Huobi News: in Conversation with Su Yipeng, the Chief Architect of Elastos
Huobi News: Mr. Rong Chen, the founder of Elastos, came up with the idea of the project when he was at Microsoft. You were also involved with the Elastos 2.0 project. Now we can call it Elastos 3.0. So from the Microsoft era, 2.0 era to the 3.0 era, what kind of evolution has Elastos been through?
Su Yipeng: Back in 2000, when Rong Chen came back to China and started his own business, the central government needed a general-purpose operating system for intellectual properties. It wasn’t a consumer-oriented mobile phone operating system back at that time. In 2004, the 2.0 project got started and the idea became more concrete. The development was more for smartphone platforms instead of desktop general-purpose operating systems. The project, which lasted three years, completed its beta version by 2006, and its first smartphone in 2007. Compared with the previous basic technological principles, it hadn’t changed that much. Now it’s time for Elastos to enter a new chapter. And it has little to do with the previous projects. In the 2.0 era, we were developing our own kernel and the kernel was constructed by our own coding, starting from the boot.
Now we have a completely different definition of the computer. It’s not referring to the specific hardware anymore. We really think of the network as a computer. The so-called OS is not the same as the traditional general OS. When I talk about Elastos with others, I usually don’t bring up the OS. Because the concept of Elastos is completely different from the OS of the cellphone hardware. We now define the SmartWeb as the combination of blockchain technology and the traditional internet. We call the internet which supports decentralized applications the SmartWeb. Elastos wants to do something far more than a simple blockchain project. What we really want to do is an internet application platform combining blockchain and internet. It’s not a simple blockchain architecture anymore, nor an architecture facing specific hardware platform. But we can still use a lot of code from before. It’s not contradictory.
Huobi News: Mr. Rong Chen has a famous saying: “The internet has nothing to do with computing. Computing has nothing to do with the internet.” Many laymen might ask, how to visit applications such as Sina without hopping on the internet? Can you explain what does “The internet has nothing to do with computing. Computing has nothing to do with the internet.” mean in plain language?
Su Yipeng: When I say, “The internet has nothing to do with computing. Computing has nothing to do with the internet,” I don’t mean the network doesn’t exist. I simply separate computing from network and communication. Elastos proposed a long time ago that we should only focus on the computing logic, not which device the service was located at or which server we should connect to. It’s not what the application should be focusing on. For example, when we access the files on the hard disk, from the bus from the hard disk, to the CPU, then to the memory, the process can be called a network. On the contrary, we can consider the whole internet as a computer. If we use the computer as the analogy, the network is the bus. When accessing data over the bus, you should not specify which bus to access, or specify which address to access the hard drive, because they can pose unsafe factors.
Because the entire system needs consistency, it is dangerous for the system if it is allowed to write directly to the location of a system. For example, Elastos accesses the resource through the ID of the resource, not through specifying an IP address to access the computer. The Elastos architecture includes P2P networks. P2P refers to the relationship between entities to entities, not physical computers to computers. The ID of a P2P network represents an individual or an entity, not a computer. Today, I can use my ID to communicate with someone with my cellphone. Tomorrow, even if I change a cellphone, I can still communicate with the same ID. So specific applications should not care about which cellphone you use or how to access.
Huobi News: We know that there are some links between Elastos and Bitcoin, while they’re using a joint mining mechanism; Some interpret Elastos as a side-chain of Bitcoin. Can you explain it?
Su Yipeng: First of all, Elastos covers more than blockchain. But blockchain is a very important infrastructure of Elastos. In addition, Elastos’ blockchain is the trucking architecture of a chain, not a separate public chain. Logically, it’s independent from Bitcoin. They are both independent public chains. But Elastos has been utilizing the combined mining techniques to reuse Bitcoin’s powerful computing power resources for a long time. In July of last year (2017), we were doing the last preparation meeting of Elastos’ launching, and the theme of the meeting was, “During blockchain’s development, the main chain mindset should be thrown away.” During that meeting, the future design and architecture concept of Elastos’ chains were decided.
