CASH, CREDIT, OR GRAFT?

One good question that comes up often is

Do people really want to pay with cryptocurrency?

Some make an argument that people see cryptocurrency as a long term investment and don’t want to spend it on daily items, others say that merchants might be reluctant to accept crypto due to the regulatory uncertainty, yet other say that people are unlikely to pay with crypto due to its volatility.

Truth is, they all have a point and there will be limiting factors on crypto for payment adoption (at least for some time).

However! We want to point out that GRAFT’s main purpose in life is not crypto acceptance per se – but providing a decentralized credit/debit payment network alternative that doesn’t rely on issuing banks and spreads the fees across the network. Crypto acceptance makes a good first use case, but it doesn’t end there. From the user’s point of view it’s a way to have an alternative to traditional credit / debit cards with underlying privacy, reasonable rates, loyalty program consolidation, etc.

Here would be a typical decision tree that a user would be facing at the check out:

A community member had this to say on this topic, which is pretty on point:

Firstly, Graft is not a “Crypto POS” it’s a decentralized payment network that can be used at the POS or as an online payment gateway. We don’t need the widespread adoption of Cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange for the Graft Network to be successful. For example, if the Graft Network ‘today’ was doing just 0.1% of the Visa Network’s transaction, then Graft SuperNodes would be returning close to 300% pa ( SuperNode owners would make exceptional income from SN rewards, thus the Graft price would rapidly increase). However, keep in mind that we are not just going after Visa, we are going after Mastercard, Amex, Diners, Paypal, Western Union …the list goes on.

2018 has seen a rise in the popularity of stable coins to address the volatility issue. There are now over 57 Launched or pre-launched stable coins. Because Graft is a payment Network, not just a payment processor ($GRFT coin acts like a utility token and becomes a gateway to accept other Cryptocurrencies) – so the Graft Network could, in theory, facilitate payment from any cryptocurrency, thus there’s no reason it can’t support a whole basket of stable coins (it just requires the backing of an exchange broker/ liquidity provider). There are also new gen coins coming out with Inflationary monetary policies (eg GRIN) which are designed for the purpose of becoming a medium of exchange (to mimic fiat currencies) . Soon the volatility risk or purchasing/receiving Crypto payments will be a thing of the past. Merchants will also be incentivized to receive Cryptocurrency due to lower fees….

As for consumers: A lot of people have this US/western mindset and still have lots of faith in government-backed fiat currencies. However, go ask the people of Venezuela, Argentina or Turkey how safe they feel holding their own Government backed currencies. If you look through the history of fiat currency, they always collapse/end in hyperinflation. It’s just a matter of time. Sure, widespread adoption of cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange could be years or decades away. However, as already mentioned, we don’t need widespread adoption for the Graft Network to be successful, we need less than 0.1% (between Visa/ MC/AMEX/ Dinners etc).

How GRAFT is Going to Conquer the Crypto Payments World. Part 1: Blockchain and CryptoNote

Slava Gomzin, GRAFT Co-Founder

Although we have created a lot of materials explaining GRAFT (both existing features and future developments), including countless technical or semi-technical pages, marketing brochures, blog posts, and educational videos, it’s often difficult to see the whole picture while going through all of the specifics. A focus on the multiple features and their design details can obscure the view of the entire system, creating a so-called “you can’t see the forest through the trees” effect. We are getting many questions from supporting community members as well as potential customers and partners about “the big plan”: what is the ultimate goal, and how exactly are we going to achieve it? Whereas the answer to the first part of this question is quite simple and short, the answer to the second part requires some time and efforts. In this series of blog posts we will iterate through the various GRAFT features and try to explain why they are there, and how they help achieve our ultimate goal: Conquest of the crypto payments world.

