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97. Chia (Published: 27th Mar, 2018)

Chia is a pre-launch digital currency and blockchain that relies upon proofs of space and proofs of time instead of traditional proofs of work. Chia “farms” via unused storage space that is allocated by “farmers” who will receive Chia coins for solving a block challenge as a consensus mechanism. Chia “farming” uses proof of space, coordinated with another consensus algorithm, proof of time, to mitigate known attacks on previous proof of space based blockchains. The goal is to prevent wasting massive amounts of electricity to secure a blockchain and lessen (e.g. ASIC-powered mining) centralization. A hard disk will have its empty space filled with randomly generated proofs when “seeding.”

Chia Network is a San Francisco-based company focused on improving crypto-currency infrastructure. The CEO, Bram Cohen, famously invented BitTorrent: the first modern decentralized network protocol and one of the inspirations for the Bitcoin protocol. The founding team has experience across the crypto-currency and finance sectors, coming from TradehillCryptoCorp and Lightning Labs. Ryan Singer, who is the COO of Tradehill, is involved as well.

Chia is farmed with storage space like hard drives instead of mining with processing power. This allows broader access to everyday users, and vastly reduces the cost/waste of securing the network in electricity burned or custom hardware consumed. Chia is resistant to farmer centralization. Chia also will include a bunch of basic improvements to the bitcoin protocol: Everything is BLS signatures for better smart transaction support, and it will include a bunch of bug fixes to things like time-warp while making those fixes available back to Bitcoin. The goal is to make hard forks effectively impossible, so governance will come from user choice and bitcoin-like decentralized incentives.

“Proof of space” is a mechanism that enables farmers show a legitimate interest in a service by allocating certain amount of hardware storage space. “Proof of space” should not be confused with storage. Storage via a blockchain protocol is storage of some data that is directly useful. Proofs of space are data which is useless for anything but generating proofs of space. Making a proof of space or providing a proof to the network requires essentially no bandwidth.

“Proof of time” is the second step of farming. Proofs of time depend on a function that takes a certain amount of wall clock time to generate a proof, but that proof is canonically correct for the current block and can be quickly verified as correct by anyone in the network. Only the farmer who had the best proof of space from his farm will be rewarded with Chia coin at each block. Adding the “proof of time” component could mitigate known attacks.

The official website asserts that no code has been written yet, and they have worked on few mathematical primitives and currently working on the making it ready for publishing. An existing and highly technical paper regarding proofs of space and avoiding Hellman’s time-memory trade-off is available.Chia plans a coin sale in Q2, 2018 and a network launch by the end of 2018, but this is not set in stone and is dependent on further development.

Chia is intended to be a better version of Bitcoin. It introduces a new algorithm — proof of space and time, which aims to be an eco-friendly alternative that saves electricity energy. The CEO is famous in the field of protocol and blockchain. However, neither the proof of space nor the proof of time is entirely new concept. BurstcoinSpaceMintBitcoin Ore all adopted the proof of space mechanism and Choronologic has launched “proof of time” token on Ethereum. Also, no code or whitepaper has been written yet, even though the company has set an ambitious goal of a public sale in Q2, 2018. Further, the farmer reward system does not seem well-defined at current stage. To conclude, the project is at a very early stage and mainly backed up by the reputation of its founder. Given the unclear roadmap, we suggest investors be cautious and watch out for more updates from the project, before making a decision.

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