Privacy is an in inalienable human right that is often taken for granted.
This is especially true when it comes to finances and your right to spend your funds on what you want, when you want and how you want.
There are many cryptocurrencies that have made privacy their central thesis. Most of these have focused on the need to create an untraceable and decentralised digital cash.
Particl (PART) is one such project but while most other coins will stop at the cryptocurrency, Particl has developed an entire private marketplace that will also be crypto agnostic.
We were intrigued by the project and decided to reach out to the team to see if they could answer some of the more specific questions we had about Particl.
Interview with Paul Schmitzer
Paul Schmitzer at a recent Meetup. Image source: YouTube
Paul Schmitzer is the head of Project Marketing and strategy at Particl. He is quite involved with the community and regularly attends events to spread awareness for the platform and the broader project.
When contacted by the Coin Bureau, he was happy to answer our list of questions. These delved into a number of topics from technicalities of the protocol to the broader privacy coin and cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Below is the complete interview:
Overview of Yourself, Particl
Can you give us a bit of a background on yourself and how you got involved with crypto and the Particl project?
I’m a family man. I have a beautiful wife and 2 beautiful daughters. I actually am an Architect by trade and have been designing buildings for over 20 years.
Back in 2011 I read a WIRED article by Benjamin Wallace titled “The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin” and that’s what got me into the rabbit hole. Like many others then and since, the early bitcoin ecosystem of forums and IRC channels led me deeper and deeper into a full blown hobby.
I now practice architecture as a hobby and spend the majority of my time in the crypto space.
I’ve never defined myself as a Bitcoin Maximalist but do consider that project to be tops and the most important open source project in existence. My support for altcoin/open source projects is bent towards meaningful development and privacy focused applications. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in the crypto space for 8 years and participated in all of the privacy coin projects of any significance.
I got involved with Particl around 6 months before the project became public. I obviously don’t come from a technical background, but my degree and exposure in the space made me suited well to lead the marketing and communications of the project. Particl has been fortunate to bring on many of our passionate community volunteers into bigger roles and I co-manage a team of 7 of the best contributors in the space.
Particl is focused on a number of different initiatives. For those who have just heard about it, can you explain the drive behind Particl and its broader vision?
Particl is an ambitious project, there’s no simple way to explain it. In the simplist definition Particl is a privacy coin denominated as PART. However the vision of the project is pointing to an independent economy of peers using privacy-focused decentralized applications.
2019 actually begins with a shift in the project – from being a privacy coin project to being a privacy platform with a marketable product. Our Open Marketplace is private by design and is a place to buy or sell stuff for crypto.
With no intent to portray a smugness, the private marketplace is rooted in a problem Satoshi specifically pointed out in the Bitcoin whitepaper.
Commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. While the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent weaknesses of the trust based model.
While bitcoin’s p2p ecash solution gives people back control of their money. Our p2p ecommerce solution gives people back control of how they shop online.
The crypto space is still young. All of us in this space have a responsibility to build a solid foundation for future generations to build on top of. This is why we stay current with every Bitcoin Core release and why we develop peer reviewed privacy enhancements on top of the codebase. This is why we work on decentralized governance and trustless escrow mechanisms. Particl is un-apologetically ambitious and we relish the opportunity to shape all our future.
Particl is relatively unique in the sense that you did not complete an ICO or do a pre-mine. Do you find that this has helped you stand out amongst the crowds that have?
The project got a running start with an active community already established. Projects live or die in this space because of active daily users. If I’m totally honest, I don’t think many people in the total crypto space know about Particl. I say that because the space is largely investor types still and our strong point – development – isn’t a popular metric among that crowd.
For those who are in it for the tech, I think we stand out for sure. While the project is only 1.5 years old, we have community members who have been following our team for over 4 years. The integrity of development the team has displayed over the history of working remotely together is something that is hard to match.
To me, this more than anything, shows us we’re on the right track, the vision is sound and if we build it, they will come.
You guys have said that you are in the final runs of Alpha v 1.2 of the Particl Open Marketplace. When could we be seeing the release of this? When could we expect to see a beta launch of the marketplace?
Yes, our final Alpha version of Open Marketplace is wrapping us and the first Beta version of the marketplace is beginning very soon. Fingers crossed, it will be before the end of the month.
