Report 'Baseline Protocol Review and Rating' by rate3 at 06 Jun 2020
Baseline Protocol Review and Rating Source
As I've already mentioned multiple times in my reviews, I'm not a proponent of corporate blockchains. After all, all attempts to centralize decentralized protocols are oxymoronic by nature and shall be considered as a blasphemy in our space :)
However, as we continue to be 'regulated' by governments into the underground, it becomes more important to keep our minds open by being receptive to comprehensive projects backed by big corps, if only because it might revive our non-existing dialogue with most authorities in order to help them to revise their outrageously anachroinical views on DLT space.
Besides, some corporate 'DLT initiatives' do, sometimes, make more sense than the rest of those mostly 'dog and pony shows'. One of those promising enterprises, which recently caught attention of some crypto-medias, is the 'Baseline Protocol' (BP).
In this review I intend to assign SVET rating to it. Let's see how it goes.
System: Security (resistance to attacks) - Velocity (scalability and throughput) - Engineering (quality of network's architecture) - Transparency (decentralization / centralization)
In the terms of corporate consultants' colloquialisms this Protocol is usually described as 'a microservice architecture' with its three main hierarchical components currently residing in separate Docker containers. One is Radish34 - basically, the Baseline Protocol's main client. Another is 'the translation layer for data and messages', which is, mostly, aimed to provide identity identification and key management (remember, when it gets to corporate version of 'decentralized solutions' we're not in the crypto-land anymore). Third one is the Unibright's proxy service, which, essentially, consists of API and some other corks, integrating above-mentioned everything with a main-chain.
There's not even a working prototype available yet for me to assign the 'Security' rating to the whole system and playing with the Radish demo (you can get it from the GitHub to install on your own station) only gets me so far as to re-confirm my biases against those types of bulky inter-corporate cross-platforms implementations, which can get itself wrong on each and every points of their 'junctures'. Hence, 'Security' and 'Engineering' is both 'c' (until it's proven otherwise) in all of my books.
However, I'm here not to say that those 'implementations' shouldn't be tried-and-failed at all, specially, taking in account that, realistically speaking, we do not have any base-layer chains available for corporate boys and girls to deep their teeth into. Therefore, I intend to give them a leeway and adjust 'Engineering' to 'b' level, just to acknowledge their 'compliant audacity'.
As to this system's scalability and throughput it's obvious that with such an ultimate architectural dependency from the Unibright, its 'Velocity' can't be higher than that of the base-layer protocol itself. Consequently (specially, at this early stage in the lives of both of them) I'm compelled to assign no higher that "c+" to BP.
No less obviously its 'Transparency' sub-rating (the measure of decentralization / centralization) is deemed to be 'c', but, again, because I have seen myself how hard BP team is trying to communalize this project (including, running a Telegram group and pushing its code to GitHub) I'll give them a credit and "+" for those efforts. Result: "c+".
Total 'System': Security - Velocity (scalability and throughput) - Engineering (quality of network's architecture) - Transparency (decentralization / centralization): c/c+/b/c+
A business / management part of BP is as much labyrinthine as anything else within its corporate realm. The 'Governance' file on GitHub stipulates that "The Baseline Protocol is governed by the Ethereum OASIS Project Governing Board under the OASIS Open Projects Program." and "... The Board includes representatives from Ethereum OASIS Open Project Sponsors that have committed to the Entity Contributor Licensing Agreement. ... "
Currently, this board consists of reps from only three organizations: Ethereum Foundation (Swiss non-profit foundation 'Stiftung Ethereum', which was created in 2014 to finance Ethereum growth), ConsenSys (founded by Joseph Lubin in 2015 to support Dapps development on Ethereum) and 'Enterprise Ethereum Alliance' (founded in March 2017 to incorporate Ethereum into large, established institutions, includes about 150 members). However, it's not yet everything, which BP has to offer on the side of its 'structuring'. There is also 'Technical Steering Committee', which 'directs the day-to-day technical activities of Baseline'.
This Committee includes, on top of already mentioned big corps bodies (plus Ernst & Young, Unibright and Chainlink) a number of smaller companies such as TSC Chair (a consulting boutique associated with one of the ConsenSys employees), Aztec (London based startup which promotes its own 'privacy protocol'), Provide (a small non-DLT comp selling to its clients 'payments solutions'), Web3Labs (another startup from England, which markets its own SDKs for blockchains), Splunk (non-DLT 'data platform' which works with big corps), and, as organizers put it on their web page, 'Code (zic!) Convergence' (which is, in fact, 'Core Convergence' - a small tech consultancy firm based in San Francisco).
Overall, it would be very intriguing to see how productive this 'democratic' aquarium filled in with 'big and small fishes' will be in 'directing day-to-day activities'. Besides, what is the real cost-effectiveness of BP for all involved parties remains a mystery to an outside observer. Therefore, I have to express my concern about those issues by assigning "c+" for 'Solution'. However, imho, the legal ('Validity') and 'Team' sides of this enterprise both deserve the firm 'a'.
