On the internet, identities are essentially free. This can cause issues in online debates when internet trolls decide to cause mayhem for their own amusement. A new proposal found at Hodl.voting intends to drastically increase the cost of trolling online.
In the Bitcoin community, “hodl” is slang for “hold”.
The idea for Hodl.voting came out of a recent hackathon at the Tel Aviv Bitcoin Embassy. At the event, Nadav Ivgi, who founded the online identity and reputation platform Bitrated, created and presented the project. Ivgi won first place in the hackathon for his creation.
Crypto Insider recently chatted with Ivgi about Hodl.voting.
The concept of using bitcoin as a voting mechanism has been around for quite some time. In fact, one such system already exists at Bitcoin.com (formerly Bitcoinocracy.com).
The basic idea is that various proposals, which are usually related to bitcoin, can be posted on the website to be voted upon. Votes are counted in a manner where one bitcoin is essentially equal to one vote. This can be used to assess levels of support for proposed changes or improvements to the bitcoin network.
Ivgi believes his implementation of the concept has a few advantages over systems that already exist.
In the Hodl.voting system, bitcoins are counted based on the number of days those bitcoins have been locked. If you lock your bitcoins for 365 days, then a vote backed by one bitcoin is worth the same as 365 bitcoins locked for one day. The bitcoins cannot be sent to another address while they are locked. This allows voters to prove that they are holding for long periods of time.
Another improvement over currently available bitcoin voting systems is that users may decide to sell their votes to others if they do not need to be time locked. Time locking the bitcoins essentially adds a cost because voters are unable to use their bitcoins for anything else while they are locked.
Lastly, the Hodl.voting structure would make it more difficult for bitcoin banks and exchanges to vote on behalf of their customers. This is due to the fact that these centralized institutions would be forced to run on a fractional reserve model if a large portion of their coins are time locked. Of course, these entities already keep the vast majority of customer funds in cold storage anyway. For example, Coinbase stores 98 percent of customer funds offline.
“I think that time-lock sacrifices are especially useful for expressing preferences over bitcoin protocol upgrades, as it shows a long-term vested interest in the value of bitcoin,” Ivgi told Crypto Insider.
One possible disadvantage of the voting system pointed out by Ivgi is that “voters” may not be able to sell bitcoins on either chain in the case of a hard fork. This would essentially kill a user’s ability to “vote” on a hard fork when it matters most (after the hard fork had been activated). Then again, votes against the hard fork may help prevent it from happening in the first place.
Proof of Hodling
In addition to bitcoin voting systems, something like Hodl.voting may also be useful for bitcoin-focused online forums. For example, the online debate around how to scale bitcoin has seen accusations of sockpuppetry and trolling from both sides. Time locked bitcoins could increase the cost of these sorts of activities.
A Reddit user may decide to prove their dedication to the long term value of bitcoin by attaching some time-locked bitcoins to their account. Doing so would likely lead to people taking that online pseudonym more seriously. Those who do not take this action may be dismissed more easily.
Taking this concept a step further, an entire forum could be created where provable ownership of a certain amount of time locked bitcoins is required to enable participation. This sort of forum would allow all of the participants to know that they’re interacting with people who at least hold some amount of bitcoin, just like them.
Applications Outside of Bitcoin
In addition to the obvious applications of this technology within the bitcoin ecosystem, it may also hold value for other online communities. Locking up even just a few dollars worth of bitcoin for a few months may be enough to remove a lot of the trolling found in any online community.
“Proof-of-hodl is also useful outside of the bitcoin community, in the same way that other kinds of sacrifices (e.g. proof-of-burn, proof-of-burn-to-miners, proof-of-work) are useful – as an anti-spam measure (for example for fighting spam accounts on wikis and forums) or as a way to build reputation for digital identifies (related to my work at Bitrated),” Ivgi told Crypto Insider. “Or, more generally, as a way to make more reliable signalling in situations where there’s an incentive to cheat.”
Outside online forums, time-locked bitcoins may also be used to increase the value of an online identity. There is a non-zero cost associated with locking up bitcoins for months or years at a time.
Of course, online forums with a pay-to-participate model already exist, so it’s unclear how much use there will be for this sort of model outside of the bitcoin community. Paying the forum administrator to participate also has the added benefit of providing revenue for the forum operators.
A method that used time-locked bitcoins instead of payments to a forum would have the obvious benefit of not requiring payments from users. Ivgi also pointed out that Bitcoin offers an added layer of neutrality and transparency to the system. A forum administrator cannot give out accounts as they see fit without proofs of hodling attached to each new account.
“My plan was to release this and see if there’s interest before devoting more resources into it,” Ivgi told Crypto Insider in terms of what’s to come next. “This would require some more work before I feel comfortable telling people to lock real coins in there. But other than Hodl.voting, I’m also going to use the library and CLI tools in Bitrated as an additional way to gain rating.”
Hodl.voting is currently running on the bitcoin testnet. It is an open-source project, and developers are encouraged to contribute via GitHub.