Incognito 2021 - Transparency, decentralization, and infrastructure

In February and March, we collected a lot of constructive feedback from everyone here. Happily, it showed that the community and core team continue to agree about what really matters, but it also showed us that we need to focus, walk the talk, and actually make it happen.

  • Utility over hype
  • Long-term vision over short-term wins

Thank you as always for your support, and for keeping us on the right track.

Main takeaways from your feedback

Decentralization
It’s not clear which aspects of the network are decentralized and trustless, and which are centralized and trusted. There is no clear timeline for decentralization.

Transparency
We’re missing clarity and structure in our communication. Information is scattered, incomplete, and outdated. Important questions are lost in the shuffle.

What we’re doing about it

The way we work was originally designed around pragmatism: design many basic tools, validate demand, then iterate towards their final forms. Demand was validated. But this experimental approach has spread our attention and dev resources too broadly, and it’s time to refocus. Sustainable products can only be built on strong foundations.

At the end of the day, Incognito needs to be a resilient, unstoppable privacy network if it’s ever to achieve its ambitions.

What needs to get done

  1. Complete the core tech - Reprioritize what we’re building to finish the features necessary to release the network safely.

  2. Communicate clearly - Be precise and transparent about what’s been done and what we’re currently building.

Re-prioritize the tech roadmap

Privacy and decentralization first.

  1. Privacy v2 (ETA: May 2021)

    Privacy v1 offers basic privacy. With privacy v2, everything that happens in Incognito, from shielding to sending, receiving, trading, and unshielding will be private. This improvement is of the utmost importance.

    Additionally, as you may know, Incognito currently uses temporary addresses to preserve privacy. This intermediary step and other hindrances to decentralization will be removed with Privacy v.2.

@hieutran leads the development and implementation of Privacy v2. If you have any questions related to the privacy of Incognito, do not hesitate to ask and tag him.

  1. Dynamic committee size & Slashing (ETA: Jun 2021)

    Currently, for initial network stability, the dev team operates the majority of validators in shard committees (22/32 in each shard’s committee). When slashing and dynamic committee size are implemented, there will be no need for this temporarily centralized setup.

    With slashing, the network will be able to detect inoperative and misbehaving validators and replace them with better validators. After slashing has been active for some time, this will increase the stability of the network as the network will utilize “healthy” validators.

    Dynamic committee size will secure the network in the worst-case scenario where the network has many inoperative validators and does not have sufficient votes to create a new block. In this scenario, the network will be able to adjust its committee size, so the minimum required votes for creating a new block are lessened in order to get the network up and running as quickly as possible.

@hungngo leads the development of Dynamic committee size & Slashing. If you have any questions related to how slashing will work and how to be ready for it, do not hesitate to tag and ask him.

  1. Block time reduction & full beacon chain validation (ETA: TBD)

    The Incognito block time is currently about 40s. This is comparable to proof of work blockchains but incomparable to other proof of stake blockchains at this stage. To fix this, we’ve been running benchmarks to find out where we can optimize chain processes. By reducing block time, we can improve speed for users across Incognito features by cutting block time in half (to 20s).

    In a financial platform like Incognito, security is paramount. Security is not only about bugs in the code, but protocol design as a whole. Incognito needs to prevent malicious behavior from a shard committee, especially collusion. For example, if a shard’s validators collude to create a malicious block with double-spending transactions, the beacon chain should verify and reject the block. Then the shard committee will be replaced by another. So far, we’ve accomplished this by keeping control of fixed shards. Full validation in the beacon chain will give Incognito the ability to release fixed shards.

The development of this proposal will start in April. @0xkumi will lead the development, so feel free to tag him for any questions related to this development, as well as for consensus or scalability.

  1. Shielding/unshielding redesign (ETA: May-Jun 2021)

    Incognito is building bridges to bring privacy to other mainstream blockchains like Ethereum, Bitcoin, Monero, etc. Although each bridge usually requires a different mechanism to compliment the other blockchain’s protocol, we’re searching for ways to decentralize this building process as much as possible, in both the protocol and app layers.

    For the protocol layer, the dev team has been rebuilding the Bitcoin bridge in a more decentralized and secure way. For example, assets can only be unlocked if they have multiple signatures from the beacon committee. When that beacon is decentralized, so is the bridge. We’re doing the same for the Ethereum bridge as well, and eventually every bridge after that.