Open Marketplace (Beta) is slated for an end of Q1, 2019 release or early Q2. With Beta we’ll release build candidates that are feature releases. We’re adding more functionality to the seller side of the markeplace with inventory management, communication, feedback, etc that will be individual version releases.
The strategy is that with each new vendor tool we’ll see more sellers try out Open Marketplace and build up our product listings.
You have also mentioned that when Alpha v1.2 is released, everyone will be able to access it on testnet with a limited select group running the mainnet. Have you thought more about how you will select these users?
It is true the final Alpha build will be a stable testnet version and major improvement over v1.1 which was released in May, 2018. Nobody ever expected Alpha to be on mainnet being that it was a proof of concept (PoC).
However, the team has made the barebone concept into a rather stable and useable decentralized marketplace app over the past 6 months. To that end, the final Alpha release will also be on mainnet and available for everyone to buy and sell stuff for crypto!
Please let your readers be aware – like with all first generation products ie: bitcoin – Alpha Open Marketplace is an experimental application that you can lose real money using if you don’t know what you are doing.
Also, the new Beta features will never be available on the Alpha marketplace. Users will need to wait until March-April for tools like product imports and buyer/seller encrypted communication.
You guys have touched on vendor outreach when Beta is fully functional. What sort of vendors are you thinking of targeting? Is there a typical vendor profile that you think is best aligned to join in these initial stages?
Our target audience is crypto users early on. The tech is still too complicated for normal online shoppers at this point. So we see a lot of vendors who already use decentralized marketplaces to also use Particl. We see online vendors who already sell on Amazon or eBay but are also into crypto using the Open Marketplace as a way to sell stuff for crypto. They can’t do that on the centralized marketplaces.
Particl Open Marketplace is a downloadable app. It’s important to understand that most online sellers and buyers aren’t keen to download software to shop. They are mostly using web or mobile applications. So keeping this in line as we approach vendors is important. Adoption will come over time. The Open Marketplace offers an attractive choice for users who have stuff and want crypto, but isn’t a compete-able product against publicly traded ecommerce giants… just yet.
Image Source: Official Particl Blog
Particl-Proof-of-Stake (PPoS) is unique to you guys and allows cold staking from a hardware wallet. You have also just released cold staking pools with a new user interface. How has this been going? Has the community been actively involved in the staking process?
Everyone was very excited with the release of cold staking pools. Four decentralized PART pools are in the wild with over 119,000 PART currently staking.
Our community has always been believers in the bigger picture of the project. You can see that in the stinginess they exhibit with getting rid of their staked PART. Our network consistently has 40%-50% of the network staking represented by more than 500 full nodes; an now an infinite amount of anonymous nodes pointing to cold staking pools.
Staking pools should increase the staking network because it’s 100% private and decentralzied and lets users with smaller amounts contribute to consensus and earn rewards for the work they do.
The hardfork and launch of Ring CT is being delayed so that they can be fully launched with Bulletproofs. How is the development on this going?
Bulletproofs is in the code now but still needs to go through a proper code audit and double-check period. If all comes out positive then PART users can plan on that being on mainnet with the next planned hardfork.
Early indications show a significant 70% reduction in rangeproof sizes, as well as, enhanced privacy due to 64bit coverage over the average 32bit. We’ll have more to talk about when a code consultant is secured and the audit is underway.
In your roadmap you have also mentioned the MAD escrow system as a potential solution to dispute settlement. Won’t it be difficult to convince new users to use a feature that could see them losing funds through no fault of their own?
Particl’s MAD escrow system is based on the game theory of mutually assured destruction (MAD) where trust doesn’t need to be present in order for 2 parties to come to an agreement. This is definitely not a normal way to do business between a buyer and seller online and will be a different experience to most. That doesn’t mean it is a bad way to do business. In fact we think it’ll be liberating when people begin to use it.
Every sale and purchase on Open Marketplace will create a 2-person trustless escrow contract. We built it this way because 2 people can transact in real life without 3rd parties involved and the benefits for the seller (make more money) and buyer (buy at cheapest price) is greatest with only 2 people involved.
The whole process will be different for most when they first go through it. There’s more ownership and control with the buy flow modeled in Open Markeplace. The beauty of the system is that cooperation, even without trusting each other, is necessary so both users don’t lose their deposit money.