The reason why we decided to utilize joint mining is that we think Bitcoin’s computing power is very powerful now. And what can we do with such a powerful computing power? Currently, it can be applied for the distribution of Bitcoin. There are few applications on top of it. And in the previous video, Rong Chen also mentioned that a chain is a computer, which means the available computing power provided to the applications by the chain is equivalent to a computer. No matter how safe or reliable Bitcoin is, it’s still a computer, which means it has limited computing power and can only serve limited applications. But we should see that bitcoin’s great value is its power. Its power output is very powerful because there are so many mining plants and nodes dedicated to mining it. For the blockchain industry, this is bitcoin’s greatest value. We should make full use of the combined computing power from many mining plants. There are also many public chains and they have a different consensus. They built their own chains. But so far, the most credible and decentralized one is PoW (based on the consensus of proof of work). Generally speaking, to build a public chain with POW, the biggest problem is that you need at least tens of thousands of nodes to ensure the security of the entire networks trust when building a new chain. Think about it, a chain is just a computer. The service of a computer requires nearly ten thousand nodes to ensure that the computer’s services are reliable. Then, think about how many computers you need to support today’s large cloud services. It’s clearly unrealistic to build so many chains repeatedly.
We can imagine that to provide blockchain services, we need lots of chains in the future. It’ll be unrealistic to use every chain the way we mined bitcoin. The cost will be very high. Many of the public chains are using the compromised algorithm, such as DPOS or Byzantine consensus algorithm. I think there are many problems within these algorithms, such as the centralization problems, security problems, and fairness problems. Why are the common chains using these consensus algorithms? Many people say it’s to solve the performance problems, such as it can help trade faster. But I think the most realistic advantage is that although it’s not so reliable, in the beginning, only dozens of, or hundreds of such nodes are needed. It means the cost is low but it also means its reliability can’t withstand the test and proof of time like Bitcoin does.
Huobi News: If Bitcoin represents Blockchain 1.0 and Ethereum represents Blockchain 2.0, now is the Blockchain 3.0 era. What kind of evolution has Elastos had compared with Ethereum?
Su Yipeng: Bitcoin provides the power output, which I think is more valuable than its currency. We can call Ethereum trusted accounting + trusted computing. The smart contracts have provided the trusted computing function based on the chain. As I mentioned, Elastos not only focuses on the blockchain, it’s also a secured system platform that supports the new generation of the decentralized applications. So we added the trusted application. We aim to combine blockchain’s characteristics of rights affirmation and credit output with the system’s characteristics of security and reliability so that data can be accurate to become digital assets.
Specifically speaking of the blockchain, the Bitcoin and Ethereum we mentioned actually represent a computer’s capacity. We hope Elastos will be more advantageous in terms of the structure to break through the constraints of a single chain. The main function of Elastos’ main chain is to issue ELA and provide side-chain support. On the side-chain, we need to support different applications based on different scenarios. Each chain is subject to their own consensus algorithms and performance constraints that can be supported by different scenarios. Some application scenarios require trusted bookkeeping, so PoW will be suitable; Some application scenarios require faster speed, so DPOS will be more suitable. The services provided by each chain may be very different, and a single chain is unlikely to accommodate all the application scenarios. We hope that through the extension of the side chain, we can support fast payment channels like the Lightning Network. And hopefully, we can also support the function of issuing tokens and running the smart contracts like Ethereum. Lastly, we hope we can record the trusted ID on the side chain or support the transaction of digital assets. The main chain doesn’t need to be full of loopholes for having complex functions. The main and side chain structure of Elastos can turn the blockchain from one computer to many computers that have different functions and serve the applications simultaneously. Since a side chain is also a separate computer, we are no longer using the computer with only one chain to provide services. At the same time, in the trend of open source communities, we hope to reuse more codes that have been used so more teams can join the Elastos project.