Part 1: Blockchain and CryptoNote

Let’s start from the very beginning with the blockchain, or layer one of GRAFT. The blockchain is maintained by a peer-to-peer network of computers, or network nodes. We refer to these network nodes as “cryptonodes” to distinguish them from our “supernodes” (a.k.a. “masternodes” in other networks), which constitute the second layer of the GRAFT network (to be explained in a future blog post). The GRAFT blockchain is based on the CryptoNote protocol, which is the most private blockchain protocol in use as of today. In order to save time and resources, we used the luxury of the open source principle and forked the initial code of the GRAFT cryptonode from Monero — the best implementation of the CryptoNote protocol. In addition to acquiring fundamental privacy features “out of the box”, forking Monero provided a high degree of confidence in our blockchain from day one of the mainnet existence. It’s important to note that the code of GRAFT supernodes, which we create from scratch, is also open source, so essentially everything that we add on top of the previously existing features is also available for others to reuse.

Now let’s go back to the initial question and apply it to the blockchain layer: Why a brand new blockchain and why CryptoNote?

We’ll start with the new, dedicated blockchain: Yes, it would have been easy-peasy to run the GRAFT ICO on ERC20 or a similar token, as most people do these days to avoid blockchain maintenance, mainnet, mining, emission, seed nodes, etc. However, creation of the GRAFT payment network requires our own blockchain because we have to modify the cryptonodes as we develop the supernodes so they will support each other and work together. Without the ability to modify the code, we wouldn’t be able to create the network of supernodes and implement features like real time authorization or exchange brokers on top of any existing blockchain or token platform. In addition, there are features such as payout tokens, loyalty points, store credits, gift certificates, and discount coupons that are required for merchants — all of these are based on the merchant tokens platform, which cannot be built without a dedicated blockchain.

Now for CryptoNote: it’s not just “nice to have”, it is absolutely required in order to be competitive with traditional payment systems such as Visa network or PayPal. Ironically, Visa and PayPal provide much better privacy to their customers than most existing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Let me explain. When you swipe/insert your payment card at the point of sale terminal, or click the PayPal’s pay button online, there are two entities in the world that are aware of your transaction: the payment network (Visa or PayPal in our case) and the merchant. In reality, of course, there are more organisations that “know” about your transaction because the payment network is more complex. This network includes, at the very least, the issuing bank (the one that gave you the payment card), the acquiring bank (the one that approves the payment), the payment gateway (the one that routes your transaction to the right payment processor/acquiring bank) and the payment processor (which processes the payment and merchant’s payout). However, in any case, this list of organizations is limited because they are under security and privacy regulations, and they have typically implemented some decent security controls that protect your transaction records from prying eyes. Of course, everyone in this list can be hacked or give away your info to a law enforcement agency, but this is a different story (which is, by the way, another good reason to switch to cryptocurrency payments and throw away your plastic cards!). For the sake of simplicity though, let’s assume that random people cannot gain access to your data in most situations.

Finally, let’s see what happens with blockchains. The key innovation of Bitcoin (the first blockchain and cryptocurrency) was the open ledger that is accessible to every node participating in the network because your transaction must be verified to make sure you are not trying to spend your money twice. But this also means that anyone in the world can see your transactions and how much money you have in your wallet! Now, unlike plastic cards, Bitcoin wallets are, in principle, anonymous because transaction records are not directly linked to your identity. At first glance, this feature appears to compensate for the fact that your transaction records are laying there in plain sight on the blockchain for anyone to see. Well, the problem is that there are ways to link addresses to identities. Once this happens, all of your transactions magically become visible forever because the blockchain is always there and it cannot be erased!

Fortunately, there is a solution: the CryptoNote protocol, which hides the sender’s address, the recipient’s address, and the transaction amount , while still preserving the ability to validate each transaction and prevent double spending — and it’s all thanks to advanced cryptography! One day I am going to explain how it works in layman’s terms to unveil the beauty of CryptoNote and its cryptography (the same as I have done to explain RSA and Elliptic Curves cryptography in my book about Bitcoin payments). But for now, let’s just take it on faith that CryptoNote ensures a high degree of privacy for all participants. Moreover, on top of existing CryptoNote features, GRAFT adds even more privacy and hides transaction fees!

Summary of Part 1:

Why a brand new blockchain and why CryptoNote?