Would your rather give someone 5% of your earnings (loss) or lock 5% of your earnings in a mutual contract and get it back?
You have just released your governance protocol with coinweight voting. Members have addressed concerns about the potential for manipulation by large vendors. While it is still early stages, have you thought about any counterweights to this? Could you borrow tweaks and changes from other governance protocols?
Yes, our Alpha Open Marketplace builds have v2 of our governance protocol inside. This version comes with coinweight voting. One thing to keep in mind is that all decentralized governance protocols need proper usage before we can see how theories translate functionally into the real world.
To start we’ve tagged 10% of PART supply for delisting. So a large vendor would need to have access to 10.1% of total supply to manipulate the results in one direction or 10% to manipulate in the other direction (for example to delist competitor items).
The first person to flag an item registers the first downvote for an item and that moves to a special window for other users to approve or disapprove items. When an item surpasses the 10% it will be delisted and the seller loses their listing fee. Again, this is our governance v2 mechanism in place which is able to be tweaked depending on how real world usage dictates.
The researchers on our Particl team are keen on other projects developing governance, privacy and security standards. Being flexible and adaptable are important in these early PoC apps.
You guys recently partnered with PIVX to be part of their zDEX genesis launch. Do you see yourselves strengthening this alliance in other ways?
PIVX will likely be one of the earliest cryptocoins to be added as a payment method on Particl’s Open Marketplace. The zDEX product PIVX has built could potentially be refined to be a complimentary privacy focused decentralized app within the Particl Desktop.
Both communities around PIVX and PART are close and friendly even in a space you typically see “competitive envy” with daily users. These are the types of project teams we want to work with and the type of communities we want to include in our products.
The space is still so young, we’re all building the future, why waste it on bickering over who’s first or who’s better when we can collaborate and make some very cool stuff for everyone.
You have partnered with Mubiz in order to provide a more user-friendly interface for the marketplace. The guys at Mubiz have just released their new website. What are your thoughts on it? Do you think Mubiz will help drive adoption among more traditional users?
I think it’s beautiful! I absolutely think a clearnet web interface for the Open Marketplace will help drive adoption. Most online shopping happens through the web or mobile devices so that’s really the direction we need to go for wider adoption and increased daily user activity.
Mubiz uses Particl API calls to share, search and display listings on the Open Marketplace for anyone with a web browser. It is a great initiative from a longtime PART community contributor. I’d love to see more of these type projects pop up this year.
Mubiz marketplace User Interface. Image Source: Official Mubiz
Following on from this, are there any other potential partnerships that you are exploring with other projects? Perhaps any projects that have expressed interest in building a dApp?
We have good relationships with a handful of projects, including Bitcoin, PIVX and Komodo. We’re one of a small group of projects who see the importance of cross chain solutions like Decred’s atomic swaps.
Both PIVX and Komodo have decentralized exchanges which we’re big fans of. At last year’s Consensus in New York City, Steve Lee of KMD and I discussed the use cases a complimentary decentralized exchange dapp like their BarterDEX would bring to daily users of Particl Desktop. Our privacy platform is for building privacy-focused decentralized applications – whether it’s our team or another team.
With a DEX and decentralized marketplace on the same platform you can have users who like swap trading with a DEX and then come to the marketplace to celebrate a good day with a small purchase. This is the independent economy I see growing as the project and space matures.
I could see one of these partnerships happening at some point in the future with any of these projects or others. A big first step with supporting more development on Particl will be when our software development kit (SDK) is put out. That’s a roadmap item that will pick up more steam and manpower later this summer.
You guys seem to be very active when it comes to developer activity and GitHub commits. You have pushed more commits than projects which have much bigger teams. Are the developers getting any sleep? Are you actively taking on engineering talent?
Ha! Yes our devs have full lives outside of Particl. Your observation, more than anything, can be linked to the amount of work being done compared to the project’s vision and roadmap. As I said earlier, this is an ambitious project and one that is hard to define in one simple statement. We have a clear plan of where we’re going and all the hard work and collaboration is on display within our Github.
We’re BUIDLers and everything we do is open source – in visible, public repositories. Unlike a lot of crypto projects who fork codes and then never return to update, or who copy good bits from here or there, we constantly stay in step with Bitcoin Core commits which is a full time job in itself. Our developers, specifically Tecnovert, have contributed a lot of “firsts” for privacy onto the Bitcoin codebase – both past and present – like stealth addresses, ring signatures, confidential transactions, (upcoming) bulletproofs, that other projects ultimately adopt as well.
