What is ARK? | The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Ark is perhaps one of the most ambitious blockchain platforms currently under development. The team behind the project describes ARK as “Not just a cryptocurrency, but an ecosystem meant for cryptocurrency mass adoption.”
The term ‘mass adoption’ seems particularly interesting, given the company raised a rather humble $998,000 in their 2016 ICO (though Ark’s current market cap is in excess of $200 million). However, ARK is being developed by a talented and experienced team with a committed vision to this potentially game changing technology. In this beginner’s guide we will take a look into what exactly the team at ARK are planning to achieve and the underlying technology they are using to do it.
- What is Ark
- Key Features
- Platform Design
- ARK CORE v2
- How to Buy
- How to Store
ARK is an open-source blockchain platform that brands itself as an all-in-one blockchain solution. The team at ARK CREW aim to “create an entire ecosystem of linked chains and a virtual spiderweb of endless use-cases that make ARK highly flexible, adaptable, and scalable.
ARK is a secure platform designed for mass adoption, and will deliver the services that consumers want and developers need.”
In other words, ARK is mainly attempting to become an intermediary source for cryptocurrency exchanges and smart contract executions across independent blockchains.
By making every cryptocurrency on the market ‘SmartBridge’ compatible ARK could make the possibilities of communication between blockchains virtually endless. More on SmartBridge later.
ARK is run by ARK Crew, a development team made up of 17 professionals in the blockchain field, most of whom have previous experience on other large-scale cryptocurrency projects. ARK was co-founded by CTO Francois Xavier Thoorens, who was previously the chief programmer for Lisk and Managing Director Mike Doty, who previously co-founded Bitseed and Crypti.
Much of ARK’s underlying tech is derived from other cryptos like Lisk, Crypti, and Bitshares. This should come as no surprise given the makeup of the development team.
However, due to the wide range of tech ARK is attempting to implement, much of the platform’s key features are still under development. Taking a look at ARK’s roadmap makes it clear that there is still a long way to go before the platform is fully operational. This isn’t to say the ARK Crew isn’t on the way to reaching their goals, it’s just simply worth noting there is still a great deal of work to be done.
With that said let’s look into what ARK is setting out to accomplish.
ARK is attempting to unify a wide range of cryptocurrencies through its SmartBridge technology. All that is required for a chain to become SmartBridge compatible is for a small snippet of ARK-provided code to be added to the blockchain. Once a blockchain is bridged with ARK, the possibilities for communication with other blockchains become almost endless. ARK co-founder Travis Walker expanded on SmartBridge in a 2017 blog post:
“Ark’s SmartBridge communicates between the blockchains using a special data section called Vendor Fields and special Encoded Listener nodes that comb through this data for tasks that it can perform.
If you want to trigger an event on a blockchain via a different blockchain, you check if that chain is SmartBridge compatible. If it is, then you can issue a SmartBridge transaction to any compatible blockchain via the ark wallet and the possibilities are endless.
Example 1: If you wanted to trigger an ETH smart contract but hold ark, you could just send the instructions through ark SmartBridge, right in the wallet to trigger the event. The code embedded in the ETH chain is always listening for an ark SmartBridge transaction and will collect this info and trigger the function to issue a contract.
Example 2: You want to issue a record entry in Factom, but you only hold ARK. So you would go to your ARK wallet, enter the correct info and instructions for the FCT chain via the SmartBridge tab. Then send it. That’s it, now the FCT chain receives the info and acts appropriately.”
ARK has successfully created a first iteration of the SmartBridge and used it to connect its encoded listener app to the the mainchain, allowing for transfers between Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Litecoin. Smart contracts are also now able to be issued on Ethereum from ARK.
ARK will come integrated with the ARK Virtual Machine, which will allow users to make ARK smart contracts similar to those on Ethereum.
While many platforms are only compatible with a single programming language, ARK is offering developers the option of using 18 popular programming languages including Java, Python, Elixer, RPC, .NET and C++. Full integration of these languages onto the platform is nearly completed.
ARK is aiming to make it easy for any startup to fork from the main chain with push button deployable blockchains. ARK will be fully clone-able, with SmartBridge compatibility right out of the box.
The ARK network runs using ARK tokens. There were 125 million ARK released in the platform’s genesis block: 75% of these tokens were distributed to participants of the ARK token exchange campaign, 15% to the founders of the team, 7% in a managed fund called ARKShield, 1% in escrow, and 2% distributed as bounties in various promotions and sweepstakes.
ARK runs using a Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus algorithm, which has been modeled after Bitshares with a few tweaks to help ARK’s SmartBridge tech. Consensus algorithms like DPoS are becoming increasingly common in new blockchain platform’s as the traditional Proof-of-Work (PoW) has proven to be a slow and expensive means of block consolidation.
In ARK’s DPoS system, token holders pay a small fee to vote on elections for the network’s block producers, called Delegates. These delegates are responsible for block consolidation and making governance decisions on the platform. Delegates make written proposals for why they should be elected, and out of the hundreds running, 51 are chosen. DPoS is considered a faster, more cost effective, and potentially more secure alternative form of consensus.
ARK features an impressive 8-second block time with 25 transactions contained in each block.
ARK users will have the choice whether or not to register accounts on the network. In the event that a user wants to become a forging node, however, they are required to register an account.
The ARK platform generates revenue through user transactions on the network. The fees are as follows:
- Sending ARK (normal transaction): 0.1 ARK
- Voting: 1 ARK
- Unvoting: 1 ARK
- Registering 2nd passphrase: 5 ARK
- Registering a delegate name: 25 ARK
ARK’s core client is currently undergoing a total overhaul, and is expected to be fully updated with the release of ARK CORE v2 in early June. ARK CORE v2 will have have faster transaction output, higher scalability, dynamic fees and preparations for smart contract deployments, among other things. The release of ARK CORE v2 has been highly anticipated by ARK supporters as the next great leap forward in the platform’s development.
The ARK wallet connects to fully synced network peers and therefore does not require users to download the full blockchain
While most of ARK’s main features have been covered in this article, there seems to be no end to the long list of new tech ARKCrew is aiming to add to the platform. From integrating interplanetary file systems, to smart cards, to streaming and online gaming, ARK is attempting to do so much that its difficult to draw conclusions on what to make of the company at this early stage.
On one hand if they can deliver on even a fraction of what’s promised, ARK might become a key player in the advancement of blockchain technology, particularly if they can successfully build an affordable and easy to use SmartBridge system for users to transact across different blockchains. However, with such a long way to go before the platform is operational, much is still left unproven. In any case, this is certainly a crypto worth keeping an eye on.
Jacob Godshall is a former professional poker player turned cryptocurrency enthusiast. He is a contributing writer at Unhashed, and aims towards furthering the spread of ideas and important information surrounding all things crypto. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys reading and making electronic music