Since its inception in 2016, the Ark project sought to create a sandbox ecosystem for developing and deploying several chains under one umbrella. Powered by its ARK coin, the platform focused on easy adoption and interoperability.
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What is ARK?
Billed as the “All-in-One” blockchain solution, the Ark platform is all about linking various chains and customizing them for a broader range of use cases. To make this possible, its creators focused on creating a decentralized ecosystem focused on empowering its users to design and deploy their own blockchains without too much hassle. This is supposed to reflect the platform’s aim to become a flexible solution for the real-life problems which are solvable by blockchain, instead of “theoretical” ones. Let’s see which features are promoted by the ARK team in response to this general goal:
- Full decentralization is a shortcut to bringing as many users to the blockchain as possible. The ARK platform has implemented a modified Delegated-Proof-Of-Stake (DPoS) consensus mechanism. It features a strictly limited number of delegates who are in charge of keeping the network operational in exchange for block rewards, resembling those received by miners with other cryptocurrencies. The Ark’s DPoS version features an adaptive voting system and is said to incorporate some improvements over previous DPoS implementations.
- The ARK team sees lacking speeds as yet another obstacle to implementing blockchain as a solution suitable for frequent transactions. With its current 8-second block generation time, ARK aims to become one of the faster solutions in the crypto industry. According to its developers, shortening the time the users need to spend on transaction processing should bring the ARK closer to becoming a full-blown transaction platform.
- ARK wants to keep blockchain technology both “lean” and scalable with the help of its SmartBridge technology. ARK’s Smart Bridges are a customized technology which supports offloading of the non-essential functions to other side-chains. In addition to keeping the ARK blockchain fast, this technology is supposed to resolve the issue of scalability i.e. the ability of blockchain to deal with the increasing size of its user base.
- SmartBridge technology is also supposed to promote building connections among various blockchains which are in use today. One of the features of the ARK project is to help with building an ecosystem consisting of as many interlinked blockchains as possible. Blockchains which are said to be “bridged” in this manner can establish communication and perform common tasks and advanced functions. In addition to incorporating various chains, ARK will offer support for a broader range of coding languages to be used with the platform.
- ARK platform seeks to enforce open source principles among its users: Recognizing that the needs for blockchain within individual projects may differ, ARK developers allowed the platform users to launch their own blockchains based off the Ark main net. By being effectively “cloned” from the ARK model, these offshoot chains can be made compatible with the Ark’s SmartBridge technology for reaping additional benefits of using the platform.
How Does Ark Work?
Operation of the Ark platform is based on the implementation of three main components:
- Support for alternative programming languages
- Push button deployable blockchains
With SmartBridges, the ARK team seeks to unify features of various coins used across different chains, as well as make each application on them more accessible to a larger audience. The proposed advantages of this approach should be more significant compared to what could be achieved by relying on one chain alone. This is to be done by focusing on seamless communication between otherwise incompatible chains and enabling triggering of various events across them. To make it possible, the Ark’s SmartBridge model relies on the implementation of the Encoded Listener technology paired with data sets called Vendor Fields.
What Are the Ark’s Encoded Listeners?
An Encoded Listener node functions as a “listening post” for transactions taking place across multiple chains. They are created by inserting several lines of code into a single blockchain, allowing it to connect to the Ark blockchain as the hub and use listener nodes to track inputs on several blockchains. Their implementation should be easy as it is not supposed to have an impact on the regular operation of the blockchain. Chains involved in this type of collaboration allow their designated listener nodes to communicate with their counterparts via the Ark blockchain.
This is where the Vendor Fields come into play, as these specialized data sections contain information on tasks which a particular encoded listener nodes can perform. The nodes regularly check the vendor field data in order to find out what the can “do”, while the setting of a dedicated node remains an option for any party wanting to help the network run better.
The encoded listener nodes can be particularly beneficial for exchange platforms such as Changelly or Shapeshift. In this case, the encoded listeners would help them identify a transaction type as the one involving exchange. In this case, these nodes effectively become intermediaries for transactions taking place with the help of SmartBridges, with the added opportunity for the exchanges to charge their regular transaction fees for exchange operations and maintenance of the data flow.
How Could SmartBridge Work in Practice?
While the SmartBridge technology is still in the early stages of its deployment, the Ark team has already offered support for some of the major chains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. In practice, its workflow may unfold along these lines:
- If the user wants to trigger an event on one blockchain by means of another one, the first thing to do is to verify if that chain is compatible with SmartBridge.
- If everything checks out, the user can forward the SmartBridge transaction to any compatible blockchain with the help of the Ark wallet. For example, having a SmartBridge connecting Ethereum and Ark chains allows for the management and execution of the Ark-based transactions via the interface used to access Ethereum and vice versa.
