Dare to be Different
On a daily basis hundreds if not thousands of YouTube videos are filled with price information and technical analysis on many tokens and bitcoin alternatives. However, it’s rarely about the technology and what it can do for its users. Gulden takes a different approach and dares to make choices that are not mainstream but are very much needed to create an easy to use, secure and independent blockchain based payment system.
The aim of Gulden – besides being a blockchain that can also be used for other applications – is to create a user-friendly payment solution that, despite being based on powerful technologies, works as easily as an ATM card, but without the card, intermediaries, restrictions and costs.
We live in a digital playground. The Internet connects everything. There are no boundaries. Why would your money?!
Gulden uses an innovative second generation blockchain for this purpose. In order to get a little insight into all the applied techniques, we have brought them together below with a short explanation of the ‘how and why’.
The Gulden Blockchain
Gulden started with the Litecoin code as a basis. At the time, Litecoin was chosen because this cryptocurrency was faster than Bitcoin in daily use. On April 4, 2014, Gulden was launched and the first blocks were mined. Shortly after, on April 8, 2014, the first Gulden was traded for 0.0003 eurocents. This value was created on an exchange by means of supply and demand.
A lot has changed in the following years. It became evident soon that the Litecoin blockchain did not suffice either. So Gulden switched entirely to its own blockchain design of which we will discuss the technical aspects step by step in this article. Meanwhile a whole community of developers, companies that accept Gulden, exchanges, traders, savers and miners has been created around Gulden. However, the price is still determined by free trade. These can be found on Nocks.com and Bittrex.com.
What makes the Gulden blockchain so unique is the clever use of a whole range of advanced and proprietary technologies. As a result, it sets new standards and is the benchmark for professional blockchains.
The blockchain not only relies on the miners model, also called PoW (proof of work), but also adds witness (a kind of PoS on steroids) and techniques like Sonic, Delta and SegSig.
This results in a blockchain that is robust, safe and fast. In addition, various companies have built wallets and services on top of the chain that are user-friendly and virtually free of charge.
On average once every 150 seconds a block is added to the blockchain. So 576 blocks come to market daily. These blocks are found by the miners and added to the network. The miners receive a fee for this. The miners are then checked by the witnessers. They also receive a fee. Finally, the GAB (Gulden Advisory Board) also receives a fee per block. This is spent on development costs and assistance to third parties who also want to develop applications for Gulden.
Let’s start with the miners:
Many blockchains use the Scrypt algorithm to mine. Gulden, on the other hand, uses the more modern SIGMA. This has a number of advantages: On the one hand, this algorithm makes it possible for many people to mine on a desktop computer at home. This reinforces the decentralized character of Gulden, because everyone can participate since SIGMA does not require specialist heavy mining equipment.
SIGMA stands for Semi Iterated Global Memory Argon. Where Argon is an algorithm that won the first prize at the Luxembourg organized Password Hashing competition. The principle of Argon2 has been further developed by Malcolm – Gulden’s Lead Developer – and has become an algorithm of its own in the field of design and implementation.
At the time of writing (Oct 2019) there are about 300-400 miners active, of which the largest miner has a market share of about 4% compared to the total hashrate on the Gulden network.
The large number of “small” miners ensures a stable operating network.
Inherent to mining is that obtaining a block is a combination of the speed of the miner, the difficulty of the sum, the amount of miners and a portion of good old luck. As a result, the time needed to dissolve the sum varies. Sometimes it is solved within 20 seconds and sometimes it takes 10 minutes. On average, however, Gulden wants to reach 150 seconds per block found. To achieve this, the Gulden network can decide autonomously to make the sum more difficult or easier. If there are many miners with fast equipment and the sum is solved quickly, the network decides that the sum will be made more difficult at the next block and the other way around if many miners drop the sum, it will take too long on average before the sum is solved and the network decides that the sums can be made easier. In the formula to generate the sum there is a parameter called “difficulty” and that parameter can be set higher or lower. This autonomous process is controlled by the DELTA protocol. This is a continuous process. Dactual.com shows a nice live graph of this:
The speed of a miner is expressed in Hashes per second. When we talk about a miner with a speed of 1 Megahash per second (1Mh/s), it means that the miner takes 1 million guesses per second to find the right solution to a sum.
The total computing power off all miners add up to the total hashrate that is released on the Gulden Network. At the moment of writing (April 2020) the Gulden hashrate is about 2500MH/s, in short 2.500.000.000 hashes per second.
