Decred Digital Asset Report: Introduction
Decred is a payment coin that was developed as an alternative to Bitcoin. It developed several essential features such as governance, high security, adaptability, and a well-established self-funding system, which increases its longevity.
However, it also has a few shortcomings: a high annual inflation rate, scalability issues, and low adoption levels. These problems reduce the competitiveness of Decred as a payment coin. In addition, fierce competition worsens the current state of Decred in the payment market.
Overall, it will be difficult for Decred to compete with more established cryptocurrencies, but its decentralized organizational structure may help it to survive in the long-term.
Decred Market Opportunities
Decred was created to be the Bitcoin 2.0. Decred’s team has successfully solved Bitcoin’s biggest problems: project governance, funding development, and the centralization of computing power. One of the main features of Decred is its decentralized governance. It allows stakeholders to transparently vote on community proposals, which range from changes to the protocol to marketing activities.
As a payment cryptocurrency, Decred offers payment solutions for a wide range of customers. It can make its contribution to the global remittance market which is expected to reach $8.59 billion by 2025. It is also used as a contactless payment method, a market expected to reach $801.4 billion by 2025.
Competition in the Blockchain Space
There are many payment coins in the blockchain industry that target the same market as Decred. Its competitors have strong infrastructure, large merchant networks and a high level of global recognition which creates tough competition. It is unlikely that Decred will become the market leader in the short-term, but its technology and decentralized governance could help it survive in the long-term.
For Bitcoin, as well as for many other cryptocurrencies, governance and updates remain an important issue that sometimes can create conflicts within the community, and in the worst case scenario split the community and the coin apart. So far, Decred’s decentralized governance structure did not help the project to even get close to what Bitcoin has in terms of recognition, but its adaptability can be a game changer for the project in the long run.
Since Decred uses a hybrid consensus algorithm and its organizational structure functions like a DAO, it is also appropriate to draw a parallel between Decred and Dash. Dash marketing and business development efforts helped it to gain a wide merchant network with an active ecosystem, and become a more widely used payment coin. The marketing efforts of the Decred team, on the other hand, have always been a concern for the community. Only in Q4 2018 with the launch of Politeia, a platform that supports Decred’s governance, the community was able to vote for the proposal to hire Ditto PR. This should increase awareness of Decred and generate more interest in the cryptocurrency.
DCR can also be compared to ADA, another autonomous digital currency. While Cardano has more advanced technology, Decred has a higher number of active addresses and transactions per day. Although both projects need to work on adoption, Decred as a payment coin has been used by a wider community, with a better look from this perspective.
In general, Decred’s team did not intend to take a leading position in the market of payment coins, but they believe that their position will strengthen over time. In the future, with wider use of Atomic Swaps and Lightning Network, the crypto community will most likely become agnostic regarding which coins to use for payments. In this case, the team believes that having a decentralized governance structure will help the project to survive until that future comes.
Although the Decred’s team believes in the bright future of their project, current results show that the project is losing the competition to many of its blockchain rivals.
However, NVT analysis reveals no significant warning signs, as the project is neither overhyped nor under-appreciated relative to its competitors.
Traditional market players, such as Visa, PayPal, and Western Union are also actively interested in blockchain and are directly competing with Decred.
Visa is developing “Visa B2B Connect” to allow clients and vendors to perform international transactions on blockchain without the involvement of third-party companies. This is a more secure way to process B2B payments on a global scale.
PayPal has filed a patent to speed up cryptocurrency transaction times to optimize the process of settling cryptocurrency payments between merchants and buyers. Since PayPal has low fees and an instant payment processing system, it can allow retailers to process payments for users fast.
Western Union announced that they were partnering with Stellar collaborator Thunes, a money transfer and remittance service that is focusing on developing markets. This collaboration will enable WU clients to transfer funds directly to mobile wallets using blockchain technology. Thus, Western Union intends to enter the competition with payment coins in emerging economies.
Financial and human resources as well as developed infrastructure may enable large companies to become strong players in the cryptocurrency market in the future.
Nevertheless, Decred’s team is convinced that it will be difficult for such companies to change their business models and build a decentralized company. Most likely such companies will be able to implement blockchain only in certain narrow business directions. Therefore, Decred does not see them as strong competitors that can seriously compete in the blockchain industry.
However, if the crypto market will get big enough, global players will start entering it in one way or the other, which will increase the competition for the native cryptocurrency startups.
