A decade has passed since Satoshi Nakamoto’s original Bitcoin paper first surfaced. In this span of time, researchers and developers around the world have extended Satoshi’s ideas dramatically to propose distributed ledgers in different colors and shapes. In the last several years, we have seen a Cambrian explosion of blockchains that seek to solve fundamental technological limitations that Bitcoin posed, and extend the technology’s purview to domains far beyond digital currency.
While many of these newer systems are unrecognizably dissimilar to Bitcoin, and to each other—the same computer science principles of peer-to-peer networking lie at the heart of all of them. From another perspective, while there have been remarkable advances in cryptographic primitives, consensus protocols, and incentive mechanism, little has changed at the network layer.
Peer-to-peer networks in virtually all decentralized systems are built to cater to an invariable pattern of communication: information produced by one node needs to be propagated to each and every node in the network. Such a one-to-many pattern is dramatically different from the predominant pattern seen in traditional server-client (or point-to-point) architectures. And unsurprisingly, much of the current point-to-point network protocols are unsuitable for decentralized systems.
Current decentralized systems are based on peer-to-peer communication via Gossip protocols. These systems operate by a sender broadcasting the message to its peers and then the peers recursively forwarding the message to their peers until the message has been received by the entire network.
While such protocols are well studied for reliable information distribution, they are routinely inefficient in terms of the 1) latency of propagation, 2) bandwidth consumption, and 3) network congestion. Furthermore, they lack incentive compatibility: for e.g. a Bitcoin miner does not have an incentive to forward the transactions it receives. In cases such as Zcash and Monero where anonymity and privacy are paramount, Gossip message forwarding also opens the door for an attacker observing the network to infer the IP/network addresses of message senders, thereby revealing private information.
Our mission is to advance the state of peer-to-peer communication systems, to power the blockchain platforms, protocols, and applications of the future. We believe efficient network protocols are key to achieving planet-scale decentralized networks. We believe privacy and anonymity are core primitives that need to be built into the network layer. By building such technology, we can improve the privacy and performance of all blockchains.
As more applications and platforms adopt Marlin, the network participants benefit from increased incentives. Higher incentives attract more nodes to join the network, resulting in synergistic network effects exhibited in improved performance and stronger anonymity guarantees. We believe a single, well-crafted network layer would be pivotal for greater interoperability and would open the door for entirely new kinds of applications.
We have assembled a team of world-class experts on networks and distributed systems, but Marlin is not a conventional company. We believe that the true promise of decentralized systems is realized when all the stakeholders have incentives aligned towards the progress of the entire ecosystem. Marlin is a community of developers and experts with the mission of making blockchain technology robust and efficient for everyone.