TRON is a blockchain platform that aims to be the infrastructure for the decentralized Internet. They seem to have unlimited funding and have gathered significant momentum over the last few weeks. But what is TRON, who’s behind it, and how does it compare to other blockchain platforms? Find out here.
What is TRON?
TRON brands itself as “one of the largest blockchain-based OS in the world”. It wants to reshape the Internet as it was originally intended by Tim Berners-Lee, where it’s an asset for people instead of a profit-making machine for companies.
Here’s an example of the problem with today’s Internet: game developers who want to distribute their mobile game need to go through the Apple Store or Google Play, abiding by strict rules and giving away 15-30% of their revenue.
A content platform like YouTube can demonetize your video if you don’t abide by its rules (which change regularly). Facebook can suddenly call a blanket ban on certain types of content (like crypto ads). And a platform like Upwork takes 10-20% of the money freelancers make.
TRON envisions an ecosystem where users can spread their content freely, where users can directly reward content creators, where digital assets have value and can be traded, and where markets can be forecast with the direct opinions of a group of individuals. All this entirely decentralized and without the help of expensive and often biased middlemen.
Who’s Behind TRON?
Although TRON was created by the TRON foundation, a not-for-profit foundation in Singapore, it’s essentially a Chinese project, with offices in Beijing as well as San Francisco. The company is relatively new, having only been established in 2017, and is led by its founder Justin Sun.
For being only 28 years old, Sun already has quite a resume. He graduated from Hupan University, Jack Ma’s university for entrepreneurs, was Chief Representative for Ripple in Greater China, and is still the CEO of Peiwo, China’s largest voice streaming app.
TRON itself is backed by Tang Binsen, founder of the mobile game Clash of Kings, Dai Wei, CEO of China’s biggest bike-sharing company Ofo, and Tianlong Cui, CEO of Internet company Baofeng. All these companies have tens to hundreds of millions of users that could possibly be introduced to TRON.
Tronix (TRX) is the name of TRON’s cryptocurrency, first offered to the public during its Initial Coin Offering (ICO) from 31 Aug to 2 Sep 2017 at a price of $0.0019 per TRX. The company raised $70 million with their ICO.
In a few months, TRX skyrocketed to a price of around $0.25 before falling precipitously down to around $0.03, then recovering somewhat to $0.09 before ultimately going back down to what is $0.015 today.
TRX has a total supply of 99 billion, with just under 66 billion currently in circulation. Because of the vast supply of tokens and despite TRX only being worth a few pennies, TRX is ranked eleventh in market cap size, squeezed between Monero and IOTA. TRX is a heavily traded currency listed on pretty much all major exchanges. It has a market cap of almost $1 billion.
TRON isn’t an easy company to uncover, because it has such a broad, ambitious vision and because it has a good number of individual projects supporting different parts of this vision. The team behind TRON seems to really have picked up the pace as well, as most of these projects were spun out over the last few months.
- TRON Acquires BitTorrent
Let’s start with what was big news in the tech industry: TRON acquired BitTorrent for $140 million in June this year. BitTorrent is a popular protocol that allows people to share and distribute files between themselves. Its products are used by tens of millions of people every month, and BitTorrent itself takes up around 4% of all Internet traffic globally.
This acquisition fits in nicely with TRON’s ultimate vision of a decentralized Internet where people can share content between themselves without a third party.
- TRON’s Independence Day
TRON was initially built on the Ethereum network. Many considered this ironic, given its vision of becoming the foundation of a decentralized Internet. As such, TRON left the Ethereum network on June 24 2018 to become its very own platform, an event they labelled as their “Independence Day”.
All TRX ERC-20 tokens held on exchanges were converted 1:1 to TRX coins capable of being used on the new TRON platform. It allowed TRON to throw its manpower and funding in creating a platform that was more scalable and easier to use than other platforms such as Ethereum and EOS.
TRON is capable of handling 2,000 transactions per second (TPS) on its platform, a significant improvement compared to Ethereum’s 25 and Bitcoin’s 3 to 6 TPS. This is possible because TRON uses a Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS) consensus mechanism, and not Proof-of-Work (PoW).
TRON also wants to make it easy for developers to build on their platform. That’s why developers can code on TRON in Java. They don’t have to learn a new programming language to create smart contracts, something that is still the case for Ethereum (with Solidity being its programming language).
- TRON Super Representatives
TRON didn’t always use a DPoS consensus mechanism. It originally used a regular Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, only making the switch to DPoS in August this year. This means the TRON community will vote on “Super Representatives”, who will represent them for the future direction of the platform.
Here’s how you can vote: you need to freeze your TRX coins. Each frozen TRX coin gives you one Tron Power and some Bandwidth. Bandwidth allows you to make transactions on the TRON network. The more TRX you freeze, the cheaper those transactions become.
