Follow Brian Li (@DecryptoBL) on Twitter.
Follow Brian Li (@bwhli) on Instagram.

Does Substratum’s CMO Understand Substratum & Amplify Exchange?

November 4, 2018

After a relaxing and mostly Twitter-less week in Hong Kong, I returned home to Tokyo and saw a few tweets from Substratum CMO Christian Pope. In my opinion, Christian Pope is one of the most interesting chief marketing officers in the blockchain industry, so I always make time to read or watch the content he tweets about.

Mia Tam

First up is this tweet, which shares a video titled “Substratum Breaking Through the Great Firewall of China” from YouTuber Mia Tam. Nothing against Mia. I think she’s a decent content creator in the crypto space with good intentions. She’s infinitely better than scammers like Suppoman, and well folks, her storytelling and production is superior to everyone’s favorite permabull – Data “snap snap” Dash. In short, she deserves a much bigger following because she creates great content. With that said, I wish she took the time to do a bit more research before making this video.

In the video, Mia talks about the current state of Internet censorship in China and how she is forced to use a slow VPN to upload her videos to YouTube. Next, she gives a basic overview of how a VPN works.

So, conventional VPNs work from your host computer in China to your particular IP address, a server that’s outside of China. China’s great firewall will eventually identify the server is serving a VPN and they will block the connection. Even conventional encryption protocols like IPsec and PPTP don’t work anymore because China’s great firewall is always getting smarter. VPN providers get their servers nuked within 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly how Substratum works as well. There’s nothing stopping China from setting up a few Substratum nodes to identify and block the IP addresses of the nodes in their immediate neighborhoods. Since neighborhood nodes are tasked with creating traffic routes on the network, blocking access to the IP addresses of those nodes would render SubstratumNode useless in China.

Secondly, it remains to be seen if Substratum’s traffic masquerading technique can be reverse engineered into a traffic detection tool. With China’s extensive artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, it’s foolish to assume they won’t be able to discover the IP addresses of Substratum neighborhood nodes. I just don’t see a way around this problem unless Substratum somehow manages to launch with millions of nodes on day one. Even then, it would only be a matter of time before neighborhood nodes are identified and blocked if China wanted them to be.

Slow connection speeds have nothing to do with Substratum, and there is no reason to believe using a multi-hop service like Substratum would result in a speed increase. In fact, proper decentralized systems are always slower than their centralized counterparts – look at Bitcoin. In the meantime, I’d suggest looking at better VPNs – here’s a website that provides daily speed tests for ExpressVPN and VyprVPN. If that doesn’t work out, consider setting up your own instance of ShadowSocks.

CryptoCandor

Up next, Pope tells his followers that Substratum has been featured in CryptoCandor’s latest review. CryptoCandor is another decent content creator on YouTube. She does a great job distilling information into easy to understand overview videos. In this particular video, CryptoCandor talks about a few updates including the Amplify Exchange and SubstratmNode bypassing China’s firewall. I’m not sure if this is a Substratum-related issue or just a general crypto YouTuber issue, but CryptoCandor’s spiel about Amplify Exchange was factually incorrect in the worst way possible.

What is Amplify? Amplify is going to be Substratum’s crypto exchange network. What purpose will it serve? Well, the goal is to allow users to engage with the decentralized exchange, but have their funds settled off-chain so that the exchange is not holding anyone’s funds and people have control over their own crypto. Pair that with the SUB node, ideally this exchange will be able to be accessed by anyone in the world regardless of what your country’s restrictions are. I think that’s an extremely important piece of this that should not be understated. Yes, there are lots of exchanges and even decentralized exchanges popping up, but this one will have no restrictions based on the fact that it’s paired with Substratum’s node.

Wow, that was a lot, and most of it makes very little sense. First of all, Amplify is not a decentralized exchange. It’s a hybrid between a decentralized and a centralized exchange, which is just a fancy way of saying, “it’s a centralized exchange”. Secondly, Amplify requires users to deposit funds into Substratum-controlled and centralized wallets, which makes the point about people having control over their own crypto flat out wrong. Lastly, Amplify’s potential strengths have nothing to do with SubstratumNode, a completely independent product. If the node truly works as advertised, it can be used to access any exchange “without restrictions” – this is not a feature specific to Amplify.

On a side note, it’ll be interesting to see how Substratum plans to make Amplify restriction-free considering the presence of fiat trading pairs will require some level of KYC and AML checks.

VPNCompare

Pope’s most recent tweet cites a VPNCompare article about the VPN situation in China and how “Substratum is providing the next technological evolution”. As expected, the content of this article also has blatant errors and demonstrates a distinct lack of research and understanding. In the article, the author states the following.

Substratum is a new technology that could perhaps provide that alternative. It is an open-source network powered by blockchain which creates a separate, decentralised and open internet. Firstly, Substratum uses blockchain technology to provide proof of all information relayed, making it not only verifiable but also impossible to tamper with or forge.

Man, I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried. Well, I probably could if I tried really hard, but I’m not here to shill Substratum with price-positive content grounded in false realities. VPNCompare’s article suggests Substratum is somehow powered by blockchain technology. This statement is completely wrong. SubstratumNode only uses the Ethereum blockchain to process payments with SUB, an ERC-20 token. SubstratumNode does not use blockchain to provide “proof of information relayed”. The network’s relay layer works via existing networking and encryption technologies and has nothing to do with blockchain. In theory, blockchain’s role in SubstratumNode could easily be replaced by PayPal, which suggests the network doesn’t actually require blockchain technology to function. This is just yet another example of creating an unnecessary use case for blockchain – a business model that usually doesn’t end well.

This network of nodes, which has been under development for over a year, serves as a decentralised data network which can help users to send, receive, and access information faster and more efficiently.

This is just false. There is no data to suggest Substratum’s multi-hop network structure will allow users to send and receive data at a faster rate. Placing an additional networking layer between the origin and destination automatically makes transfer rates SLOWER. If the author is comparing SubstratumNode with traditional VPNs, well, that also makes no sense considering the network isn’t even live yet.

Conclusion

I’ve criticized Substratum’s marketing and PR strategy in the past, but this kind of behavior from the CMO takes it to a whole new level. I completely understand how Substratum supporters and bagholders will brush this off as “just sharing content with the community”, but I really think it’s inappropriate for a CMO to knowingly share false information just because it’s “good press”. These actions suggest Substratum has no problem sharing false information, as long as it’s good for the project and the price of SUB. On the other hand, legitimate criticisms with real information about AMPX’s token economics, the strange token burn protocol, and fractured product strategy are not shared because it’s bad for the project and the price of SUB. Of course, I don’t blame Pope for not sharing the bad stuff. What I do blame Pope for, if he actually understands how Substratum works, is not doing his job properly and reaching out to these content creators to correct mistakes and prevent future misunderstandings.

Interesting PR strategy. Truly interesting.


Questions?

Find me on Twitter, or send me an email.