For the past 10 years, emerging blockchain protocols have promised to offer revolutionary solutions to problems as old as time. Stated use cases have spanned efficient decentralized compute systems to user-powered gaming platforms to distributed replacements for banking services to social networks with in-app payments. Contrary to what somehow seems to be popular belief, blockchains are not all that different from other technologies: they need to be built with purpose in order to be useful.
The issue with most networks today is that they aren’t focused. They are being designed and built as general-purpose computing networks, instead of networks optimized to solve particular problems or address specific use cases. Ironically, although the narrative seems to be that Bitcoin is complex and acts as many things to many people, in fact, Satoshi designed Bitcoin to done one thing. Bitcoin was purpose-built to allow for global, immutable transactions on a security-optimized ledger. That’s one of the many things that sets Bitcoin apart, and one of the many ways we can learn from Satoshi’s approach.
Shyft Network’s Origins
As early entrepreneurs and investors in the crypto space, we recognized early on that the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape for digital currencies needed a solution that enabled regulated entities to interoperate and share information in a decentralized environment, without defaulting to dependance on a single party to act as a central data store and validator.
In 2017, when thinking through important problems faced by the blockchain space, the Shyft Network co-founders focused on areas revolving around: data origination, management, permissioning, and sharing; and trust assignment across real world and digital spaces. We saw that the future of the blockchain ecosystem would rely on multi-party acceptance of identity in a digital form, and that with proper care at the outset, there could be a collaborative opportunity globally to develop and realize standards-based approaches as valid forms of accreditation across a multitude of different service offerings. This process ultimately led to the creation of Shyft Network.
We also recognized that any new blockchain protocol should be an evolution of its successful predecessors, deeply informed by their frameworks, optimizations, economics, usage, and trade-offs.
The Shyft Network framework has been heavily informed by learnings from both Bitcoin and Ethereum. In regards to security and multi-party coordination, we found Bitcoin and associated federated sidechain methodologies to be effective when requiring trusted data aggregation and transmission. In regards to developer adoption, flexibility, and account creation (accounts are an important requirements for credential custody among other things), we found processing and contract creation to be components of Ethereum that would allow us to build logic and relationship frameworks effectively. All of this combined with models in existing centralized digital identity and trusted data concepts came together to create Shyft Network.
Throughout this post we dive into the core optimizations and new developments that make up the stack of Shyft Network, and provide reasons as to why each network component exists.
Shyft Network is Built-for-Purpose
One of our principles at Shyft Network is to build with purpose and intent. We believe that optimizing for generally everything when addressing specific use cases means you often build for generally nothing, so we wanted to make sure the network could specifically address problems around sovereign identity, generalized trust, and data assurance.
The first beliefs that went into Shyft Network were around the concept of portability and layer 1 vs. layer 2 usability systems. The general consensus in the blockchain ecosystem pertaining to protocols is that the game is all about putting the most use cases and users onto one protocol, by ensuring one protocol is more or less useful for a broad spectrum of use cases and stakeholders. When it comes to use cases other than hard money (bitcoin), the developers of Shyft Network see this actually as a false methodology.
Shyft Network has designed infrastructure to be portable across other layer 1’s, allowing for extended network effects and usability, but our infrastructure is built specifically to enable identity and data use cases directly on our network. The goal is to enable further use cases and applications leveraging our identity, trust, and reputation frameworks through interoperability and partnerships, and to create economies of collaboration — from collaborative data sets, data sources, and data consumers to portable user identities across protocols. As an example, as Shyft Network increases protocol partnerships, users with a Shyft Network identity will be able to access a consolidated interface to view and manage their engagement across all networks bridged to our architecture.
Shyft Network Architecture Overview
We designed Shyft Network as an open-source infrastructure for establishing reputation, trust, and creditability while preserving individuals’ privacy and consent over user-generated data in a landscape of distrusting parties that share common interests.
Shyft Network allows interoperable checkpointing through it’s Byfrost bridging architecture, acting as a data sidechain across any system (from closed-source databases to open-source blockchain protocols) that requires enhanced validation and attested trust. In order to keep state synchronized between multiple blockchains, the Shyft Network core smart contracts use merkle tree proofs to perform these operations. These proofs allow for multiple counterparties to share important data using attestations and higher order group memberships between attesting parties, and can be utilized to provide cross-jurisdictional information sharing between entities and individuals around the globe.
The network uses an optimized, amended version of the EVM with customized underlying opcodes to facilitate a higher transaction threshold and lower transaction fees, running simultaneously on Byfrost and the Shyft Ring network.
