TL;DR: Grin, an iteration of a mimblewimble blockchain, launched 15 January 2019. Mere weeks into its run, cracks among its once very enthusiastic proponents are starting to show. A lead developer voiced concerns publicly about the project, especially ones having to do with its funding model of not employing an initial coin offering (ICO). Something of an existential crises appears to be happening, as the community struggles to find its worth.
Grin Fair Launch Funding Has Shaky Start
Pseudonymous lead developer Igno Peverell of Grin took to its forum message boards recently to express admittedly “early disappointments.” Billed as a chance for lightning to strike yet again, rallying around Andrew Poelstra’s 2016 white paper, even BTC maxis (known for their visceral hatred of alternative crypto) unironically championed the project which attempts to recreate something like that of Bitcoin’s roll out funding model.
Enthusiasts boasted Grin “launched fairly — free of ICO, pre-mine or founder’s reward. We rely on donations to keep working on the project,” and supporters were encouraged to donate or purchase associated merchandise.
A variation on that idea is through developer Michael Cordner, known as “Yeastplume,” who set up his own funding page to raise €55,000 in order “to give full-time attention to Grin from March-Aug 2019).” Igno Peverell explained, “Grin was started with as fair of a launch as possible for what’s under our control. We did this for good reason: we believe in Grin’s mission. I think I made pretty clear that to continue forward, the project would still need help. And yet yeastplume’s campaign is still very far from being even 10% funded.”
Tragedy of the Commons
Igno Peverell openly lamented how, so far at least, two years into its evolution, the “lesson for every development or research team watching looks pretty clear: more scammy ICOs for more money and a lot less work. Perhaps forcefully taking 20% of all rewards is the only way to get any contribution out of the mining industry. Are those the conclusions you want to impress on everyone in this sector? Because if greed feeding on itself is the only lesson, then this space truly deserves a really long and hard winter. A lot more creation is needed to reach escape velocity, and that won’t happen if everyone’s goal is just feeding off it.”
The scenario above is akin to tragedy of the commons. Though often used as a caution about the nature of unregulated systems and self-interest, to modern freer market thinking it’s more about a lack of private property and problems associated with incentive structures. Purests in such a context appeal to a greater good, as whatever they imagine that phrase to mean, and then hope for others to sacrifice, you know, for the cause, man (“greed feeding on itself”). Oh, and there are usually cows involved.
Debate rages as to workarounds assuming ICOs are inherently bad for the space, and whether the donation idea is counterproductive and naive. Looming in the distance is that lightning in a jar of a decade ago where Bitcoin itself made its way without an ICO or venture capitalists in the beginning. That took a while, and foundations were started, along with overtly private companies coming along, exchange businesses, mining, and others who operated largely on “greed” which, it might be argued, pushed bitcoin to be the most successful cryptocurrency to date.
Developers were grateful to have employment they could rely upon as a result. It might further be argued a combination of ideology and rational self interest help a crypto project succeed. Donations have already increased as of this writing, but the question of sustaining that momentum remains. Time will tell.
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