Back from Devcon4

Two weeks ago, we traveled to Prague to attend the Devcon4, the annual Ethereum family reunion taking place every year since 2014. This year, the conference was held in the huge Prague Congress centre and has gathered more than 3000 people from everywhere around the world.

The Ethereum ecosystem has been cleansed this past year, and the ico-lambo season seems to be over, in favor of the development of all which can improve the protocol. The rest of the active community is made up of passionate people with lots of different skills who call themselves buidlers (which means builders, an inside joke referring to the term hodl). “Buidl” was the most used word at the conference.

The Ethereum community is organizing itself carefully, taking the time to build and deliver only when things are ready and robust, which can be reminiscent of the philosophy behind the Debian release process. Past the preliminary period of excitement, we then transition into the stage of maturity.

All conferences were livestreamed, on SlidesLive for the main hall, and on Livepeer (a decentralized video broadcasting platform powered by a crypto token on the Ethereum rinkeby testnet network) for all other rooms. We want to highlight some talks that we really liked to give a non-exhaustive quick overview.


Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Scalability was one of the most important axes of the conference.

In his excellent talk Making sense of layer 2, Josh Stark went back to the basics of layer 2 solutions (off chain techniques where a user does not have to trust a separate environment), reminding us the main properties shared by layer 2 solutions: off-chain work, anchor to layer 1 for security, and layer 1 risk-model preservation. Josh introduced different types of state channel solutions (generalized state channel, meta channels and hubs), which are already usable on the Ethereum mainnet today. Josh also introduced Plasma, a layer 2 solution child-chain-based framework to build scalable applications on Ethereum. This framework is still in active development, as confirmed by the four consecutive talks on Plasma in the Scalability breakout on Friday.

Still on the scalability, Ameen Soleimani gave us his feedback on the payment channel delivery in production, and put the accent on the security vulnerabilities where they had been victims (a reentrancy bug similar to that of the DAO few years ago), reminding us that developing smart contract remains a signifcantly important task.


Photo by Thomas Kvistholt on Unsplash

Infrastructure was also a hot topic during Devcon4.

In the SWARM team update talk, members of the team gave us a clear idea of the progress done this past year on the SWARM distributed storage platform (the native base layer service of the ethereum web3 stack, which is packaged with the geth client). The platform provides swarm feeds, a kind of subscriber/publisher system allowing dapps to persist easily, with an encryption system allowing people to store confidential in swarm, and access control in order to choose who have the ability to decrypt or to register content. It also has its own messaging platform called pss. The platform is already usable and is under heavy development.

A bunch of new ethereum clients have been presented too. Trinity, a new python full ethereum client built on top on Py-EVM has been introduced by Piper Merriam. PegaSys also introduced Pantheon, a Java client built for mainnet with an eye for meeting enterprise requirements, rendering it a good candidate for one of the next Rockside future developments.

Metamask team introduced Musketala, an Ethereum light client, which they qualify in one line “Ethereum on libp2p”. During the presentation, they explained that the time to synchronize a full node is an issue which results in users relying on a centralized infrastructure. Within Blockchain Studio, we totally share this vision and try to solve it in our own way by offering self-hosted facilitation with Rockside.

We met a lot of different teams with whom we could discuss about Rockside and gave us a lot of encouraging feedbacks.

Overall, it was a great Devcon.

We can’t wait for EthCC in March, which is the Ethereum community conference organized by the Asseth non-profit organisation in Paris.

We hope to see you there!