The dedicated blockchain allows GRAFT to create a merchant token platform. This is required for features like payout tokens and loyalty programs, and the second layer supernode network, which enables special retail features such as real time authorizations and exchange brokers.

The Cryptonote blockchain protocol provides an absolute privacy to all participants of the transaction, which is required in order to compete with existing payment platforms such as Visa or PayPal that are more private than most exciting (non-Cryptonote) cryptocurrencies.

To Be Continued — Part 2: Supernodes and RTA

GRAFT Development Status Update June 2018

Supernodes and Real Time Authorizations

Let’s start from implementation of full supernode, which is essentially an implementation of real-time authorizations (RTA). Although we are close to the finish line, we do not release it yet to public alpha. We need more time for optimization, fine-tuning, and QA testing. One of the main reasons for the delay is an issue with communication. Unlike other two-layer cryptocurrency networks which use a separate mechanism for communication between their second-layer nodes, we reuse the existing peer-to-peer network as a basic transport. Our original algorithm finds the shortest and fastest routes between the supernonodes by maintaining a set of P2P tunnels through the network of cryptonodes. The main difference and greatest benefit of using the same communication base for two layers (both cryptonode and supernode networks) is not exposing the authorization sample’s supernodes – because in our design they are not required to have a public IP. Such design is the major difference and significant improvement comparing to other layer two implementations such as Dash masternodes.

Remember that one of GRAFT’s key differentiators and goals is absolute privacy initially provided by underlying CryptoNote blockchain protocol, which is the first layer of GRAFT platform. The fact that the auth sample supernode does not require a public IP attached to it makes GRAFT even more private and decentralized, because the supernodes are less dependant on regulated hosting providers. Without public IP the supernodes are “hidden” behind the large, distributed, and complex P2P network, which makes them less vulnerable to DDOS attacks. At the same time, the hosting and maintenance are less complicated and less expensive for supernode owners. (Note that wallet/POS proxy supernodes, which typically belong to service providers and large merchants, still require public IP address in order to be able to serve wallets and POS/payment apps).

However, such great benefits do not come for free. Along the way we found several issues in existing CryptoNote/Monero P2P communication implementation, which we are fixing in order to make it more efficient, stable, and suitable transport for our purposes. With that said, we anticipate the public alpha of supernode with RTA to be released by the end of July. Meanwhile, we will start a private alpha release for testing in a coupe of weeks, so if you are interested in helping us with preliminary testing please contact us at [email protected]

While working hard on RTA implementation and getting ready to its production launch, we realized that hosting a supernode, either full (authorization) or proxy/gateway, requires a special DevOps skill set, so we are working through making arrangements and building relationships to provide turnkey solutions to supernode owners and merchant service providers.

Payment Apps

We are continuously working on improving the Verifone terminal app so it will be fully polished for production by the time RTA is released. As Verifone have written on their merchant marketplace website, where GRAFT app is listed as the Featured Apps Partner, “Our app partners are working around the clock to help empower our merchants with applications that enrich the customer experience and provide business productivity.” This is absolutely true statement, there is not much to add. Since the Verifone certification was achieved last month, we have done several improvements such as UI redesign (in both terminal app and our wallet), enhanced configuration utility for merchants, integration with CoinMarketCap for real-time exchange rates, and some bug fixes. Also, we are working on Ingenico terminal app integration into their marketplace.

One of important and promising features we are planning to develop is using NFC (Near Field Communication) for initial engagement between the mobile wallet and terminal app, so instead of scanning QR code displayed on payment terminal the buyer will just wave the phone (the same technology is used by contactless payment cards and Apple Pay). Implementation of such a feature will help improve both buyer and merchant user experiences and reduce the overall transaction time. We will keep you posted about our progress in this area.

We just finished design and now are ready to start implementation of the payment gateway which will facilitate GRAFT payments on online shopping platforms. Once implemented, integration with GRAFT payment gateway, among other features, will bring to online merchants and buyers a unique combination of absolute privacy and instant transaction confirmations (using RTA) – something they have never seen before. Plus, after we finish RTA and move to accept broker implementation, they will be able to accept various cryptocurrencies, while keeping the same benefits of privacy and transaction speed.