Last year’s Cryptokitties game caused the congestion of Ethereum. We can imagine it happening to Elastos. We won’t worry about how fast the main chain should to support applications like Cryptokitties. One computer is clearly not enough because other transactions and applications need to be supported as well. The easiest way is to provide it with a side chain, support it with multiple side chains with fork. In terms of the blockchain, the concept of forks used to be issuing types of coins or making an ICO. But on Elastos, we support side chain fork. The function of fork is to expand the computing power, turning one computer into two computers. Fork is a system call in a traditional UNIX system. It helps create a subprocess to improve concurrency, in order to serve faster and run more efficiently. Fork in Elastos is more in line with the traditional definition. Our difference with Bitcoin and Ethereum lies in Elastos’ positioning. Bitcoin and Ethereum position themselves as very basic chain service facilities. I don’t think it’s possible to have them support large applications directly. Elastos positions itself on the SmartWeb. To support it, the infrastructure of the chain level has to have strong computational power and scalability. For example, good chain code can also be put on our side chains, such as DAG, DPOS, and Byzantium. They can all be placed on our side chains. We hope that we can be very inclusive and absorb more current, good technology.
Huobi News: When it comes to Blockchain 3.0, many people mention EOS; What do you think is the difference between EOS and Elastos? Now there are many projects claiming to be Blockchain 3.0 projects. In the future, will there be a lot of competitions among these projects? Can they coexist?
Su Yipeng: I think they can coexist. Actually, we don’t have too many public chain projects. Although there are many coins, we only have a handful of real public chain projects. For the public chain, a chain is equivalent to just one computer. It may have an application scenario that may apply to some application but it is impossible to apply to all applications. As for EOS, I think it has a good community and a good economic model. When it comes to the specific technology, I don’t want to have too many comments. I think EOS is not an operating system. It’s a type of blockchain. It’s positioning is very different from Elastos’. I find it difficult to compare these two. It’s not proper to compare Elastos with a specific chain. We also have blockchain services and we provide a better framework for scalability on the basis of the blockchain. But we are not making chains for the sake of making chains. In addition, we don’t have enough blockchain service resources. So I think we can coexist in the future.
Huobi News: Many people still care about the actual application scenarios of Elastos. What’s Elastos’ plan for this in the future? What form will be presented to the users?
Su Yipeng: Elastos started out August of last year. In December of last year, the public chain and wallet were launched. March 2018, it landed on Huobi Exchange. For blockchain teams, it’s actually very fast. But this is only the beginning of the Elastos project. Why did we seek funding? Because the project is far from complete. If it was completed, we wouldn’t need any funding. There’s a roadmap on our official website. We have separate goals in April, June, and August. You were talking about the goal we were trying to achieve in August.
Now I want to talk about the Elastos community. The investors in China have helped us a lot with community building, especially some matters our team didn’t know how to handle. There’s no CEO in Elastos because we want the Elastos team’s development to be more towards the community model. We have different groups and operate in holacracy. It’s very close to the community model. But it’s still highly centralized. Because during the founding period, good executive power is needed to finish the project. As the infrastructure evolves, we hope that the organizational structure will evolve to the community as well. We have found people from Silicon Valley who have experience in international technical teams to join our team and run the developer community. Elastos should not only have the investor community. We also hope we can build the technology community. Our team will first focus on the core and foundational matters. In the long run, we will give the developer community more space to make more high-level software development; individuals and teams make contributions to the project. And we will give them positive incentives and feedback. Our founding team will also evolve into a community team.
Now there are many teams and applications who hoped to work with us. But we do have a screening process. Currently, we require them to have landing scenarios in traditional applications. Zapya has nearly 100 million users. Ulink has nearly one million rental users. They already have the foundation in real scenarios. So we will support them to make applications combined with blockchain. If they have to start from the beginning, it’ll be very tough. Why work with these large applications? Elastos’ goal is to create a SmartWeb platform and make it possible for applications to have positive and reverse feedback among one another, which can help us improve the platform.