- In the case of exchanges, the SmartBridge would allow a user to send a certain amount of ARK tokens to the wallet they have with a particular exchange. At the same time, the exchange would identify the transaction and provide for automatic conversion of ARK tokens into the desired cryptocurrency before the funds end up in the user’s wallet.
How Can Ark Offer Better Accessibility?
Providing support for a wide range of programming languages is the approach by which the Ark platform hopes to reach a broader base of software developers. Included support for 18 mainstream and “alternative” languages, including Python, Elixer, RPC, Java,.NET and others, should make the Ark a more accessible solution not just for devs, but for the users who want to create their home-brew blockchains.
With this in mind, the Ark team also hopes to work on a user-friendly interface, with which the deployment of blockchain can be reduced to interacting with a push button. In fact, Ark wants to support an easier development of individual projects by allowing its users to create their own blockchains which are, in essence, forked from the Ark chain. Forks created in this manner should be a viable option for startups, since they would still offer the key features of the Ark “parent” chain, such as SmartBridge technology.
Ark’s Delegated Proof-of-Stake
The Ark platform runs a modified Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS) consensus mechanism. Instead of having miners secure both the transactions and the network they run on, the Ark achieves this by relying on delegates. While the number of prospective delegates is virtually limitless, only the holders of the ARK tokens are ultimately designated as such through the use of the voting system.
The number of active delegates who can be voted on is capped at 51. The 51 nodes which receive the highest number of votes become eligible to forge ARK blocks. This system is supposed to reduce the risk of having large ARK holders or organizations take over the network by constantly voting for their favored forging nodes.
The underlying system works as follows:
- Token holders can vote for a single delegate at a time only. There is a related voting fee to be paid in the amount of 1 ARK. The same fee applies to “unvoting” a delegate, whenever that right is exercised. The team behind the platform plans to further reduce the fees on the network.
- While the Ark users are encouraged to vote regularly, not all votes are born equal: the more ARK tokens one possesses, the more weight his/her vote has. Registering as a delegate costs 25 ARK.
- The blocks on the Ark network are forged every 8 seconds, with each delegate receiving 2 ARK tokens for the block they forge. Upon the launch, the Ark platform featured 125 million ARK tokens in the genesis block.
- Delegate candidates involved in the voting process can try to secure their election by preparing written proposals detailing their plan of operations and the ways im which the platform could be made more secure.
- In addition to this, the delegates can try to secure votes by offering participation in profit sharing schemes. These are related to the rewards they get for forging new blocks, with potential voters being able to get their cut in forms of dividends which are distributed over time.
- Another popular option for the delegates is to promise to fund a development project oriented towards promoting the better operation of the Ark platform. The voters may be offered an equity stake in the proposed project or given access to freely provided services.
How Does Delegate Voting Work with Ark?
Voting for delegates as part of the Ark’s DPoS system is possible only after one picks out one of the available wallets for storing ARK tokens. The process encompasses several basic steps:
- First, one needs to set aside some tokens which are to be transferred. Tokens can be purchased on cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance and Bittrex. The full list of exchanges trading in ARK is available here.
- Tokens purchased from an exchange are sent to the public address found with the user’s wallet.
- One of the more practical wallet options is to use those offered on the Ark’s website. They include a desktop wallet, paper wallet and web lite wallet together with Android wallet and iOS wallet.
- Sending ARK is made possible based on the network’s existing dynamic fee system which replaced the earlier one running on fixed fees. Delegates can determine their own minimum acceptable fee involving various transaction types. Fees are paid to the forging delegate in charge of processing blocks which feature these fees. The larger the fee set by the user, the faster the inclusion of the transaction in a block will be.
As of February 2019, more than 108 million ARK tokens were in circulation, out of 139 million of the total planned supply. In the same period, the currency itself had the market cap of USD 52 million, down from its historic high of USD 910 million in January 2018.
Transaction Processing with Ark
The current iteration of the Ark platform is capable of processing 18.75 transactions per second i.e. 150 transactions per block. For 2019, the team promises to offer support for four new transaction types, with these being:
- Timelock, as a simplified smart contract function that restricts the spending at particular addresses unless a particular time or block height requirement is met.
- Multipayments, with its ability to combine payments with the goal of reducing the payload on the blockchain and handling larger transaction volumes.
- Delegate resignation, with the option for the delegate to resign their position and preventing the community to vote for the delegate in question.
- IPFS, as the way to secure easier timestamping, verification and encryption of files via a dedicated interface.
The ARK plans to control currency inflation from the outset, with planned reduction going from 6.31% in the first year to 4.02% percent in the tenth year of its launch.
Project History and Competition
The Ark project came into existence in October 2016. Two months later, its test net was launched while the first version of the main net went live in March 2017. The project’s current President and CEO François Thoorens is one of the industry veterans involved in the development of Lisk. Together with Bitshares, Lisk served as one of the role models for the design of the current version of ARK, only to become one of its main competitors.