Fetch.AI Public Test Network: Foundation Release, April 2019

Apr 30, 2019 · 5 min read
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  • Public testnet released on-time: now everyone, not just those who took part in the token sale, can access, use, experiment with and develop on the Fetch.AI decentralised network
  • Block explorer and status page: easy-to-use web based block explorer for looking up transactions, contracts, etc., and a status page to view what’s happening with each testnet component
  • Decentralised search for agents: agents can now search across multiple nodes to find other agents to work with using Python, C++ or other languages
  • Smart contract language playground: learn to develop in Etch, Fetch.AI’s smart contract language, inside a simple, web-based interface
  • Foundations laid for future releases: the testnet foundation release enables the developer community to engage in smart contract and decentralised computing development

Today, we’ve published the latest smart contract ready version of the Fetch.AI Smart Ledger, we’ve released a block explorer, a testnet status page, an amazing decentralised search facility as part of the magic that makes up the Fetch.AI digital world and, to top it off, a super-cool web-based “write, click and run” interface to the Fetch.AI Virtual Machine (VM) and its unique Etch language. This is our foundation release, it’s the first time that all the key component parts are all in the same place at the same time. It enables rapid iteration, as we can now release the updates we’ve been working on much faster. Most importantly of all, though, this brings you into the picture: our supporters, the developer community and our token holders. Now, alongside the drag-and-drop make your own agent Network Participation App (NPA), you can explore the network’s activity, play about with code, monitor the status and much, much more.

A lot has happened today so let’s break it down and talk about it in a touch more detail. Firstly, let’s look at the utility functionality: the testnet status and the block explorer. Most of us in this space are familiar with block explorers: a website where you can watch what’s happening on the blockchain, look up contracts, transactions and more. We now have one for our native testnet, and you can access it any time you wish. Of course, this is a testnet, so there will be times when it is broken. Perhaps we’ll break it, perhaps you’ll break it, but either way, a status page is vital for self-service information on what’s up. Developers, of course, will rely on such services to ensure it’s the network that’s having problems as opposed to their lovingly crafted code!

The service status page shows another point: there isn’t just one test network, there are three. And there are two primary reasons for this:

  1. It allows us to expose the super-new version alongside the slightly older version that’s well supported by our mobile wallet and NPA app.
  2. It allows us to release new OEF functionality (such as increased dimensionality search) without breaking anything else — and those releases are going to happen rapidly.

In the first half of May, we’ll gradually collapse these networks into one. As we all collectively use the testnet, run it under load and see what happens as the nodes are expanded, there will be a refinement process. During this time, we’ll move the whole primary network across to the newer one, which we call the X2 network. The X2 network supports full smart contracts, synergetic computing and has an updated transaction format. As part of this transition, we’ll simultaneously be pushing updates to our iOS and Android apps.

Decentralised search for agents

Then there’s the OEF: the Open Economic Framework. This is our Digital World, the interface through which agents can find each other and get work done. It’s super important, and we have great plans for it. In this release, we demonstrate a geographic dimension to the world and a true decentralised search facility. You can use Python and C++ to easily create agents that use this system, either through our SDKs now (although some features are missing in the C++ API until early May), or you can attach to the APIs in the OEF yourself immediately. This release lays the foundations for the other parts of decentralised search: using a concept of “data access providers” (or DAPs), nodes are able to quickly evaluate which parts of the network are irrelevant, so that they assess only the agents or locations that are important.

Crucially, the architecture scales well locally, as well as across the network. All the components involved, the OEFCore, the search component, the DAPs and the ledger all talk to each other over TCP/IP. This means that they can be on the same, or different machines. A large, full, OEF node on the Fetch.AI network may consist of just one, or many individual computers (one could construct a node out of a whole stack of Raspberry Pis, for example).

The Etch Virtual Machine

We’re particularly proud to deliver this version of our virtual machine. This allows a huge range of artificial intelligence computing to be done inside smart contracts, making them truly smart. AI, and in particular, machine learning, can be used to deliver useful, actionable predictions that enable agents to work on the basis of understanding what will be, rather than what has been. It also enables decentralised autonomous organisations to trade in a way that previously was simply not practical. Up until now we’ve been releasing parts of the VM, but this is the first version which truly allows for these innovations to be built and deployed and we have some incredibly exciting news about the VM in the coming days.

Etch: a playground

Given the importance of developing in the Etch VM and its impact on the smart contracts of the future, we’ve built a beta web-based interface that lets you easily write, test and run Etch. We’re working on a grander version of this with tutorials and reference material, but we decided that it was worth pushing an initial version of this out today: this was too much fun to not release, especially as we’ve had so much fun developing things like the Mandelbrot Set alongside the token smart contract and more. So we’re sharing our Etch playground now. Starting Monday 13th May, we’re going to run some competitions. All participants will receive ERC-20 tokens, with the winners earning more. Releasing our playground now lets you explore, and lets us swap some of the cool things we’ve been playing with on Telegram and elsewhere. Plus, we would love your feedback!

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And this is just the beginning

We are proud to have over-delivered on this milestone. In the next two weeks, you’ll see Etch documentation, more OEF deliveries and a gradual merging of the testnets into one smart contract, synergetic computing capable network. This foundation release places all the component parts together in a way that they can be easily used for commercial applications and we’re looking forward to sharing news on that front shortly.

How’s that for a Tuesday?


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