In early stages, we only had infrastructures like public chains, P2P networks, and Runtime. We still have many unfinished goals. But we first need to improve the development of documents and the community to make more people know our technology. Therefore, they can independently develop their own applications. For example, as for the Windows operating system, Microsoft didn’t go to every application developer and tell them to help develop applications for them. Instead, developers can develop their own applications based on the developer website or documents. As a platform, the document workload is very large. It’s not the same level compared with the workload of normal documents. I think we still need to have patience before the applications get on the platform. In August, we will launch a front-end system to support the decentralized applications. By then, we will encourage more applications to get on Elastos’ platform.
Huobi News: What will be the first killer application that comes to Elastos?
Su Yipeng: According to the development of the computer industry, from previous experience, the earliest applications should be games. That’s the situation in the era of stand-alone devices, that’s the situation in the internet era, so I think it’ll be the same in the blockchain era. Cryptokitties was very popular a while ago. But it’s actually a very simple game. You can’t do anything complex on it. And we hope there will be more practical games.
We want games just like the IOT-facing applications(similar to Ulink). I think speaking of the consumer end of it, it makes sense to build games to really test the platform of its capabilities and what it can withstand.
Huobi News： EOS will have 5% of additional issue annually and Elastos tokens will have 4% of additional issue annually. What’s the use of the additionally issued tokens?
Su Yipeng: Miners help you mine cryptocurrency and help provide the support of computing power, of course, you need to pay the service fees. In addition, they are also used to develop the ecosystem of Elastos. There will be a large number of applications landing on the platform. And these applications may also need the tokens as support and rewards.
Elastos can be regarded as an economic zone. During the development of this economic zone, there will be inflation. In the economic zone, the better goods and digital assets there are, the more corresponding currency there will be. If we don’t have additionally issued tokens, there will be serious deflation. 70% of the 4% additionally issued tokens are for the miners. The other 30% are for developing communities and ecosystems.
Huobi News: Netease released “Fortune Cat” and Baidu released Petchain. Why are these big companies such as BAT or Netease doing this? There are also people saying they’re not working on blockchain projects. Instead, they’re making centralized projects. But there are already many applications in their own system, will they invest more money in their own blockchain and implement their own apps onto the blockchain? If they enter the game, will the startups suffer?
Su Yipeng: I’m not worried at all. Anyone can make applications like Cryptokitties. No matter if it’s made by Baidu or Alibaba, it’s more of a gimmick. They also use Ethereum for the ease of developing their own public chains and issuing their own digital currency. Baidu’s involvement won’t make any difference. The startups won’t be effected.
Like I mentioned before, the structure of Elastos will move towards the community model. Why is that? Because the community pattern is the inevitable result after the public chain project matures. One of the core values of blockchain is decentralization. And decentralization includes the decentralization of benefit distribution. Traditional enterprises, including BAT, are huge interest groups. They’re very centralized and their power is concentrated. Of course, it includes the centralization of data. If they want to jump on the bandwagon of blockchain, I want to ask them, are they willing to give up their existing interests to work on blockchain? If you are Baidu or Alibaba, are you willing to lose your current interests? Of course not. Is it possible to turn Taobao into a decentralized shop?
Huobi News: How will it be displayed after the completion of the Elastos project? Will it be possible for us to turn on our cellphone or computer to directly access Elastos? Just like the Apple or Android system?
Su Yipeng: First, let me clarify one thing. Although Rong Chen did a cellphone demo in a meetup at Silicon Valley on March 15, the product was from two years ago. It’s an operating system based on the original raw hardware. Now it’s not like Elastos will start to load once you turn on the cellphone. It’s not like that. Except for proprietary networking devices, such as set-top boxes or routers, it might work for them. We will present it as an app on the cellphone or the desktop. You can deem it as the desktop of the SmartWeb platform. This desktop will use the browser’s kernel, which integrates the ID and real-name authentication, the blockchain wallet, and point-to-point decentralized VM, which can load and run H5+JS applications. These four are the basic functions of the desktop. These features can reflect the characteristics of blockchain. In the future, the App Store applications and digital assets will also be integrated. This is our basic plan. There’s a lot of room for improvement and optimization. I hope in the future, the developer community can come up with more fantastic ideas.
