Founder Rong Chen and several members of different decentralized Elastos teams took the time to answer questions from the Elastos community. All questions were submitted through the community-managed Elastos Reddit and Telegram channels.
‘Decentralized internet’ and ‘Smartweb’ are broad terms that few people can fully comprehend. Many projects use similar terminology, and it muddies the waters. How do we get developers building on Elastos who aren’t part of the blockchain price-speculation echo-chamber?
Rong Chen, Founder: The Smartweb is a web that runs apps. Many use the term decentralized, but rarely so in an accurate, academic sense. If your platform is not protecting user data, then it is not truly decentralized. Most terms in this space are meaningless and empty. What matters is who actually commits to doing things the right way. We use some of these terms too, because you have to communicate, but I do not put a high priority on summarizing what we are doing in two or three words. My point is, words are cheap, and ‘decentralization’ is right up there with the rest of them.
Let’s be real: most people in crypto are just concerned about token price, not real value. While they know the price of every token, do they really know the value of any of them? At Elastos, we are focused on building value for an entire ecosystem. At this stage in blockchain and cryptocurrency, price points may arise from exchange activity, but not from true value. Let me explain by prompting some important questions and addressing each:
How many people really realize the value of what we are building? So many experts and technicians are talking about Web 3.0, but one key point all are missing – except, of course, Elastos – is the point that has kept me going for the last 20 years: the OS must delegate 100% of the network packets. This is really, really the key to a secure internet. Without a secure internet, how can you have a secure dApp – that is, how do you build a stable building on an inherently unstable foundation? You can’t.
If you cannot protect a digital asset from piracy, how can it have value? Furthermore, how can you support an economy? So many blockchain projects are announcing they will protect user data. I would challenge their assertions, as I would honestly like to know: without a network OS, how can they? I’ve spent 20 years on this question, and I’m more than open to new insights and solutions. To this point, I have found none beyond what we are developing at Elastos: an infrastructural solution underpinned by a network OS designed for the internet.
In 20 years I have never seen a single project realize this simple concept: that the evil is really the app. Everyone looks suspicious to me. If an Alibaba or a Tencent could convince me, with all their resources, that they could realize the vision of true user privacy and data ownership, I would have moved on long ago. I have spoken to Jack Ma and all the other “big guys,” and no one has convinced me. So I continue on, because the world needs this and someone has to do it.
The key – the holy grail – is having dApps without websites. After 20 years I am kind of fed up trying to convince people. We just need to build it and show them. I am not interested in convincing speculators of what we are building, and that part of this frustrates me just as it does the rest of the team.
It’s not really about convincing others at this point; it’s about how well can we execute, because we know we are in the right, and we know we have the key. We will convince developers with our actions, once our actions have finished producing something of value instead of mere speculation.
Please don’t show me a new marketing buzzword and expect me to care. Show me a new internet with the first twenty-thousand users communicating through the world’s first truly decentralized chat application. Words are like price, they are symbolic and thus can be manipulative. An entire ecosystem we built with our own hands, with our own values and with our own integrity to help change the world, that has value to me.
Is there a plan to produce a technical video directed to developers that explains why if they want to build a real dApp, Elastos is the best solution compared to other blockchains? What are the advantages to build on Elastos since Elastos is unique? How about a video that would explain that Elastos is more than just a blockchain and more than the current internet?
Donnie Bullers, Developer Experience Team: Videos are always a great idea for easily digestible and shareable content, we are well aware of this. At the moment, we have two top quality videos that are public for sharing a general idea of Elastos (HERE) and Cyber Republic (HERE). Beyond this there are currently many short (BiteSize) videos that will be made available on elastos.academy. This video series will be quick parts ranging from “What is Blockchain Technology?” to “Elastos Consensus”. We anticipate increased organic traffic to elastos.academy and more eyes on the project through public sharing.
For topic specific videos, such as this developer explainer mentioned, anyone can submit the ideas (HERE) and, with enough support from the community, make them a reality.
Are there any plans to integrate the Elastos ecosystem with Windows OS?
Rong Chen: We do envision supporting integration of this sort some time down the road. The Elastos Smartweb is designed to run on an assemblage of virtual machines. As should be obvious, we are prioritizing client-side in the near-term – Android and iOS being the most prominent Mobile OSes. For the time being, on the server-side we only support Ubuntu 18.4.
We do plan to port the client to Windows and Mac OS, but that is a low priority at present, as further infrastructure and ecosystem development is required to make such an integration relevant. When porting Trinity (Elastos Browser) to Windows and iOS becomes a pressing and relevant development initiative, we will know that we have done well in laying down the foundational components of the Elastos Smartweb.
