Pi Currency and Pi Network – an Introduction

Pi Network and its native Pi currency are a hot and interesting recent development in the areas of crypto-currency and social platforms. It’s interesting both for its scope as well as approach. The current homepage of the project is at minepi.com/ but information is very limited, which is the reason for this post.

A portion of the home screen of the Pi App in May 2019. Chat channels in many languages are available to ask questions and to provide input to the project.

The crypto currency known as just “Pi” is innovative because it supposedly combines a variant of the Stellar Consensus Protocol SCP with a trust network composed of real humans and their real-world trust relationships. The scope of the project also includes a social platform and marketplace where to spend Pi even before it gets listed on an exchange for goods and services of and by members of the Pi Network. Pi has nothing to do with the now defunct PiCoin, and there is no exchange trading Pi yet.

The approach the “semi-stealth” start-up is taking to develop their product is innovative in how it opens its doors to the public very early on to solicit input without having all answers ready yet, and how it tries to build a product based on input and contributions from outside. It is a leap of trust for the early participants, but it could be rewarded by the Pi they accumulate in the process before the final product is launched.

The reason for jumping on this bandwagon now, as a beta program participant, is that the project is very early stage, and you can still earn Pi coins at a higher rate in return for your help developing the product. As more people join over time, the amount of Pi paid out will reduce, similar to the block reward halvings of other crypto-currencies. We explain how to get access and sign up later below.

Beta program participants need to exercise a lot of patience. We will update this post with information not included in official resources, and some of it may be speculative. For the official sources of information scroll down to the references section.

What Pi will be for

The currency Pi will be the medium of exchange on a new platform that might evolve from the current basic discussion forum app to a peer-to-peer marketplaces where users will be able to exchange goods, services, and even user’s attention (to advertisements.)

One of the key ideas appears to be that the users, who earn Pi coins simply by participating in building out the network of trust, will own a fair part of the platform. The platform will replace (expensive) middlemen such as Facebook, Ebay, Apple and Google, and return control over and ownership of your social interactions back to you.

The value of the platform will drive the value of Pi. Platform users will hold Pi themselves and thereby own the platform. And users interacting among each other will be the value of the platform.

Who are behind it

The app on Apple App Store is distributed by SocialChain Inc., a Delaware company. Do not confuse SocialChain Inc. with corporations with similar names that are incorporated elsewhere. The Stanford graduates developing this project are from the Stanford Blockchain Collective. The IDs used by that core team combined with some Internet searching will quickly lead to identities of a number of people.

The “core team” consists of three people, with apparently a center of gravity in building social systems:

Vincent McPhillip @vince – Head of Community

Mr. McPhillip studied political science at Yale (BA) and business at Stanford (MBA), and seems interest in building social movements, and in particular into democratization of wealth distribution.

Nicolas Kokkalis @nicolas – Head of Technology

Dr. Kokkalis was affiliated with Stanford and has published a number of papers related to motivating people to contribute to a common goal. Co-authors include Dr. Fan (see below), and Prof. Michael Bernstein (Standford faculty) who is studying crowdsourcing. Dr. Kokkalis is a computer scientist.

Dr. Chengdiao Fan @cfan – Head of Product

Dr. Fan was a collaborator on some of Nicolas’ papers, while affiliated with Palo Alto University. According to her profile and LinkedIn she graduated, studying Computational Anthropology, from Stanford.

Corporate Structure

The corporate structure supporting their entrepreneurial activity seems to be SocialChain Inc., however, there are three other companies with a similar name: Social Chain USA, Inc., and a third, SocialChain Holdings LLC with a different registered agent.

SocialChain, Inc filed incorporation on September 14, 2018 in California, with Dr. Fan as President, and sole officer. The foreign entity is SocialChain, Inc, incorporated in Delaware, of which Vincent PcPhillip seems to be President.

What it (could) costs

It is possible today to join the project and earn Pi, by being part of the beta program. A common questions is what it would cost you. The answer is nothing really.

The coin is not really mined using computing power, and all that’s needed is tapping a button in the Pi App to prove you (still) are a real human. Therefore there is no real cost involved. You can even turn off the app and the accumulation will continue for 24 hours. The App does not use CPU cycles, bandwidth or any other resources. There have been no reports of any malicious behavior either. A Google Captcha v3 algorithm is used to ensure you are a human.

Beta participants contribute their real name and phone number. However, many services ask the same if not more. Other than that, tapping the app once a day is all that’s needed.

There is of course a real risk that the core team will just build a database of millions of people who trust each other, and sell it to the highest bidder, and abandon all work rendering Pi worthless.

Another risk is that in order to redeem Pi for the real thing users will be asked to provide far more personal information than just a phone number, potentially not making it worthwhile, or still risking the scenario above.

What you (could) gain

Besides earning Pi early-on at a higher rate than possible in the future as the network grows beyond 100k, 1M, 10M users and the rewards halve each time, people could guide the project with ideas and contributions. Right now you can grow the trust network by inviting people you know. You can observe how a start-up struggles and evolves into a large business that might eventually become a next Facebook or Ebay. And with the Pi you accumulate on the way, you could accumulate some ownership.

Following the progress of a start-up from early beginnings itself can be a valuable experience, and there are many opportunities to make new friends, and supposedly there will be opportunities to contribute directly as well. However, there is no guarantee for any of this.

What you are getting is a lottery ticket that could become worth a lot of money in the future if the project succeeds, or nothing at all and disappointment if it fails. The odds are by far better than that of a regular lottery ticket, but they are not that high either.

How to start earning Pi

To sign up for the beta to join the community building a trust network while earning Pi coins along the way, you can download the Pi Network app from Apple App Store, or Google Play Store. If you wish to obtain an invite code from a trustworthy source to join, leave a message below this post with a valid email address, and why I should trust you. Without explanation why I should trust you I won’t send you a code.

If you request a code, your message won’t be posted below on this blog post but you will receive a code instead via the email you provide. (You can trust me because this site provides the research you need to know what you are getting into.)

At signup in the App, you will need to provide your real name (this will be a requirement to claim your Pi once main net launches) and your telephone number. Your name will be known to only the person who invited you, and the core team. The phone number will be only known to the core team of Pi Network. It is possible to hide your name in your mining circle.

After joining, all you have to do is press a button in the app to start a next 24h period of “mining.” After three of such periods, you can start adding people from your mining group to your trust circle, and earn Pi at a higher rate.

Ultimately you will want to have about 5 people in your trust circle who you know and trust well. This will then work together with a Pi coin mining node running on a PC to secure the network while avoiding high cost of power of Proof-of-Work alternatives. You may earn Pi for running such a node, but the earning rate has not been determined yet.

Unofficial Telegram and Discord

While most discussion is supposed to stay in the Pi App, and while the development of the messaging within the app should introduce new features based on community input, there are unofficial channels that may be more familiar and easier to use, and that remain outside of the control of Pi Network. Ask for them on the chat in the Pi App.

This invite link was posted recently for a Discord server The Pi Network: https://discord.gg/VQMYgay

Official Resources

For official information known already read the white-paper draft and the FAQ:

Milestones

May 22, 2019: 10k e-Pioneers; halving to 0.78 Pi/hr
July 5th 2019: 100k e-Pioneers; halving to 0.39 Pi/hr base rate

e-Pioneer is unofficial for so called Engaged Pioneers, which excludes people who signed up but gave up on participating with the app within days.

updated: 20190516; 20190714
photo: ideanist M

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