By now most readers are aware of last night’s circus and CFB’s bewildering petulant actions. Years ago, I’d interpret this nonsense as an invitation to respond in the same vein; however, that was many life lessons ago. At this juncture, I am merely disappointed, accept this as another life lesson, and move on unperturbed. Equanimity of mind is more valuable to me than a transient dopamine surge from petty vengeance. While the IOTA community certainly has every right to feel let down and angered by CFB’s actions, I encourage you all to rather channel that energy into something more conducive towards IOTA’s vision. Adhering to the timeless adage of the internet: “Don’t feed the troll” is the best approach here. There is too much exciting development in IOTA to let this distract from our mission and vision. What follows is the promised letter to the IOTA community that elucidates the many surprising turns of events that have unfolded. Despite last night’s “dramatic” events I elected not to make any significant changes to the letter.
Over the past months, in fact almost a whole year, Sergey Ivancheglo aka Come-from-Beyond/CFB (I will refer to him as CFB throughout this post, as this is his preference) grew increasingly frustrated with the direction of the IOTA Foundation and the IOTA project itself. This followed the infamous board drama, and his subsequent failure to lead the “omega” software engineering team (over which he had free reign) to achieve his version of a coordinator-free IOTA. His efforts were in parallel to our research team, fleshing out their own approach to Coordicide. Ultimately his inability to deliver led to his decision to quit the IOTA Foundation, to focus on his private VR/MMO start-up Paracosm. But regardless he kept insisting on having a final say in IOTA’s architecture, to suit his company’s needs — this despite no longer contributing to the project, having divested all of his iotas and declaring so publicly.
In this blog post, I will attempt to chronicle the most pertinent points of the Jinn / IOTA saga from inception until today, as well as providing a glimpse into the future. So let’s start at the beginning…
An unlikely partnership
At the end of 2013, while crypto was still very much in its infancy, the Nxt project was released and quickly garnered a healthy following. It was the first full Proof-of-Stake blockchain and one of the first projects to feature an Asset Exchange, Voting, Aliases, etc. on the blockchain. In many ways, Nxt was a fertile breeding-ground and prototype for several of the current projects in the space. Long before I convinced CFB to reveal that he was the infamous BCNext, he used this alias to state that Nxt was a mere experiment to him, whereas I approached it from the perspective of what problems the technology could solve in the real world. This would also be the place where we met Serguei Popov and Dominik Schiener.
At the very beginning of our relationship, I and CFB usually disagreed on most topics. Whether it was his idea that Einstein was wrong about relativity, his belief in near-death experiences or more concrete topics such as my stance that the exorbitant fees on remittances were amoral and something DLT could be a solution to. However, as we kept talking, we developed a healthy respect for each other’s different perspectives and talents. One fateful day I would casually tell him about a hobbyist VR project me and my cousin had tinkered with a few years earlier which we called “Induced Reality”, it was at this point he would tell me about his background as a game developer and his education in electrical engineering, as well as his life goal of creating the “perfect” VR-MMO, which would require novel technology. While this was certainly intriguing, my primary focus was on the, at the time, nascent field of Edge Computing (Mist Computing as I called it before Fog Computing became the norm). However, the back-end technology required for VR-MMO with low latency and high performance overlapped on several areas with my vision of the Internet-of-Things where sensors compute data on the edge. To make a long story short: Jinn Labs was born and the blueprint of IOTA started to emerge.
Unorthodoxy is the new orthodox
Despite what some people think, the goal of Jinn was not to push ternary for the sake of ternary but to go beyond legacy computation to accommodate for the ever-increasing demand in both sheer quantity as well as the variability of computation (now known in the semiconductor industry as the ‘More than Moore’ paradigm shift). With this, we also made the — at the time-unorthodox — decision to go beyond the von-Neumann architecture, implement asynchronous circuitry and develop a dataflow polymorphic computing architecture. We were under no illusion that this would be an easy undertaking but deemed it absolutely necessary to realize our respective visions of the future. Since then IBM’s TrueNorth, Intel’s Loihi, Xilinix’s ACAP and a plethora of other cutting-edge projects have validated different portions of our vision and decisions. As our unofficial slogan has always been: software drives hardware. Unlike the titan multi-billion dollar companies though, back in 2014 when we started the Jinn project funding for new semiconductors was at an all-time low, but we didn’t mind. We knew we were onto something and were going to pursue it. We had hired our first electrical engineers and went through the usual start-up hustle, including the hatred of all things even peripherally crypto-related by banks, which led to frozen bank accounts, delayed salaries, etc. Good memories. /s
Is ternary the future? Yes, no, maybe.
