Transcript: Q&A with Jed McCaleb | Blockchain Week NYC 2019

May 24 · 8 min read

On May 14, the Stellar Development Foundation hosted an “Evening of Stellar and Math” at the National Museum of Mathematics. During this event, Stellar Founder and Chief Architect, Jed McCaleb, answered questions about the network from members of the community. You can find the video and transcript of this event below.

Jed: “Hey everybody! Thanks so much for coming out. I’m super excited that everyone is here. It’s been a pretty exciting last few months for SDF. We’ve essentially doubled in size. We got a new Executive Director. There’s a lot of stuff we’re working on both on the technical front and the partnership front. It should be a pretty good year for us.”

Kori Higgins: “We’re going to start off with some questions that were submitted by our online community. Then we are going to open it up for the [crowd].”

Q: Since becoming CTO, how has that improved your ability to focus more on developing the Stellar platform?

Jed: “I do have a different role now; I’m not CTO. I guess I call myself Chief Architect. Essentially we got Denelle Dixon, the former COO of Mozilla, to come be the Executive Director and take over the business side of stuff and other stuff we weren’t doing before. For instance, we are going to start doing more policy outreach and things like this that we weren’t addressing before but is still important for us to do. My role will be more on the architecture side making sure the protocol keeps progressing and being developed in a good way. From my point of view it’s great because that’s actually what I want to be doing and it’s what I’m better at. So it should be good all around.”

Q: What do you see as the biggest roadblock for Stellar becoming mainstream?

Jed: “It’s sort of the same roadblock that all crypto projects have. They all depend really heavily on network effects. So building that network is the biggest challenge. I think that’s actually why crypto has been slow to be useful in the world. A lot of people like it but it’s not actually being used that widely because the network [effect] hasn’t been developed yet. We’ve got some [ideas] that we think will solve this problem and we’re putting them in to place over this year. Hopefully we’ll be able to break this network barrier and have it become useful.”

Q: What kind of initial feedback have you received since World Wire launched in March?

Jed: “Yeah, World Wire is obviously pretty exciting and we’ve had a lot of people approach us and IBM about wanting to get on the World Wire platform. We’re super excited to have that become live and we are working with them to make that a reality.”

Q: Can you talk about some of the changes to the protocol coming in version 11?

Jed: “Yeah, sure. Protocol [version] 11 has a lot of bug fixes and minor [changes]. The major things that it does is it changes the way fees are handled. Right now you have to specify the exact fee you want to pay for a transaction and now you can specify the max fee you’re going to pay. So if the network is under load your transaction will still go through without having to guess what the load will be at that particular instant. It seems kind of technical but it matters for wallet developers, people actually using the software, or even smart contract developers because in the future they don’t have to worry about what the fee is they can just set it to something high. Then they will pay the lowest possible rate when the transaction actually goes through the network. It sounds esoteric but it’s actually pretty important for growth of the network.

Coupled with that we also changed the way limits work in Stellar. Before it was per transaction and now the limits are per operation. […] It’s going to make it where it’s a little more efficient to actually send things through the network.”

Q: Has the Stellar Development Foundation given additional thoughts on inflation and what do you see as the next steps?

Jed: “There’s different views within SDF on how inflation should be handled on the network. My personal view is that inflation is cool but it’s ultimately more complicated than what it’s providing for the network. So I’d like to see it kind of deprecated and move to this sort of non-inflationary world. I think there’s broad support in the community for that. I know there’s a few projects that are depending on inflation, but I think in general people are supportive of that view. It would be cool if somebody took it upon themselves to write the actual CAP which is how these protocol changes go. If somebody goes and writes that then I think we could get it pushed through.”

[Questions from the audience]

Q: What industries do you think will help Stellar get mainstream usage or bring mainstream usage to the network?

Jed: “Stellar is a pretty general platform. Really it’s just a distributed database so you could lots and lots of things with it. I don’t know what will ultimately make it mainstream. I think our view is that the most obvious problem that blockchains solve is cross-border payments so we’re definitely very focused there. But we are very supportive of people trying to do other things on [Stellar]. There’s all kinds of other initiatives, like tokenizing real estate or issuing other types of things on to the network. […] Most of our effort goes into this cross-border payments use case. We really think that moving money, particularly between developing countries, is really cumbersome now and there’s a lot of room for improvement. I think Stellar is a big part of the solution there.”

Q: Are there any plans in the evolutionary trajectory of the protocol to maybe leave the inflation option and implement something like masternodes. Where there’s an incentive for third party users to integrate with the Stellar blockchain but at the same time have an incentive to run nodes?

Jed: “People have proposed this. The issue is that it’s very hard on a protocol level to tell who those people are. This is what the original inflation mechanism was kind of designed to do. It would allow people to “vote” for these things. If you thought someone was particularly helpful for the ecosystem you could point your inflation there. But in practice this only happens in a couple of cases. […] But for the most part people just join these inflation pools and give it back to themselves. I don’t know of a way that you could do [masternodes]. The protocol doesn’t know if you’re a node or a proper validator. It would have to something outside of the system determining this and it doesn’t seem in practice that people would do this properly. I think we just need to do other things to get people to run validators. A lot of it is just education. If you’re a business that using Stellar it’s not a big ask to run a Stellar validator. We just need to explain it to people better and show them how to do it. Which we’re working on now.”

Q: As it stands, how will the native XLM token participate in World Wire?

Jed: “The current model that I’ve seen is that between the financial institutions the actual settlement can be done [with] lumens or in some cases a FIAT token. So lumens are actually used in the loop of transactions and we think that’s cool because it provides extra liquidity for lumens.”

Q: Does World Wire use crypto to actually transfer and do the cross border conversions?

Jed: “[…] It is using the public network so it isn’t a separate network or anything like that. Parts of it are still being developed and I’m pushing them to use the actual Stellar DEX for their currency conversions. Right now they are doing it internally. But the value is moving across the public network. […] In World Wire it goes from some FIAT token to lumens from lumens to some other FIAT token.”

Q: Given the exponential growth of Stellar that we are seeing, how are you planning to handle this load? The transactions per second it can handle is quite significant compared to other blockchains but are we going to enforce a system where nodes need to run SSDs or faster CPUs to make sure we can [handle] more transactions?

Jed: “This is the main thing the Core team is focused on now, is how we handle growth. One of the other things that was in protocol [version] 11 is doing just that. [The network] is actually much more efficient than before and there’s some changes that allow it to scale much better. So we are working on that dimensions where we are making the software able to handle more load. Then we’re also working on Starlight which is the payment channel system and a Starlight implementation will make it able to handle much greater load. Even longer term, we just released a blog about ZkVM which is a potential way to migrate a lot of transactions off the main Stellar network to [a] sidechain. That’s basically all the Core team does is figure out how to scale [Stellar] once it does get much more adoption.”

Q: There’s a lot of projects happening right now and things being built on [Stellar], is there anything that excites you the most?

Jed: “I don’t want to pick a favorite but there’s a lot of super interesting things. Over the last year it’s been great to see the level of quality of what’s being built on the platform go up dramatically. I’m super excited and most of the people here are building stuff on Stellar which is super awesome. Everyone on the team sees the energy in the ecosystem increasing and it’s awesome.”

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