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Jeff Garzik on His Newest Venture and Keeping Time With an Evolving Space

An interview with Jeff Garzik about his latest project, Metronome.
Digital assets - Jeff Garzik on His Newest Venture and Keeping Time With an Evolving Space

Jeff Garzik first tuned the world into his latest venture in the fall of 2017. The Bloq co-founder unveiled Metronome (MET), a cryptocurrency he founded alongside Matthew Roszak, at the Las Vegas Money 20/20 conference in late October, and the project caught the attention of Bloomberg and Fortune at the time.

What makes Metronome interesting is that it promises its users cross-chain portability. It also purports to offer a consistent rate of inflation and “no undue influence from founders after launch.” These three promises — Metronome’s mantra of self-governance, reliability and portability — set lofty expectations for the new project; anyone acquainted with Bitcoin and blockchain technology is likely to watch and see if it can deliver.

Garzik has stated in past interviews that he created Metronome as a new beginning, a project that embodies what he would do differently after building on Bitcoin for a number of years. Metronome’s differences seem to suggest that the search for hyper-decentralization was Garzik’s touchstone for starting over. Imagine a coin being so intrinsically opposed to centralization, for instance, that it isn’t beholden to a single blockchain.

Of course, as an ERC20 token, it is fundamentally tied to Ethereum; but the team claims that via smart contracts, users can swap the coin from chain to chain. From the get-go, this transferability will only be open to Ethereum Classic, Rootstock and QTUM. From there, it will be up to community coders to free up avenues to other chains. Keeping with the team’s commitment to zero-to-no influence, Metronome will rely on the volunteer work of disparate developers to expand its offerings and improve its protocol.

As for the rest, there’s little about the coin that speaks to convention. Instead of launching an initial coin offering (ICO), the project is holding a week-long descending-price auction. Unlike the more popular English-style auction, in a descending-price auction, price action descends as the auction progresses. For Metronome’s, the price of 1 MET will start at 2 ether (ETH) and decrease each minute until all of the auction’s 8,000,000 MET are sold or the sale ends.

Since the coin doesn’t have — or, in the future, will separate from — a native chain, it offers no mining rewards. To circulate supply, then, Metronome will feature daily descending-price auctions after its initial token sale. According to the project’s FAQ, “MET is added to MET’s Daily Supply Lots (‘DSL’) every 24 hours, at the rate that is the greater of (i) 2,880 MET per day, or (ii) an annual rate equal to 2.0000.”

Besides the MET to be sold in the initial and daily auctions, 20 percent will be allocated to what the project calls “authors” — its team and advisors. Of these coins, 25 percent will be available immediately upon release, while the other 75 percent will be unlocked incrementally throughout a 12-quarter period.

Smart contracts control coin supply and issuance, as well as coin migration between chains, and the team has pledged to keep its hands free from directing development or swaying governance. “After its launch,” one Metronome FAQ answer reads, “authors will have no more control over MET than any other member of the MET community.”

We had the opportunity to interview Jeff Garzik to learn more about his latest project.

Bitcoin Magazine: The first thing that stands out is the cross-blockchain portability. Namely, how will this be accomplished, and does it really mean that I’ll be able to swap my MET from Ethereum’s chain to, say, QTUM’s or Stellar’s?

Jeff Garzik: Exporting one’s MET to another blockchain is a process where the owner chooses a target blockchain when initiating the export, and then receives a Merkle root receipt proving they have the MET that they are exporting. The process “burns” or destroys the MET on Blockchain A, and when the owner provides that receipt to the contracts on Blockchain B, they will have the same amount of MET minted for them on that blockchain. The burning of Blockchain A’s MET is to ensure that global supply remains constant.

So, we are careful to not describe it as a “swap,” per se, because it’s actually the opposite of a swap — the asset itself is moving, just as if you were moving gold from one safe to another.

BM: Metronome’s FAQ states, “As the community continues developing MET, it may be compatible with even more blockchains.” Does this mean that community developers will be able to build on the protocol to make it interoperable with other chains?

JG: Regarding ongoing development, Metronome is completely open source, and there is no foundation deciding its trajectory — that responsibility is with the community. Consider Bitcoin: there was no “foundation” in the beginning. Similarly, we don’t want to create enshrined leaders of Metronome, which is what a foundation does. Creating a Metronome author-run foundation at the outset bakes in community dependence on that foundation, which is a centralizing force we wish to avoid.

