One of the things I’ve received the most requests for is an article about NXT, aka nextcoin. Billed as the “descendant of bitcoin”, it has set some pretty high expectations for itself. Does it live up to them? Let’s find out.
I’ll start with one of the most essential elements: security. Bitcoin addresses are 34 alphanumeric characters. NXT addresses are 20 numeric characters. The difference might be made more apparent when I show you the total number of possible addresses for each:
Address collisions with bitcoin are all but impossible to occur. With NXT, they are much more likely. Now to be fair, NXT supposedly has some sort of built in protection, such that if a passphrase generates an address that is already in use on the network, it will inform you that you can not use it. That’s great and all, but it only solves half the problem.
One of the littler known things about bitcoin is that addresses have varying levels of security, depending on how they have been used. In order to receive bitcoins, all you need to expose is your address. Your public key is not exposed until you decide to spend coins from that address. Now that the public key is known, the address becomes less secure. This is the reason why it is recommended that an address be used only once. Note that “less secure” still means “secure enough” for right now, but that could very well change going into the future. Because only an address needs to be known by the network, it allows us to do cool things like generate offline paper wallets, which are the pinnacle of secure storage.
NXT doesn’t have this luxury. If you were to generate an offline address and send coins to that address, you do not have explicit ownership of that address. Someone could come along with a passphrase that has a collision with yours, announce his public key to the network, and then have explicit ownership over your coins. This means that to claim ownership over an address, you are forced to expose your public key to the network. As mentioned before, doing this decreases the overall security of that address. You just can’t win. NXT is inherently less secure that Bitcoin. It is a total step backwards in that department. Also worth mentioning is that Bitcoin addresses have a 4 byte checksum that prevents you from sending to an invalid or incorrect address. NXT addresses do not.
Now let’s talk about block generation. The method NXT uses for block generation is radically different than bitcoin. Essentially, the system cycles through all known stakeholders, and if that stakeholder is online, they can generate a block. There are some built in protections, but this implementation is not entirely invulnerable against Sybil Attacks and DDOS attacks, two of the most basic types of attacks.
Since NXT is a pure proof of stake cryptocurrency, there was the matter of the initial distribution. This is the most damning factor of it all, and why I think NXT is not even worth consideration. NXT was the first of the “IPO coins” that we’ve seen so much of lately. This IPO had a lot of issues surrounding it, and closed earlier than initially stated. In total, 23 BTC was raised, and 1 billion NXT was distributed amongst ~70 investors. Amongst these ~70 individuals, the top 10 held 50% of all NXT. This makes it the most centralized and unfairly distributed cryptocurrency ever devised. These individuals each command tyrannical power over the price of NXT, and due to the low market depth, could crash the price on a whim.
With a current market cap of 87000 BTC, NXT is currently trading at a staggering 3,800,000% more than it was initially offered for. This immediately throws up red flags, and reeks of market manipulation. There’s currently 1 billion NXT in existence, and the majority of these are being hoarded by the initial investors. In reality, there’s probably well under 100 million NXT that have been introduced to the market, and even that’s being generous. This means that the price is artificially high, and can easily crash down to zero if an initial investor decides he wants out. In that sense, all the initial investors are playing a high stakes game of Chicken.
How high can the price go before one of them decides to cash out? We’ve seen it happen once already. It’s taken weeks, but the price has finally started to recover. I foresee another dump in the not too distant future. You’ll notice a few individuals over at bitcointalk pushing NXT extremely hard. Make no mistake – these are the initial investors, and they have a lot to gain at your expense. They’ve essentially turned 23 BTC into 87,000 BTC. The caveat is that they need to find enough people to dump onto.
I’ll close this off by saying that there is no such thing as “investing” in NXT. It is better described as gambling. You are gambling that price will go higher before an initial investor decides to dump. Frankly, I’d rather play satoshidice.