Stellar launched in 2014 with one goal: to unlock the world’s economic potential by making money more fluid, markets more open, and people more empowered.
Every year since, the network and surrounding ecosystem have continued to grow and progress toward that goal. In 2019, the year Stellar celebrated its 5th birthday, things really ramped up. There were more new players, more big announcements, more important advancements, and more opportunities to interact than ever before.
Let’s take a look back at some of the year’s highlights.
2019 was exciting for the Stellar Development Foundation — aka we who work to make Stellar grow — but I won’t spend too much time talking about that since our executive director Denelle Dixon already beat me to it in her awesome blog post A Look Back and A Look Forward: Our Momentum for 2020. Check out that post for details on the progress the SDF made last year, and to find out more about what we’ve got planned for this year.
A New Identity
At the start of the year, we retired the infamous Stellar cartoon rocket and unveiled a new logo to replace it. It’s more versatile and professional, and better reflects the direction Stellar is heading.
The new logo also prepped the operating room for another big change: Stellar.org got a nice face lift. The design, messaging, documentation, and navigation were refreshed to keep up with the times — and it’s not done yet. Stellar.org will continue to improve in 2020 as we make information about Stellar more accessible to users, entrepreneurs, and developers.
Content, Content, and More Content
It’s hard to deny that 2019 was a big year for content coming from SDF. Throughout the year we maintained 3 blogs, revived our YouTube channel, and posted consistently on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
All in all we published over 50 blog posts across the main SDF Blog, the Stellar Developers Blog, and the Stellar Community Publication. Part of that was due to the weekly newsletter, the Stellar Dev Digest, which, in addition to maintaining a super reliable schedule, is clearly the most important and interesting source of news for all things Stellar (in my unbiased opinion).
On YouTube, we posted 7 high-production-value videos that included 5 case studies, 1 live stream from Meridian, and 1 Q&A from our New York meetup, and we have more videos in the pipeline. Our Twitter was also exceptionally active in 2019 with just over 300 tweets, up almost 3x from 2018.
Content will continue to be a focus going in to 2020 across different mediums, so keep your eyes peeled!
Perhaps the biggest update from SDF in 2019 was the big lumen burn, and the subsequent reallocation of the remaining lumens earmarked for distribution. In case you missed it, ~55 billion lumens were burned reducing the total lumen supply to ~50 billion.
The remaining undistributed lumens were allocated to specific funds aimed at furthering the growth and development of the Stellar network. The new allocations are for Direct Development, Ecosystem Support, Use-Case Investment, and User Acquisition.
You can find more information by watching the video embedded above or reading SDF’s Next Steps.
State of the Network
Like Stellar’s identity, the network and the tools surrounding it have evolved quite a bit in 2019. We saw many SEPs and CAPs introduced/revised along with new SDKs, APIs, sidechain exploration, and educational content.
This year the network upgraded from Stellar-Core version 10.2.0 to version 12.2.0 and continued to see steady growth along the way. The major protocol upgrades included some major network improvements that made Stellar faster, more efficient, and easier to build on. My favorites:
- Better transaction pricing
- Improved network capacity
- The introduction of buy offers
- The refinement of path payments
- Reduced storage cost and bucket merge latency for core nodes
- The elimination of inflation
Another cool development that started in 2019 was Astrocore, a Rust implementation of Stellar-Core spearheaded by the Evil Martians team. Their goal is to not only rebuild Stellar-Core from the ground up, but to provide a fleshed-out specification along the way.
This year we upgraded Horizon several times, from version 0.15.3 all the way to version 0.24.1. The biggest change: we introduced a new ingestion system that’s more consistent, customizable, and developer-friendly. It has a full copy of the ledger state built using history archives so it doesn’t tax Stellar-Core, which enables the creation of new features such as the “Accounts for Signer” endpoint and faster path finding.
The new ingestion engine is still experimental — it coexists alongside the old engine, and lives behind a feature flag — but we’ll be switching over to it soon, and publishing info about how to use it to build custom apps and services. In 2019, we hatched, reared, and fledged the new ingestion engine. In 2020, that bird’s gonna soar.
