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Hyperspace Emerging In The Decentralized Storage Marketplace

Hyperspace is a relatively new project which emerged as a fork off the Sia network – a decentralized cloud storage platform – earlier this year.  The Bitcoin Mag spoke to founder, Mark Huetsch to learn more about the project and gain an insight into the process involved in developing a platform which has forked away from a more established network.

 The Origins Of The Project
Mark developed an interest in Sia in 2017 and made a number of code contributions to the project during that year.  He had some interest in contributing to further potential changes and with that, some ideas related to it which could potentially enable a business.

He had a couple of concerns with regard to contributing code.  Firstly, he felt that some of his ideas may not be interpreted by the Sia team as compatible.  Secondly, even in the event that they were deemed to be compatible, merging any contributed code may take an inordinately long time.

Mark explained that Nebulous – the Sia development team – has a very high standard of code and rightly so.  However, it means sometimes that merges from external contributors into their codebase are very slow.  That led to his initial thoughts about forking away from the network.

January rolled around and with that, the controversy emerged surrounding Bitmain – who launched a miner compatible with Sia with very little in the way of notice.  Nebulous had involved themselves in mining through a wholly owned subsidiary company – Obelisk.  With the launch of Bitmain’s Antminer, Obelisk machines became obsolete.  With that, the investment that had been made in developing the Obelisk miner and the revenue stream from sales and use of those machines for mining disappeared.

A debate emerged within the Sia community about whether it was necessary to fork the network to exclude Bitmain’s Antminer.  Mark felt that it seemed inevitable that Nebulous would decide to fork the network and exclude that specific ASIC miner.  Similarly, he felt that this would lead to disagreement within the Sia community – resulting in a fork away from the main project.

Given that he already had an interest in implementing changes via code contributions, it seemed logical to him that this would be the ideal opportunity to implement those changes.  If there was going to be a fork, he felt he may as well be the one to be involved in it.

As he explains:

“I kind of relished this idea where we can be the Litecoin to their Bitcoin and we can do more experimental stuff as a new chain and not go as slowly perhaps.”

The Hyperspace Team
As is the nature with the vast majority of blockchain projects, Hyperspace is starting out from humble beginnings.  The team consists of Mark, a former Stanford computer science graduate and former Xaomi software engineer Wang Chao whom he knew from involvement within the Sia community.  Other than the two core developers, another person helps them out with design as needed.  Furthermore, a community is starting to develop around the project – resulting in code contributions from HyperStats and others.  The project is based out of Shanghai, China.

Differentiation From Sia
As per the nature of a fork, the project has benefited from the bulk of the source-code that it inherited from the Sia network.  Whilst only a short time has passed since that fork, the project has already differentiated itself from Sia.

Mark points out that between January and July of this year, one contribution has been developed which he believes will benefit both Sia and Hyperspace.  He explains that one major reason why nobody had previously forked away from the Sia project was due to the fact that there was little in the way of open source mining pools.  Previous contributors had coded the stratum part of the open source mining pool but not the front end, not the payout code.

“Between January and July, a lot of our work was done on open-sourcing, developing relatively easy to use open-source mining pools.”

In terms of differences between the two projects, Hyperspace have implemented a new type of atomic swap between it and Sia.  The mechanism that facilitates this incorporates schnorr signature aggregation resulting in scriptless atomic swaps.  With an atomic swap between Bitcoin and Litecoin, It’s easy to tell that there’s an atomic swap going on.  With the atomic swap implemented by Hyperspace, it just looks like any other transaction giving it a distinct advantage in terms of privacy.

Mark explains that it brings additional advantages:

“What’s neat about that is that it’s actually a very similar technique to something that Blockstream has developed called MuSig.  This concerns schnorr signature aggregation for transactions, it’s about shrinking transaction size on the blockchain.  That is a technology that we will be forking to implement over the next couple of months”.