Competition in the Traditional Space
From the market opportunity perspective, Decred needs to increase its adoption in the payment sector. The small merchant network and low adoption levels cast doubts on its competitiveness. Although the team believes that its decentralized governance structure will help the coin to evolve in the future, this is still something that needs to be proven.
Part One: Technology Case
Decred is a single-layer network that uses a hybrid PoW/PoS consensus algorithm (Proof-of-Activity) and the BLAKE-256 hash function to solve double-spending and a 51% attack problems. Similar to Bitcoin, Decred’s PoW miners use their computer’s hardware to process transactions and build new blocks every 5 minutes, and receive 60% of the block reward.
Also, Decred holders can lock-time DCR to obtain voting tickets and then participate in Proof-of-Stake. Those users who have voting tickets can use them for several purposes: to approve the work of PoW miners (to vote for or against the block generation), and vote on any open rule change proposals. However, to use the tickets for their intended purpose, it is necessary to go through a specific procedure:
- “You buy a ticket using a Decrediton or dcrwallet wallet. The total cost of each single ticket transaction should be Ticket Price + Ticket Fee (ticketfee)”.
- “Your ticket enters the mempool. This is where your ticket waits to be mined by PoW miners. Only 20 fresh tickets are mined into each block”.
- “Tickets are mined into a block, with higher Ticket Fee transactions having a higher priority. Note that the Ticket Fee is DCR per KB of the transaction. A few common transaction sizes are 298 Bytes (a solo ticket purchase) and 539 Bytes (a pool ticket purchase)”.
- “A – If your ticket is mined into a block, it becomes an immature ticket. This state lasts for 256 blocks (about 20 hours). During this time the ticket cannot vote. At this point, the ticket fee is non-refundable”.
“B – If your ticket is not mined, both the Ticket Price and Ticket Fee are returned to the purchasing account”.
- “After your ticket matures (256 blocks), it enters the Ticket Pool and is eligible for voting”.
- “The chance of a ticket voting is based on a Poisson distribution with a mean of 28 days”.
- “Given a target pool size of 40,960 tickets, any given ticket has a 99.5% chance of voting within ~142 days (about 4.7 months). If, after this time, a ticket has not voted, it expires. You receive a refund on the original Ticket Price”.
- “A ticket may miss its call to vote if the voting wallet does not respond or two valid blocks are found within close proximity to each other. If this happens, you receive a refund on the original Ticket Price”.
- “After a ticket has voted, missed, or expired, the funds (ticket price and reward if applicable, minus the fee) will enter immature status for another 256 blocks, after which they are released. If a ticket is missed or expired, a ticket revocation transaction is submitted by the wallet which then frees up the locked ticket outputs. NOTE: Revocations can only be submitted for a corresponding missed ticket. You cannot revoke a ticket until it is missed”.
If the ticket passes the ticket lifecycle, then the ticket holder has the opportunity to approve the work of PoW miners and receive a reward (30% per 5 voters, 6% per 1 voter). Each block is confirmed by at least 3 out of 5 ticket holders. If ticket holders reject a block, the miner does not receive a reward. Also, the remaining 10% goes to the Decred Treasury.
To participate in the Proof-of-Stake voting and maintain the functionality of the Decred network, the ticket holder (voter) must be online. There are two types of voters: Solo Voters and Voting Service Providers (VSP). The former work independently and risk missing the opportunity to use their voting rights when disconnecting their wallets from the network. The latter offer services to ticket buyers and can delegate the voting to the VSP. Voting Service Providers cannot access users’ funds, and the number of tickets they possess does not affect the likelihood of a ticket being selected.
This hybrid system also improves the security of the Decred network. Since PoS voters must validate the block as well, the PoW miners cannot affect the network negatively (a 51% attack). Also, Decred’s team has created a system that protects the network from unauthorized hard forks. The hard fork will not be activated until the PoS system has voted to approve it and a set interval has passed. In order for the voting process to start it is necessary to fulfill two conditions:
- 95% of the PoW miners must upgrade to the latest version (past 1000 blocks).
- 75% of the PoS voters must upgrade to the latest version (past 2016 blocks).
Ticket holders can vote for the hard fork in the following ways: Yes/No/Abstain. If there are over 75% of Yes votes, then the hard fork goes live. Also, when the Decred chain hardforks, the minority chain will die off quickly due to not being validated by PoS voters. This principle makes the Decred blockchain resistant to contentious hard forks.
PoS voting is also used to make decisions about the treasury and project development through Politeia. This allowed Decred to build a DAO and improve blockchain governance. For example, the Decred community used the Politeia system when deciding to launch the Lightning Network.
