The Stratis team has created a blockchain and blockchain software that allows users of the software to move STRAT coins between addresses. In addition to this basic use of a blockchain, it is also possible to write arbitrary data to the blockchain.
The benefit of writing data to the blockchain is that the data written is immutable (can’t be changed) because all the other nodes in the system record the data. There is also the additional benefit that only users who can prove ownership of an address can make these writes to the blockchain, thereby adding an authentication mechanism that can be used to prove someone is who they say they are.
If the data written follows a specific format (as specified by a protocol) and it is read by other clients that are aware of this protocol, then this allows for certain types of applications to be built.
An example protocol
One simple example is a voting protocol. One client could write to the blockchain some text that looks like this:
Voting Protocol Version 1.0 Question: What is the best flavor of ice cream? Answers: 1 - Chocolate 2 - Strawberry 3 - Other (Specify)
Client software running on other computers that is aware of this voting protocol would be scanning for messages of this format in the blockchain. The user of that software would be notified of the vote, and they could write to the blockchain a response that would be seen by all users of the software. Their response might look like:
Voting Protocol Version 1.0 Response to Question: What is the best flavor of ice cream? Answers: 3 - Other - Pineapple
Keep in mind that these example texts are human readable - In an actual implementation, these messages would be in a format that is much more compressed.
The end result of this is that users would be able to conduct votes on the blockchain. In combination with other features of the blockchain, this could have many uses.
However, there must be an agreed upon format for how the messages are written to the blockchain. This is the only way for software to be written in a way that allows for all users of the system to agree on what is and isn’t a valid vote.
An OP_RETURN block explorer API has been created to support these types of protocols. Beta versions of the first voting protocol has been deployed and tested on the Stratis main net. An API that shows the results of blockchain votes has been created as well. A beta version of an address JSON datastructure protocol has been created.
More work is needed to integrate the OP_RETURN block explorer API into the Stratis Full Node, because right now it is external to the full node, which is not ideal. After that is complete, it needs to be dockerized and moved to an Azure template so that anyone can create their own.
How to contribute to this project
This project is fairly complicated and is mostly undocumented at the moment. Join us on Discord to contribute.