All-In-One Blockchain Solutions
ARK started as a fork of Crypti (Lisk, which most of the ARK team worked on, also forked from Crypti) and is based on a decentralized delegated proof of stake (DPOS) consenus method. It is an ambitious crypto project aiming to create a user-friendly platform for mass consumer adoption via an ecosystem of linked chains. Essentially the ambition here is to become the "All-in-One Blockchain Solution." <1>
Started: November 7th, 2016
Market cap: $211,222,173 <2>
Price per coin: $2.16
Reddit subscribers: 8,968
Twitter followers: 22,490
Facebook likes: 5,173
Slack members: 8,678
Circulating supply: 97,981,284
Max supply: 125,000,000 (will inflate over time)
Consensus method: DPOS
The ARK Ecosystem
All of the products and services that ARK will offer won't necessarily be owned by ARK but will be a collaboration of side chains - in fact, that's one of the things that really makes ARK stand out from other platform concepts. Other blockchains can communicate with the ARK ecosystem, thus contributing their own technology to improve the platform while benefiting from the capabilities of other linked chains within the ecosystem.
There are an endless number of blockchain solutions out there and with ARK, all of these technologies could co-exist in the same ecosystem of linked chains creating an endless number of real world use-cases. Some early use cases in the gaming industry are outlined in the whitepaper:
Gaming service tokens;
Streaming platform for live gaming;
Group sales (ie: Groupon); and
Physical card printing.
The most promising thing about ARK is the idea of the push button block chain, which is yet to be released but is progressing (see the roadmap here). This would allow others (companies, communities) to clone the ARK chain with built-in SmartBridge integration. Rather than building an entire blockchain from scratch they can simply use the existing capabilities in the ARK ecosystem with their own set of delegates for their own purposes - all in the click of a button. This is huge for consumer adoption and the advancement of blockchain technology as it eliminates two major obstacles - developer knowledge and starting a chain from scratch.
How does it all work?
Other blockchains are able to connect with the ARK ecosystem by adding a code snippet. Now, at first glance this seems like a major hurdle as existing chains would need to modify their code which would likely lead to a hard fork. However, ARK has developed a brilliant solution - if the other chains can't add a code snippet then they can make use of SmartBridge technology.
SmartBridge, which acts as an encoded listener between two chains, is one of the major advantages of ARK as it allows almost any entity (including centralized ones!) to interact with the ARK ecosystem. Not only that, but SmartBridge allows these functions to live on a side chain therefore not burdening the main ARK blockchain.
A basic example - John wants to send 2 ETH to Jim but only holds ARK tokens. Typically, John would have to exchange ARK to ETH using something like Shapeshift, receive the funds in an ETH wallet and then send an ETH transaction from that wallet to Jim's address. Well, with the ARK ecosystem John could send ARK straight to Jim's wallet and have it arrive in ETH as desired. How?
A transaction to send 2 ETH from an ARK wallet is created and the encoded listener realizes that the output needs to be 2 ETH but the input is in ARK, so a currency conversion needs to take place. Making use of SmartBridge, Shapeshift can then convert the ARK into ETH, verify the data and complete the transaction (sending 2 ETH to Jim's wallet). Under the hood, multiple interactions with more than one technology have happened but all John did was send a transaction from his ARK wallet.
For more info (and a better explanation) of how smart bridges work, read the official blog post - What is the ARK SmartBridge, and How Does It Work?
Delegated Proof of Stake
ARK uses delegated proof of stake (DPOS) with 51 forging delegates who are voted in by token holders. <3> Delegates are responsible for verifying transactions and generally supporting the ARK ecosystem; as a reward there is a constant reward of 2 ARK per block. Block times are extremely quick at only 8 seconds, with each block holding 25 transactions.
DPOS is a great feature for ARK as it is inherently more decentralized than POW and encourages token holders to do exactly that - hold tokens. There is a major incentive to stake tokens and vote (at the cost of 1 ARK, will be less in future) <4> for a delegate and that is income sharing. Numbers will fluctuate over time but at the time of writing, voters can expect to receive up to 15% yearly ROI <5> which makes it a solid investment to hold - the best part about it is that to receive the rewards your tokens just need to be in the ARK wallet, no need to run a node 24/7!
ARK was originally built by a team of 30 people from all over the world, though currently the core team appears to be 13 people. There's not exactly any high profile members on the team, however as mentioned most of the team came from Crypti and Lisk so the experience is definitely there and they have made some great progress on the road map. For a practical example of what they're capable of and how they put consumer adoption first, check out the wallet - it's arguably the best crypto wallet out there and the mobile version is soon to come.
What sets ARK apart
Crosschain integration using SmartBridge;
Accepts 9 coding languages, with a total of 15 planned for on roadmap;
Push button cloning for consumer adoption;
Decentralization through DPOS;
Passive ROI (no need to run the wallet 24/7);
Most of the core Crypti/Lisk team works on ARK;
Fantastic wallet experience with Ledger integration; and
Potential to be the all-in-one solution.
Concerns about ARK
Unclear exactly what role the ARK token will play and what it will be worth;
Limited SmartBridge partnerships at this time;
Highly ambitious - can they deliver? A more focused product may be more likely to come to life; and
Limited use at this time, in early stages.
LISK. While not a direct competitor (both have their own unique approach and ultimate goals), LISK is another ambitious platform project that has some similarities and it was the platform the ARK team worked on for a long time. However, the fact that much of the team left to work on ARK and the SmartBridge/Push Button technology gives ARK the edge if stacking the two against each other.
Cosmos. Probably the most direct competitor as Cosmos is probably just as ambitious as ARK and the potential is huge. However, again ARK seems to have developed a better approach (at this time) and is really emphasizing consumer adoption.
There are a few others that are either less established, such as PolkaDot or that have similar platform capability but a different approach/function, such as Stratis.
ARK is one of the most ambitious projects in the crypto space but also one of the few really aiming to increase user adoption. Platform projects arguably have the highest potential of any blockchain application and ARK is a strong contender in this space, offering unique solutions such as SmartBridge and putting consumer adoption first.
References and Notes
<2> Price, market cap and logo are taken from https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/ark/. All other stats with exception of Slack members is taken from https://www.cryptocompare.com/coins/ark/overview/BTC
<3> Most information about delegates is from ARK's blog post "What are Delegates?"
All other information is either adapted from the whitepaper and other research or is personal opinion.
Crypto Advocate does have holdings in ARK.
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