The community can choose a chain they wish to develop compatibility for and work toward that. In the very near term, you’ll be able to transfer from the Ethereum chain to Ethereum Classic, QTUM or another chain using the Ethereum Virtual Machine. From there? Time will tell.

BM: Is coin migration done automatically through the smart contract? Or does some miner/intermediary manually execute this function for a user?

JG: The answer is key to governance. The user holds and controls that “receipt” received when MET is exported from one blockchain. The user chooses when to export/import and must manually initiate that action.

BM: How is the team ensuring that Metronome’s smart contracts and wallets are going to be stable? There have been so many hacks of wallets and bugs in contracts, especially with ERC20 tokens and Ethereum-based smart contracts.

JG: As to the stability of Metronome’s contracts, they have been rigorously reviewed by four independent auditors. The team has gone the extra mile to ensure that those contracts will be as rock-solid as humanly possible at launch. As to the wallet, being standards-compliant with ERC20 of course means that you inherit all of that standard’s characteristics — mostly favorable in terms of compatibility and interoperability — as well as its limitations and those of the cryptocurrency category in general.

BM: Where did the idea for Metronome come from? What compelled you and Matthew Roszak to migrate to new projects from your current projects?

JG: Two answers: first, I have been in the cryptocurrency space for a long time as one of the first to start contributing to Bitcoin. The ensuing years have given me enough perspective to ask, “Knowing what I now know about cryptocurrencies and how the communities around them operate, how would I redesign a cryptocurrency from scratch that would be enduring and satisfy the most use cases?” With Metronome, we have built a cryptocurrency intended to serve as a store of value, method of exchange, machine-to-machine payment medium and other applications.

The second answer, though, is a bit more philosophical. I’m a big fan of ideas like the Long Now Foundation, which aims to encourage civilizations to think in terms of generational scale rather than months, quarters and years. That kind of spirit inspired the cross-blockchain idea. For a currency to be truly multi-generational in scale, it cannot be tied to a single, native ledger.

BM: Governance and reliability are key to the project, it seems. How will Metronome’s governance protect itself from the control of its authors/founding members?

JG: Once launched, Metronome is completely autonomous. There is no foundation where the proceeds from auctions are hidden away for founders, and there is no centralized group defining Metronome post-launch. Even if the founders wanted to manipulate and control Metronome (we don’t), we simply would not be able to.

Additionally, by rewarding the founding team with tokens (rather than proceeds) and slowly disbursing them according to a mechanical rule, we assure the community that the founding team is properly motivated in Metronome’s early years.

BM: For issuance, what will it do differently to ensure a steady, unmanipulated inflation rate?

JG: Metronome’s issuance is locked in at launch, and any new contracts must accept the issuance logic. (The rate is the greater of 2,880 MET per day or whatever amount necessary to achieve a steady 2 percent annual rate.) Issuance is based on time, not on hash or staking power, since both are subject to fluctuations that create variability over time for circulating supply.

BM: It seems as if Metronome’s modus operandi is its commitment to community control. Is Metronome trying to “fix” decentralization and reintroduce it into a space that continues to grapple with centralizing forces?

JG: Greater decentralization is something we have been fixated on since we started this journey in spring of 2017. The current cryptocurrency landscape (especially when considering new cryptocurrencies) is not all that decentralized. Small groups of developers and foundations largely define the course, scope and goals of a cryptocurrency.

Metronome is looking to return to the original promises of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin, where updates and goals are community driven without too much customary deference to a small group. Metronome does this through a unique take on community governance through self-governance.

BM: In a Medium post, Metronome’s team says that the coin is “being built to last.” What features do you think make this a coin for the long run?

JG: We believe that every aspect of Metronome makes it more durable. Self-governance allows the community to define and build Metronome, not a far-off foundation. A reliable and a highly predictable issuance allows owners and purchasers to calculate supply at any point in the future with high confidence. Portability allows Metronome owners to move their MET to any compatible blockchain for whatever reason they see fit, rather than locking themselves into a set of rules and chain permanence. These characteristics make Metronome both flexible and resilient — two necessary attributes for the long haul.

In sum: we are introducing a wholly new concept — a token that is not tied to a blockchain. Other tokens are tied to a single network, a single technology and a single blockchain. Metronome is something new. We’re very proud of the results and are looking forward to seeing where the crypto and fintech ecosystem takes it.