Wallet Apps

We finally redesigned the app downloads page on our website, so now it’s easier to find all our apps, including wallets, and their releases for various mobile and desktop operating systems: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. In recent wallet releases, we fixed some bugs and added new configuration options. The upcoming wallet release will support purchases with real time authorizations using full supernodes (currently it supports a limited version of RTA on testnet only).

CryptoFind App

As our app for discovering and listing crypto-friendly merchants is gaining more popularity among crypto enthusiasts, we periodically release new features and bug fixes. In recent CryptoFind version, in addition to bug fixes, we added a possibility to take a picture of the GRAFT sticker on the merchant’s window so the users can earn better bonuses.

Happy Grafting!

Summary Comparison of GRAFT Blockchain to Other Payment Solutions

GRAFT VS RIPPLE AND OTHERS: FOCUS ON BUYERS, MERCHANTS, AND THEIR PRIVACY

SINCE GRAFT USES CRYPTONOTE PROTOCOL, HAS THE MONERO COMMUNITY INDICATED SUPPORT FOR GRAFT?

ARE TENX AND OTHERS CRYPTO CARDS COMPETITORS?

HOW GRAFT IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CRYPTOCURRENCIES AND WHY IS IT BETTER FOR PAYMENT PROCESSING APPLICATIONS

HOW IS GRAFT DIFFERENT FROM DASH?

CASH, DEBIT, CREDIT, MOBILE, BITCOIN, OR GRAFT?

FEATURE COMPARISON – GRAFT VS. OTHER CRYPTO-CURRENCIES FOR PAYMENT PROCESSING APPLICATIONS

Graft vs Ripple and Others: Focus on Buyers, Merchants, and Their Privacy

Focus on Buyer and Merchant NeedsRipple’s is mostly focused on bank settlements, while Graft provide solutions to buyers and merchants. Buyers can pay anywhere with cryptocurrencies or plastic card using Graft wallet app. Merchants can receive payment from anyone using point of sale accepting both cryptocurrencies and plastic cards. Faster payment confirmations are provided by Graft supernode authorization sample, a process that is more similar to Dash masternode scheme. Unlike Dash masternode, however, Graft supernode is not a “wrapper” or a second tier as it is designed to be a monolithic code base that implements both real time authorization and blockchain settlement (mining) features. Such an architecture improves security of the real time authorization process, as payments cannot be settled “off supernode chain” by the “lower” level blockchain network nodes, without supernodes knowing about their existence. Thus, all Graft transactions are authorized instantly without requiring additional fee, by supernodes that are automatically selected by the network using combined proof of work and proof of stake algorithm. Focus on Absolute Privacy Ripple consensus protocol is different, and its main problem is that it does not provide privacy features: untraceability and unlinkability of payment transactions. Unlike Graft blockchain, all transaction information on the Ripple ledger is public. Ripple does not provide the privacy and untraceability that are demanded today by potential Graft users – both buyers and merchants. When we pay with credit card, we share our secret payment information (like credit card number) with some entities – the merchant, the issuing bank, the payment processor, the payment acquiring bank – but those entities are relatively trustable so they try not to share our secrets with the entire world, and no one else can see our transaction history without our or their permission. Oftentimes, however, they fail to keep our secrets (think Target and many other retail mega breaches). With Ripple or Bitcoin or most other cryptocurrencies that are not based on CryptoNote protocol, the story is exactly opposite: there is no central authority that “knows” our secret “card number” (private key), but at the same time anyone in the world can trace our payments on the blockchain and link them to our identities with minimum efforts. By Implementing CryptoNote and other features, Graft brings the level of untraceability of payment history similar to traditional credit and debit card system, while adding decentralization, privacy, and security, which are the features of any cryptocurrency that are absolutely impossible to achieve using traditional credit card payment technology.

Since Graft uses CryptoNote protocol, has the Monero community indicated support for Graft?