Tron Power allows you to vote on Super Representatives, with each Tron Power being a single vote. This voting can be done on Tron Scan, where you can see the contestants and find information on who they are and how they intend to distribute the rewards of the blockchain nodes it operates.
The most popular Super Representative by far is Sesameseed, which aims to redistribute 80% of its rewards (in the form on their own SEED token, based on the TRON platform, issued back 1:1 to the TRX that voters invested).
Sesameseed will conduct monthly votes on how to use the retained funds, on its stance towards the TRON Foundation and the direction it’s taking TRON in, and on its own performance. At the time of writing, they have 14.48% of all votes, much more than its follow-up BitGuild, which has only 3.97% of all votes.
- ICOs on TRON
Just like on Ethereum, TRON allows for individual ICOs on their platform. You can find a list of tokens and the funds they raised on the Tokens tab of TRON scan. Currently WatsonAI (which is IBM’s Artificial Intelligence) sits on #1, with 60 million TRX raised, closely followed by HashCoin.
Participating in these ICOs can be done quite easily on TRON scan, which has a community-developed cryptocurrency wallet integrated. Tokens can also be traded on TRON scan’s Decentralized Exchange (DEX), which is another tab on TRON scan.
You can buy Sesameseed’s SEED token on DEX, which is currently trading at 5 TRX per SEED. You can buy a few other tokens too, with most less than 0.5 TRX per token. Considering one TRX is currently only $0.015, these tokens can be considered the penny stocks of crypto.
- TRON Ecosystem Co-Builder Plan (ECP)
The Tron ECP is another sigificant part of TRON. It’s a platform to help DApp developers, blockchain startups, and blockchain VCs. You can apply to enter in an incubator called TRON Booster, apply to earn a certain amount of TRX for creating DApps on TRON, or apply to become a TRON partner to invest in startups and DApps on TRON.
TRON also frequently hosts contests to finance DApp development, distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to winning projects. In June this year, $280,000 was given to the creator of a TRON block explorer, and $180,000 to the developer of an Android/iOS TRON wallet.
What Does TRON Mean for Gaming?
TRON’s vision for a decentralized Internet is broad enough to affect any industry where content is distributed digitally. This includes entertainment and news, but certainly gaming too.
Already, developers have built DApps on TRON. The first ever DApp on TRON was TRONbet, a provably fair betting platform. You receive ANTE, the game’s token on the TRON blockchain, if you play the game. Holding your ANTE tokens will give you a TRX dividend. In the future, ANTE will be tradeable on Decentralized Exchanges as well.
TRONbet is only one of the DApps popping up on the TRON blockchain. As TRON grows in popularity, more developers will decide to build on TRON and more sophisticated gaming DApps will appear.
Developers can create their own coin and distribute it according to their own rules. It will hold a certain value against TRX that will balance their game. Gamers can decide to play a game, earn some of that game’s token, exchange it for TRX and use that TRX to go play another game. As such, TRX is an inter-game currency for all games on the TRON platform.
Additionally, the fact that the founder of Clash of Kings has invested in TRON means there’s certainly a possible future for TRON as a decentralized gaming platform too. Clash of Kings has been downloaded tens of millions of times and is consistently one of the top grossing apps on iOS and Android. It has a huge userbase that TRON could tap into if it matures as a platform.
What’s Not to Like?
TRON is still a very young project. It’s only just separated itself from the Ethereum blockchain. But the amount of funding it has access to and the fact that many of its projects are developed by the community mean that it’s moving forward with incredible momentum. However, this also makes it difficult to keep up with its many projects, let alone understand which projects hold promise and which don’t.
Using some of the DApps on the TRON blockchain still involves a significant amount of friction too. First you need to buy ETH, BTC or USD Tether (USDT), then you need to exchange that for TRX.
Then install a wallet that supports TRX. Send TRX to that wallet. Play with that TRX and receive the token for that game in return. Sometimes, you can exchange that token for TRX on a decentralized exchange. Sometimes, you can’t. Sometimes, you will be able to in the future. And so on...
This is complicated. It’s unlikely such complexity will ever appeal to a mainstream audience, despite the decentralized benefits of the blockchain. TRON’s future will depend on its ability to simplify technical procedures for its users and communicate those clearly.
This isn’t so much a critique as much as it is an acknowledgement of how young TRON still is. Because the Internet wasn’t user-friendly in the nineties either (oh, the sound of that screeching modem when young Thomas wanted to play chess online, blocking all incoming phone calls for my mom’s business in the process).
If TRON Gets It Right
If it does manage to get it right, TRON seems perfectly positioned to become a very popular blockchain. It has a serious amount of funding and access to an enormous amount of users in Asia.
Although it’s hard to accurately know how many people use TRON and how fast it’s growing, the amount of projects that are showing up on the TRON blockchain, as well as the amount of new daily accounts (20,000 a day according to CEO Justin Sun) and the support it receives on social media, are all positive signs that show TRON might become the number one blockchain for DApp developers.