For those who were around for the launch of the EOS Public Network you may remember the EOS-Voter or Greymass Wallet. It was an extremely important and necessary tool for the EOS community, allowing us to vote in a secure way and push the voting threshold past the 15% required to launch the chain. Early on trust was a major concern for token holders who were understandably hesitant to expose their keys to a 3rd party wallet. Daniel Larimer had to publicly endorse the Greymass wallet to give the community the confidence necessary to vote.
Since then the Greymass team has been hard at work producing blocks on a variety of EOSIO chains while also designing a fully featured wallet/authenticator capable of leading EOS and all EOSIO chains into the future. Ladies and gentlemen meet the Anchor EOSIO Wallet.
I always enjoyed the straight forward bare bones user interface of EOS-Voter, but moved away from using it with the introduction of dApps on EOS which required a transaction signing tool like Scatter, over time I gravitated more towards a Scatter and Bloks.io combination. That being said, I’m seriously impressed with what the Greymass team have produced with Anchor and can see it becoming my personal go-to EOSIO wallet.
There’s many new features and advancements Anchor brings to the table such as…
- A user interface that supports common EOSIO functions (token transfers, resource management, governance, etc).
- Direct integration with Greymass Fuel, which provides limited free CPU/NET resources to every account on compatible networks.
- Support for nearly every EOSIO-based blockchain (EOS, Telos, WAX, etc), with new networks added as they launch.
- Locally encrypted key storage using AES-256 – your private keys never leave the wallet.
- Optional integration with Ledger Hardware Wallets for additional key security.
- Rich integration with external applications any EOSIO-based blockchain using the EOSIO Signing Request protocol.
Being so intrigued with the new wallet I contacted Aaron Cox (Jesta) to ask him some questions and learn more about Anchor.
🅠: Jesta congrats on the release of Anchor! Why Anchor, where did the name come from?
Jesta: Thanks, we’re excited to finally be able to release it as version 1.0!
The name was a result of some brainstorming we did years ago while trying to find something symbolic of this chaotic industry we’re in. One of the themes we played with was “nautical”, since the oceans are an unstoppable and sometimes dangerous force to deal with. It felt like a fitting metaphor, so we started looking at the various tools used to help tame that wilderness.
Anchor seemed fitting, being an ancient tool designed to securely hold you and your vessel in place.
🅠: Is Anchor a wallet or an Authenticator?
Jesta: Anchor is both. It’s a typical wallet in the sense that it offers you a place to securely house your private keys, as well as present you with common ways to perform transactions on an EOSIO blockchain. It is also what is typically referred to as a “light wallet” since it does not store a copy of the blockchain and only requires a connection to an EOSIO API.
It however is also an authenticator because it can be used to prove your identity (through proof of key ownership) and perform actions (providing signatures for transactions) while using 3rd party apps. We do this through the “ESR” (EOSIO Signing Request) protocol – which is a project we have been working to establish some standards around this type of technology for the past year or so.
🅠: How has the vision of EOS-Voter changed over the years to become the new Anchor EOSIO Wallet/Authenticator?
Jesta: When eos-voter was first created we were essentially rushing to ensure EOSIO stakeholders could connect with and interact with their portion of the blockchain. From past experience we already knew how to efficiently store private key information and build the foundation pieces, so all we needed to do is understand the contracts and come up with was the interfaces. With voting being the concern on day 1, we released it as “eos-voter”, and started adding more tools to it.
After the initial rush, about a year later, we had a whole toolbox of tools built with no cohesive product to put them in. At this point we stopped pushing tools as hard and started thinking longer term. The next step was to turn it into a recognizable and trustworthy “product”, rather than a collection of tools that was trusted because it’s “Greymass”. We spent time rebuilding much of what we had previously built and reimagined what the user interface should be besides just a voting interface. With the desktop release of Anchor we aimed to provide a multi-chain, multi-account, multi-device, universal EOSIO wallet.
Much of that was done mid-last year, and it took us up until this point in time to work all the authenticator pieces in. The last half year or so has had a huge focus on ESR – both in documentation and developers tools. We knew that launching a brand new signing protocol on top of the app itself would be a huge undertaking, but we wanted to see Anchor using a protocol that we, as developers, would like to use.
We’re happy to report that we have finally released it. Our push right now is to get involved in deeper testing and implementations with other developers and their apps. Not only did we release the 1.0 version of the Anchor app itself, but we also released usable versions of multiple developer tools to integrate alongside it. These are all open source tools that other EOSIO wallets and applications are free to use.
The vision may have started as a voting interface, but it’s become a whole lot more. Anchor itself represents a new way of doing things, and the technology we’ve created along the way will help others follow in our footsteps.
🅠: Anchor has a direct integration with Greymass Fuel, can you tell us more about this, how it works?
Jesta: Last November we took a brief hiatus from Anchor development as the network resource situation on EOS drastically changed. The network started operating in a mode where no additional leeway was given to accounts with low quantities of staked tokens. Users that for over a year had used their account with 1-2 EOS staked could no longer access their accounts. A lot of our users were affected and we felt we needed to contribute towards a solution.
The product we came up with was Fuel, which is an API service that can cover the resource costs for users. We can take transactions submitted to our APIs and append our signature to them, covering the resource costs of the transaction for the user in a secure manner.
Fuel right now is in a very early stage of development and is still essentially a prototype, but already serves a need for many. We integrated this basic version of Fuel directly into Anchor, allowing users to use 5ms worth of free transactions per day. We cover the CPU and NET costs of those transactions no questions asked.
