Exciting news, everyone — The Request Network Project is claiming (archive) a blockchain partnership with Wikipedia for donations! Complete with the Wikipedia globe! They even have the Wikimedia Foundation logo at the bottom of their web page! (archive) This partnership with a major charity means you should definitely take them seriously, and buy their REQ tokens!
Needless to say, Request does not have a deal with the Wikimedia Foundation, and especially not one that allows them to use these trademarks. Request appears to be grossly misrepresenting a deal with Wikimedia France, a local Wikimedia chapter.
The WMFR announcement could have just said “you can donate in cryptocurrency now” with a link, like the main WMF site has … but instead, it’s a lengthy pile of meaningless blockchain bafflegab (translation). What on earth is going on here?
The Request Network ICO white paper
Request claims it will allow donations in any cryptocurrency, in due course — but for now it’s only Ethereum. They plan to expand to any Ethereum ERC-20 token, and claim they’ll later do Bitcoin and even actual money.
The Request Network white paper (archive, archive) promises greater efficiency in payments because the accounting is right there on the Ethereum blockchain. This is apparently “decentralized” — even though it’s all served by Request and runs in Request’s centrally-administered smart contract.
Request asserts that a smart contract-based accounting system is necessary for the Internet of Things — even though Ethereum currently can’t scale up to cat pictures. The white paper notes that the Request Network absolutely depends on Ethereum’s efforts to scale — Casper, Raiden and sharding — succeeding by Q2 2018 … that is, in the next two months.
Popularising the append-only transaction ledger is the one useful thing that might come out of blockchain hype. But it really doesn’t need the actual blockchain, and it definitely doesn’t need an ICO for tokens.
Also, I really don’t know how the hell they can run this system, filling the public Ethereum blockchain with Personally Identifiable Information, and comply in any manner with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Which is coming next month. The GDPR isn’t even mentioned in the white paper.
But none of this has to make sense, because it’s all an excuse — the only point is to sell and then pump the REQ token, like every other ICO.
How it doesn’t work in practice
Trustnodes tested out the system. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that it was a long-winded, clunky and painful rigmarole that barely works.
First you install MetaMask, an Ethereum wallet in a web browser plugin — I’ve discussed this awful lump of software here previously. You choose the currency (ether) and enter the amount and a transaction fee — the site suggests a fee. The first fee it suggested, 11 cents, gave an estimated 8 hours for confirmation.
(This fee is actually in REQ tokens, which are required to use the Request Network system.)
The transaction interface is confusing even for someone who knows exactly how Ethereum transactions work, let alone any normal human. Trustnodes were less than impressed with the entire process.
It is entirely unclear how the donated ether is turned into actual money for the recipient.
How to donate cryptocurrency to Wikipedia in a way that works
If you really want to donate bitcoins to Wikipedia, there’s a Bitcoin option at the bottom of this page. The Wikimedia Foundation gets Coinbase to process the transactions and send them dollars — they never touch a crypto.
Though Coinbase are soon deprecating this option, in favour of one where the merchant holds cryptos on Coinbase and cashes them out themselves — so it’s not clear how long Wikimedia will offer this donation method.
This is a developing story — I’ll update as more comes in. The Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia/Wikimedia community are currently looking really closely at this Request Network thing. In the meantime, don’t believe the hype.
Update 2: “Since Request Network were so slow and reluctant to change their delusive communication into a fair and clean information, Wikimédia France broke the agreement with them. Thus, this partnership is over … no other cryptocurrency donations project is planned.”
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