To compliment Horizon, SDF also introduced a new ticker API to provide data about markets, issuers, and assets on the Stellar Network.
This year we started to see exploration into the world of sidechains. Sidechains and second layer solutions introduce scalability and privacy that aren’t otherwise available on the main network. The two projects that made their way in to the spotlight were ZkVM and Project Centaurus:
ZkVM (zero-knowledge virtual machine) aims to introduce a multi-asset blockchain architecture for scalable and confidential smart contracts. For additional info watch ZKVM: Fast, Confidential Smart Contracts & ZkVM — Oleg Andreev — CES Summit ’19. You can also find more ZkVM info on Github.
Project Centaurus aims to be a second layer payment network, exchange, and scaling solution for Stellar. It is spearheaded by OrbitLens, the creator of StellarExpert, and more information can be found on Github.
Another major focus this year was improving the decentralization of the network. At the start of the year the network was (unintentionally) too reliant on SDF’s validators, so several key ecosystem participants started working together to improve things by consciously distributing trust among reliable nodes. They succeeded.
Heading into 2020, we’re proud to say that the network is significantly more decentralized. It no longer relies on SDF’s nodes (nor does anyone want it to), and increased validator independence and network robustness are continuing trends. In 2020, we’ll continue to roll out more resources and tools for validators to make it easier for projects to spin up their own nodes and participate in the network in a meaningful way.
We also saw a ton of new research into and educational material about the Stellar Consensus Protocol in 2019. Some of my favorites:
- Fast and secure global payments With Stellar
- Why Quorums Matter and How Stellar Approaches Them
- Intuitive Stellar Consensus Protocol
- Mathematical Analysis and Algorithms for Federated Byzantine Agreement Systems
You don’t have to have a deep understanding of how SCP works to build on Stellar, but it’s great to have some good reading material when you want to dive deep.
If you want to keep up with new developments in 2020 you can follow the Stellar Dev Digest (a weekly newsletter), follow / join the discussions on the developer mailing list, or follow the Stellar Developers Blog.
Around the Community
Meetups & Meridian
SDF also hosted our first ever conference, Meridian, that brought together over 350 people from around the world. For the first time everyone from the Stellar ecosystem got to meet each other, exchange ideas, and discuss building out Stellar’s future. I wrote a recap of the event here. I’m looking forward to seeing you all at Meridian 2020.
Our online community continued to grow throughout 2019. We saw r/Stellar cross 100,000 members, numerous Stellar-related Keybase teams pop up, an active Twitter community develop, and tons of community-sourced content produced ranging from blog posts to interviews.
I’d also like to give a huge shout out to our growing community of builders. Whether you’re creating useful tools, making products, or coming up with community initiatives, your contributions are essential to Stellar’s success.
Speaking of builders, 2019 was also the start of the Stellar Community Fund, a competition where 3,000,000 lumens are distributed each quarter among 8 community-vote-winning projects. We have made it through two rounds (1, 2) successfully and are in the process of completing Round 3.
As our community has grown, so has the amount of new content from around the ecosystem. To wrap up this section I’ll share some of my favorite articles, blog posts, podcasts, and videos from this year:
- A Primer on the Stellar Network
- Daily Active Accounts on Stellar — Correct Estimates
- Stellar network: growth and decentralisation
- Stellar Developer Workshop with Tomer Weller
- Charting the Evolution of Programmable Money
- Stellar’s Plan to Win Global Payments
- Awesome Stellar (Yes, I made this and I may or may not be biased)
- Thriller Blockchain Week — S2EP 01: Kori and Kyle from Stellar
- Money 3.0: Denelle Dixon from the Stellar Development Foundation
- SFBW19 — Fireside Chat: Jed McCaleb & Denelle Dixon
- Stellar — What’s in your Wallet?
p.s. how many ninjas do other communities have?
The New Year
2019 was my introduction to the Stellar ecosystem and I feel lucky to have joined at what seems like just the right time. It’s been a pleasure so far to meet and interact with everyone and to see all of the developments and growth taking place.
To close out this post I’ll steal a quote from Denelle:
I’m optimistic that in a year’s time, the story of 2020 will be an exciting one that sets the tone for the rest of the new decade.
On to 2020.