Online gambling is big business. The market value of online gaming is forecast to reach over US$ 56 billion by 2018. That represents an over fifty percent increase in less than a decade.
Digital tokens remain a small, but growing section of this business. As far as Bitcoin is concerned, gambling is very big business.
Until 2013 there was little else you could do with bitcoins. There were alpaca socks, Satoshi Dice, and the Silk Road.
Satoshi Dice was the largest bitcoin gambling game at that time. A clever blockchain based betting game, it counted for up to half of all transactions on the Bitcoin network at one stage in Bitcoin’s evolution.
Since then many more mainstream industry players have added Bitcoin to their platform. Software producers, realising the potential of digital tokens for digital gaming, quickly moved to start building for this new, interesting, open and secure platform.
Bitcoin is the only token that has managed to bridge the gap to mainstream gaming in any meaningful way.
There are of course a host of specialised games for smaller digital assets. Some larger crypto gambling sites also take a variety of tokens.
But none have really made a dent like Bitcoin.
Ethereum Smart Contracts
Developers are trying to change that. By leveraging the power of Ethereum smart contracts, they hope the world will take note.
Ethereum, as a scarce, blockchain PoW network-token is the same as Bitcoin. As a token it is fairly arbitrary to integrate Ethereum next to Bitcoin, for its unit value.
But Ethereum, at its heart, is fundamentally different. Its architecture is different. Its approach is different.
There is a robust and complete scripting language at Ethereum’s core. Any computation or logic is theoretically possible. In building gambling experiences, you are limited only by your imagination.
Through correctly implementing Smart Contracts, some developers hope to leverage the unique attributes of Ethereum to shake up gambling.
The ecosystem is quite young. So the experimentation is limited. Yet we are seeing some very sophisticated and promising decentralised gambling games on the Ethereum network, as Smart Contracts.
First off the block (pun intended) is vDice.io
This is similar in nature to Satoshi Dice, fully decentralised, and implemented as an Ethereum Smart Contract.
Randomness is tricky with Ethereum. There are limited ways to generate randomness for use on the blockchain. The relative merits of differing approaches is discussed here.
vDice has chosen an innovative approach to get randomness by doin this from a third party. Another 3rd party oracle then processes the bet using the random number source.
The result is provably fair, delivered to your betting address, fairly quickly. This feels just like playing old school Satoshi Dice for Bitcoin.
The Oracle here has an extensive library and impressive catalogue. They’ve come up with some clever approaches to provide security and certainty based on TLS notary.
Next up we have Rouleth. Rouleth, as the name suggests, is Roulette implemented as an Ethereum Smart Contract.
It looks competent and there is some clever development work here, especially to get bet processing time down.
Gas costs are still a little high. The code is somewhat long. Since the DAO hack that could make users apprehensive. Also, randomness is done on chain. Developers assure that their unique system is safe.
Games like this will need to bring these gas costs down a lot in future, to be viable. Also, if Ethereum is able to do faster blocks in future, then games like this will benefit greatly.
I like blockchain. So I appreciate how cool this is.
But what’s happening behind the scenes is not so important to an average user. Sometimes there is a decentralisation for its own sake approach. It can leave these sort of projects in the academic arena.
Anyway, Rouleth is cool. It’s provably fair. If you’re into Ethereum you should have a go.
Now, using dapps.ethercasts.com, we could find only 3 working gambling games, implemented as Ethereum Smart Contracts.
Ethereumlottery.io was the final one. I was unable to play because, it seems, tickets had already sold out for the next round by the time I arrived. I am left to wonder.
The game is a lottery which takes randomness from the blockchain. As the site admits, this can be problematic. So its novel approach is to use the Bitcoin blockchain for this Ethereum Dapp. Bitcoin blocks cross-chain are accessed using BTCRelay.
There is a budding ecosystem of gambling Dapps on Ethereum. It makes sense. Gambling is an obvious use case.
There is a lot of potential here. In future we could have a stable coin, either native to Ethereum, or ported in from another chain, like Bitshares. A pegged USD token would allow betting in Dollars through these platforms. This could seriously expand scope and appeal from a niche audience.
The possibilities are really endless with a Smart Contract. It will be interesting to see what the market continues to develop.
Social Media, Content and the Blockchain
Developers continue to experiment with content, monetisation models and social media. With the invention of Bitcoin and the blockchain, technologists now have a new tool in their arsenal. This tool offers the potential for novel and exciting ways to provide these services.
The leading platform for internet content curation is still Reddit. For social media it is Twitter and Facebook. These are useful tools.
Still, many find its incentives structure lacking. Reddit itself even went as far as hiring a digital currency team headed up by Ryan X. Charles. The objective was to see if Reddit could incorporate blockchain tech., to improve aspects of its operation.
Reddit – A Brief History
Reddit was founded in 2005 by University of Virginia students. It is based in San Francisco, and currently has well over 500 million users.