SIGMA has one more trick up its sleeve: In cryptography, a nonce is a random number that can only be used once in a cryptographic communication.
So when you try to exploit a block you create it only once, initially with a nonce of 0. Then you ‘hash’ it to see if it is valid, if it is not, move the nonce to 1 and try again, and so on.
In the case of most blockchains, the nonce is increased in this way between “0 and 4294967296”. In the case of SIGMA we have instead a pre-nonce and a post-nonce that range between 0-65536. This is to prevent cheating and make mining ASIC/GPU resistant, so that mining is only really profitable on a desktop computer. A deeper explanation of how this works can be found in the SIGMA release notes.
Mining can be turned on with a few simple steps in the desktop wallet and offers everyone the opportunity to get in touch with crypto mining in an easily accessible way. Read more about SIGMA here.
With the SIGMA update, the Unity project was also fully implemented and completed at the same time. More than 50 percent of the Gulden community chose to embrace Unity as the next project during a voting round in March 2018.
Unity migrates all wallets (mobile and desktop) to a single unified back-end, rather than separate code for each. Benefits include: faster deployment of new features, changes and bug fixes made at once instead of multiple times; performance enhancements and lower battery consumption (mobile); easier deployment of dedicated Gulden builds for new platforms.
In addition to SIGMA, Gulden has a technology that adds a controlling extra step to the mining process: Witness. This gives Gulden its unprecedented high level of security.
Normally, a blockchain trusts that miners will agree whether a block can be considered valid and can then be added to the blockchain. The problem is that this can be manipulated. Also known as the 51% problem. Gulden has implemented a solution called PoW² that adds an extra layer. Blocks offered by a miner are first checked by a witness before it is added to the blockchain. This has a whole range of advantages.
One of these is that at least 71% of the mining power is needed, with on top of that 71% of the witness accounts, to have a chance to manipulate the blockchain.
In practice, this means that an attacker has to put so much money into the attack that he robs his ‘own’ bank.
Read more about the security of the network here.
Because the security is at such a high level, Gulden can work with confirmation times of only 1 block, where almost all other crypto coins need to work with 6 blocks. This results in huge speed gains. However, there are already plans on the table to speed up things even further.
Another advantage of the combination miner/witness is that no so-called ‘selfish’ mining advantage can be achieved. This effect occurs when a miner mines a block, and in the time it is dispersed over the network can gain an advantage by already mining the next block. Witness counteracts this, because the miner has to wait for the approval of the witness before he can continue.
Because Witness is essentially different from PoS (Proof of Stake), typical PoS imperfections are also combated:
– PoS unsecured private keys: Private keys in Gulden are always secured in witness.
– “Nothing at stake issue”: Because there is always enough PoW hash power present on the Gulden blockchain, this “Nothing at stake issue” cannot arise.
– PoS “Stake buildup”: The age of the coin is not used in Witness. Therefore, the Witness system is immune to this error.
– PoS “Stake grinding”: This effect can only occur if there is no PoW activity on the Gulden blockchain. Witness and PoW are inextricably linked. etc..
Since everyone can open a witness account in the desktop wallet, this system contributes to a further decentralization of the network.
The Witnesses are rewarded for their work. At the moment this can rise to interest rates above 10% and is therefore an excellent alternative to an old school savings account.
Disclaimer: Rewards and annual revenues may vary and depend on the number of participants, as there are only a limited number of blocks available per day.
We had already mentioned that Gulden is built on incredibly powerful and well thought-out technology. The witnesskey is part of that. Most cryptocurrencies have two keys. The private key and the public key. For ease of use you won’t see these two terms often in Gulden, but for the tech nerds it might be nice to know: Gulden uses a third key, the witnesskey. You can export this key, so that you can also work with cloud services or on a Raspberry Pi mini computer without anyone being able to access your deposit. The only thing the key gives access to is the rewards. Read more about Witnesses here.
On April 4, 2020, the long-awaited Phase 4 of Gulden’s PoW² roll-out was activated. Together with greatly improved efficiency and new functions, the update also increased the rewards for ongoing witness deposits. With Phase 4, a completely new blockchain was implemented which was no longer compatible with the old chain. This is why all wallets and apps needed an update. Of course the complete payment history has been taken over.
In addition to all the above technologies, this new chain now also has a full SegSig integration. This is a further developed version of the SegWit idea.