Even if most young crypto enthusiasts don’t get excited about technology, I think the development community in crypto, specifically the privacy projects, respect the Particl team and what we are building – not just for PART users, but for the entire ecosystem.
We hired around 10 people in 2018, half being developers positions. We are always taking applications and also encourage community development and contributing in the tradition of open source development as well.
PPoS is supported on the Ledger Nano hardware wallet. You guys have also said that Trezor Wallet integration could be on the way soon. How is development coming on this front?
It’s going good. We have a working PoC on Particl Core and are in a waiting pattern with the Trezor team as they review a pull request we submitted over the holidays. The request is to add the ability to enter the PIN on the device itself, using only the two buttons. A Bitcoin developer has chimed in saying they too would like this feature as it would make Core integration much easier.
I’ve found the developers at Ledger, Trezor and even KeepKey to be great collaborators who are always striving to keep user’s crypto as safe and simple as possible. A relating request is here with devs from Bitcoin, Particl, Trezor and KeepKey all working through the suggestion.
Obviously exchanges are always a tricky subject given the nature of listings. Are there any large exchanges that have shown an interest? What are you ideally looking for in an exchange partner?
Binance, Coinbase and Circle are the 3 main service providers we have been focused on mainly because they have taken the steps to properly validate projects per the current regulations required. Nothing is guaranteed when talking with providers, but we ensure they have the legal reviews and documents so they can make the most informed decision possible.
With so many exchanges popping into the space, we get emails weekly for new opportunities for PART to be added. If these companies want to add PART for free we lend a hand with the integration – if they are asking for a fee we politely turn them down.
PART is readily available from close to 2 dozen services. There is no logical benefit to the project to pay a new service when we 1) have no control over the coin supply and 2) people already have many choices from where to get PART today.
Some of the Exchanges and Services to buy PART
How do you square the circle when it comes to regulatory oversight and facilitating anonymous private marketplaces?
The Particl Project is supported by the non-profit Particl Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is promoting and developing new technologies and applications, especially in the fields of new open and decentralized software architectures.
Particl Open Marketplace is a privacy-focused decentralized application that uses industry standard encryption in the same way an app like Signal uses encryption. By keeping our code open we stay transparent with how that cryptography is integrated. Like with all things we use daily, the onus needs to be on the user as to how they use the product.
If any product we build doesn’t check all the boxes that are necessary to keep the user in full control then we’d stop working on it immediately. The vision of the project is clear and we won’t compromise building ethical, empowering, private software if it means we sacrifice the sovereignty of the individual.
What are you personally most proud about the Particl project? What most excites you about the project as we enter 2019 and beyond?
There are 2 things I’m most proud about Particl. First, I’m proud on what we’ve created with minimal finances and lean teams (compared to venture backed startups) in around 18 months time. Quick glances at our year in reviews for both 2017 and 2018 gives your readers an overview of the BUIDL mentality the volunteers and supported team has. We’ve delivered one of the only working products in the space, and it’s a much needed one – not only for PART users but a use case for other cryptocurrencies as they are added.
Secondly, I’m proud of our first marketable product, the Open Marketplace. Most of us gravitated to Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin because it gave us control of our money. This was a revelation that has led to a revolution.
The sad truth is that when people want to use their crypto to buy or sell stuff they mostly need to give back control of their money to payment providers like their bank or PayPal or Visa. I see the Open Marketplace as a product that keeps users in control of their crypto. With it, they don’t have to leave crypto. Hopefully never again.
It seems as if 2019 will indeed be quite a busy year for the Particl project. Starting with the conclusion of their Open Marketplace alpha and the subsequent launch of their Beta, things appear to be kicking into high gear.
It will also be interesting to see if there are any other partnerships that they are able to forge with other projects and whether they are able to secure more exchange listings. Of course, the latter will depend to a great degree on an exchange partner willing to work with the Particl team.
If you want to keep up to date with the Particl project then you keep an eye on their official blog as well as on their twitter account. The team is quite active when it comes to updating their community members. If you would like to buy PART then you can get them on Bittrex.
Featured Image via Fotolia & Particl