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Categories: General, Guest Blog

The Brokenness of MaidSafe

Published on April 27th, 2014 by Submissions

By “Bitcoin” Pete Dushenski

[Large portions of this article were originally published on April 20, 2014, two days prior to the launch of SafeCoin. The contents seen here have been updated to include additional information gleaned from the original article’s commenters, including Nick Lambert, COO of MaidSafe.]

Sometimes, you gotta feel for the idealists in this space. Their relentless optimism is matched only by their blind naivety. On one hand, you understand where they’re coming from (1), and on the other hand, you want to crack some eggs (2) and set them straight.

As is typical of logic derived from the “sharing economy,” (3) MaidSafe aims to monetize excess hard drive and CPU capacity and decentralize encrypted storage. To fund this, the MaidSafe Foundation has issued SafeCoin on the Mastercoin protocol, which is itself built on top of the Bitcoin protocol. While it’s understandable why someone would want to monetize some kinds of unused capacity, why this should be applied to your hard drive is beyond me. For one, if a person is looking for convenient and “trusted” cloud storage, they’re going to go with Google Drive and Dropbox every time. Maybe Mega. Maybe. Secondly, people who prioritize security over convenience aren’t going to trust a bunch of non-WoT coders to be even minimally competent with their data any more they’re going to trust the guy at the mall who claims to be a wallet inspector. As such, David Irvine and his MaidSafe team leave us with little more than a YouTube video, some “open-source” code no one’s implemented, and a funding drive. Basically, “ideas.” Because this is reverseland and ideas are worth something. As to the brokenness of the “ideas” MaidSafe proposes, there are several:

  1. Despite MaidSafe’s claims to the contrary, if it’s just “you, the machine, and the software,” there are most certainly third parties involved. See Nick Szabo for more on this point, whether he’s Satoshi or not.

  2. Saying that “self-authentication” puts users “100% in control of their own destiny” while subjecting user hardware to unknown data streams is akin to saying that bunker busters put jihadis “100% in control of their own destiny.” Kinda true but still undesirable.

  3. Trying to fix a problem that few people find broken and even fewer people care to fix, that is, the cost and efficiency of the modern internet, is probably not the best fight to fight. In the unlikely event that MaidSafe even develops anything substantial, 99.9% of internet users will find little incentive to switch.

  4. It’s clear that despite 7 years of talking, they haven’t found anyone meaningful to sponsor their efforts, not even the VC dorks in SV. Now, they’re preying upon bitcoin-owning idealists from whom they need never worry of recourse. This is easily the most shameful aspect of your efforts.

  5. Any “whitepaper” that uses the word “fresh,” includes references to Google Hangouts, and includes a “brief history” of the exact organization it’s ostensibly proposing isn’t a whitepaper at all and should promptly be binned.

Of course, no “investor” would bring this up because... they can’t. Mostly this is a functional problem, but it’s also social. Even moderately skeptical “investors” in the Bitcoin space, those who question the authority of scammers (4), are regularly down-voted into oblivion, leaving doe-eyed consumers who only think they can grok finance in the first place because they bought bitcoin for less than $500 and are now sitting on a paper profit. But lucking into Bitcoin 2 years ago means nothing if you don’t still have your coins 10 years from now. And if you haven’t invested in a high-entropy paper wallet yet, you haven’t even “invested” in Bitcoin.

Still, let’s have some fun by dropping in on a Google Groups conversation (5) between MaidSafe “developers” Nick Lambert, David Irvine, a few of their sockpuppets, and potential “investor” John Kypri:

John: I don’t see why your accepting them when you could just accept Bitcoin on it’s own with a much higher trading volume, It’s unfair on investors that our stakes will be diluted by stakes bought with mastercoin which has yet to come to market let alone find it’s true value.

DavidT: mastercoin is needed to conduct any business using the Mastercoin protocol, so you should feel lucky already that some “third party” (with big pocket of msc, and of course we all know who that is) is willing to make the process of converting btc –>msc —>maidsafecoin seemlessly.

Ya, don’t complain! Feel lucky! At least until we can find a way to extract a few more bucks from you…

John: Most people having hung on to mastercoins they can’t sell due to low volume/tanking the price will be pouring money into this opportunity. I just can’t see how its mutually beneficial or rational.

DavidT: because the protocol is going under heavy development, once people realise that they need msc to conduct business using the protocol, trading volume will go up, and the low volume can also be partly explained by the fact that “smart contract”, being the 2nd working feature of the protocol, is only officially live on  the 22nd of this month.

“Trading volume will go up.” Didn’t we talk about using the word “will” before? That’s right, we did. Oh, and of course smart contracts.

John: You are clearly giving them enough by pouring $10m usd into their early-days startup without buying up most of their pre-mined currency, alleviating any risk from them and taking it on board yourselves.

DavidT: we dont call it “pre-mined”, dont you realise that the cryptocurrency world is taking a transition into non-mining phase?, because mining is a waste of electricity. thats too much a price being paid for security.

God, “pre-mined?” Why you gotta be such a potty mouth? If I was your mother I’d wash your mouth out with soap!

John: Since the initial burn period Mastercoin has given a hefty and pretty consistent loss to “investors”, I’m concerned as a prospective investor of Safecoin we’ll be taking on this legacy.

DavidT: mastercoin “creation” didnt involve any burning, i think u mistake it for Counterparty (XCP).

Jeez, more of the dumb questions from Mr. Dummypants. Why do I even bother? Oh right, the money…

John: While Mastercoin has failed to produce a finished product in 8 months of development, it’s being overtaken by other bitcoin 2.0 start-ups in what’s becoming a very competitive space.

DavidT: a working decentralised exchange went live more than a month ago. it is more usable than counterparty i would concede, at least the order book didnt get stuffed up ..

