Blockchain & Berty: Glad you asked!

As we write these lines, Bitcoin’s value has just surpassed its ATH (All Time High). Prepare yourself: In a few days, BTC will be trending everywhere – again – along with its more mysterious sibling, the blockchain.

Curious if Berty has anything to do with this shadowy figure? You won’t be the first. This post is for you!

Since 2017, the term “blockchain” has been used to promote an image of radical innovation – and radical wealth. For proponents of decentralization, the benefits of using protocols like Bitcoin and Ethereum to disrupt monolithic, dysfunctional financial institutions haven’t gone unnoticed, either.

Berty, by nature of its decentralized protocol, is often assumed to be blockchain-based. Is it? This is one of our most frequently asked questions, especially at specialized events such as Paris Blockchain Web Summit.

We’ll set the record straight here, starting with a quick technical intro.

👉 Don’t care? Skip to Is Berty based on blockchain?

What is a blockchain?

No one wants their ignorance of technology to become the subject of an embarrassing news segment, but it does happen.

(tl;dw: What is the internet? Daytime talk show hosts have no answers for you, but a camera guy might.)

Let’s save ourselves from that fate and get caught up.

A blockchain exists in a peer-to-peer network that self-authenticates the integrity of information that is forged in its blocks and connected via encrypted links.

With the technology itself – ie, no single entity, like the government – responsible for its validity, it’s useful for creating protocols to exchange verifiable, irreversible records of important information.

A blockchain implementation is invariably based on open source code, exposing it to universal scrutiny.

Even if blockchains and Bitcoin share an origin story, many players (companies, governments, etc.) are considering blockchain technology for use cases beyond digital currency.

If you can keep the following principles in mind, you’ll have a good starting point for understanding its appeal:

  • Decentralization
  • Transparency
  • Immutability

👉 Want more? Read “What is Blockchain Technology?" or watch Blockchain In 7 Minutes).

Is Berty based on blockchain?

The Berty protocol is indeed a peer-to-peer protocol, therefore distributed and decentralized, but – unlike blockchainit requires no consensus and no validation by the network.

Within the Bitcoin protocol, for example, each wallet-to-wallet transaction must be validated, and then be certifed through the network of “miners” who will then “forge” (or mine) the currency.

By contrast, on Berty, a conversation or file exchange does not need to be verified, since it is not a financial transfer – and we do not want your communications to be indelibly recorded.

This means that the resource burden on Berty users is relatively nonexistent. At its core, Berty and the NGO behind it are committed to providing secure messaging to everyone, for free. No price tags, no overhead, no expertise needed.

For example, no need for Berty users to acquire the enormous graphics processing unit (GPU) needed by BTC miners to ensure that a sender has the funds at their Bitcoin address for a financial transfer.

Nor is it necessary to prove any financial or other personal resources to use the protocol or the messaging application, unlike the tokens utilized by BTC.

When a society invents an alphabet, they do not charge its users; doing so would defeat its purpose to facilitate communication. Berty shares this principle, swapping out ‘alphabet’ for ‘engine’. We create tools that can be used by everyone, including developers wishing to join the ranks of defending citizens and their privacy through cryptography.

Where Berty and blockchains share turf 🤝

Yes, there are some common points between the Berty protocol and blockchains.

  • No central authority
  • Secure
  • Transmission of information
  • Open
  • Borderless
  • Censorship proof
  • Ultimately, no single individual or organization will be in charge of Berty

Could blockchains be useful to Berty? 💡

Experts around the world are looking to promote the revolutionary aspect of blockchain – the impact it will have on the world. Some are even doing their best to convince us that blockchain is useful everywhere.

But no, Berty does not and will not need blockchain in its protocol.

In our opinion, the Blockchain is certainly full of exciting uses that will emerge in the years to come, but these could arise from completely different subjects than those of financial transfers.

In fact, we think this might already be true.

Some members of the team are keeping an eye on decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), an arena where blockchain is a potential star player. A public blockchain can keep the governance of a large organization (say, a business or a worker’s union) truly distributed among its members – thus ensuring, ideally, that only actions in the collective interest can be taken.

Berty, too, could be one such organization. In this scenario, the Berty NGO would be dissolved, and management distributed to every member of its community.

We should note here that this isn’t feasible for the short term. We’re pushing hard on development of core functionality. On some days, this means we update the app 20 times in 24 hours. A code review from a single colleague is hard-won, nevermind waiting on votes from every user!

But long-term? A move to the DAO model could have serious benefits for Berty.

  • Resilience: Berty could never be taken down. Since a DAO is based on “smart contracts” on a public blockchain, anyone can participate, with no kill switch on hand, no matter how powerful the interloper.
  • Security: An encrypted P2P protocol AND governance means that no entryway exists for an entity to arbitrarily seize control or modify functionality.
  • Autonomy: We could eventually go the token route to finance the project (BertyCoin, anyone?), but doing so would likely attract profit-driven collaborators while driving away those who share the NGO’s values (like you). Bitcoin and Ethereum themselves are products of a broader vision of a socially beneficial alternative to the current financial system.

Again, restructuring can’t be our current focus. At this stage, we’re prioritizing efficiency until Berty is ready to be released into the wild.

Still, we’re keeping tabs on blockchain developments with a watchful (and critical) eye.

The future is decentralized, and we don’t want to overlook tools that could help make Berty an important actor in this revolution.

Concluding Pop Quiz: Do Berty projects use blockchains? 🤨

Not yet, but we feel that many projects could be interested using BLE transport for offline transactions. Network resilience is a very important topic for future of cryptocurrencies transactions, and some projects like BlockStream, or Lightning Network Layer on Bitcoin, are working hard to permit offline transactions and improve scalability. Maybe some blockchain developers will be happy to use Berty protocol to explore new perspective in offline transactions!

Cheers peers! 🏴‍☠️

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