As to BP's Equity' (or the current states and its finance) it's yet another unknown in this corporate equation. Apparently, project organizers do promote 'decentralization' and 'openness' strictly up to the limits prescribed by their corporate agendas. Therefore, until further clarification I have to pull it down to 'c' level.
Total "Execution" (management): Solution (business model) - Validity (legal viability) - Equity (state of finance) - Team: c+/a/c/a
Naturally, faced by draconian laws, which do not draw a clear line (quite deliberately, I would say) between security and usability tokens and treat them, essentially, the same old-fashion way, corporations universally avoid mentioning "Tokenomics" in their systems' blue-prints. BP is not an exception.
However, as it comes to review a DLT company which doesn't issue its own coins / tokens there's always the question to be asked: are there enough economic incentives left for multiple participants to assure their active participation in its internal micro-economy and to maintain an incorruptible consensus?
After all the main idea behind BP is to establish and to maintain an effective cross-companies-borders exchange of sensitive economic and financial data (without breaching key secrecy and confidentiality internal protocols) in order to achieve measurable gains in productivity, efficiency and quality controls.
The example used in Radish34 demo is, not surprisingly, 'the supply-chain', as it has already became a cliche in our industry. Yes, theoretically speaking, all actors - BP participants - would want to deal with the most effective suppliers of the best components available on the market. However, on practice, such purely economic, long-term benefits are often disregarded in favor of banale bureaucratic considerations of convenient 'partnerships' with already familiar market players.
Additionally, without participants being immediately financially penalized for wrong choices / actions, it's not clear how an optimal consensus might be reached between them on a question, for example, which of newcomers must or must not be included into the suppliers list, etc.
Not to mention, of course, that, very often, the price / delivery time differences between procurement agents are so insignificant that it's much simpler just to make a long-term agreement with one of them for a full range of supplies rather than to spend your time and energy trying to split hairs while 'playing' with BP.
That's, basically, why, when I can not clearly see how BP would motivate its members (and, btw, its investors), I start to questions BP's internal economy long-term stability ("Sustainability" is "c") as well as its ability to produce the real financial value for all involved parties ("Value" is 'c+'), except, possible, some minor gains on data storage / transmission sides ('Transactions' is 'b-').
Usually, after an initial spark of enthusiasm among corps execs, enhanced by external consultants, it leads to quick disillusionment and abandonment ("Engagement" is "c+"). Unless, of course, it wouldn't immediately lead to spiking corps shares prices, as it was famously the case in the fall-winter period of 2017.
Result for "Tokenomics" (Micro-Economy): Sustainability (project's economy long-term stability) - Value (coins / tokens long-term value) - Engagement (potential number of coin / tokens users) - Transactions (cost and ease of transactions): c/c+/c+/b-
As we expect that the global blockchain space continues to grow at a record peace of about 80% yearly projected to reach $12 billion in 2022 (according, largely, to unchallenged data supplied by China based "International Data Corporation" or IDC), I do not think that, at this stage, there's a place for doubts about this market's future business potentials ('Volume' is 'a').
However, despite many declarations about successful 'blockchain adaption' (f.e. a year ago Forbes published a list of '50 $1 billion firms that are implementing blockchain technology'), as far as I know, the number of cost-effective corporate DLT platforms is close to none (please, let me know if you have some proved information, which might suggest otherwise).
Moreover, despite the growing number of industries where DLT might have been successfully applied to solve both data timeliness and source verification issues (ranging from 'personal identity' to 'military supplies'), what we are keep seeing is that 'in mass' corps management continues to approach DLT simply 'as a very big shared data storage' pushing in it highly inefficient and outdated standard 'business processes'. At this stage, I can't see how BP stands out from this crowd. Hence 'Singularity' is 'c'.
On the other hand, I wouldn't say so about its force of appeal to potential users ('Empathy' is 'a'). It can be, of course, partially attributed to the good reputation, which its core organizers enjoy in our community. However, I venture to say, that the psychological factor - that of DLT version of the 'hostage stockholm syndrome' - plays no lesser role in that involuntary sympathy.
We are assaulted now from four sides by govs bureaucrats coming from all imaginable ideological dominions. Because of that, when big corporations, which are, of course, an integral part of this system, show their respect to at least some of our values, we fell for that immediately.
As to 'TimeLine' (or 'Timeliness') of BP it's in the range of the firm 'b'. Moreover, given the current developments on the world arena, where 'remote' has already become a slogan of the year, I am compelled to push it even higher to 'b+'.
Result for "Vision" (market): Singularity (project's uniqueness) - Volume (targeted market size) - Empathy (appeal to users) - Timeline (project schedule and long-term strategy): c/a/a/b+