Where does an investor/giver-of-free-monies get off thinking that a dilapidated decentralized exchange is insufficient proof? Looks like John is starting to notice a pattern with the 2.0 “start-ups.”

John: I don’t see what incentive is left for the Mastercoin Dev’s to keep working once they’ve “exchanged” with you especially given the issues with the lead bitcoin devs trying to block them off what they see as malicious use/spamming of the blockchain.

DavidT: mastercoin devs have back up plans. i believe it’s like a chasing game, bitcoin core devs and parasite protocols devs chase each other in circle.

We have plans! And a Foundation! (6)  Not to worry!

John: Perhaps I’m overreacting would be interest to hear other peoples views on how this makes business sense?

DavidT: i guess yes you are making a fuzz unnecessarily. and asking nicely and calmly or doing more research may get you more info i reckon.

Ya John, it’s all in your head! You just need a glass of wine and a comfy bed and you’ll be right as rain.

John: Especially from the Safe team and any of these large investors that might be reading.

DavidT: define “large” .

Ya, those “groups” and “individuals” would like to stay anonymous. So stop asking about them. Now.

Later, and rightly, John continued:

I’ve got a strong gut feeling like theirs some really seedy business going on here to cash out a serious volume of Mastercoin or your business has been manipulated/is naive about whats going on.

Then Irvine chimed in:

I figure MSC will increase in value as it finds a use, other will not and that is fine. We do need such a market to figure where value lies and none of us really know in advance. I hear you and your comments and that is fine. Others will think differently and that is also OK, I do appreciate you are trying to look out for the community here and thanks for that.

Of course we don’t need a market to determine where value lies, we can use our feelings! Oh, and the community. Always rely on and protect the community.

I should have added, we did this to ensure the foundation did not hold cash as that would create accounting issues. If it holds the tokens then it’s up to the recipients to do cash conversions and pay the relevant tax etc. That way the foundation can act as a separate entity with charitable models in place and not be subject to any accounting issues that would arise from fiat transfers and holdings (Scottish Charity law is extremely tough and rightly so). This would not have been fair on the trustees there and would mean an extra layer of bureaucracy for them.

Oooh “accounting issues.” Sounds complex. Scary even. Ok, that’s all I can take…

That MaidSafe is one of the very few ways for people to get their useless Mastercoins out of that pre-mined hell hole, it’s not surprising that it attracted so much investment, despite Safecoins being destined to be just as useless. That the MaidSafe idea itself is so horribly broken is almost, if not completely, besides the point compared to the breathtakingly malicious implementation. This Safe is badly broken.

Overall, the SAFEst thing for Bitcoiners to do is keep their coins, back-up their hard drives, and encrypt their important files using PGP/GPG. The SAFEst thing for MaidSafe to do is to find a VC or go back to the drawing board.

Lest we forget that there’s Bitcoin and there’s Bitcoin, so let’s take the time to understand it before we run on to the next thing.

Our future selves will thank us for it.

___ ___ ___

  1. That is, more money than time, leading to frivolous “investments” while foregoing due diligence. More time than money, on the other hand, lead to such culinary wonders as curries and perogies. [?]

  2. Charlie: Look, the girl, she wears a Lance Armstrong bracelet, OK? So I tell you I have cancer, right? Then you’re gonna tell her, she’s going to feel sorry for me, we’re going to start dating, and that’s the way the lie works! Dennis: That’s a horrible thing to do! Charlie: Well, I’m a bad guy then! Dennis: You are a bad guy! You lied to us! Charlie: All right look at this, sometimes you’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet. Dennis: You’ve got to crack a couple eggs to make an omelet? Charlie: Yeah, you gotta crack an egg. Dennis: So you’re throwing down life lessons now? Charlie: I’m throwing down eggs! Dennis: Class is in session, the teacher’s teaching class now! Charlie: I’m cracking eggs of wisdom! From It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 1, Episode 4: Charlie Has Cancer. [?]

  3. The “sharing economy”, as near as I can tell, appears to be a euphemism for 21st century feudal copyhold, wherein proles never own anything. This isn’t a bad thing at all and is in many ways superior to the consumerist socialism currently employed. More renting/sharing = less buying = less environmental degradation. The downside of the “sharing economy,” at least in the short term, is that it does nothing to address the sense of entitlement of material well-being and it reduces the sense of ownership and the skills needed to function in the world. Why fix your squeaky bicycle brakes when you’re only renting it? Why understand how anything works when you can make it someone else’s problem? Perhaps this will be remedied over time. [?]

  4. “Scammers” includes everyone trying to sell you anything online, especially for bitcoin, until proven otherwise. Particularly after Mt Gox, it should be clear to Bitcoiners that we have no recourse whatsoever, and must therefore stay skeptical. bitcoins are too precious to just toss around.

  5. GG is where exactly zero serious development talk happens. Devlopment is on IRC. Scamming, apparently, is on GG. [?]

  6. David Irvine: “The funds raised will go to the [MaidSafe] foundation. Some used to fund core dev for three years, some to seed the network some to create dev pods. BitAngels loan MSC to make this happen (great for them to do this)”…”The foundation et all is explained in the papers and the site and in hundreds of posts. Why do you think MaidSafe gets all the funds you have read the papers (btw if it did I imagine nearly nobody would have an issue with that, MaidSafe have went way past a respectable stance here)? MaidSafe gets none of the funding directly and there are no founders shares, core dev will get funded for three years (MaidSafe) though. I think this is explained and you seem to be saying you understand that part.” Irvine’s tone is classic scammer shit: making people feel stupid for not investing. Making people feel stupid for investing is quite a different story. That’s just education. [?]

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