An Interview with Lead Developer of Vertcoin James on the Roadmap and Outlook for Its Future Development

Over the weekend, Bitcoin price rallied to a record high, passing the $6000 threshold. However, the price increase has had a negative effect on altcoin prices. Most of the top altcoins have experienced price decreases in the past 48 hours. Vertcoin has become one of the few top-50 altcoins to see positive price movement. In the series, the lead developer of Vertcoin James will share his insights on everything about Vertcoin from its current price surge to outlook and strategy for future development.

Vertcoin price surpassed $3 and its market cap reached $125 M. It beats Dogecoin. This is a milestone. What do you think is behind the price surge?

I never thought we would reach such an important milestone so soon. I think the most immediate reason is Ledger support, which will have exposed VTC to a lot of holders of BTC and other coins for the first time. But this is not the first time it has happened to VTC. Half a year ago we were only worth a few cents per coin. So I guess those who have been around for a while are used to it by now.

I checked reddit and found that VTC users are very active. I want to know who these users are? Or what are the users base of VTC that other coins don’t have?

Originally most of them would have been miners, we pride ourselves on having the miners and the users of the coins being mostly the same people. Now the price has risen, I’d imagine there are a lot more investors and traders involved in the cohort too. Some of the community members have been here from the beginning, so there is at least some continuity.

Vertcoin is ASIC-resistant and truly decentralized. Before Bitcoin and Litecoin were both GPU mined, but now they are mined with ASIC hardware. And now there are ASIC miners for Dash. How to make sure VTC stick to ASIC-resistant?

At the moment it’s two-three things.

  • First, the mining algorithm is quite large and thus expensive to implement on an ASIC, so the price of VTC will have to be a lot higher before it becomes profitable to make one rather than just buy graphics cards.
  • Second, we developers and the community built up a social contract to hard fork the mining algorithm if ASICs/FPGAs are ever found on the network. We did this before when Scrypt-N ASICs were created, then we moved to Lyra2RE (v1). So there is a precedent which shows that we can and will hard fork, making the expected value of any ASIC produced fairly low, close to 0 or even negative perhaps. The Scrypt-N ASICs must’ve have been fairly expensive to design, and yet we made them worthless within weeks.

We always make sure we have a secret alternative waiting in the wings in case it needs to be deployed on short notice. For our community/miner it’s just a quick software update, but for the ASIC miners, it makes their hardware worthless overnight. So I think it’s a very strong deterrent to making on in the first place.

Speaking of GPU, have u heard of Bitcoin Gold? A “fork coin” of Bitcoin. Some even think it is a scam, or just purposely messing with BCC. It is also GPU mined. Do you see it as a competitor? Or you think it’s good for the community to have another GPU mined coin to enhance mining decentralization?

BTG is definitely a scam. I don’t think Bitcoin Gold has the community support that we do. They have not been working for years building up resources to get people mining like docs and our one-click miner. If people really want ASIC resistance/decentralized mining, they should chose the coin that’s been focusing on it for 4 years now and has a track record of following through on our promises. Furthermore, it’s massively premined which goes against the ethos of decentralized currency.

It seems like a get rich quick scheme rather that a serious effort at ASIC resistance. And there is no commitment to hard fork away ASICs in the future, no precedent set and most importantly no replay protection!

Let’s talk about the roadmap of VTC. Why activated SegWit when Vertcoin doesn’t have the problems of congestion and high fees?

SegWit is an important bug fix that all coins should get regardless of scaling. It makes writing many kinds of contracts a lot easier than they previously were due to transaction malleability problems. For us, VTC is deeply involved with the development of the Lightning Network. We are not interested in it at this stage so much for its scaling properties, but more for the instant settlement and cross-chain swaps that it provides or will provide.

Now that we’ve made banks obsolete, LN will allow us to make payment processors and exchanges obsolete too. After that, we’re going after derivatives and other financial instruments.

It took so long for SegWit to be activated on BTC. How about VTC?

When we were trying to activate SegWit on our network, I was renting some percent of the network hashrate to get the extra few % over the 75% threshold. But then, someone was bidding against me with uncapped bids to the point that they were spending >30 BTC per day on hashrate just to stop Segwit activation. The bidder would buy any amount of hashrate to keep it below 75%, which caused a big spike in April. So clearly someone had an interest in stopping altcoins from activating SegWit too. Assuming it was one of Jihan‘s cronies or something.

Yet, when you have strong community consensus, you can do things like UASF. It was never actually needed for us because the threat of UASF was enough to stop the rental ‘attack’.

I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but you work at the LN center in MIT, can you tell us what is the current stage of LN?

I’m a researcher at the MIT Digital Currency Initiative (DCI). There are only a handful of developers working on it, and on competing implementations. I work on it sometimes, I have a few commits to the code. Tadge Dryja who’s the author of the original LN paper is the principle author of MIT’s LN software.

All the code for LN is on our public Github, single channels work well. We’re working on stability first, then onto atomic swaps and multihop. Until recently it was unclear if Segwit would even activate on BTC, so development on LN was slow in general up till that point. Now things will go a lot faster I think.

Charlie Lee demonstrated an atomic swap between LTC and BTC on twitter, when will the Vertcoin have a swap demo with Litecoin or Bitcoin?

We also did the same thing the day after LTC did it with DCR. Vertcoin was the first coin to be merged into DCR’s repo after BTC and LTC.

Decred is also a coin that no Chinese exchanges listed it. China is tough on crypto, but Japan, Korea, Australia are very friendly to crypto. Does the team have a plan as to get listed on more exchanges, especially Asian ones?

We have contacted all of the exchanges. Most want more money than we have to list or want us to do a ‘community vote’ that involves buying their token only to hand it back to them. You would not believe how high listing fees are. I think they assume we have a big bucket of ICO funds somewhere. They always ask “is your ‘token’ an ERC20 token?” “Is it listed on other exchanges?” And I don’t want people to do that, it’s not worth it.

Money is always a problem given that we’re supported only by donations.  At the moment we’re all volunteers so we don’t get a salary. But with the price rise, our resources have increased, so you will see more marketing in the future. And exchanges will notice us. 

What wallets support Vertcoin now?

Right now our own Vertcoin Core and Electrum-VTC wallets. Then there’s also Coinomi on Android, and now Ledger’s wallet.

Bitcoin community hard forks to solve problems and make each side happy. Will Vertcoin consider fork if development difference occurred? How do you coordinate with each other?

We currently have 5 technical developers including myself, 2 “mining experts”, and two focused on marketing/social media/outreach and we coordinate via Vertcoin channel on Discord. If  we had a different vision of VTC, I suppose we would hard fork. But I don’t see that happening any time in the short to medium term at least.

The community and developers are very united on the direction we should be taking. It’s a lot easier when the community/developers/miners are all the same people. Everyone gets to share in the benefits of the system, and in the transaction fees generated by other people. We don’t get the same fracturing of the community that you get with BTC.

With BTC/LTC, all of the fees and rewards go to Jihan Wu. No matter what you think of him, that sounds a lot like the current system with Goldman and JP Morgan to me!

There are people call you a genius like Vitalik who will change the world for better. You became the lead developer of Vertcoin at 17. Do you see yourself as a genius?

I don’t think I would class myself or Vitalik for that matter as a genius, but I’m definitely above the curve with this stuff. But I took the coin from a low cap of $100K to over $130M in three years, not bad. Changing the world for the better though, that’s what I’m here for! I would love nothing more than to make JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs obsolete. And I’d like to disrupt such traditional societal structure as banks and credit card companies.

What do you think about the Vertcoin price rally? Comment below!






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