As we near the end of another year it seems like a great point to reflect on what has come to pass. In today’s fast-paced world, the emphasis tends to be focusing on future plans; what deliverables are in our roadmap, what partnerships are on the horizon, and how we can best structure our team for future success. However, finding time to reflect is also essential as it helps us to understand and analyze what worked well, what didn’t, and our general direction and velocity of travel. With that in mind, this post will look back at what 2021 had in store while offering a brief glimpse into our plans for 2022.

Rather than give a blow by blow account of each month as it happened, because that would be very boring and tedious, we’ve identified some broad themes that developed throughout the year, these were:

  • Tech delivery
  • Shift from engineering to adoption and partnerships
  • Team scaling

Tech Delivery

To use a soccer commentator's cliche, 2021 was a “game of two halves”. The first 6 or so months represented a heavy focus on feature development and several upgrades for the Dock Blockchain. The start of the year saw Dock finish what it started in late 2020 with the completion of the token migration, we even extended this to ensure we brought as many token holders with us from the Ethereum Network over to Dock’s new chain. Approximately, 97.2% or all tokens were migrated (circa 972M) and those that migrated within the first 5 weeks were awarded a token bonus by the Dock treasury. Looking back, we’re delighted with this result. Migrations are highly complex and involve multiple third parties (security auditors, exchanges, legal, etc...), and completing this securely while also keeping other aspects of the roadmap on track is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the team and the support of our amazing community. And the result is certainly worth it, as we describe later in this post the utility the Dock ecosystem derives from our native token is evident in several areas.

Network upgrades

Network upgrades continued just as the migration was drawing to a close, and at the end of March, we integrated our mainnet with Parity’s Frontier project making it possible to deploy smart contracts written in Solidity on Dock. Our specific requirement for this addition was to enable us to integrate Dock’s mainnet with Chainlink’s price feed, enabling network services to be provided to issuers in USD. However, in addition to our initial use case, the integration significantly increases what can be created on Dock, such as; the creation of a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), which we created a tutorial for, the issuance of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), and decentralized application development.

Around this time we also released a feature that had come up several times in calls with organizations that were considering using Verifiable Credential platforms, and that is the ability to make Dock’s credentials delegatable. For example, a government may want to allow private test centers to manage issuance of certain licenses on its behalf. Or a professional organization may delegate the credentialing authority to online learning platforms, so that the members who complete courses on the platforms can receive verifiable credentials that are officially recognized by the organization. This feature was extended a few months later by enabling delegators to publicly attest delegations by adding details of delegation to their Decentralized Identity documents on the Dock blockchain while also enabling credential Verifiers to search for delegation details publicly posted on-chain. Delegatable Credentials is a feature that continues to come up in our partnership discussions and is utilized in pilots, a worthy addition to Dock’s product suite.

As summer descended on western Europe, Dock released arguably the biggest milestone of our year when we moved from our Proof of Authority network to Proof of Stake. This achievement took many months of planning and execution from the entire team. While Dock engineers worked with security auditors to ensure the upgrade was being carried out securely and successfully launched a testnet before the mainnet upgrade, the operations team recruited and worked with more validator teams as our validator count rose from 11 to 50 during the transition. Quality was certainly the focus and the Dock ecosystem is fortunate to be supported by a number of validating partners including; Ovrhd, Everstake, Stakin, MyCointainer, Ryabina along with a host of independents.

We also worked with exchange partners to ensure they had updated their wallets to run on our upgraded chain, which is in essence an entirely different network to what we had before. It was not possible to keep the previous chain state and roll it into the new network and we, therefore, had our block explorer, Subscan, host both our PoA chain, frozen after 7.6M blocks, and our new PoS chain.  At the time of writing the new chain has been running for 160 days uninterrupted and has produced over 4.5M blocks at the time of writing, while 12.4% of circulating supply is currently staked.

The upgrade to PoS was so important for the network as it further decentralized control by not only increasing the number of validators, as mentioned previously, but also it meant that the Dock Association no longer had any control over deciding who the validators were. Under PoS, Network algorithms now determine who becomes one of the 50 active validators based on the amount of stake they hold. The validator elections take place continually and are held every 12 hours. In addition, we now also have community governance features in place as a result of this upgrade, and recently our first referenda was successfully passed increasing the rewards received by the validators and stakers.