What’s up with Viewchain? Are they still installing DIDs on people’s phones? if so, how many have been created so far?
Rong Chen: They have installed more than 1.3 million DIDs, last I heard. We are now pushing it, and there are more every day. The growth rate may not be very high at this point, as you may recall our announcement that we reached 1.0 million DIDs many months ago. Since joining the W3C, we have determined that standardization is a top priority for cohesive development on the Smartweb. As follows, we are now focused on ensuring that our DIDs comply with W3C standards.
How successful has the current method of attracting/poaching developers from other blockchain projects going?
Ultimately Rong, how will you continue to attract developers in the face of all this competition??
Rong Chen: I understand your concern. Here is what’s important to understand: the ball is in our court now because we have Trinity and micro (serverless) websites developing rapidly. We also plan to use the TV boxes for relay messaging and group messaging. We are hoping to have these critical pieces as well as other established technical mainstays – for instance, the ETH Sidechain and NEO Sidechain – ready and fully live for Q1 2020. Then, with Cyber Republic and the CRC operating at full tilt, we will push community adoption. After Q1 2020, accelerating growth in the number of REAL users will become a significant priority across this project’s development team. This is an exciting transition for all of us.
We would like to have 20,000 daily users by next August 2020, at which point we can more effectively attract developers, because our user base will establish a vested interest in our ecosystem – one that developers will not be able to ignore.
I would also like to point out that we do not need to go out and acquire a million developers. If we can just convert a few really sharp devs – people who can see the value in our platform – that is good enough for me for now. I want quality first because the quantity – in other words, growth – will follow. The cream-of-the-crop developers will see our value, and they will build on Elastos. First, we need to complete our own technical development. I don’t think I need to say this again, but I will anyway: we are not here to just use hype and buzzwords, because anyone can do that. We are trying to make a difference – and we will.
Elastos.academy in my opinion is the best looking and most straight forward of all the Elastos sites.
Rong Chen: The Elastos Academy website is very nice and is geared toward a specific audience. However, last year when Elastos.org was designed, we did not have Academy, and Elastos.org was tasked with many functions. Now that Elastos Foundation has defined its role and stated that it is really only about ten people, with the rest of Elastos as decentralized teams, I feel that the Elastos.org website can be updated and simplified to represent the foundation and the more specific various team sites, and in the future, individual sites related to the ecosystem can also be linked to from Elastos.org. I also like the style of Academy and think that it provides a design for others to follow.
Challenges concerning the Cyber Republic website – along with all CR matters – need to be resolved by the community. The funds CR has are for many of the very things the community is asking for. Things like an updated CR website and marketing and PR initiatives are worthy ideas for proposals and I urge the community to be proactive and get involved.
Is the DX team making progress? Any new devs and projects up and going?
Jimmy Lipham has gone dark – Is he still dedicated to the Elastos team?
Donnie Bullers: This team is making substantial progress on many fronts. At the moment their core focus is on finding, educating, and backing entrepreneurs and developers with decentralized ideas from learning through all phases of growth. Through organic and paid outreach they are currently seeing over 100 new additions to their developer newsletter weekly (2,500+ members), with 4-8 developers reaching out following every bi-weekly email to inquire about project opportunities.
Several projects are in development from this team and details will be made available shortly on their new website. In addition to creating, maintaining, and continuously updating the content on elastos.academy, this team is building the Elastos Console (Nucleus) in coordination with a developer team at George Mason University, building an Academy Companion application for Trinity (elastOS), a UI/UX design for Trinity (elastOS), and an exciting new project led by Jimmy.
All team members are active and busy with weekly meetings and bi-weekly updates published on the official Elastos bi-weekly newsletter. Any developers who are interested in joining the mailing list or who would like to get involved with an upcoming project please sign up at elastos.academy.
Does Rong have any idea why Elastos is not yet on the list of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information for top China’s Blockchain Project, while Elastos has already received awards in China for that matter?
Rong Chen: I will be honest, I am not interested in awards; I am focused on when and how we can garner 20,000 users on our chat and on our mini apps – because that is how we are going to populate the Modern Internet.
I have worked in China for 19 years, during a period of significant growth for Chinese internet companies. I was fortunate enough to be there, but I also know all the games that are played. I do not like to take part in any of these games, and I think my actions speak for that. Bureaucracy and politics are not for me. I do not put much value in these lists and awards.
What today are the main challenges for the success and adoption of Elastos?