Lightning Network – is a technology that allows almost instant and low-cost payments. Users only have to pay fees to open and close a channel. The majority of the development of this solution has already been completed, and it will be released soon (possibly in Q2 2019).
It is necessary to note that the Decred blockchain also supports atomic swaps. The team believes that Atomic Swaps (AS) and the Lightning Network (LN) are key technologies of the future, because these technical features will allow to pay for goods and services without considering which coins are in the user’s wallet. Ideally, the spot cross conversion will make users coin-agnostic and it will help DCR become more competitive in the market.
However, LN and AS do not make Decred a more unique blockchain among competitors because Bitcoin has already launched LN, Dash has developed InstantSend and PrivateSend technologies, and Cardano has better scalability.
The team also intends to add a privacy feature to the Decred blockchain. They have not disclosed specific information about their technology, but the team claims that their approach is different from those of the current privacy space leaders. Overall, it is difficult to talk about their competitiveness as a privacy coin until the feature is implemented.
Interestingly, although the team has many plans for future upgrades of the protocol, currently Decred’s GitHub activity is rather average compared to some other projects.
Decred remains a strong project from the technology perspective. Its hybrid consensus algorithm provides high network security. In addition, the Politeia platform allows the team to quickly make any decision about the project involving its community. Decred’s technical features like LN and AS allow maintaining its competitiveness in the future. However, the team needs to work on the scalability of Decred to be able to handle a higher number of transactions, if the coin becomes more commonly used.
Part Two: The Business Case
Decred utilizes a PoW/PoS consensus algorithm, so not only PoW miners maintain its network, but ticket holders affect its operation as well. There are 224 active nodes in the Decred network, the geographical distribution of which is decentralized. Since Decred uses the BLAKE-256 hashing function, PoW mining can be done using GPUs. However, mining difficulty is high in the Decred network, so using ASICs is more profitable.
The distribution of computing power looks very centralized: four pools control about 93% of all capacity. However, such strong centralization does not pose any threat to the Decred network, because ticket holders control the work of PoW miners. In order to carry out a 51% attack on the Decred network, a malicious actor must also control more than 50% of the tickets. Therefore, Decred is ~20 times more expensive to attack than Bitcoin.
Top Decred PoW Miners
Moreover, the distribution of tickets among PoS pools looks quite decentralized. This confirms that Decred is currently very resistant to a 51% attack.
Top Decred PoS Pools
TOP-10 Wallet Distribution
The ecosystem development of Decred depends on individual and corporate contractors. Currently, there are two corporate contractors: Company 0 LLC (USA) and Eeter Collective OÜ (Estonia). The former founded Decred in February 2016 and performs most of the software development work; the latter handles the design work. There are also many part-time and full-time contractors around the world who are working on Decred development and are paid in DCR from the project fund.
Decred obtains its funding from the block reward, 10% of which is added to the development pool. The size of the project fund is displayed in real time and held in Decred’s Treasury. Currently, it is around 607,815 DCR (~$15.6 mln). Such a self-funding system allows Decred to concentrate its resources on expanding the team and developing the ecosystem.
Currently, fund distribution occurs through the Politeia web platform. Decred ticket holders can post their proposals (development, marketing, etc.) on the platform and participate in the voting process. With the launch of Politeia, Decred’s developers transferred the control of the project’s funds (nearly $20 mln at launch time) in the hands of the community. It increased the role of Decred’s investors significantly, since they now can directly participate in the life of the project by offering and voting on the proposals. However, the outcome of this collective decision-making is still to be discovered.
The team has also set fees for registering a Politeia account (0.1 DCR) and for submitting a proposal (0.1 DCR) to avoid spamming on the Politeia web platform. Politeia administrators check the proposal context, and then it goes through the process outlined here. All proposals, comments, and votes are anchored to the Decred blockchain using a public git repository. This enhances the transparency of the project and allows the community to track its progress.
Currently, spending from the Decred treasury is a manual, centralized process that is executed and governed by people. In the recent Treasury Spending proposal the team wants to even further decentralize the process by “diminishing key project members’ influence over the Treasury spends.” This will make the treasury safe from theft and unethical behavior of team members.
The team also admits that Decred is partially “a social experiment to see how far we can take decentralized sovereignty. There are going to be good, bad and awful proposals and we will have to learn how to differentiate between them.”