Shyft Network is based on the Ethereum blockchain codebase, with extensions to allow for:
- REST-based blockchain data API access
- Enhanced mobile connectivity with a verifiable anti-censorship mechanism which generates on-chain trust scores for nodes
- Friction-less, gas-less user onboarding capabilities with zero-knowledge based technology
Below is an overview of the Shyft Network tech stack.
-Shyft Network Blockchain Node
The Shyft Network infrastructure consists of a Shyft Network blockchain node which provides the store of record of all transactions, smart contracts, and attestations in the Shyft ecosystem.
-Shyft Ring Nodes
The Shyft Ring is the public-facing blockchain-enabled software for global consensus, which functions exactly like the Ethereum network.
Shyft Ring participants are necessarily validators for the entire state of the network, acting as local connection nodes for non-full-node users, and completing PoW hashes to propagate blocks and establish security. These validators are incentivized according to the workload distribution necessary for optimal efficiency of the Shyft Network.
Each node in the Shyft Ring will act as a validator, running a single piece of software that:
- Connects to distributed peers
- Organizes the deployment of PoW and validation efforts
- Maintains sparse connectivity to Byfrost to register as a validator on the Shyft Ring
- Audits Byfrost’s work efforts and notifies other peers if there is a desynchronization of state
We chose to run Proof-of-Work consensus thanks to our learnings from bitcoin. Optimizing for security and supporting validation through physical resources like electrical inputs presents a viable security layer and asset-backing. As advocates of censorship resistant systems, we believe that the bitcoin network can in the long term become a viable global security layer for the world — but in order to make that dream a reality, we need to begin to build systems atop of it. The blend between an EVM, and bitcoin’s security guarantees enables a system layering of rigid flexibility, which is important as you continue to extend decentralized economic systems and protocols.
The Shyft Safe is a smart contract powered bookkeeping software that manages and protects certain assets on the network, enabling users’ self-custody of these assets. A Safe asset is cross-attested into multiple blockchains, addressing data invalidity and single-point-of-failure problems. This provides a greater degree of assurance of the assets validity and provides additional availability due to its existence across multiple chains.
When we think about the largest problems that plague mass adoption one of the core fears people have when it comes to self-sovereign ownership is in the loss of assets. Whether accidental or nefarious, this is a large boon to wider use today, but the tradeoff between security and usability makes this intentional. Allowing allowing users to custody their own assets on-chain is important and can act as a partial fix to certain conditions that lead to mass asset losses today. Shyft Safe can help institutions, users, and networks maintain high security parameters that reduce the likelihood that hacks or network attacks lead to asset loss conditions.
We believe and hope that others will build new applications and custodial applications around Shyft Safe such that even better systems around asset and data network security can be created and put into mainstream use.
We call the Shyft Bridge “Byfrost”. Byfrost operates as an internal network of servers, acting as an attestation engine to ensure data availability and synchronization. Byfrost enables interoperable, cross-chain asset transfer and management. Zero-knowledge proofs are utilized to enable secure transfers with minimal friction.
The bridge allows Shyft Network (and components such as ShyftID) to be useful for users across all networks they engage with. Byfrost is the core layer that enables collaboration and data aggregation and cross system representative consolidation of information and assets. Byfrost connects all data custodians and networks together, such that we can ensure data transportability and user-driven publicly verifiable consent can be guaranteed regardless of the use cases or the environments that Shyft Network is being relied on and used within. Byfrost allows for portable identity, credentials, and assets to bridge a layer of universality and settlement across all networks and applications that it interacts with. Through this system, Shyft binds web2.0 standards and systems with Web 3.0 infrastructure methodologies.
-Shyft Client Software (geth)
The node client software used to run the Shyft blockchain node is forked from the Ethereum Go project, and its name geth has been kept.
-Shyft Gas Token (SHFT)
This is the gas token used to power transactions on the Shyft Network. We’ll release a blog post specifically about SHFT’s usage across the network and use cases in the coming months ahead of mainnet launch.
-Reputational Merit System
Shyft provides network reputation scores to stakeholders. By observing interactions between end-users and financial institutions, Trust Anchors can assign credit ratings to transaction characteristics of their user bases. Trust Anchors can also view reputational scores from other Trust Anchors, allowing them to assess data quality. The Reputational Merit System (RMS) is based on a set of carefully constructed standards that ensure fair, transparent, decentralized, and tamper-proof computation of reputation scores. Credits called Reputational Merit Tokens (RMT) are naturally produced and released from nodes involved in Proof of Work to ensure transaction throughput and network uptime is being maintained and as a self-policing network strategy for anti-censorship. These “tokens” cannot be purchased, and are simply used as a points system to develop internal scoring of network stakeholders.
This piece was written by Chris Forrester and the Shyft Network team.
Shyft Network aggregates trust and contextualizes data to build an authentic reputation, identity, and creditability framework for individuals and enterprises.
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