Interview with Dfinity


[Host: Keira Zhang, Founder of CryptoGarfield]
[Guest: Mahnush Movahedi, CEO of Cindicator]
[Co-host & Editor: Younger Yang, Founder of BlockWide]

Q: What Dfinity is about?

Mahnush: Dfinity can be considered as the next computer — which is a huge distributed computer. Everyone that needs to run some computation, instead of running on his own computer, can run on Dfinity network. The difference between Dfinity and AWS is that, AWS has all the power of computing inside one company and Dfinity is a decentralized version of cloud computing. So nobody has all the nodes that are participating in the network.

Q: Dfinity team background?

Mahnush: We have a huge team now. I’ll talk about the early version of the team.

Dfinity is founded by Dominic. He is our lead researcher. He had some other works in parallel and consensus. He needed something more scalable than Ethereum, something distributed not like AWS and then he came up with the idea of the problem and he found there was no other solution so he had to build a solution by himself. He did some research and built a solution. Then he joined forces with Timo and made the solution closer to practical. Timo was a mathematics professor before, he had some nice ideas and development in Bitcoin. Then I joined the team, and Andreas joined the team. We are all coming from different backgrounds - academy, engineering etc.

Q: Who are the competitors of Dfinity and what’s Dfinity’s strength comparing to the others?

Mahnush: I don’t think there are really competitors in the sense of really competing with each other. We usually collaborate with each other. We collaborate with Ethereum a lot because they have this prototype of how to do computation over blockchain and I think that’s a very nice project. We also collaborate with them a lot in the wasm part.

Q: People are saying Dfinity is the next generation of Ethereum, is that the correct wording, to certain extent?

Mahnush: We don’t share a lot of underlying protocols, we share some of the underlying protocols. I think it’s a sister of Ethereum instead of the next generation. We have different technologies than Ethereum. We are the young sister.

Q: Then what is the main advantage and drawback of Dfinity, compared to Ethereum or other “siblings”?

Mahnush: I think the main advantage of Dfinity, comparing to Ethereum, is that we are targeting scalability and fast finality. And we are targeting provable finality guarantees, for example in Dfinity we can give you finality of a consensus in 2 seconds and the network can prove to the users that this is the final. Using the random seed, we can get the finality faster and using the committee, we can get it more scalable and also using the threshold signature to prove the finality to the people outside the network. This is the difference from Ethereum. It is currently working on POW and you have to wait for 5 or 6 blocks to have the idea that this block is final, but the proof is not there. So you don’t know for sure, you just know with some probability. But in Dfinity you know for sure. Dfinity technology can work on POW or POS and we are targeting POS. We can create an idea based on POW as well. It’s the way we reach consensus that’s different than Ethereum not the way that we prove the identities.

Q: What is the plan for 2018?

Mahnush: Main testnet will be released soon, all the engineers are working on it. For the research side, we have a lot going on, such as networking layer, wasm part, and primea.

Q: Are you going to build any application over Dfinity?

Mahnush: We are building some applications just to test Dfinity. And we are building a lot of applications because we need them. When you run a computer, you need an operating system and when you have an operating system, you need some system programs. Here in Dfinity because we have a huge computer, we have “system contracts” which is like the OS to the PC, to make the computation and Dfinity itself going. We have a lot to small parts of the contracts that we have to write ourselves, eg. dkg contract, indexing contract. There are a lot of parts of Dfinity that are implemented as contracts on Dfinity itself.

Q: Any examples of applications that are suitable for running on Dfinity?

Mahnush: Any application that you can run on top of Ethereum is suitable for running on Dfinity, and it is a bit more suitable because we are faster. For a specific example you can consider an application to manage your human resource in the company or manage customer service or even web application. You can even have your website on Dfinity, instead of others hosting your website. Or instead of some companies hosting your computation, you can host it on top of Dfinity.

An application that we are using for test currently is a dropbox application. We have our own version of dropbox on top of Dfinity.

Q: But dropbox is not only about computation but also storage, does Dfinity also have that capability?

Mahnush: Currently we have a small dropbox, we don’t use a lot of storage, but we can give some storage. We are more about computation but you cannot do computation without storage, a small amount of storage.

Q: If people want to develop applications that require larger space, they probably need to refer to something else?

Mahnush: Currently we assume the storage is outside the network and you can just keep the metadata inside the network because that’s enough. If you are dealing with huge data, you don’t need the whole data to be in the node.

Thank you Mahnush! dfinity-network

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Video of the interview