Nevertheless, after the launch of the Politeia, 24 proposals have been published on this platform for 4 months, 11 of them were approved. They relate to different areas of ecosystem development: Treasury Spending, Mining, Marketing, Listing, Adoption program, Wallet, Decentralized Exchange Infrastructure, ATM Integration, and many others. This shows the active involvement of all the project’s stakeholders and it is a positive sign of ecosystem development.
With the launch of the Politeia, the community also approved the marketing plan for 2019 by hiring a Ditto PR company. The firm has successfully worked with Monero and will help to implement Decred’s marketing goals: 2019 Events Funding and 2019 Marketing Plan Funding.
2019 Events Funding is aimed at maintaining a presence in North America and Europe, expanding its presence in Asia through participation in various events and conferences. The main goal of 2019 Marketing Plan Funding is to increase transparency and transfer control over the allocation of funds to stakeholders. Overall, these programs will increase the awareness of Decred and generate more interest in the project.
Decred’s team also works on increasing the adoption level of DCR. For example, it has partnerships with payment providers such as Coinpayments, Globee, Wirexapp, Coingate, Livingroomofsatoshi. If the team continues to expand partnerships, it will be able to increase the demand on the coin and DCR value.
Moreover, Decred succeeded in attracting investments from institutions like Placeholder VC and Blueyard Capital. Based on conversations with the Placeholder VC, it appears that the fund also values Decred’s governance and looks forward for it to become the industry standard, where other projects can plug in and use it, while Decred will be a “governance-as-a-service” provider. In addition, the fund values Decred’s team stating that “it is one of the strongest development teams in the industry.”
Institutional investors are also helping Decred with awareness, listings, lawyers, etc. Such support can be valuable going forward into the future. However, presently a small number of transactions and active addresses per day, compared to Bitcoin and Dash, confirm that the Decred ecosystem is less active than that of its competitors.
Community Involvement Comparison
Decred is a well-decentralized project with a well-built financial and organizational structure. Even though the actual adoption level of DCR is still low compared to its competitors, with the launch of Politeia and approval of several valuable proposals, the project may take a new direction and start growing its ecosystem.
DCR is a native cryptocurrency of the Decred blockchain that is used for payments.
Reward – The current block reward is 18.78 DCR which consists of three parts: PoW miners receive 60%, PoS voters – 30% (6% to each of the 5 voters), the Decred Treasury – 10%. The block reward adjusts every 6,144 blocks (21.33 days), with adjustments scaled by a factor of 100/101. This is a good incentive for PoW miners and PoS voters to maintain the Decred network.
Decred will issue all the coins by mid-2039, meaning that the block reward will only consist of transaction fees in the years to follow. Nevertheless, the team can solve this problem if it gives considerable attention to the following aspects:
- Increase network activity – this will increase the number of transactions in the blockchain.
- Improve technology to process more transactions per second.
- Ensure a practical use of DCR to increase its future value.
- Any activity that will lead to a decrease in the total cost of mining.
If the team does not put significant efforts towards the outlined strategy points, the long-term prospects of Decred will be dubious.
Fees – Transaction fees on the Decred network are lower than those of Bitcoin and Dash, and almost the same as on the Cardano blockchain. Overall, from the point of view of transaction fees, Decred is quite competitive.
Transaction Fees Comparison
Speculation – DCR is traded on many popular crypto-exchanges, however, its liquidity is low.
Decred has an eventually-fixed coin supply just as Bitcoin, Dash, and Cardano, which has a positive long-term effect on the DCR value. Since DCR supply is limited and demand is potentially unlimited, its price could have a natural tendency to rise through deflation. However, the current annual inflation rate in the Decred network is over 28%, which points to a rapid devaluation of the cryptocurrency. This exceedingly high level of inflation reduces the desire of users to utilize coins in daily transactions, and as a result, they look for other payment coins.
Supply and Inflation Comparison
The token economy is built in a good way because it meets the needs of all participants in the ecosystem. While users can pay low transaction fees, PoW miners and PoS voters receive enough rewards to maintain the network. However, currently it also has a short-term shortfall of as much as 28% inflation, and a long-term problem associated with the release of all coins. Nevertheless, these problems are intrinsic in many cryptocurrencies, which makes these shortcomings not unique to Decred.
Jake Yocom-Piatt – is the CEO of Company 0, LLC. He worked as an expert source for the Chicago Tribune and has 10+ years of experience in the creation of open-source software. Jake funded and oversaw the creation of btcsuite, an alternative full-node Bitcoin implementation written in Go. He also created ZKC, a high-security asynchronous chat system.
Marco Peereboom – is the CTO of Company 0, LLC. Marco worked as a Senior Architect at Dell and as the CTO of Conformal Systems. He has 25+ years of experience in software engineering.
