awesome. How does SegWit work in application to the blockchain? That are the benefits of it for DigiByte in particular?
In addition to the decrease in the transaction size, it also enabled us to do as atomic swaps. It’s nice and easy.
And so was the atomic swap you performed powered by DigiByte?
I asked because I’m not sure that there are many atomic swap services that are widely known, except for Atomic Wallet, but the words “atomic swap” keep popping up every now and then everywhere. And I haven’t been to know that there is a service that was specifically geared towards atomic swaps. This is pretty cool.
Yes. We usually notice that people touted atomic swaps being used in retail and things like that. If we have different coins, we may have an atomic swap, or I may have it with a 3rd party and give you coins out of that. I’ve tested a bunch of services, and it’s all pretty seamless and quite cool. It’s something SegWit has specifically allowed — you can do swaps without
SegWit, but it just makes it a little bit easier. We were the first major blockchain to actually include SegWit back in 2017 now, I think. It is almost 2 years ago now. Time goes by fast!
It does, and this is insane that you were one of the first blockchain projects that implemented SegWit even before Bitcoin.
Yes. The number of nodes grew very quickly, and miners were happy with SegWit. It was amazing to see the progressiveness of DigiByte.
Since we’ve started talking about mining, could you tell me a couple of words about mining algorithms that are used in DigiByte? I know there are 5 of them, but how did you managed to do that 5 different algorithms can coexist at once, and who are these algorithms geared towards? And one more question — are block rewards are different from each other depending on the algorithm?
Yes so we’ve got 5 different mining algorithms. Normally, you have Bitcoin with SHA-256 or Litecoin with Scrypt. We have SHA-256, Scrypt, Skein, Groestl and Qubit. When we just started, we only had Scrypt. Later on, we forked and became multialgorithm. Each of the 5 algos is effectively competing with each other to find the solution for the block. And they all have a 20% chance of finding the next block. The block rewards are the same, whoever mines each block gets the same reward regardless of which one you mine. Originally, SHA-256 and Scrypt were geared towards ASIC’s and the others were supposed to be GPU-friendly. Unfortunately, ASIC’s developed further, so in the spirit of keeping things decentralized we’re currently in the process of replacing one of the algorithms with an in-house-developed hashing algorithm that is specifically for DigiByte. It changes itself every 10 days, so you can’t go and write an ASIC for it. This is going to be GPU- and FPGA-specific, and later on this year we will be looking for other GPU-specific algorithms that we can implement. Decentralization is a key aim for us, because it allows to get a broader user base, and get a blockchain on so many different nodes.
So, essentially, DigiByte is proof-of-work?
And since GPU mining is essentially allowed this means that people who don’t own really expensive mining gear can also get in on the fun and mine DigiByte?
Correct. So, there has been an ASIC developed for the Skein algorithm, but you can still actually mine on your GPU relatively profitably comparing to other GPU algorithms out there. And we’re looking forward to swap out one of the algorithms to ensure that incentive for decentralization remains.
Awesome! And how secure is the DigiByte blockchain from the different types of malicious attacks? Like ones that happened recently — a series of 51% attacks on Ethereum Classic, and fake stake attacks, cause a while ago it was talked about very often on all kinds of social media platforms, like Reddit and Twitter. So, people from the DigiByte community came to us and said that DGB is safe from any kind of attack. How exactly did you achieve that?
That’s a very interesting question. If your blockchain cannot be 51% attacked, then you are centralized. DigiByte is pure proof-of-work, and with enough work you can theoretically perform an attack. But because we are multialgorithm combined with DigiShield, it is incredibly difficult to do so. So we are not proof-of-stake in any way and we are not vulnerable to that kind of thing. Then because we have 5 different mining algorithms we can’t be attacked like Ethereum Classic, and also because of our Multishield and DigiShield. The combination of these things is incredibly powerful, so you won’t be able to double-spend with us even if you have 2 or 3 Bitcoin mining pools — the 5 algorithms are going to outpace your ability to mine on a private blockchain. If you were to take those same 2 or 3 bitcoin mining pools and attack Bitcoin Cash, the main chain of Bitcoin Cash would never even outpace you in the same circumstances, so you could double-spend all day long with that same hash-power whereas you cannot with DigiByte.
What about DigiShield and the Multishield that you’ve talked about? How exactly do they protect the blockchain?
Originally, back in 2014, there were mining pools that would jump between, say, Litecoin and DigiByte, and a bunch of other coins at a time, what happened is there were huge amounts of mining power so we could mine a number of blocks in just a few seconds. It basically affected the stability of the timing of blocks, and so we introduced DigiShield to prevent this from happening. It is a real-time difficulty adjustment after every single block for each of the algorithms. The technology is easy to understand, but extremely powerful.
I’ve never previously heard of anything like that, because for bigger coins, such as Bitcoin, difficulties get adjusted every several months, correct me if I’m wrong. But here it happens every block, which means that the blockchain is very flexible in that regard?
Yes. For Bitcoin it is actually every 2 weeks, and for Litecoin is about 2 days. Our Multishield protects us from double spends that would successfully attack Bitcoin Cash or other blockchains with the same amount of hash-power, and I think that’s amazing.
What do you think about mass DigiByte adoption and use cases? I know DigiID came out recently; could you talk a little bit about it? What does it do and how does it benefit users?