Adoption, growth, and partnerships

The second theme that emerged through 2021 was adoption and growth. Essentially, now that we have a network in place, how do we maximize its use? The approach we have taken is two-fold, first, what technical things can we build to make the consumption of our network as easy and efficient as possible. The second aspect is operational, what relationships can we build and what processes can we put in place for technical teams to start to build on Dock. In fact, 2021 was a busy year for partnerships, we concluded the work we had started with German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), assisting them with the technical architecture and features for a professional profile data wallet for their learning platform. As a slight aside, those who follow Dock closely will know that we released our mobile wallet into the app stores this month. Not only can community members now store, send, receive, and manage Dock tokens from their mobile device, it will serve as an important gateway to several planned Dock innovations.

We also worked with Ovrhd, a startup that was using Dock to not only win a Hackathon, but also work with the Dutch Government in the Hague to use Verifiable Credentials and Decentralized Identity to create a tokenized urban ecosystem, in which tokens are used to manage crowds and enable voting procedures within the community.

Ease of use

As the year progressed, and the basic features were in place, we started to think about how we can make the network easier to use and the tools we could provide to encourage adoption within this very new yet exciting world of verifiable credentials and decentralized identity.  This thinking was developed in conjunction with companies like international identity verification provider, Credenxia, who are collaborating with Dock to build a decentralized solution for creating and managing employee credentials. Our answer was to build an API (Application Programming Interface) that simplified the development process by taking care of key management and hiding the requirement for Dock tokens to process network transactions (this is managed by Dock) enabling payment for API usage to be made in $USD. Essentially, the API enables less complex and faster integrations and is certainly desirable with almost all companies we have spoken with. This includes Xertify who is integrating with Dock’s blockchain infrastructure and tools to facilitate issuance of their healthcare credentials. At present, Dock has had around 2,500 signups to our API with around half of these identifying themselves as developers, product, and business owners. So demand certainly seems to be strong and as we prepare to enter 2022 we’re very optimistic the volume of issuer partners will grow rapidly.

It is important to note that the partnerships formed during the year were not just issuers of Dock, growing adoption can take many forms, and late in November, we co-sponsored the world’s biggest Hackathon focussed on utilizing decentralized tech stacks. At the time of writing over 2,500 participants have signed up and we\re all looking forward to seeing the outcome of the event with Dock’s challenge to participants focussing on; Self-Sovereign Identity, Workforce Training, Know Your Customer (KYC), Learning & Academia, and Health & Safety.  We also recently completed an integration with leading fiat on/off ramp, Transak, whose service enables the purchase of DOCK via bank transfer and/or card payments in multiple international currencies in over 60 countries.

Team growth

It was clear at the start of 2021 that in order to support our aggressive roadmap and ambition we had to increase the number of team members, as well as acquire some additional skills. During the course of the year, the team has grown by around 42% up to our current complement of 14. We have already hired another blockchain engineer who will start in January but we’ll introduce him when the time comes.

This year we have added a Mobile (React) Developer, Head of Business Development, Solution Architect, Content Marketer, QA and Test Automation Specialist, Project Manager, Support Rep, and a Cryptographic Advisor. Moving forward, we will be looking to add to our mobile development team to increase our development velocity. We have a lot of plans here and we want to bring them to market as quickly as possible, while we will also be increasing our marketing team.

It is worth noting that on the whole recruitment has been very challenging this year and certainly it is a seller's market. Any blockchain experience in development roles certainly carries a significant cost premium and with many projects with large treasuries and funding pools to draw from the market is very fast-moving and highly competitive. As a result, it took longer than anticipated to recruit for certain roles, even working with professional recruiters. There is no indication that 2022 will be any different.

Looking forward

While this is a reflective post, it would also be remiss not to consider what can be expected for 2022. We will continue our drive to keep making Dock easier to use, for issuers but also for the token holder and staking community. We know that the user experience of staking through our front-end app certainly has room for improvement and we’re going to be improving this in several ways. Our integration with the hardware wallet, Ledger, is at the final stage, and certainly staking through Ledger reduces some of the complexity and the number of steps involved. We’re also going to be integrating staking into our newly launched mobile wallet and soon-to-be-released web wallet. And of course, for those who prefer the simplicity of centralized, custodial staking, this will be available with some of our existing exchange partners soon.

We’ll also be working to continue our blockchain innovation with features like traceable credentials, range proofs, and we’ll be working to build bridges between Dock and other blockchains to increase utility of the DOCK token while also adding other options for blockchain developers. And finally, we plan on continuing our effort to engage the Dock community through our forums, our governance process, as well as through projects like our newly launched Ambassador program and our up and coming Grants Program. Watch our social channels for more details.

We’re hugely proud of what we have been able to achieve this year, particularly as a small yet growing team. None of this would be possible without the amazing support of our partners and of course, the Dock community, many of whom give our team members, and the project, backing above and beyond the call of duty.

Thanks for an amazing year and best wishes to everyone for a healthy and prosperous 2022!