Introducing Monero’s Ethereum-Killer: Tari

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Riccardo “Fluffy Pony” Spagni and a team of industry experts have announced a brand new protocol built on top of the Monero network. Designed with never before seen features, Tari is positioned to become more than another “me-too” protocol that enables token creation.

Since I’ve gotten into bitcoin, the question in my mind has never been “will cryptocurrency revolutionize the financial world?” As I learned about Bitcoin, the question quickly became “Is Bitcoin the iteration of cryptocurrency that will revolutionize the financial world?” and so far, it has been. But other coins have carved our significant portions of the network. None of those are as big and influential as Ethereum.

In some ways, Ethereum is objectively superior to Bitcoin. It is more flexible and powerful than Bitcoin. But it hasn’t taken over bitcoin, because bitcoin has its own advantages. It is better at being a store and transfer of simple value. It is simple and secure. So they became different coins designed to be different things. And so the question changed again, into two questions.

“Will Bitcoin be the iteration of cryptocurrency that revolutionizes the financial world?”
and “Will Ethereum be the iteration of cryptocurrency that brings about the DApp revolution?”

The second is a bit simplistic. Ethereum can do other things and Bitcoin still has a role to play in DApps, and could even overtake Ethereum, but that is the basic idea.

Tari aims to be not just Ethereum’s first real competition in the space, but perhaps the next evolution of the token economy.

Tari Co-founder and lead developer Riccardo “Fluffy Pony” Spagni sat down with Oliver Carding and Cameron Carpenter from CoinJournal at Consensus to explain his vision for the coin announced today.

If that name sounds familiar to you, it is likely because you recognize Spagni as the lead developer of Monero, the leading privacy-focused coin. Tari is built on top of Monero, and like Monero, its most interesting feature, is its privacy tools.

That opinion might not be universal. Spagni talked a lot more about how important the user experience will be. But there was one particular part of the interview that made my ears perk up.

Tokens built on Tari will have privacy sliders.

“You’ve got more complex things like the level of privacy. Something that might happen is an in game token or an in-game asset. The issuer might not want the movement of that assets to be visible. They might not want the movement of that token to be visible. Because that’s private information. So they’ll go maximal privacy there. But then,  you got someone who might use the platform to issue a security token and the SEC might have a mandate that says, If you do that, it’s got to be traceable. And [with Tari], they can say, this asset has no privacy.

So the ability to set that privacy slider, dependent on what exactly you need for your own regular regulatory burden as an issue. I think it’s very important, there’s no one size fits all.

I think it’s, it’s critical to provide that level of functionality as extensively as possible so that the issue is never constrained. And the fact that we’re building this and building the proofcase at the same time and it’s the same team building both, is also very important. The proofcase draws heavily on the protocol and it sets the demands. If you say, as an issuer, I need to be able to do this and the protocol team can say ‘okay, cool. That is a piece of functionality we didn’t think about, now we’re adding that.’ By the time we launch we will have a protocol that is able to handle complex digital assets but it’s done so in practice because we built the platform and we built the protocol”

Let that sink in for a minute. Token creators could, in theory, forget having to build layers of either privacy enabling tools to keep their users safe or identifying tools to stay in compliance.

The two examples given by Spagni perfectly encapsulate the two different extremes of token issuance. Not everything in a game like CryptoKitties needs to be traceable. In fact, considering their growth in value, it might be best if some of that information were obscured, for the safety of its owners.

Any mention of privacy has to come with the mandatory explanation on why that privacy should be important to people not using it to buy drugs or fund terrorism.

If you buy a real-world collectible with cash, there isn’t a publicly available record of that transaction. Even if you buy with a credit card, there will be a record somewhere, but it won’t be publicly available. The same should be true with digital collectibles. What is important for everyone involved to know is “how many of X are out in the wild” not who owns each one. And letting the world know that you have a collection of extremely valuable CryptoKitties might not be good for your safety.

But moving past collectibles, there are reasons you’d want less privacy, even without the specter of the SEC floating over everything. In a publicly traded company, investors might find it useful to know how much stock (or in this case, how many tokens) the board of directors own.

Late last year, Intel revealed that its CPU had some major security flaws, what would eventually be called the Specter and Meltdown exploits. What is lesser known is that in the months before, Intel’s CEO sold a bunch of Intel stock. While that information did come out in the media thanks to disclosure laws on public companies. With a Tari token that had its privacy settings tuned a certain way, it could have come out earlier and in a verifiable way.

The privacy settings aren’t the only feature of Tari. With Spagni’s involvement, it isn’t a surprise that it would have the most robust privacy features of all the token protocols. That said, they also have brought together an impressive team. In addition to Fluffy Pony, Tari co-founders include Naveen Jain, who’s built multiple successful companies in the entertainment industry and was an early Monero miner, and Dan Teree the founder of Ticketfly, which was purchased by Pandora for $450 Million.

And their focus is really on the user experience. Spagni explained

“The unfortunate thing is that people with UX talent often are working on projects that are pretty soft where it’s easy to abstract things away. The hard stuff, the protocol level stuff like lightning, people with UX talents aren’t attracted to. They are amazing developers, and completely terrible at UX. So we’re trying to find a way to do both.”

The UX and UI of Tari will be crucial to its success. Ethereum took off when it became significantly easier to launch your own Tokens. Nothing else Tari does will matter unless the end user has an enjoyable experience. That goes for everything from buying, selling and browsing tokens to creating one from scratch. With Teree’s experience it is easy to imagine Tari being used to ticket sales or in the reselling market. But no one is going to use it to buy concert tickets if they have to open up command-line and input half a dozen commands to ensure their tickets are in the seats they want.

But with a serious commitment to the user experience, the built-in security of the Monero blockchain and innovative privacy settings that go beyond what we have seen in the crypto world, it stands a real chance at becoming the next big thing.

Unfortunately, it is a ways off. The estimated consumer release is still two years away. And the team has to deliver on its lofty promises. Spagni has the experience in the Crypto market to take him seriously. Monero has already taken the privacy crown from its pre-mined CryptoNote predecessor ByteCoin, and now it has turned its sights onto Ethereum with a potentially more feature robust protocol.

Will that be enough to overcome Ethereum’s network effect? Time will tell. Refreshingly, the Tari team isn’t raising public money. It isn’t launching an ICO with silly discounts and Ponzi-lite referral programs. They have raised some private money to jump-start development but the rest of us will just have to wait and see what they come out with.