There was a guy named David Hay who was looking for the ways to use cryptocurrency in Venezuela to help out with the hyperinflation that is going on there. And he asked about the cryptocurrency you preferred the most, and I put forward DigiByte because of our incredibly low transaction fees, which is important if you only earn a couple of cents per day. We have our mobile wallets that are incredibly streamlined, and they support Android versions all the way back to 4.2, which is 99.5% Android phones. Other competing crypto wallets focus on the latest Android versions and prioritize iOS. We focused on language support — it’s not good enough just to have English. There’s a lot more people in the world that don’t speak English. Digi-ID is a pretty nice way to use private and public key cryptography. This is what I’m working on — the ability to open our house front door for using Digi-ID. You can scan your QR code or even use NFC. This works not only at your house, but it can be also be used in huge buildings such as dorm rooms and universities.
You allow for storage of an infinite amount of personal data encrypted in a DigiByte wallet, right? So, you have your DigiByte wallet on your cellphone and all the data is stored there, not on the blockchain?
I suppose, it doesn’t need to be stored on a blockchain. Let’s say, you’re going to enter a front door of your house — open the door and walk through. What happens is you generate a unique Digi-ID for each website, service, application that you need to use. It’s all done automatically, and it doesn’t keep any information stored on your phone, because we don’t want to be tracking people or seem to be doing that.
Essentially, I can take my phone, install the app and get a Digi-ID right away?
Yes, it is available on the DigiByte apps right now, and we also have a number of 3rd-party wallets that you’ve probably heard of, who are implementing Digi-ID in their wallet as well. One of advantages of using our apps is also a thing called DigiAssets. That’s going to be unique for us to begin with. You can create things like assets, tokens, tickets. You’ll be able to issue, send, receive, burn etc. just like you can when you’re creating them on Ethereum. It is going to be really easy to do and this is a step to mass adoption, and using these assets on a daily basis, maybe even without knowing that it is a blockchain powering it. This is kind of a big thing for 2019 for us.
Are there any big use cases you are planning to tell us about?
Yes. We have things like using the blockchain to sign secure documents — this is currently used by several companies. But I suppose the big thing about DigiByte in the future is going to be DigiAssets — the ability to issue these from a cellphone and then easily send and receive them back and forth on a scalable blockchain. We can also do things like issuing in-game currency, concert tickets. For example, tickets for Elton John’s last world, ticket scalpers artificially inflate their prices. With a blockchain we can do it faster and more secure, noting the difference between real and fake tickets by tracking them. Another example is overbooking on airplane flights, which can be avoided by issuing tickets with blockchain.
It may also speed up the process of checking in to some big shows, where a lot of people have to scan tickets, show their IDs etc.
Exactly. You just use your smartphone with NFC. There’s no need for your government issued ID, because the one who purchased the ticket with blockchain is exactly the one who is going to be allowed in to the stadium for the event, which will speed up entry times to events by an order of magnitude. This is mindblowing, and that’s why I’m so excited about DigiAssets coming out later this year.
This is amazing to know that crypto is not just super amazing virtual money, but also new user abilities.
Yes, it is! And what we’re working on now is streamlining all the processes of issuing etc. Now it is the matter of bringing it specifically to mobile phone. There are many crypto use-cases that are more than just me sending you money and me sending you money.
Let’s talk about the market for a bit. What do think is happening with this long – the longest in history – crypto winter and do you think it will clear up anytime soon? Maybe, projects you believe in, like DigiByte, will be market growing points anytime soon?
I’ve seen people talking about Bitcoin losing 30% of its value, but in terms of this being the longest crypto winter, Bitcoin must go under 3200 dollars – otherwise, we’ve previously had longer ones. For people being around, seeing price fluctuations – it comes and goes. When I started mining Bitcoin myself, it took me 3 days to mine 0.1 of a Bitcoin. And at that time Bitcoin was worth $20, and I was like “It took me 3 days to mine 20 bucks!”. That was terrible, that’s why I left Bitcoin mining behind. Then Bitcoin suddenly was worth $1200 each, and I thought “Wow, this is amazing!” — I still got the same mining pool, and I sold my BTC for 1200 bucks and thought it was amazing. But now I think “Man, I was such an idiot selling BTC for $1200!”. Who knows where it’s going to go? We’ve seen a lot of projects that are shaking out. Many projects have many reasons to exist over and above just using Bitcoin.
I’d like to ask you about DigiByte updates in foreseeable future. Will we see any great stuff by DigiByte in the first quarter of 2019?
One thing we will be focusing on aside from DigiAssets is improvements to our mining – we’d like to continue being the most decentralized UTX blockchain out there. We’ve got a statistic, we can look at it and say that we are the most distributed decentralized UTX blockchain, but we want to improve our mining – increase the security of blockchain and stuff like that, and we started working on the algorithm I mentioned above – the one that changes itself every 10 days.
Awesome! If you have any cool updates, keep us posted. We have a lot of faith in DigiByte.
We think it would be cool to have ChangeNow to support DigiAssets we are about to come out with!
Is there anything you would like to add?
You don’t always see things are happening, a lot often goes on behind the scenes. As a global cryptocurrency community, we want people to participate, e.g. by joining our Telegram channels. And anyone can come up with a great idea – for example, having NFC support that we are adding in our app now was someone’s suggestion. Come along and talk to us!
Thank you very much for your time!
Thank you so much for reading this episode! Stay tuned for more!