In 2014 the site raised US$50 million giving it a value of US$500 million. Content curation and aggregation, in the style of Reddit, is big business.
By July 2010 the website had seen five years of huge growth. It was at this stage that the site started to introduce incentive structures, rewards schemes and monetisation models. These include Reddit Gold.
The Gap in the Market and Steemit
Under the current model, social media services provide a platform and software. Huge teams of developers working for these centralised services provide incremental upgrades of uncertain value. It is the company that gains from the content provided by its users. Users provide the value and gain no financial benefit. Only the platform profits.
The gap in the market is obvious. Blockchain tech. Has been theorised as a solution. Enter Steemit; the new kid on the blockchain.
Ads are annoying and paywalls are tedious and cumbersome. Steemit is curated content on the Blockchain. It pays contributors without the need for either.
Social media platforms are difficult to do, even with the most favourable of circumstances. A great platform is nothing if the bootstrapping problem is not overcome.
Network effects are difficult for a standard social media platform. To incorporate an entirely novel technology like blockchain requires an entirely new approach.
With Steemit, monetary incentives for those who contribute content are built directly into the platform. This type of direct incentive encourages the growth necessary to overcome network effects.
That is exactly what is happening. With a blockchain and some very novel algorithms, the platform is growing massively.
Upon sign-up users are given US$ 3 worth of Steem credit to start with. From there, every contribution one makes earns in direct proportion to its value to the community.
Content is curated by voting, in the same way as Reddit. However, in the case of Steemit, upvotes are worth money. Users are free to withdraw this money and use it like any other digital currency.
Steemit is the next evolution in social media. It directly rewards contributors rather than platform providers. This is novel and highly valuable. It leverages blockchain tech. to achieve this. But blockchain tech. also provides even further value.
Services like Twitter are highly centralised. It is not uncommon for users to be booted from Twitter if they run awry of the platform providers. In this respect the centralised service has a huge amount of power.
A users can spend many years accumulating a lot of value through followers. They can contribute huge amounts of value to the platform in that time, through content contributions and curation. Only the platform benefits from that.
Then, overnight, the providers of the service can remove the user account, at their complete discretion. All that accumulated value is lost, with little recourse for the users.
Steemit is an uncensorable blockchain platform and the natural evolution of social networking.
SteemIT – The Business Case
Part One : A brief history of Social Networks… LOL 😛
First there was MySpace, and then came Facebook.
Social Media exploded out of the blocks and hit the mainstream when facebook opened up its books to the general public (it was exclusively for university students at first). Previously there was MySpace which, was great but this was still a bit techical for most of us, and when NewsCorp took it over, frankly, it died there and then.
In the beginning, we were all addicted to facebook and looking at the pictures of our long lost friends all day long and it truly was fascinating. We scoured for hours photos of our friends and friends of friends of friends of friends etc until we got to the weird zone of just looking at complete randoms far removed. Hours of work days were lost , until most companies banned the site on their office computers.
We looked at endless pictures all day long of the opposite sex genuinly intrigued at the prospects this new platform offered to our lives. We went to the party with all the invitees, excited by the prospect to meet some of these people and only to find out that harldy any acceptees actually showed up.
Loved and Lost
Then we realised we had nothing in common with these friends and in fact they were not actual friends at all and there were good reasons why you never stayed in touch. I feel sorry for any of you that actually attended a reunion. I feel happy for those of you that rekindled an old flame and even found love, if even only to at least to realise there was again a reason you were previously apart.
Mamas & Papas
Then came mum & dad to spoil the party… Their friend request went unaccepted for months while you edited your profie and history of defamatory comments. Resistance was futile as mummy and daddy got us in the end with their smiley faces
I’m gunna get myself arrested
Then whatever you posted became news and you could be prosecuted and arrested for just writing a joke! LOL. This changed everything, and meant people became afraid to post.
Nasdaq et al
Then the Facebook stock market listing was a roaring success and the adverts came in force to interrupt your ‘innocent’ browsing.
In the meantime we also had twitter , pinterst, snapchat etc, etc and social networks just became a fabric of our lost lives. Every 5 minutes we had on the bus or train was taken up by these new sources of information on our phones.
Now facebook is nothing more than people posting candid camera, funny videos, cats, people doing the craziest things and the adverts that Facebook profits enormously from.
For some time now Facebook users have been left frustrated with knowing that essentially facebook just sell your personal data to other companies for advertising, profiling etc and they profit at your expense.
Then came Bitcoin, and the promise to turn money and the business world on its head. This is where Steemit comes in.
Through Steemit you have the opportunity to actually monetise your content , posts or ramblings. This works by intertwining a bitcoin like cryptographically secured currency into a social network and reward the users for the popularity of their posts and valued participation.
Some have called it a scam but the founders are credible and its success continues a pace. More on the next steps and the business case for Steemit in Part 2…
Watch this Steem…