Rong Chen: Plain and simple, we have to build the tech and prove that it can be done. Until we develop solid infrastructure to support our vision, it is just that – a vision, an idea, a dream. We want something more, and we are intently focused on getting the infrastructure in place for this reason. Once it has been deployed fully, I am confident in our ability to overcome any and all remaining challenges in the way of our eventual success and the adoption of our platform.
Current centralized Internet service providers are investing in physical infrastructure. We can read that Facebook and Google invest over $30 billion a year in physical networks, facilities and equipment. Will Elastos and Cyber Republic?
Rong Chen: When talking about Elastos, we are talking about a virtual network – not a physical network. We are building the virtual layer(s) with a virtual machine and virtual everything, whereas the physical infrastructure is already in place. We are not really competing with the physical infrastructure companies because we function on top of their infrastructure, which, for all intents and purposes, is agnostic.
We plan to leverage or delegate as much internet infrastructure as possible, and we will still use the old internet as necessary.
In many ways, Elastos can be likened to a black hole, in that it attracts and consumes other blockchain projects because it is simply a computer in a network of computers. If these other projects improve, then we will improve as well.
I’ve always been interested in the TV Boxes and the mobile OS (maybe it was in a video long ago, if I understood correctly).
Are there intentions of making TV Boxes available worldwide?
Is having a secure mobile Operating System (like Android or iOS) a thing that could happen commercially?
Sjun Song, Elaphant Team Leader: Of course, your ideas are certainty within the realm of possibility. First though, we have to successfully develop the Group Chat Service on the TV Box and perform basic testing in the community. We are still perfecting a few details here and there, and we have elected not to launch it – either officially or for community testing – because there are still improvements to be made. We are also implementing personal data and storage services on the TV box. In the next few months, we will be releasing a major update – stay tuned!
Can Rong share some ideas for dApps that community members could use to build a useful dApp?
Rong Chen: I have several big dApps in mind, the foremost being a decentralized WeChat – or any decentralized messaging application, really. In China, this is an especially important prerogative – I wish we had it yesterday.
I also would like to see an IoT framework that does not use websites, which we are fortunate to have Peter Strauss building on our Framework Layer.
A third is decentralized e-commerce. Sellers deserve to get their fair share of sales, rather than having all of their money going to the centralized Alibaba, which they of course trust to distribute. In all of these instances, we should be using smart contracts, which are especially useful in peer-to-peer messaging – a critical application that escapes many.
What is Rong Chen’s favorite video game?
Rong Chen: I don’t play video games.
Any future plans to implement an EOS Sidechain, like has been done with ETH and NEO already?
Rong Chen: I am glad you asked. We are presently laying out plans for our EOS Sidechain, and have several members of our team working on it. Two notes should be taken:
1) The EOS Sidechain is in an early R&D Stage, which means it will not be ready for test net launch for some time.
2) As should be obvious, the EOS Sidechain is not a primary development initiative for Elastos at the present time. Thus, the majority of our team is working on other pieces.
Where is the Ledger wallet support? Previously you said it was in Ledger’s hands to push it out, but I saw some commits to the GitHub repo a few weeks ago and now the whole repo is gone. I’m assuming it has been made private and Ledger pushed it back to fix potential bugs.
Donnie Bullers: The last communication with a team member at Ledger was at the end of October. Based on that discussion it was determined that the ELA integration delay was not an issue specific to Elastos but a delay on all reviews. For several months now, internal projects at Ledger have taken priority over reviews for 3rd party applications.
It was concluded that the Elastos app was currently under audit from the security team and should swiftly be continued on the deployment schedule. This is a community-developed project and unfortunately it is at the discretion of Ledger as to when it will be released. However, we are continuously reaching out for updates.
How many devs have the DX team onboarded since the team started?
Donnie Bullers: The developer mailing list has grown to over 2,500, with 100+ added weekly. Several developers are actively working on Trinity (elastOS), actively developing an application for Trinity (elastOS), and waiting in the queue for future projects.
Could you make a comment on the recent news from China? Tencent building a virtual bank, The creation of a national Chinese crypto, Huawei adding a wallet on their phones?
Rong Chen: I think centralized development processes are highly efficient, but very much prone to corruption. So in my opinion, it’s only natural for the Chinese government and state-run enterprises to adopt blockchain technologies to fend off corruptions and to further improve their efficiencies. I have no doubt that things will advance very rapidly. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see the private sector, including Tencent, Alibaba and Huawei to move along with the government.