    For the app layer, we will be redesigning the UX to remove the need for a temporary Ethereum address during the shielding process. This way, you can interact directly with the Incognito smart contract and have full control of your assets without a need to trust any intermediary. Ultimately, it would be better to offer a similar experience for both the Ethereum and Bitcoin bridges, despite the different mechanisms that comprise them.

@hiennguyen is building Portal v4, and @binh is working on decentralizing shielding for Ethereum and Ethereum-based assets. Feel free to tag them if you have questions related to cross-chain transactions.

  1. Decentralize pDEX and liquidity (remove temporary addresses, migrate liquidity to a decentralized set up) (ETA: May-Jun 2021)

    The pDEX is the most popular feature in the Incognito ecosystem, but trading and liquidity rely on centralized setups at the moment.

    As mentioned earlier, the Privacy v.2 upgrades will remove intermediary steps and let you trade directly using the AMM, while still preserving privacy.

    As for liquidity provision, the most popular method is currently the Provide feature, which is centralized. We’re going to end Provide and replace it with a decentralized system that enables you to earn crypto in return for providing liquidity. This will make the pDEX more sustainable and organic in the long term, and remove concerns around trusting the core team with your funds in Provide.

I’ll lead this development. So feel free to tag me (@andrey) for any related questions.

  1. Complete the Privacy Quest (ETA: April 2021)

It was a unique growth initiative, but the timing was poor and we didn’t take enough time to flesh it out well. So, we’re putting it to bed. This month we’ll wrap up the event.

In the next week, @binh will share instructions on how and when the final part of the Quest will take place.

De-prioritize some aspects of layer-2 development

  1. pNode & Node Tree - production will be stopped.

Considerable resources are needed to maintain production, support, and logistics for both the pNode and the Node Tree, especially with the current supply shortages. These resources will now be rerouted towards core development. We hope to see many community-built Node devices in the near future.

  1. Web pDEX and Incognito wallet browser extension - paused until Privacy v.2 is released

Not only is it distracting to develop these tools when layer 1 is still in need of upgrades, but it also doesn’t make sense to release extensions that will need to be reworked when Privacy v.2 goes live. Additionally, there are security concerns about releasing the extensions without thorough audits. For these reasons, we’ve decided to delay these and will revisit them after the Privacy v2 upgrade.

  1. Incognito Pay - paused until the network is released

We were so excited for this tool that we couldn’t wait to start building it - and built it too early. Once the infrastructure is there and the Incognito network is self-sufficient, we’ll resume and release Incognito Pay.

  1. Builder rewards v.2 - paused until the network is released

Rather than keep changing the requirements for builders and requiring strict oversight, we’ve decided to delay the new program until the network is released and a proper community governance structure is in place.

Communication & transparency

During the next few months, all devs will be fully focused on releasing the network and decentralizing all aspects. Our communication strategy will be similarly focused on foundational aspects.

  1. Development progress will be published weekly under each proposal.
  2. Transparency reports will be published every week, addressing key issues and community concerns.
  3. Validators will be given useful tools and dedicated support before slashing is released.
  4. Application users will continue to have full support with any issues that may arise.

Please continue to share your feedback and ideas. Keep reporting bugs and suggesting improvements. Keep building Incognito with us. And once again, thank you for being part of this and keeping us focused on the end goal.

46 Likes

Finally, indirect communication ends :slight_smile: Thanks to the team for this thoughtful decision.

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Very Happy about it …community speaks incognito listen!

Let’s go guys!

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Transparency, Decentralization…
What is this Christmas?
-Can’t wait for the new sustainable liquidity providing mechanism

It’s unfortunate that the other projects like the Node Tree, web pDex, etc… have to get side lined, but it is understandable. Builder rewards getting delayed also is kind of annoying, but I guess as long as we are making progress on the decentralization front.

I’m sure everyone is happy that the Incognito Team listens to the community when they voice their concerns, but is there any progress in incorporating community members into the core decision making? In the current structure, even though the core team takes community recommendations into account, the final verdict is not really up to the community. It was my understanding that the DAO was supposed to be an organization run by both the core devs, and the community. At one point, one of the main priorities Incognito had was creating a voting system to do just that. We created an anonymous voting system to test its use case and viability by using it for Builder Rewards. Since Builder Rewards is currently sidelined, I feel like we are currently going backwards in this department and not really progressing with this goal.

