Making gambling decentralized and anonymous
Monday 11 August 2014
While online gambling can be a legal grey area, depending on where you live, there’s no denying that it has a large audience and demand. As such, bitcoin has enabled many online casinos to take form, allowing people to gamble in a relatively safe and anonymous fashion.
Bitcoin as it stands is at least pseudonymous in nature and casinos that use it tout provably fair gambling through cryptographic means. These features definitely make standard online casinos less appealing, however what happens if you can no longer access said casino? An example would be the fact that satoshi-dice can no longer allow those with United States IP addresses to participate. Not everyone is familiar with IP Cloaking, nor would the average person necessarily delve into it.
The issue of centralized servers rears its head again, as certain casinos may be forced to discriminate against users based on their geographic location.
A centralized problem tends to come with a decentralized solution, and Bitfrog aims to be just that. Bitfrog claims it will be a decentralized gaming platform centered on bitcoin, with an emphasis on gambling. It may seem odd to believe that a game like Poker can be enforced horizontally since money is involved, but it may be possible. After all, we (in groups) create rules to benefit us in given situations. When it comes to playing games, as with chess, checkers, mahjong, poker, and so on, everyone playing in a given session wants the game to have legitimacy, consistency, and fairness. The main way to have those elements is to make sure that all rules associated with a game are enforced. If someone violates these rules and refuses to conform to them, that person is simply excluded by other players. If you and your friends were playing poker at a table, with one person continually breaking the rules, would you allow that person to keep playing with you? Similar to how we don’t need a central authority to enforce the rules of chess, for example, we may not need a central authority like a casino to play games like poker. With that in mind, Bitfrog wants to take that same type of enforcement and make it possible online.
How does a decentralized structure work?
Along with horizontal enforcement, Bitfrog wants to emulate bitcoin’s anonymity. It would not require you to create an account or give information to a game host. As with projects like this it is open sourced, with bounties there for anyone who helps spot and fix bugs. Bitfrog is also intended to act in a similar way of a DAC (decentralized autonomous corporation), whereby each DAC has no central point of control yet has “an agreed agenda, business plan, and protocol.” Each Bitfrog project will be its own DAG (decentralized autonomous game), whereby there is an agreed rule set and protocol.
BitScan had the opportunity to ask those at Bitfrog a few questions surrounding technical details and any future plans for the platform.
BitScan: Can you share more technical details on how this decentralized structure can enforce game rules?
Bitfrog: We are preparing for the infographic which explains the architecture of bifrog. The draft is here. We have also explained the architecture in our blog.
Basically, we will have a 2 layers game rule, let’s take poker as example. The first layer of game rules are poker rules which determine who the winner will be, meaning the generic rules. This rule is embedded in bitfrogPOKER client and bitfrogPOKER Daemon (this is to be run by bitfrogger with BFS shares to form a peer to peer network to verify the game transactions. By game transaction we mean the sequence of events of the game). There is another set of rules, which are determined in the second layer. It is the set of rules to determine the table. (i.e. the table rules) There are dynamic parameters like stake and rake. This set of rules is used to determine transaction. This will be done by bitfrogPOKER Daemon. The parameters will be provided when player request table. When a group of players play in the same table, it is automatically assumed that they have agreed to the rule.
BitScan: Since there would be no hosts for any games, how will separate game sessions work?
Bitfrog: The game session will be maintained by the peer-to-peer network formed by bitfroggers with the bitfrogPOKER Daemon. Game sessions are controlled by table identifier and game instance identifier which will uniquely identify the game session. bitfrogPOKER Daemon will record and verify all the game transactions.
BitScan: Do you intend to release bitfrog wallets on mobile platforms? If so, do you have any vague time frame for when that might happen?
Bitfrog: We plan to release bitfrog’s wallet mobile version, but the date is not yet confirmed. We expect to release it before our game release. We will provide BFTj as the core for our user side wallet. The mobile version will be developed later.
BitScan: Does the bitfrog network act as a sidechain? If so, will bitfrog shares be necessary in playing games on the bitfrog network?
Bitfrog: It can be understood as a side chain, but technically we do not have a side chain comparison because we don’t have side chain specifications on hand. One thing we need to emphasize is bitfrog pegging does not require change on bitcoin core. More technical details will be announced later as our project is still under development.
So, as far as bitcoin integration is concerned, it can be best understood as a bitcoin sidechain, despite not technically being a sidechain. What is known at the moment is the fact it will have its own “token” known as Bitfrog Shares (BFS) and its own proof-of-stake model. BFS are not required to participate in DAGs, rather they simply serve as a way to secure the network. Currently the only way to get BFS is to donate to the project, which may make people (including myself) highly skeptical of the project’s legitimacy. Those behind Bitfrog acknowledge the skepticism, and therefore, for the skeptics, it might be better to wait until the beta release of their Poker DAG, which should be at the end of 2014.
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