However, when we put the Elastos Smartweb in the picture, where we can’t assume a centralized trust, we have to merge-mine ELA and build our own main chain and side-chains. ICOs in China are very sensitive issues because they have the potential to be steered in a direction that the government will find undesirable.
So, somebody please tell me if I’m understanding this correctly: With Elastos, reaching thousands of Transactions Per Second is not that important since the main chain is only used for digital asset transfer finality and DID Issuance? All other mundane day to day peer-to-peer dApp communication and traffic is handled by the Carrier and sidechains correct?
Rong Chen: A blockchain is a computer. Even if it is difficult to comprehend, it can be put to memory. An accounting book – trustworthy or untrustworthy – is just one ledger (book), written by one person or by a group of people, which is not significant in and of itself. A library contains many books. You cannot compare a library to a book.
Some computers are faster than others. A web, or a Smartweb for that matter, consists of many computers. Elastos is a Smartweb, and other blockchain projects are about computers. You simply can’t compare the Web with any computers in the world.
The Smartweb needs DID, cloud computing, consensus computing, decentralized storage, decentralized cloud computing, mobile devices, IoT devices, and more, which in turn draw on many different computing technologies and blockchain technologies.
When I said that Elastos Smartweb is a computer, I was referring to another abstraction level of computing. An iPhone consists of about 40 smaller CPUs in different components, or 40 smaller computers. In that context, Elastos Smartweb is a computer; a blockchain is just a critical component, and is not even close to being one of the more complicated components.
Any blockchain project that is not open source is not worthy of trust. If does offer open source code, someone from CR community may ported it to Elastos.
Elastos is about forming a “New World,” which may or may not come to fruition – but no blockchain project will ever beat us to the punch. As goes the saying:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Are you finding collaborators and supporters within the W3C? Or is it more just a place where you showcase what you’re working on and people draw from your expertise?
Rong Chen: We are learning from W3C how to establish standards in a democratic way. It’s not a place to showcase Elastos because attendees are all from big companies with their own agendas. Overall, I was disappointed about the W3C meeting in Japan last September.
W3C as a standard body has much to offer. But W3C as a phenomena has lost its steam. People are there more for hidden agendas than for their passions.
Is it easy for any other blockchain company to copy everything and improve the structure of Elastos and have their own version of Smartweb?
Rong Chen: No, I don’t believe so.
Smaller blockchain teams may not have enough expertise or experience to fully fathom the implications of Elastos being a Smartweb OS. For conglomerates, they are too bureaucratic, and many are prohibited by law from copying Elastos.
For an ecosystem with a quarter-million dollar valuation (less than peanut expenditures for big companies), or for an internet shared by all countries in the world, why can’t we all contribute, like in the old web?
Elastos is in a catch twenty two situation at the moment. We are not exclusively a blockchain project. But token speculators think we are. And Internet companies by and large still believe all blockchain projects are hoaxes – at least a guy from AT&T that I met at the W3C conference thought so. Those old guards (though younger than me) are hopeless to talk to, which is very frustrating.
Still, seeing is believing. The only thing we can do is show the world what a new web looks and feels like – think Mosaic all over again. How can you explain to others that the Browser is the future, when they keep saying that Word had done a much better job to layout typesettings?
Rong, what will you do post-Elastos to be self-sufficient? Any dApps you may get involved with or like to see on Elastos that you could help build?
Rong Chen: Next year will be critical for Elastos. The focus will be on acquiring users to immigrate to the new Internet from the old one.
2021 is more likely to be a year to establish business models of peer to peer trading for digital assets. I have been talking about sharing DigitCapsules via messaging apps since 2007, but it is yet to be implemented. 2021 will also be the year for smoothing things out a bit further, and filling in holes and fixing up the bits and pieces that remain. I cannot say for sure what those holes, bits and pieces will be, so at this time, I cannot say for sure where my energies will be focused.
How will Cyber Republic be legally classified when it takes over operations & finances? Will CR be legally registered anywhere? How will those performing work on its behalf be classified?
Rebecca Zhu, CR Office of the Secretariat: Although the designated ELA will be transferred to Cyber Republic, Cyber Republic will not be “taking over operations and finances,” per se. It must be emphasized that CR is not a company or business entity; it is a community organization designed to collectively manage the Elastos ecosystem and its development through the blockchain-based processes of CR Consensus. Because there is to be no legal entity, CR will not be registered anywhere.
There is also no classification for people who work in or contribute to the community. The community is mainly composed of members who are certainly not employees, do not require employment contracts, and whose identities will be assigned and managed via DID. All community members can be project sponsors or project team members to contribute to the community, and the community is open to the entire public.