Representing tokens and transactions online is not always a simple task. However, a new standardization effort called Token Behaviour Markup Language is underway. TBML basically aims to create “frictionless markets,” and its creators hope that it will allow tokens to become fully integrated with regular websites.
The Proliferation of Tokens
There are countless blockchain tokens. During the original ICO boom, it seemed that almost everyone was building new tokens on top of Ethereum. Many tokens created during that time lacked substance, but they nevertheless drove competition. As TBML explains:
“During the speculative bubble of 2017, a power token ICO [did] not need to provide any explanation of how the tokens can be used….now that the madness is over, it’s time to present the technical framework to make the market work.”
Two years later, tokens are being built with real applications in mind. The sharing economy, for example, has become a hothouse for tokens. New blockchain startups often introduce a service, such as electricity redistribution or ride sharing, then add a token to handle payments.
In other words, new tokens frequently distinguish themselves by serving a concrete purpose—and the downside is that many tokens have very niche uses. TBML is basically trying to ensure that users don’t need to navigate through a wilderness of technologies and interfaces in order to use various tokens.
The Benefits of a Standard
Although blockchains handle tokens, developers must independently decide how to represent those tokens. DApps, which essentially turn blockchain interactions into user-friendly web apps, are currently the interface of choice. However, TBML argues that DApps do not make it easy for third parties to integrate tokens in the larger market:
“Today, all such information related to a token is usually held together on a DAPP website made by the same entity that deployed the token. We argue that for tokens to be effectively marketized, [they need] to be abstracted out and placed in the token behaviour language TBML.”
Furthermore, current web standards aren’t really suited to tokens. TBML uses car ownership to demonstrate the problem. Different tokens could be used to buy, insure, and rent out a car. Right now, these activities require users to have several accounts with different companies and websites—something that TBML could eliminate in favor of a one-stop integrated “car ownership” portal.
That is just one example of what TBML might be able to do. More generally, the web standard could prevent interfaces from breaking when an underlying smart contract changes, and it could enhance security by separating token code and transaction code. It could even allow large transaction structures to be built on top of existing tokens.
Will It Succeed?
Although TBLM might make it easier to use tokens in a vast number of ways, the proposal is still in its early stages. The standard has been authored by the developers of a minor cryptocurrency wallet called AlphaWallet. The team does, however, plan to collaborate with others, which may raise the project’s profile somewhat.
That said, there’s no guarantee that the standard will get anywhere. Although gaining approval is not impossible, the process is intense, and the project will need to mature first. Other prospective blockchain standards may very well gain the approval of a standards body before TBLM does.
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