We knew from day one that ternary would incur a performance debt in the short to medium term just as we knew that spearheading quantum robustness in DLT would also incur a performance penalty. And just as us taking the quantum threat seriously, a lot of people ridiculed it for being sci-fi. Now, years later, every honest person accepts that we were right to be concerned about it. As for ternary, the answer lies in the future. So let’s flesh out this point a little further. Ever since the beginning, we wanted to find a way to make IOTA radix neutral i.e., allowing for both binary and trinary, just as we wanted to make the quantum-resistant signature scheme optional. Still, we had very limited resources, and so we had to prioritize realizing the ‘whole’ vision. Now, years later, with a lot more resources, we are going to implement signature optionality in Chrysalis, which will lead to significant performance improvements, and for the time being, we are implementing binary for the same reasons. Does this mean IOTA is forever abandoning ternary? No, but we accept that right now, with IOTA being the leading contender to become a standardized DLT protocol for IoT and beyond, it is the right thing to do. With that being said, to those that think ternary, like quantum computing, is science fiction, here is some stimulating reading material for you:
As our backgrounds were in Distributed Ledger Technology we naturally contemplated how to incentivize and secure a vision of a globally-distributed computing network. This evolved to become the Machine Economy and Data Integrity layer vision of the Tangle and IOTA. Around the same time Serguei Popov, who had authored the first academic paper on Proof-of-Stake, was tinkering with the idea of using a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG). We picked up on this and hired him into Jinn Labs to work on this DLT project which became IOTA. Simultaneously I had already been working with Dominik Schiener on a myriad of projects (Exchange, DID, Tipping, Supply Chain, Decentralized Wikipedia) at the time. His hunger for building and achieving reminded me of myself a few years earlier, and his talents and drive were obvious, so I brought him into the project. Now we had a founding team, a blueprint, and a vision. We announced the project in late 2015 and held the crowdfund. Approximately 500 000 USD was raised from a little over 1000 people. A modest sum in comparison to the ludicrous amounts of money raised (wasted) in the ICO-age of 2017, but back in 2015 this was sufficient for us to hire a few more crucial people and build out the first iteration of IOTA.
The next chapters of the IOTA story are quite well-known to the vast majority reading this, so I won’t repeat them. Instead, I will focus on how CFB suddenly chose to go against the direction of the IOTA Foundation and why this letter was penned.
Spoonfeeding logic to a fork.
As IOTA kept progressing, CFB kept distancing himself from the project while simultaneously becoming more erratic and irrational. For every improvement to the protocol we made, he would reject it out of hand, refuse to review it properly, talk with engineers, or explain it. In addition to trolling and spreading nonsense in his own Paracosm Discord, he now started threatening the IOTA Foundation actively. Repeatedly stating that if we didn’t just accept his magical solution (which he never properly described or delivered), he would fork IOTA. Not only would he fork IOTA, but he would also sue the IOTA Foundation and insist that his fork was the ‘real’ IOTA and that he would pursue legal action to secure the IOTA brand (ironically, as most have come to learn, CFB’s brand is legal threats and actions when he doesn’t get what he want). The brand which I single-handedly conceived. I dismissed a lot of this as CFB “being CFB” and tried to reason with him and explain the strategy, to make him understand that no one was abandoning the real vision (hell, it’s our collective vision).
Despite months of effort, all these attempts at avoiding drama fell on deaf ears. In retrospect, at least it bought sufficient time to prove that the IOTA Foundation was delivering software, research, and adoption at an ever-accelerating rate while he was not doing anything. So the inevitable happened: as he was no longer listening to his partner concerning our business, nor any of his co-founders of IOTA, we would have to part ways. I’d give him all Jinn IP, engineers, advisors, brand, whatever, and we’d split Jinn Labs’ token assets on the respective networks. He gets his portion of the tokens on his fork (which I will call Triota until he comes up with a name), while I keep mine on the network he has denounced, divested from and gone to war against. A very fair deal for him. Legally I could pursue everything due to the current shareholding structure, but unlike him, I am not petty. I wanted him to succeed on his own, while IOTA continues to thrive. The latter part of the last sentence is probably why he panicked and went full incoherent rambling madman yesterday and made his most loyal ally his enemy out of nowhere. Ever since CFB’s departure, IOTA has just continued to grow and made great strides in all aspects, and suddenly he wants to own it again. Naturally, that will never happen.
A final personal note:
Since the seed of Jinn and IOTA entered the soil, I have worked nonstop to ensure the success of our vision. Despite a series of trials and tribulations in my family, I have taken no time off. I kept going nonstop. I took my first time off in the summer of 2019 to avoid a complete burnout, a total of two weeks’ vacation over 6+ years. I know my story is mirrored by several other people who are working around the clock to ensure IOTA’s success.
Meanwhile, CFB liquidated his iotas, became a wealthy man, traveled the world, and focused squarely on his company Paracosm. He would also seldom have time to discuss strategy or review anything anymore. He still hasn’t read the Coordicide solution we laid out ten months ago. He rejects it because it’s not his solution. In his mind, he is magically entitled to decide over a project he quit and no longer contributes to, has attempted to sabotage, and declared war against. Despite this, I always defended him, even when he was acting in a manner that was detrimental to IOTA, and ensured that our co-founded company had a viable path to market through IOTA’s success. Up until just a week ago, I was still trying to talk sense to him, to no avail. His betrayal and selfish behavior is not something I accept in my life. I know a lot of people will continue to ask me questions about him, but please respect that I am removing him entirely from my private and professional life and will not entertain his trolling for one second. I will not engage in ad hominem attacks on him and ignore all attempts at baiting me into expressing further sentiments about him. I wish him good luck with Paracosm and Jinn, and that’s that. This letter is my catharsis and final word on this entire debacle.
As this nightmare has finally reached its apex, and I no longer have to carry this burden on my shoulders, I am feeling rejuvenated as I can focus solely on matters that excite me and are productive for our collective vision. IOTA has never been in a better position than right now, with today’s release of GoShimmer we are beginning the exciting journey to deliver the solution to the DLT trilemma, and with Chrysalis we are going to see significant improvements to the performance and usability of the network, allowing users to deploy solutions on the network at an exponential rate. The sheer amount of organic adoption happening at the moment is riveting. The best chapters of IOTA are still to come.