Advantages of SegSig – The 58% factor:
- 58% space saving on all transactions.
- The throughput of transactions increased by 58%.
- No block size or frequency changes required.
- In combination with the planned Epoch project, users will be able to run Gulden nodes on the most modest hardware until far into the future.
- Improved transaction scripting system, see below, with which PoW² and SegSig code could be implemented as cleanly as possible.
In addition to the above-mentioned chain optimization using SegSig, the transaction format has also been overhauled and is expandable now. This is extremely important in order to be able to use the chain for other applications in addition to Gulden. Literally fantasy is the only limitation! Let’s dig through that:
The new chain currently has 3 transactiontypes in use:
1. Scripting transactions (which one has always used and what Bitcoin uses).
2. Simple ‘Keyhash’ – this allows the most efficient way to send to an address without all the unnecessary script overhead that Bitcoin and the like usually have.
3. Whitnes transaction – this contains everything a whitness-address should contain. In the past (in phase3/old chain), all the information from a whitness-address was put into a ‘script’, which was inefficient. Now it is supported as a proprietary transaction type.
There is room for future transaction types, 29 more in total. Although each type on top of that could have subtypes, so even more in theory…
These future types could be anything:
- If it makes sense, or is necessary for an application that someone comes up with, one could create a transaction type that supports a more “fancy” scripting language than the currently supported Bitcoin language (such as Ethereum).
- A transaction type could be developed that is similar to a standard transaction, but allows special restrictions (such as paying only to a list of pre-approved addresses).
- A transaction could be created that, if not executed for a certain period of time, returns its value to the sender (can be useful for different types of promotions, or car rentals).
- Transactions could be built that make it possible to represent something other than Gulden (such as raw materials or the like) on the chain or who can or cannot work safely because of Corona. Though that has privacy implications (allthough you could solve that again with a hash/encryption).
Sonic is a technology introduced in 2018 that reduces the initial synchronization time when installing the desktop wallet. Previously it took up to four hours to fetch the entire blockchain. With Sonic, this has been brought under the hour. An enormous improvement, which makes the user-friendliness a lot better. In addition, the mobile wallets have also had a speed upgrade. When you open the app, it will be up to date in a few seconds.
Crypto, and Bitcoin in particular, is often accused of consuming large amounts of energy. This is not the case with Gulden. We can simply calculate how much energy the Gulden network is currently consuming. On average, it achieves an efficiency of 42 Watt/Mh/s (see table above).
With a total hashrate of 2500Mh/s (as of April 2020) this means that the electrical power of all mining hardware together is 105kW. On an annual basis, Gulden therefore consumes 105kW * 8760 hours = 920MWh. This contrasts sharply with Bitcoin’s 73.12 TWh, which is a factor of more than 79000 times higher.
It is clear that the above calculation is not static. Miners are added continuously – the network is growing – and so is the energy consumption. However, Gulden remains by far the most ecologically responsible solution. In addition, the difference in efficiency is many times greater if you include the number of transactions that can be processed per block on the chain.
As can be derived from the above, a lot of hard work has been done in recent years and a lot of beautiful things have been developed. Doesn’t that leave anything to be desired? Of course not! There is still enough on the list of both community and developers.
Project Nomad for example. This is a project to enable Gulden to be used on a heavily firewalled corporate Wi-Fi network. But Alias is also another idea. That is the possibility to use easy to remember payment addresses instead of the now long character strings. However, the most extensive is the so-called zero confirmation transaction. After all, at least one or two confirmations are still needed to consider a payment safe. If that is possible at zero confirmation it would of course be unprecedented.
In order to avoid making this explanation too long, we didn’t discuss a number of things, such as how to link the wallets between desktop and mobile, how to pay with the wallets, what advantages an account at Nocks.com has, also for companies -after all, accepting Gulden payments is many times cheaper than debit cards or iDeal payments are-!
If there are any questions and / or you want to get more in-depth information or help then the Gulden Community on Slack is a good start. You can also follow the project at Github.
New applications and improvements are constantly being implemented. The community decides in consultation with the GAB which ones will be built first. As a result, Gulden is rightly a payment system for and by people.
We have separated church and state. We finally have the tools to separate state and money as well.
This is especially important in the current monetary crisis where thousands of billions of dollars and euros are being printed and our prosperity and purchasing power are under pressure.
Gulden: Blockchain has never been that serious!