We will make this platform so the community can make better things based on it. We decided to do the basic development to give the community more space to make better products. There are two kinds of applications we will support later. One is the native application on the terminal equipment. The other is the H5+JS Web application.
Huobi News: How to ensure the security of the Elastos project?
Su Yipeng: We have our own plan for security. For our initial plan, we are not in a hurry. We are walking step by step in accordance with our roadmap. Now we are focusing on building up the frame and improving the functions. Our team needs to work hard and we’ll also need help from our community. There are really many things we want to do and there’s plenty of room for the tech community. We need to slowly improve ourselves. But we also need to rely on expanding the tech communities. In the early stages, we’re more focused on combining blockchain with the things we did in the past and showcase the characteristics of blockchain, including the characteristics of side chains, to showcase them in the application level and better support the application development. In terms of security, we will make it happen according to the sandbox mechanism we envisaged. But it’s not an urgent matter at this point.
Huobi News: Is the main chain running on Bitmain？
Su Yipeng： Yes. But not only Bitmain. We can work with any mining pool. But in reality, Bitmain is our strategic partner. Bitmain, Ant Pool, and BTC Pool are the top 3 pools in the world. It’s more realistic to access their computing power. Manager Han also supports us big time.
Huobi News: Can you tell me about the upsurge of ICO and cryptocurrency ?We know there aren’t many real applications based on Ethereum. But the market value of Ethereum is so high, which once hit one-tenth of Microsoft’s market value. People care about this issue. Do you think this is good or bad for the development of blockchain?
Su Yipeng: ICO is a sensitive issue. I think ICO is a new way of financing. It solves two problems. It solved the problem that it’s hard for traditional innovative companies to raise money. And it solved the problem that it’s hard for traditional individual investors to invest money. Investment used to be the privilege of VCs. It’s hard for individuals to invest their money. ICO has a bit of the decentralization feature and it solved two problems. This is its advantage. The disadvantage is that VC investment has higher requirements. So it won’t have problems very easily. But when it comes to individuals, since everyone has different abilities for screening the projects, there are lots of problems now. We always say that it has a lot of bubbles. But looking back, whether it is stand-alone devices, internet or blockchain, any kind of epoch-making new technology always appears accompanied by bubbles, which is normal. In the early stage, it’s hard to implement the regulatory policies. Because it takes time for individuals, organizations, and governments to understand a new technology.
Blockchain is the same. For individual investors, blockchain investment is still very risky. Not everyone can identify the good projects from the bad. So under the current circumstances, we still need the supervision of government departments. Otherwise, projects that scam people’s money will make it hard for real good projects and progress-making projects to grow. First, it will cause the funds to dilute. Second, it may cause the government to crackdown on everything. I think the blockchain industry has already started to squeeze out the bubble. And there are more rational investors trying to learn the blockchain technology. The Government is also slowly understanding what is going on. It has started to try to accept and regulate it. And we always welcome that.
Huobi News: How long do you think blockchain will be a hotspot?
Su Yipeng: China’s internet industry has been hot since 1996. In 1997 and 1998, any website could raise money. At that time, at the beginning of the internet era, it was very hot and the bubbles were very big. When the bubble burst in 2000, there was a period of depression. Besides the emerging gaming companies, Alibaba and Baidu hadn’t succeeded yet. They grew in a few years by doing practical things step by step. I’m not sure if blockchain will go through the same process or if the craze will go on. But I’m certain that the regulation will be more down-to-earth and reasonable, which will enable blockchain projects to grow in a normal and healthy way, which will cause fewer bubbles. Fewer bubbles mean fewer speculators. So the “hotspot” you mentioned will be cooler, but it won’t stop growing.