Main priorities needed to keep Incognito afloat:
-Decentralization (so it can’t be shut down)
-Community Organized (so one entity doesn’t hold the burden)
-Transparent (so we know what we are doing)

Even though our main priority should be privacy, that can always be updated and expanded upon. Without Incognito being decentralized and fully community organized, we run the risk of being attacked which would cause us to lose our privacy. We need a solid sturdy foundation to make this project last indefinitely.

If it would be beneficial for me to start a discussion on the best ways to make Incognito more Community Organized, and Community Driven, I would be happy to do so. At the end of the day, Incognito is funded by the community, so I think it would be best it it were formally directed by the community. Currently the core Devs kind of have control over everything, and if we want to keep expanding, this will ultimately be our downfall.

All that being said, I’m super excited for the direction that we are currently going in.

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Very happy in general with this refocus overall.

I’m not seeing the export to .cvs tool listed anywhere. Is that also off the table?

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According to @Chucky post linked below, it appears to be still in the works.

Relevant section:
Q: How can I export my history? I have taxes to file!
A: Not to worry. As @tien tells us, the CSV export feature will be ready by 23/03.

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Thanks @Jared, a gentleman and scholar as always.

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Thank you for the clarity and this great post.

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Hey @revolve,
Governmental decentralization is the next big step towards full decentralization of Incognito.

While devs focus on the priorities highlighted above we have time to discuss how Incognito DAO should look like, and how it should be operated.

It would be awesome if you could kickstart a topic about it in the brainstorm section, share your thoughts on how the DAO should be operated, and collect ideas from other members.

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Could you disclose to the community the way you handle finances internally asap? There is very little trust and most users don’t even think there are structures, rules, and governance in place internally.

Giving up this type of info should be as easy as uploading a document which outlines the current way you manage funds between nodes, fixed ckmmittees, dao funds from block rewards (also can you cite this block reward percentage that goes towards a “dao” incognito address with a link in the github code and line numbers ?)

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So is this question never going to be answered because he quit?

@Revolve

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Long-time silent reader here, made an account today to post this.

The tech roadmap is very detailed and much appreciated. But is there a roadmap on how Incognito is also intending to bring privacy to more users?

One of the things that attracted me to this project is the team’s vision of bringing privacy to the world. You’ve constantly highlighted the large amounts of crypto you’ve shielded, but that hardly shows how much you’ve grown in realizing this vision.

I understand there are many who truly do care about these (I’m one of them), but the reality is there are a lot more who don’t.

I love how detailed the tech roadmaps are. It’s furthering a lot of goals set from the beginning, but then there are the others which haven’t received much love. I would like to see Incognito succeed, but the project still a long way to go. It’s disappointing that it hasn’t even been 10% in and the project lead is already leaving.

A response would be appreciated. @andrey @ning @Ducky @aaron

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Since this was posed about a month ago, a lot has changed.

I know updates have been posted on various points in various locations but this very recent progress post is no longer accurate.

Either a new post in this topic, or an update to correct this post, would be very helpful to outline how much of these goals and timelines survived the last few weeks. Thank you

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@duc @aaron Can you provide an update and further clarification please.

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@detved, the items stated in the post still aligns with our direction so far, we’ve been utilizing all resources we have on those. I’m updating the ETAs today in order to make this consistent with the timeline.

@dedsec, sorry for the late reply, you meant what will our plan be in terms of growth in order to bring privacy stuff we build to more users, correct?

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Good decision with the transparency. Tks guys.

Hi @duc, is this target " Dynamic committee size & Slashing** (ETA: Jun 2021)" still on time ?
Tks

Yes, from the implementation side, everything is ready, the code was deployed onto mainnet a couple of weeks ago and we will be enabling the staking flow v2 within this week.

For slashing, the tentative time for enabling it is in June, but it will depend on status of the node issues support, once node owners feel confident we will enable slashing then.

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I do not feel confident since my questions on other topics are still unanswered.

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Sorry, probably we missed your question, please give me the link, I’ll ask the team to support your case.

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