Is it Time to Start Taking TRON Seriously?

When the wild crypto bull run was at its peak, no product seemed to invoke such strong responses as TRON. Its charismatic founder Justin Sun has inspired something akin to a cult of personality among its supporters, while his centrality to the project’s appeal was equally used by detractors as a reason to believe TRON was all hype and no substance.

TRON’s fortunes clearly reflect this battle between bears and bulls, with spikes and falls in its valuation that are remarkable even by cryptocurrency standards. The first precipitious rise came between December 11 and 21, where the value of each coin shot up from $0.004 to $0.05. This more than ten-fold increase in TRON’s price was followed be an even crazier spike in early January, hitting an all-time high above 25 cents on January 5. Within the space of a month, TRON’s market cap rose from around $140 million to above $16.7 billion.

The subsequent fall was just as dramatic, with TRON’s price per hitting 5 cents by January 17. But this still left the project with a market cap of $3.8 billion. TRON has largely followed the fortunes of the wider crypto market since then, with a market cap of around $1.4 billion and a price per coin of 2 cents. This represents a huge drop from its all-time high, but it’s still a ten-fold increase on where TRON was in early December of last year.

Much of the negativity around TRON back in December and January centered on accusations that it has plagiarized large parts of its whitepaper and code from other projects. Coin Central dives into the whitepaper allegations and Justin Sun’s response in detail here, but the long and short of its is that large parts of TRON’s whitepaper bear a more-than-coincidental resemblance to sections of whitepapers from IFPS and FileCoin. Justin Sun’s responded via Twitter that the offending sections of the whitepaper should have been more clearly referenced, an error stemming from the whitepaper’s translation from Chinese into English.

Perhaps even more damning was an investigation from Digital Asset Research (DAR) that alleged TRON had repurposed unattributed code from other projects, leading DAR’s Lucas Nazzi to dub TRON “the Frankenstein of Crypto.”

Nazzi also warned that TRON’s mainnet launch would be more chaotic than the drama-filled mainnet launch of EOS. However, TRON migrated from Ethereum to its own mainnet on June 25 without a hitch. And since then, news surrounding TRON has been uniformly positive. In July, TRON announced that it had acquired BitTorrent. In August, the TRON Virtual Machine became operational and  TRON acquired In September, Magic Academy became the first dApp game to be deployed on the TRON mainnet.

With TRON’s ecosystem now truly taking shape, it’s a good time to look at the key points for and against its future success.

The BitTorrent Connection

The pioneering BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing protocol was a huge inspiration behind Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision for Bitcoin. In a recent interview with Investopedia, Justin Sun explicitly referenced TRON bringing BitTorrent’s influence on crypto and blockchain tech full circle:

“I see TRON carrying the torch into the future. In an email conversation dated to November 2008, Satoshi noted, “For transferrable proof of work tokens to have value, they must have monetary value. To have monetary value, they must be transferred within a very large network. For example, a file-trading network akin to BitTorrent.” A decade later, TRON is taking Satoshi’s word on BitTorrent’s invaluable role in blockchain and making it a reality.”

Once the easiest way of accessing vast libraries of music and video online, BitTorrent’s popularity largely declined in-line with the rise of legal streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. But recent data suggest its popularity is increasing, a trend Motherboard attributes to an explosion of paid streaming services and BitTorrent’s compatibility with set-top boxes such as Kodi.

BitTorrent has in excess of 100 million monthly active users and reportedly accounts for around 21% of all upstream internet traffic. This is despite legislation forcing many internet service providers (ISPs) to block popular torrent-sharing websites like The Pirate Bay, and many ISPs throttling or blocking torrenting altogether. There is nothing inherently illegal about BitTorrent itself, but its popularity was undoubtedly built on its use in distributing illegally pirated music, video, and software. However large BitTorrent’s userbase, it’s clear that $120 million is a hefty price tag for a business under sustained attack from legislators.

TRON has bold plans to legitimize the BitTorrent protocol, at the center of which is Project Atlas. Project Atlas is an initiative that will reward seeders of torrents with TRON’s TRX token. Given BitTorrent is already integrated with popular set-top boxes like Kodi, TRON seem to be betting on paid torrenting becoming a revolutionary alternative to existing media streaming services and app stores. And BitTorrent’s co-developed uTorrent client recently announced plans to allow users to stream files directly between mobile devices and their PCs.

Calling Project Atlas “a major step toward a fairer internet,” Justin Sun told Forbes:

“The project will transform the way people share and consume content, helping to re-shape the industry for the better.”

TRON vs Other Platforms

TRON’s website extolls its advantages over other blockchains, proclaiming its capable of processing 2000 transactions-per-second versus 25 for Ethereum and 6 or less for Bitcoin. TRON also claims to be cheaper than both Ethereum and EOS, as deploying smart contracts through TRON costs a fraction of one TRX. And TRON says its easier to develop for than Ethereum, offering developers much greater flexibility in their choice of programming language, while also offering full compatibility with projects and smart contracts developed using Ethereum’s native Solidity language. Since its mainnet launch, TRON has reported more active accounts than Ethereum and a comparable level of dApp development to EOS.

When Justin Sun took TRON’s supposed superiority over Ethereum to Twitter, Vitalik Buterin fired back with a stinging reference to the accusations of plagiarism.

Sun enjoys a far rosier relationship with Ethereum’s current main rival for the Number 2 spot on the cryptocurrency market cap rankings, Ripple. Sun served as Ripple Labs’ Chief Representative prior to launching TRON, and was glowing about the coin’s recent price surge and finance industry partnerships during his interview with Investopedia. He also mentioned that TRON are hoping to move into international payment solutions and similar financial services, and are actively canvassing for prospective partnerships.

TRON as Payment Solution

TRON is already positioning itself for real-world adoption as a payment solution through the complementary projects of Seedit, TronCard, and Poppy.

Seedit facilitates social media payments through platforms such as Telegram and Twitter. Since its launch in late July, TRON reports over 747,000 transactions for a total value in excess of 26 million TRX.

The TronCard will allow users to make in-store or online payments in TRX. Poppy is an app developed for the Clover point-of-sale (POS) device that will facilitate these TRX payments. Clover has shipped more than a million POS devices to merchants around the world.

TRON boasts that payments made with the TronCard through Clover POS devices operating the Poppy app will cost merchants less to process than comparable VISA and MasterCard payments. Integration with Seedit will also allow vendors to entice TRON-using customers with special deals and discounts promoted through social media channels.

Time to Start Taking TRON Seriously?

The furore surrounding the plagiarism accusations remains a serious black mark against TRON in the minds of many in the crypto community. But as the TRON ecosystem takes shape, it seems the project is taking serious steps towards real-world adoption.

Whether TRON will ultimately be successful in leveraging BitTorrent’s huge userbase, native dApps, and POS solutions into overwhelming real-world usage remains to be seen. But it seems clear that TRON is a serious project with enormous ambitions.