Notes from the Token Taxonomy Initiative’s First Public Workshop
Last week at Microsoft’s Manhattan offices, the Token Taxonomy Initiative (TTI) hosted a packed house of blockchain professionals for its sold out first public Token Workshop. Attendees were taken through the TTI’s mission of developing “clear definition and scope of token concepts, including use cases, taxonomy, terminology, and specifications” and invited to participate in one of two breakout sessions focused on the development, and business considerations, of fungible or non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Marley Gray, TTI’s Chairperson and Principal Architect for Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain, kicked off the afternoon with a comprehensive overview of both the TTI’s latest iteration of its proposed framework as well as a discussion of the group’s approach to developing standards. And while the work to date has been informed by dozens of companies and potentially hundreds of use cases, the overarching theme of the afternoon was for more companies to come forward and participate in the continued development of the TTI’s proposed standards.
Speaking with TTI Vice-Chair Jonathan Levi, CEO of HACERA who created The Unbounded Network, we asked him about the importance of tokens and token standards for the continued growth of the enterprise blockchain space. “Our industry needs a framework which is here to allow parties to define tokenized assets in a clear way, so that we can build portable systems, through a transparent process,” said Levi, “and such a framework can’t be developed in a vacuum. You must have input from as many stakeholders as possible in an effort to accommodate as many use cases as possible.”
But what about the existing blockchain frameworks that may already have a token? Especially hugely popular chains like Ethereum? “Ethereum, too,” says Levi, “will benefit from having an implementation-neutral definition for tokens. It will bring people and projects together. ”
Version 1.0 of the Token Taxonomy Framework was released in November of 2019 and people who attended the workshop were provided a first-read of an “in-depth review of the TTI’s Token Taxonomy Framework as a first-principles model for understanding tokens” courtesy of Don Tapscott’s Blockchain Research Initiative and their paper TOKEN TAXONOMY The Need for Open-Source Standards Around Digital Assets. The publication provides a straightforward, non-technical guide to the current state of tokens, the role of TTI and the Token Taxonomy Framework and the need for standardization and collaboration. You can download the publication here.
With the dust still settling from the ICO-mania of just a few years ago, a key question the group has been addressing is… why the focus on tokens? The TTI offers this explanation on its homepage: “Tokens will disrupt global economics and radically change how commerce will be transacted. While various implementations exist for tokens for specific blockchain platforms, the industry is currently lacking a venue for all participants to collaborate on a shared description and approach, resulting in a lack of interoperability, reuse, and common ground to address regulatory issues. The mission of the Token Taxonomy Initiative is to create this venue and develop a clear definition and scope of the token concept, including use cases, taxonomy and terminology, and a specification neutral to the underlying technology.”
“Keeping the TTI agnostic to the underlying blockchain solution and staying focused on the behaviors and properties that are necessary for the tokenization of all kinds of assets, brings more people and organizations together.”
TTI is also agnostic to corollary services like hosting platforms.
“We are here to provide people and businesses the ability to exchange information across decentralized systems without worrying about vendor lock-in, regulatory issues or future compatibility,” said Levi, “and the TTI’s implementation-agnostic approach empowers the businesses and community members who are driving the standards and innovations to take advantage of specific base layer strengths while keeping their options open.”
Gray and Levi hinted at more announcements in the coming months but hesitated from providing much detail other than to say that an updated version of the specification was already in the works and would be published “soon.” They also stressed the importance of businesses who are actively seeking blockchain-enabled solutions to reach out to the TTI through their website at https://tokentaxonomy.org/ and get involved as the strength and relevance of the TTI’s framework grows with contributions from the businesses and industries evaluating blockchain technology and the “tokenization of everything.”
“Ideally, we create as wide a spectrum of stakeholders as is possible to help us create a framework that offers maximum flexibility and optionality,” said Levi, “My passion this stems from my belief that these standards are the remedy for the spate in ‘crypto tribalism’, which make systems not portable. ”