Tribillium, or non-designing an un-ICO

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

nb. much of this article was written and shelved back in October. It might seem dated here and there — the ICO craze certainly did die down a tiny bit, but I do think there are still plenty of weird and pointless offerings going around for everyone.

I dug thid article out for two reasons. One is that I received some new inspiration, and the other is that I have plans with it. Beside launching just another joke coin, I’m going to redo it in Vyper, and document the whole development process. So be on the lookout for further installments in How I learned to stop worrying and love Vyper


It feels fitting to start talking about a project born of absurdity with the words of Lewis Carroll, master of the lovable, the absurd, and the intersection of the two… and there definitely is plenty to beware and shun in crypto these days.

The cryptocurrency scene these days is dominated by the absurd, yet unlovable: shameless moneygrabbing via “Initial Coin Offerings” or ICOs for short, the core mechanics behind most of them implemented with less than a day’s work on the Ethereum blockchain, backed by nothing but shameless lies, tall tales, technical ineptitude, and greed to rival that of Gordon Gecko.

In short, it’s IndieGoGo’s dark side on steroids. The wrong kind of steroids.

I’m a long-time follower of cryptocurrency ecosystems, so I’ve seen this pattern emerge before, with the altcoin craze when the price of BTC first hit three digits. Only this time it’s arguably worse. At that time, everyone was trying to create a me-too Bitcoin clone to try and ride a similar wave using premined coins. This time, it’s a lot more focused, a lot more aggressive, a lot more public, and a lot more damaging.

Did I mention I don’t like ICOs?

I used to be a big Dogecoin fan for a while. It showed us how crypto doesn’t have to take itself seriously. The community did cool things with collecting donations for charity and raising awareness. It also was (arguably still is) legitimate money, despite the verbal abuse hurled at it by Bitcoiners who were channeling Ebenezer Scrooge too deeply…

Doge had everything. A cute meme, a vibrant community, and even making all the right decisions. It was, however, hit by an exodus of people as the first crypto boom faded, and as new, more interesting projects such as Ethereum surfaced… The founder left, leaving a shrinking and increasingly frustrated developer community to manage the day-to-day life of Dogecoin.

Then, as a final scourge, the Dogetipbot, which was one of the biggest applications using the currency, went bankrupt. It turned out its operator had been “borrowing” users’ funds for years. As of Dogecoin’s state today, while it did take a foothold in the crypto world in spite of its detractors and attackers, it’s clearly seen better days.

In its stead, we have scam projects raising billions in ICOs; real and otherwise highly praiseworthy projects destroying their reputations by doing ICOs; also, a shady group using Dogecoin’s brand to grab money and harvest personal data. Love has left the crypto world.

Enter Tribillium

When I decided I’d do something off the wall crazy and funny to poke at the prevailing atmosphere, I knew only that it should in no way be a business for myself. I really don’t want to pollute something I create as a message with my own greed. Also, I knew I wanted something that can have utility, similar to how Dogecoin ended up as useful.

I also didn’t want to just create another Dogecoin, on or off of Ethereum. The Doge/Ether bridge (“let’s do it Dogether!”) is an ongoing project, currently seeing some unexpected but welcome progress

Anyway, even though I have plenty of ideas for serious coins and DApps that may be useful in various philantropic and decentralized ways, I wanted to take this one step further than Dogecoin. To make something that is so fundamentally broken that this brokenness becomes a defining feature.

The idea of Tribillium comes from the Biblical story of Jesus sharing the fish and the bread… I wanted to create something that rewards you for sharing it. That you can use to play, to tip, to give to others, and yet be hard to run out of. Love is infinite, and so is Tribillium.

The core concept behind Tribillium is that 1 Tribillium is worth 1.5 Tribillium.

Wait.. WHAT?!

The core concept behind Tribillium is that 1 Tribillium is worth 1.5 Tribillium. Whenever Tribillium is transferred, one half of the transferred amount is freshly minted onto the sender account.

Otherwise, Tribillium is going to be a standard ERC-20 token built over the Ethereum network, implementing additional de facto standard protocols such as ERC827 and increase / decreaseApproval.

Yes, the design is absurd. It really wouldn’t look out of place in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Yes, it’s hyperinflationary. Yes, you can mint it at will by wiring funds to yourself. It’s ridiculous. And I love it.

When the concept crystallized into a solid design, I had this eureka moment. I knew I had it. That this is something with the potential to eventually cover the Ethereum mainnet. I removed overflow check from the coin supply calculation, to ensure the contract continues to operate when supply passes 2²⁵⁶. When it does, I’ll throw a ridiculous party. Not that I’ll ever see a single Wei from this project. My interest in its success is purely artistic.

An un-ICO!

I had multiple ideas for initial coin distribution. Airdropping, ICO… Yes, I did consider an ICO, I thought about lampooning the worst aspects of ICOs, with scammy marketing (“buy RARE Tribillium, sale capped at 1000 tokens”) and everything. I wonder how many people would have missed the badly hidden Star Trek homage, and how many would have actually read the code… But I didn’t want Tribillium to be seen as a scam, not even by people who’d absolutely deserve being scammed. It would have ruined the atmosphere.

Instead, Tribillium is getting an un-ICO. In true Lewis Carroll fashion, tokens will be available for sale at all times *except* during the ICO phase. In fact, the ICO phase is now. We’re in the process of auditing and testing the contract, so of course you can’t buy any right now. There is also *not* a huge presale of a whopping 0 tokens you can *not* sign up for via e-mail if you are a widely recognized crypto investor.

However, once the ICO phase ends, and the contract goes on-line, Tribillium will be freely available to anyone through the Tribillian Reserve, an additional functionality we added to the token contract. The fixed price will be 1 Ether to 1 Tribillium. Forever. The Ether spent will not go to me or anyone else, it will be held as Ether reserve in the contract. For Tribillium has an Ether standard. On paper, at least.

Holders of Tribillium may, therefore, at any time of their choosing, redeem it at the Reserve for Ether, at the fixed price of 1 Ether for 1 Tribillium. As long of course as the Reserve has enough Ether.

Tribillium FAQ…

What is the Tribillian Reserve?

It’s a functionality on the token contract comprised of a buy and sell function. Tribillium bought at the Reserve is freshly minted, and Tribillium redeemed for Ether is burned.

Why 1 Ether to 1 Tribillium?

Because it’s simpler and funnier that way.

Won’t the Reserve go bankrupt?

I count on it that it will. Multiple times.

Will you bail the Reserve out?

I won’t, but you can if you want to.

Won’t transaction costs be too high for a joke coin?

I attempted to keep gas consumption down. But still, I’m afraid Ethereum mainnet transaction costs are not cheap enough for Tribillium to widely supplant social media like buttons, upvotes and tipbots… However, I have faith in Raiden as a vehicle to eventually deliver even this use case.

Does Tribillium implement EIP-223?

No. My opinion is that EIP-223 is the pet project of a monomaniac, with inelegant design and serious drawbacks. Tribillium will implement ERC-827, enabling the de facto standard approveAndCall pattern for interoperating with contracts.

How are you going to test the code?

Mostly static analysis and some automated tests… There isn’t that much that could go wrong, and if it does, it will only make things funnier.

When will it be out?

Most of the article and the code were written back in October, in the midst of the ICO mania… It was shelved, but having had another glimpse into the ICO world recently gave me a little push to actually do this thing. :) Beside, it will be a great Vyper exhibition project.

Will there be preminted coins?

Lol, no. I’ll buy some from the Reserve like everybody else.

Are you a Trekkie?

Just as much as any other tech geek.

There’s two kinds of programming: functional and dysfunctional.