The position paper was released in August 2014 and the white paper followed in September of the same year. The same year, Arthur and Kathleen Breitman tasked a group of developers to help develop the Tezos protocol. By the fall there was a crude, but functioning prototype of the network shell.
Interest in Tezos grew, and in August 2015, Arthur and Kathleen founded a company, Dynamic Ledger Solutions, to support the project’s development. In September 2016, the source code was published on Github. The 27,011 lines of code in that early prototype include the same core functionality as the betanet, which launched in June 2018. This drew the attention of more developers, some of whom later coalesced to form a development team based in Paris.
In February 2017, the Tezos public alphanet was launched, further proving the reality of the Tezos concept and expanding the opportunity for the public to explore the network. As the technology matured, Arthur and Kathleen sought ways to encourage a public launch that would be as broad and inclusive as possible to facilitate the establishment of a large and widely dispersed community, as well as conducive to future growth, adoption, and improvement. Several considerations led to the fundraiser held in July 2017 and to the creation of the Foundation.
A critical question for every new network is how to allocate tokens. The core requirement is scarcity; tokens must be rationed in one way or another. Various methods have been tried: in 2014, Counterparty issued tokens in exchange for proof that a certain amount of Bitcoin had been “burned,” i.e. effectively destroyed forever. As a “base-layer” protocol open to new and as-yet-unimagined upgrades and applications, Tezos approached the allocation question by focusing on the long-term development of the network and community.
Swiss government authorities had demonstrated an interest in fostering blockchain innovation, and Tezos Stiftung – i.e. the Foundation – was chartered in Zug, Switzerland in April 2017. With a mandate to provide support to Tezos and related technologies as well as to the Tezos community, the initial recommended allocation of Tezos tokens would be accomplished through a fundraiser.
The fundraiser was designed to encourage a broad and diverse community of initial users. That is, everyone with an interest in Tezos was welcome to contribute to the Foundation. This open and “uncapped” model was designed to democratize the process and to ensure everyone interested in the technology had the opportunity to participate. The two-week contribution period was also intended to give ample time for participants to learn about the project and contribute. This approach, similar to the one pioneered by Ethereum, focused on establishing a broad user base and furthering long-term innovation. It stood in stark contrast to many «token generation events” which, at the time, focused on attracting a few, well-capitalized and quick-fingered participants.
When the two-week contribution period closed, more than 31,000 wallets had been created – creating a community of participants in the Tezos project that was probably the broadest initial user base of any blockchain project at the time. Some contributed a lot, and many thousands contributed a little – creating the large and diverse base of users as a first step in even broader engagement with the network.
The Foundation received more than 65,000 bitcoin and 360,000 ether during the donation period. These resources will assist the Foundation in pursuing its mandate. That includes providing support in the form of grants to promote the development of the Tezos protocol and related technologies.
Before the fundraiser, the Foundation announced that it would reserve the right to veto amendments in the network’s first year. This was intended solely as a security measure as the network matured. But on further review, in keeping with its commitment to decentralization, the Foundation no longer viewed this as necessary and announced on June 25 that it had waived its veto authority. In this same announcement, the Foundation also emphasized its supporting role within the Tezos community and its commitment to decentralization.
The launch of the betanet was not as prompt as many had hoped. But the delay had a silver lining. Tezos developers — operating independently from the Foundation — had time to further improve and test the network. Network features and security enhancements that would have been added after launch were built, tested, and incorporated into the current betanet, which launched on June 30, 2018.