An update on Earendil and Mel's roadmap

As we inch closer to the end of 2023, it seems appropriate to give everyone an update on what we’ve been up to recently.

We have been rather quiet on social media, since we were focusing on building building off-chain protocols that any application can easily integrate with — the core idea behind “off-chain composability”. Deploying gibbername into production with Geph was a great test run of this model, but beyond that, there wasn’t anything ready for public attention yet.

Of course, gibbername was never going to be the “killer app” of Mel’s paradigm. But we are in fact building something that we intend to become the centerpiece of the Mel-powered ecosystem — Earendil, an unstoppable transport layer.

Earendil: a core piece of Mel’s off-chain ecosystem

Earendil is a general-purpose anonymous communication and transaction network. It lets anybody send data or money to anybody else in a censorship-resistant and anonymous way. But it’s far more than a combination of Tor and Lightning — Earendil will be the first ever such network that is fully decentralized, incentive-compatible, and ban-resistant.

It’s worth elaborating a bit on what ban-resistance means (you can read more about it on my blog). In the blockchain/web3 world, “censorship resistance” typically means that the protocol cannot discriminate between different users: the Monero network cannot allow Bob to send transactions but freeze Alice’s assets. But ban-resistance means that the protocol itself cannot be banned, even by powerful attackers that control basic network infrastructure. To be ban-resistant, Earendil must essentially be invisible to ISPs, something that few networks aim to achieve.

A ban-resistant, anonymous protocol of sending data and money is really important for Mel’s vision of an ecosystem of truly decentralized, non-blockchain applications — you can’t build something like a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol or confederal chat protocol if the means by which nodes talk to each other is easily controlled and censored. You can read more on Earendil’s applications here.

Currently, Earendil is the main focus of development for us. You can learn more by:

We plan on releasing an Earendil pre-alpha by the end of 2023. This MVP will not include incentivization, but will otherwise be a fully functional Tor-like anonymous network, with all the ban-resistance magic built in.

Further in the future, we plan on releasing a production version of Earendil, integrated with Geph, in Q3 2024. Geph, a trust-minimizing but centralized VPN project with more than 400K daily users, will officially become a user-friendly frontend of Earendil, bringing decentralized ban-resistance to a mass audience. Stay tuned for more information on how that will work in the near future :slight_smile:

wen token, wen staking, etc

Many of you are already minting betanet $MEL, even though neither $MEL nor the proof-of-stake token $SYM on the betanet have much utility currently.

This will soon change. We aim to add the final set of major changes to the Mel betanet in Q1 2024 to deploy MelVM Turing completeness and tweaks to Melmint. At that time, betanet staking will be stable and well-documented, allowing you to participate in Mel consensus with your own staker node, as long as you have $SYM to stake.

Furthermore, once Earendil users increase and especially once it is integrated with Geph, there will be much more utility for $MEL, since you will be able to buy $MEL-denominated bandwidth on Earendil, and Earendil node providers will be paid by users in $MEL. This is likely to generate more on-chain fees that will increase staking rewards.

The details are not yet set in stone, but once $MEL and $SYM have established circulation driven by applications like Earendil, we plan on exploring some sort of community-focused token launch involving both sales and grants to infrastructure providers, which will decentralize $SYM ownership and launch the Mel base layer as a truly neutral and decentralized system.