Game of Chains 2019: An Interview with Dr. Chen of Nebulas
This article was originally published in Chinese on Jinse Finance and has been translated from its original source. To view the original article, please click here.
2018 was hard for the public chain industry.
This year has seen more than 50 public chain projects rising and many people said it may be “beginning era of public chains,” while others expressed that the competition of public chains in 2018 is actually the competition of users and token holders.
On one hand, the existing mainstream public chain projects, such as Ethereum and EOS, are far from being able to support themselves as value-connecting infrastructure. On the other hand, the technological concepts introduced by many public chains are becoming more and more abstract: connect with AI, cross-chains, native incentive, etc.
Stepping into 2019, the competition among public chain projects has just begun. Recently, Jinse Finance interviewed the chief architect of Nebulas, Dr. Samuel Chen to talk about “the competition among public chain projects.”
Behind the Technical Competition — Nebulas NOVA
In 2018, the competition among public chain projects in China was fierce. The mainstream public chain projects such as Ethereum and EOS have advantages over other public chains in terms of technology, number of developers and popularity. However, overall, the blockchain industry is still in its early stage, and the mainstream public chains have not yet been able to realize large-scale commercial applications and have obvious performance weaknesses.
Riding the wave of public chain development, some projects gradually fall behind, while others keep their head down, concentrate on their work and prepare for a better time. Nebulas belongs to the latter, focusing on the underlying blockchain technology and aiming to support a sustainable development of the entire blockchain industry.
“Specifically, we have three technical visions.” Dr. Chen said.
The first one is NR (Nebulas Rank), which represents a native on-chain value measurement tool. Just like Google’s Page Rank, which sorts different web pages according to their content value and matching degree, there is a lot of data on blockchain, and the data vary in value. The question is “how to measure the value of these data?” Our NR is a value measuring tool. Of course, there are many metrics for calculating NR, and the most common one is activity. The more active an account address is, or the more frequently a DAPP is used, the higher its NR value would be.
The next one is Nebulas Incentives, which refers to the native on-chain incentive which utilizes on-chain token to incentivise token users, which is built-in and forms a feedback loop. The public chain ecosystem is open and community-based, so every user or developer who contributes to the entire ecosystem should be rewarded accordingly. Dr. Chen stated that the Native Incentives are continuously effective. While most of the other token incentives from other public blockchains are one-off, they lack sustainability since they cannot give users continuous income.
The last one is NF (Nebulas Force), which represents the self-evolving ability of the Nebulas blockchain system. As we all know, the security and stability of blockchain, especially public chain systems, are extremely important. However, no system can guarantee there are no bugs. Under such circumstances, upgrading the core protocol and smart contracts of the blockchain system becomes inevitable. In the existing technical architecture, the upgrade of core protocols will almost certainly lead to a hard fork, and the upgrade of smart contracts also faces the problem of synchronizing the existing contract status. So our NF is designed to solve these problems.
At the end of 2018, Nebulas released the Nebulas NOVA testnet, which was a new version of the Nebulas mainnet. According to Dr.Chen, Nebulas NOVA has implemented NR, DIP (DIP is the Developer Incentive Protocol in Nebulas Incentives) and some NF functions. It is expected that Nebulas NOVA mainnet will launch in late March of 2019, which will result in significant improvement with both reliability and performance.
In addition, it is worth mentioning that one of the core components in Nebulas NOVA is NBRE, that is, Nebulas Blockchain Runtime Environment. It provides runtime support for the core protocols on-chain, such as NR, DIP, etc. At the same time, it can also support the upgrade of these protocols without affecting the mainnet code, therefore avoiding the need for a hard fork.
After all, Nebulas named its new mainnet “ NOVA” quite aptly. NOVA, which means “bright new star”, also signifies that a new star is rising.
Competition of Communities - Developers Hold the Key
Powerful underlying technical support is crucial for success of public chain projects. While developers and DApps, especially the killer Apps are also essential to build a positive feedback-loop ecosystem for the public chain to be adopted on a large scale.
“It is true that the blockchain industry lacks killer Apps, which is what the whole industry is exploring and discussing.” Dr. Chen admitted frankly, “However, in the early days of the internet, it took us a long time before creating popular use cases on it as well.”
During the interview, Jinse Finance also asked a question, “Which factor is most important to public chain projects, technology, ecosystem, community or developers?” Dr. Chen answered that actually every factor matters to the development of a public chain project, but if he has to select one, “community” is most important. “The public chain is open and needs collaboration. Communities are crucial in the development of public chains. Besides, developers themselves are also community members. If A public chain project with advanced technology cannot be recognized by the community, it will not make the best impact. Its also the same with an ecosystem.”
Currently, Nebulas has more than 2300 community developers and over 6,870 DApps are deployed on its mainnet.
In the future, Dr. Chen mentioned that Nebulas would continue to focus on building the underlying blockchain technology and at the same time maintaining good interaction with the community. The decentralization of public chains will also be one of the priorities in 2019, together with mainnet development, consensus design, community governance, etc.
The Winter of 2018 — Crypto Market Crash
As winter approaches and the overall market is sluggish, it is necessary to increase revenue and reduce expenses. Many blockchain projects, including many traditional internet companies, have recently gone through personnel changes, Nebulas has also reorganized and optimized its resources to focus on the most crucial developments” Dr. Chen said.
After optimization, the Nebulas technical team still has over 10 talented members, who will play an important role in Nebulas Research Institute, Nebulas mainnet development as well as ecosystem development.
Cuddling up in winter is also a good way to resist the cold. During this time, many projects are facing huddles, Nebulas founder Hitters Xu proposed and initiated the Public Chain Technology Alliance (PCTA). Currently, 38 projects including public chains, crypto wallets, exchanges and media in China or overseas have joined the PCTA. “Together we can share resources and learn from each other’s experience, to jointly promote the development of the entire industry.” Dr. Chen added.
However, despite the media’s negative comments on public chains, Dr. Chen believes that blockchain technology has made some progress in 2018.
First of all, the public chain is still constantly innovating at the technical level. Some blockchain scaling proposals, such as sharding and side chains, have become a reality in a few projects.
Secondly, more and more talents and resources are moving into the blockchain industry. Scientific research talents in traditional Internet industry, computer systems and other academic fields began to pay attention and help develop blockchain. Innovative storage technologies, new scaling proposals and new consensus algorithms have been put forward continuously. There is a trend that the blockchain industry is flourishing.
Finally, regarding the applications of blockchain, last year, the whole industry has placed great importance in the application of blockchain. A considerable number of blockchain projects have tried creating new applications and have achieved some good results. Blockchain used to be a geek industry, but with the adoption of DApps, the gap between blockchain and the general public is gradually narrowing, which is of great benefit to the development of the whole blockchain industry.
It is true that whoever wins the public chain competition controls the entirety of the blockchain space. In this bear market, the polarization between the players of the existing public chains will become more and more obvious. Some public chains will be eliminated or even voluntarily leave the market. While other public chains will take this opportunity to advance their technological development, build a ecosystem and prepare for the best time to rise. The “Game of Chains” has begun.