While Graft supernode code is being written from scratch, the blockchain CryptoNote implementation codebase is forked from Monero. We do not anticipate a direct and immediate Monero community support. However, we believe that our project attracts people from CryptoNote communities as it adds a lot of features that are not available in existing CryptoNote implementations. One example of such a feature is real-time authorization (instant confirmation). Another example is hidden transaction fee amount, which is exposed to public view in all existing blockchains. This table compares Graft with Monero, Bitcoin, Dash, and other cryptocurrencies. However, there are even more important features that are not simply enhancements of the CryptoNote protocol. No one needs just another blockchain, even if it provides better privacy. But Graft is much more than just “another blockchain”. Graft is innovative payment application platform which supports various payment and payout methods, either traditional or innovative. While providing “reference”, default implementations of applications and services, Graft ecosystem is open for any software vendors and service providers. We believe in diversity of payment methods and cryptocurrencies.

Graft mobile wallet and point of sale apps do not maintain a full copy of the blockchain for obvious reasons. Does it mean the wallet content is stored on supernodes which may compromise its security and privacy?

There are multiple elements of the Graft user wallet:
  • Private spend key – secret – required to spend money; stored in the wallet app
  • Private view key – “semi-secret” – required to see the balance and previous transactions
  • Payment address – public – required to receive money
In Graft, the Private spend key is always stored at the client (wallet) and never shared with the supernodes. Therefore, it is not the same as credit card when you share you card account number with the merchant, payment processor, and the bank every time you make a payment. If one of them is breached, your credit card can be stolen and used to make fraudulent payments. If any or even all supernodes are “breached”, they don’t have your private spend key so no one will be able to “use” your Graft account.
The Graft wallet balance is a “hidden” set of previous transactions. It is calculated by scanning all the previous transactions which are stored on the public blockchain but invisible without view key. Since mobile wallet app does not have direct access to the blockchain, the private view key is temporary shared with a single “proxy” (relay) supernode in order to retrieve the wallet balance; the supernode will not store this view key in any database so even if it’s “breached” the view key will not be disclosed in most cases. However, even if the view key is disclosed, it only allows to see transactions, not to spend any money.
Users (either buyers or merchants) with higher requirements for privacy can host their own private “proxy” supernode with full copy of blockchain. This way they will never share their view keys with the random “foreign” supernodes. Most probably, due to limited processing power and other resource limitations, such a private proxy supernode will not be able to participate in transaction processing and earn any block rewards or transaction fees, but it will still be able to validate transactions and view balances privately by scanning the local copy of the blockchain. For users who cannot or don’t want to host their own supernode but still don’t trust the entire network, Graft creates a special (free) cloud service with trusted proxy supernodes that are protected by multiple levels of security.

In order to process real-time authorization (instant confirmation) Graft network puts a “lock” on buyer’s account. How does it not violate one of the main goals of any cryptocurrency system – untraceability?

First of all, untraceability is not a feature of any cryptocurrency. As of today, CryptoNote is perhaps the only protocol that enables full privacy and untraceability. The beauty of Cryptonote is that it hides the details of transaction while still preventing double-spending. This is achieved through the use of key image which is unique “fingerprint” that represents the spending address and amount without disclosing any details about the buyer or the amount. By providing the key image for upcoming transaction to the network of supernodes, the buyer’s wallet will temporarily “lock” its “account”, so no other transaction with the same key image can happen until the locked transaction is settled or the lock is removed. If the buyer will try to finalize the transaction with the key image different from the one used in the original lock, such transaction will be rejected by the supernodes. On the other hand, the key image does not contain any information about the buyer, buyer’s wallet, or recipient (merchant). In addition, any traces of communication between the buyer (wallet app), the merchant (point of sale app), and the supernodes (selected proxy and sample supernodes) during authorization phases are completely removed once transaction is settled (written into the blockchain). Even transaction fees paid by merchant to authorizing supernodes are hidden from public view, which is another major privacy improvement comparing to all previous CryptoNote implementations that do not hide transaction fees.