We have some bigger plans for Fuel as a premium service to help support the work we do here at Greymass – but for the time being, users taking advantage of our free transactions through apps like Anchor and sites like EOSAuthority.com. These implementations are helping prove the tech works and the demand for a solution exists. Any application can tap into it today, although it’s a bit rough around the edges.
🅠: I hear you’re working on mobile support for Anchor, can you tell us more about how you envision this working/looking? and when we can expect to try it out!
Jesta: Yeah, we’ve been working on it quietly since late last year, and are excited to start talking about it!
While working on the signing protocol, we needed a mobile app to ensure it worked across all platforms and not just for desktop users. One of our devs has experience working on iOS apps – so he kicked off the project to bring Anchor to mobile. It turned out great and has been a pleasure to use, so we’re planning it’s release now. We are running an iOS beta right now with a small group through TestFlight and hope to have more info on testing in the near future. There are also conversations happening and some initial work being done around Android, but it’s no where near as far along.
Anchor for mobile is at first going to be an authenticator. It’ll be able to store keys utilizing the secure enclave, offer the same identity and sign-in capabilities as desktop, and be able to sign incoming ESR requests for app integration. Currently that’s all it does, and doesn’t yet act as a “wallet” interface with UIs for transfers and balances. It’s very similar to the EOSIO Authenticator app prototype that Block.one released right now in look and feel.
What I’m most excited about mobile is the flexibility it offers. The mobile app works with other mobile apps/browsers on the same device, but it also pairs very nicely as a secondary authenticator when you’re at a desktop computer. With the mobile app in hand, you can click sign-in on an application running on your desktop computer, and then scan the QR code on the screen with your mobile. The mobile will ask if you want to sign in, and when you approve, you’re logged in on the desktop computer. Any request made while signed in on your desktop computer will route to your mobile device for approval.
This means you could sit down at any computer and use an EOSIO chain without trusting that device. You would need to trust your mobile device, which has it’s own set of concerns, but you wouldn’t need to install a wallet on that untrusted computer to import your keys. This flexible workflow opens up a lot of other possibilities too, including things like multi-sig setups where you could require 2/3 of your devices to approve a transaction.
Mobile is yet another realm we’re extremely excited about and we look forward to what new challenges it brings.
🅠: On the latest Coffee with Greymass Podcast you mentioned the possibility of signing transactions with an Apple Watch, can you tell us more about future potential of this?
Jesta: It’s sort of a pipe dream at the moment, but it’s a possibility. Like I mentioned above, our mobile version right now is purely an authenticator for signing transactions. That same sort of experience would feel pretty at home on a wearable device like the Apple Watch. It obviously would be terrible for reading the details of most transactions – so you’d likely only want to configure this for low-risk activities.
There’s a lot of challenges in how to adopt the UI to create a good experience, but I’m pretty confident the tech we’re using would migrate over easily. If and when we ever get some free time, I’m sure we’ll be playing with things like this.
🅠: Any other developments Greymass is working on which you can share with us?
Jesta: We covered most of the big things Greymass is working on right now, Anchor for desktop and mobile, Fuel, the ESR protocol specification, libraries and SDKs for developers to use ESR, and lots of documentation.
The only other big project we’re working on is APIs, both history and normal. Last November another project we kicked off was a custom full history solution. It’s been running on eos.greymass.com now for the last few months and has proven to be fast and stable. Now we’re planning on bringing the same solution to other EOSIO chains.
It’s not open source yet because of how deeply embedded it is with our infrastructure, and explaining to anyone how to run it would take more time than we can afford to spend on it. We’re continuing to push on that front though and hope to have a solution presented sometime this year. At this point we have more major projects in the works than we have developers to work on them, so the pace at which we can release projects in a final state is somewhat slow.
🅠: Do you guys have a plan to monetise your products in the future? Are block rewards enough to keep Greymass in business?
Jesta: We’re always looking for angles to monetize things – with both Fuel and our API offerings being the best possible options for our organization currently. What’s difficult though is that a lot of what we’re building are the fundamental pieces that need to exist for any monetized businesses to be successful. Most of these fundamental pieces can’t be monetized, at least in good faith, and the public funding sources beyond BP rewards don’t exist (yet).
Block rewards right now are helping us keep the lights on (costs in infrastructure, legal, accounting, etc), but aren’t really enough to fully fund our team.
The majority of our funding comes from EOS – but when you consider our rank and how much currently goes to voter incentives, it doesn’t leave much. If we were in the top 21 on EOS and earning the roughly $1MM USD a top producer does without dealing with voter incentives, we’d be in an alright position and be able to pay our developers a fair salary. That however is not the reality of EOS at this point, with the stakeholders desire for their fair share of inflation.
Luckily though, nearly everything we’re building goes well beyond EOS itself and applies to any EOSIO-based blockchain. Because of this, we have been fortunate enough to become elected block producers on a number of additional EOSIO chains like FIO, Proton, Telos, and WAX. The funding for each of these blockchains first and foremost goes into the operations block producers are responsible for, but each also provides a small surplus we can contribute towards global EOSIO research and development.
All of these rewards combined is still insufficient, but we’re grateful that it’s enough to at least keep us going for the time being. Hopefully once we have all the fundamental pieces we need built, we’ll be able to shift our focus to projects that actually can generate revenue – and enable countless other businesses to do the same, using the open source tech we’ve created. In the mean time, we’ll skirt by as best we can, and keep creating value within the EOSIO ecosystem.
To download and try out the new Greymass Anchor Wallet visit the official Greymass site. Please also consider supporting great block producers like Greymass and the work they do by voting for them on your favourite EOSIO chain.
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