Hyperspace are primarily interested in implementing MuSig as it will lead to a reduction in the size of the blockchain as it grows.  Syncing a full node takes a long time and eats into disk space.  Any means that can reduce the overall size of the blockchain lessens this burden.

Another point of differentiation between Hyperspace and Sia is light node support.  Hyperspace have just finished this upgrade and it means that their lightweight spv nodes will be able to run easily on mobile.  From it’s perspective, Hyperspace feels that people want light wallets due to usability.

We moved on to what has been the most contentious topic in the over-arching Sia community and it’s offshoots including Hyperspace.  Mark concedes that Nebulous had a really tough decision to make in forking Bitmain and Innosilicon ASIC miners off the network.

From Hyperspaces perspective, the more distributed the mining, the better.  A large percentage of hashrate coming from some of those companies is less than optimal.  Ideally there’s an ASIC in everybody’s home but we have to live in the real world – according to Mark, that’s not possible just yet.

Mark believes that neither Innsilicon or Bitmain were mining greater than 50% and they were not attacking the network.  Therefore, he doesn’t have an issue with them.  In the same way, he doesn’t like to see the mining pools as concentrated as they are but feels that he knows them and they’re not a threat to the network.

Filecoin, Storj, Sia & Hyperspace
I put it to him that there are established projects in the decentralized storage space via Filecoin, Storj and Sia and that Hyperspace would have a lot of work to do to try and catch up with them.  Mark’s view is that he doesn’t perceive them as competing amongst each other.  His view is that the distributed storage market is tiny right now.  More-so than competing amongst themselves, he believes that the role of each project is to make inroads into the market held by conventional storage providers:

“I have lots of respect for Filecoin, Storj and Sia.  Sia has amazing technology.  Their code is excellent.  Some might call them our competitors.  Its not necessarily how I view it.  There’s room enough for all of us”.

Funding Model
Storj, Filecoin and Hyperspace have a pre-mine of 15%, 20% and 21% respectively.  In the case of Hyperspace, these tokens are locked in for 3 years and thereafter, the developers are free to spend them if they wish.  Hyperspace also has a development fund built in to their network to help with the progression of the project.  By contrast, Sia doesn’t have either element.  Mark believes that funding was an issue for Sia.  Their Obelisk mining operation provided a solution to that up until Bitmain came along and made Obelisk redundant. He maintains that Hyperspace’s funding model was definitely based upon the experience of what happened with Sia.

The Roadmap Ahead
Hyperspace is currently listed on the Patagonia exchange.  Mark confirms that a second exchange will follow shortly and that there are a few more in the pipeline.  He confirmed that the publishing of the Hyperspace whitepaper is imminent.  Otherwise, he expects that a hard fork will be scheduled over the next month or two in order to implement MuSig.

Newly forked projects are often more prone to security issues due to the initial size of the network.  Mark is mindful of a 51% attack.  He hopes that with the Sia fork, many ASIC miners will start to mine Hyperspace instead – thus increasing the hash rate.

He also has an interest in implementing a feature which appears on the Hyperspace roadmap (and will feature in the whitepaper) as hypernodes.  This, he explains, is inspired to some degree by the Decred project.  It implicates a hybrid model where proof of work (PoW) provides for a certain degree of security whilst proof of stake (PoS) adds an additional layer.

Other than that, he’d like to see greater distribution of miners and hash-rate over the longer term.

Within the cryptocurrency and blockchain community, there can be a lot of ill will between rival projects but particularly so where a project has forked away from another.  Following Sia’s hard fork on Thursday which rendered certain ASIC miners redundant, David Vorick, co-founder and CEO of Nebulous – the development team behind Sia, stated that Hyperspace is “an adversarial fork that wishes to replace Nebulous [although they] have not written any storage platform code themselves.”

It’s worth remembering that forked projects build upon what was initially developed with the potential to advance technology further. It’s early days for Mark Huetsch and Hyperspace but perhaps this is the beginning of an alternative Sia community.