Alex Yocom-Piatt – is a developer at Company 0, LLC. He leads work on Decrediton, Decred’s cross-platform wallet GUI, and helps with dcrwallet, the back-end wallet software for Decred. Alex had worked in electronic derivatives trading for 7 years. He also will be engaged in the development of the upcoming Decentralized Exchange.
In February 2016, 7 highly professional technical staff who worked on the btcsuite project decided to create an alternative to Bitcoin. Since they were familiar with Bitcoin’s problems, the team decided to solve them by creating a new cryptocurrency.
At first, Decred’s team was represented by Company 0, which funded Decred development by itself. However, the team began to expand over time and now it consists of corporate and individual contractors. While Company 0 performs most of the software development work, individual contractors do the rest of the work related to marketing, business development, and other areas. Some list of tasks assigned to individual contractors for the year 2019 is listed on the Decred blog.
Until recently, business development and marketing was not the strongest side of the team. However, after Decred launched the Politeia platform and hired the Ditto PR company, the situation may change.
Overall, Decred’s team consists of professionals in their fields. They have a plan for their development and significant financial resources to attract new employees with relevant experience. This implies that Decred can strengthen its position in the market soon.
Decred has a detailed roadmap consisting in three parts: completed, current and new projects. The team has already completed 14 projects in 2017 and it has eight ongoing projects (most of them were completed).
The team is actively working on Decred development and, as a result, performed the following work on this list of projects:
- Ticket Splitting – an alpha version of a ticket splitting matcher service on testnet was released in March, 2018.
- Payment Integration Support – looks like the team finished the core work on this project in January, 2018.
- Decentralized Control of Dev Fund – the team member published the proposal regarding this issue on the Politeia platform. Most likely this feature will be released soon in 2019.
- Android Wallet – the team has already developed Decred Mobile Wallet on Android.
- Decrediton Integrations: SPV – the feature was developed.
- Scalability Optimizations: Multipeer Syncing – the team is working on this project.
- Lightning Network – the team is working on launching its testnet. Most likely, it will be released soon in 2019.
In addition, Decred highlights other projects separately:
- Initial Privacy Release – the team intends to implement privacy features, but it does not disclose any specific information about this.
- Scalability Optimizations: Signature Algorithm – the team is actively working on the integration of this feature.
- Decrediton Integrations: Lightning Network – this Decrediton Integration will be developed after the full launch of LN, possibly in 2019.
- Scalability Optimizations: Block Header Commitments – the team is working on this feature.
Decred has also launched the Politeia platform, where the community can track future plans of the team. This platform allowed the team to identify important areas of its future development. Among them are the following projects that attract most attention: Decred Decentralized Exchange Infrastructure, 2019 Marketing Plan Funding, 2019 Events Funding, Ditto Communications Proposal for Decred, Website for the Decred community. There are also additional tasks that individual contractors are working on. A complete list of these tasks is shown on Medium.
The wide range of tasks that the team has set for itself indicates that they have ambitions to significantly improve the project in the near future. Since Decred owns assets for about $14.7 million, and hired many employees with relevant experience, they are able to achieve success in their endeavors.
The only drawback of the roadmap is the lack of precise dates for new and ongoing projects. Therefore, the community cannot know exactly when the team will implement some new features. Nevertheless, users are able to track the progress of tasks on the GitHub and Medium. This indicates the transparency of the team.
Part Three: The Investment Case
DCR Token Performance
DCR reached its ATH on January 9, 2018 ($126.81) as a result of market growth. The DCR price reached local maxima many times, and this price behavior is mainly explained by the entire market dynamics. As the entire market fell significantly in 2018, the DCR price dropped as well. Although with the recent market recovery the price has been growing, it is still down by 80% from the ATH.
The two main currencies against which DCR is traded are BTC (49.6%) and KRW (29.7%). Trading volume of the DCR / BTC pair is represented by such exchanges as Upbit (65%) and Binance (18%). However, the daily volume on those exchanges is around 225 BTC, which indicates low liquidity of the coin. This means that it is difficult for traders to buy and sell a large amount of DCR, and whales can easily influence the price.
DCR trading volume is the smallest compared to its competitors. This also indicates a weaker interest in the coin and less liquidity of the cryptocurrency.
Trading Volume Comparison
The 30-day DCR volatility values vary in approximately in the same range as Dash and ADA. Overall, volatility dynamics are similar among all coins indicating the dependence of DCR on market behavior.