August 19, 2019

Edge Cases: Part 2 — The Metanet Protocol

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Read the full post and the rest of the series on the nChain Medium account here.

Welcome back to Edge Cases, the Metanet blog series.

In the first post of the series, we introduced the concepts of the Metanet and the Metanet protocol, which you can find here. Today we begin our odyssey into all things technical that form the Metanet protocol.

So, without further ado, let’s crack on.

Part 2 — The Metanet Protocol

In the last post I was careful to make the distinction between the Metanet as a concept and the Metanet protocol.

I did so because the Metanet — the grand vision for the creation of a global value network — will, over time, undoubtedly comprise a variety of aspects, standards, and techniques. Things are similar in principle here to how the current infrastructure underpinning the Internet consists of many interwoven protocols and architectures, such as HTTPS, FTP, and XML.

The Metanet protocol, on the other hand, can be treated as one such self-contained protocol, which has a particular function and role within the wider ecosystem of the Metanet. In the same vein that the Internet makes use of the protocols listed above to define standards for communications, file transfer, and interoperability for the Internet, the Metanet protocol can be used for a specific purpose for the Metanet.

So, just what is that purpose?

Metanet is data structure over Bitcoin.

— _unwriter, Medium

I’ll give you fair warning, it is not the first time I have quoted _unwriter in this series, and it will certainly not be the last. Their highly detailed post The Metanet Starts’ is easily one of the most complete, articulate, and profound explanations of both the Metanet and the Metanet protocol to date, which is why you will find I am forced to refer to it throughout the series.

The quote above is really the nutshell phrase that describes the purpose and function of the Metanet protocol. At the CoinGeek Toronto conference, I chose to express the same point using a similar (if less elegant) phrasing:

A protocol for structuring the on-chain Internet.

I’m sure the picture is now becoming clear that the primary goal of the Metanet protocol is to provide some kind of structure and organisation for Internet-like data that is mined into the blockchain. It is no secret that the Bitcoin SV blockchain has been a substrate for many impressive and enterprising applications, all of which utilise on-chain data, in recent months.

The Metanet protocol, then, is a tool that can allow the on-chain data used in these applications — and many more in the future — to be woven together. We thereby allow disparate on-chain data to be structured in ways that improve the functionality of the applications they are powering and help achieve the mission of allowing users to truly own their data on the Metanet.

The technical summary of the Metanet protocol is currently available on the nChain website:

— nChain

I would highly recommend reading this technical summary at some point in time. It contains a distillation of the Metanet protocol into its fundamental concepts, which includes all the ingredients required to understand and build on-chain structures for the Metanet.

But, as I’ve said previously, the purpose of my blog is to explain these concepts in depth and subsequently augment these fundamental building blocks to explore further ideas.

Over the next four posts, we will be breaking down the concepts outlined in the document above, and establishing our base understanding of the Metanet protocol. We will see exactly how it works, and discuss some of the reasons underpinning the design choices made in its development.

The content of the document containing the technical summary will be broken up into the following sub-topics, each of which will be given a dedicated post for discussion:

  • 2.1 — Node and edge structure

Before diving into the details of the Metanet protocol itself, though, we will first use today’s post to preface our discussion with some essential background: a brief overview of directed acyclic graphs (DAGs).

Learn more about the Metanet, and read the full post and the rest of the series on the nChain Medium account here.