Charles Hoskinson - Completing Cardano 2020 - 30/03/2020

Charles Hoskinson - Completing Cardano 2020 - 30/03/2020

(Written by @Eric_Czuleger)

On March 30th 2020 Charles Hoskinson sat down to discuss the upcoming milestones and current scope of Cardano within this year.

Brief summary:

  • IOHK is on track to fulfill its commitments as originally scoped in contract.

  • This project started out as an aspirational high risk high reward science based exploration. The result was a best in class proof-of-stake system.

  • Along with developing an end-to-end cryptocurrency we have also been hard at work on Cardano Commercially Critical Infrastructure to ensure that Cardano has the best possible opportunity in the marketplace.

  • The rigorous standards, high assurance software and formal methods used create Cardano lays the foundation for future developers and vendors.

  • Voltaire will lay the foundation for the community to be funded to continue to make contributions to the Cardano ecosystem.

Defining scope

We wanted to take a moment to define our current trajectory for 2020. The question of IOHK’s commitments to Cardano for this year has come into question through various media outlets and it is important for us to clarify this now. When IOHK began its work with Cardano in 2015 we approached it as an aspirational high level research project. This included things which we thought could be done and some which could prove impossible.

One example of this was proof-of-stake. We committed to study it but we did not know if the protocol would work or not. We committed to our best effort. We wanted to make a highly scalable and secure proof-of-stake protocol. To achieve this we pursued two different research threads. One was proof-of-work and the other was proof-of-stake. If we did not feel comfortable with the POS system we felt that we would go with POW. However, this resulted in a POS protocol that we were quite happy with.

Proving PoS

The implementation of the suite of PoS protocols end-to-end is in scope of the 2020 agreement. This includes Genesis, of course we are attempting to add in Spikes, Chronos and optimizations along the way. But Ouroboros Genesis with staking and delegation components are sufficient to build a full cryptocurrency. This means running a full smart contract system. More than that Ouroboros single shard can be optimized to 1000 TPS with the types of transactions we are committing to Cardano. We see this as a mission accomplished from a research perspective. Implementation is in scope for 2020. With the launch of Shelley this is largely completed.

However, we would like to see some additions along the way. This includes the upcoming Spikes protocol and Cronus. Spikes will allow us to recover from spikes of dishonest majority which no PoS system has yet been able to accomplish. Second in scope for 2020 was a stable scalable network stack which is amenable to pub-sub peer to peer with high security against malicious actors.

To do this we chose to borrow ideas from the Rina community due to our connection to the functional programming world. We ended up writing a paper about our particular philosophy on dealing with scalability peer-to-peer. We believe that with the Byron reboot and Goguen we have the best in class network stack. We are currently in discussions with the creator of Polar Cast to commission research which would allow us to have native pubsub which is Byzantine tolerant and decentralized. With the launch of Shelley and Goguen we will have completed the network stack which is specified in the original agreement.

Fulfilling the scope

The original agreement also specified that we would create a full node and a wallet. Like every cryptocurrency we needed a way of replicating our DNA. The Cardano Node, Daedalus Wallet and backend satisfies our commitment to the community across all platforms in use. The Byron reboot will take us 80 percent to our final version and the remaining 20 percent will roll out through the rest of the year.

We also needed to create an explorer. This was more complicated for our ecosystem due to the fact that we have to integrate a voting system, stake pools, and transactions. This means that we have to be able to audit contracts as they are running and we have to be able to contain stake pool histories. This is a much more sophisticated system than what would typically be seen in a traditional cryptocurrency explorer.

Alongside this we had to develop a long term philosophy about interoperability. This required initial research efforts into how to talk to PoW cryptocurrencies. This led us to non-interactive proof to proof-of-work or NiPoPoW. This allows Cardano to understand PoW cryptocurrencies without containing the entire blockchain. We also generated an equivalent for our PoS system. It appears there are two network standards which we will eventually conform to. The first is the bolt spec and the second is inter-ledger. This means that if we were to support either of those anyone could talk to Cardano. Thus far the top three cryptocurrencies will integrate with these standards and therefore Cardano.

Integration and documentation

However, a great deal more work needs to be done with integration to the legacy financial system. That is not in scope for the end of the 2020 agreement. We would love to work on this in a future contract with Cardano. Interoperability with the crypto space was in scope for 2020.

Full documentation was also in the original agreement. Cardano docs are currently being brought up to date and that will be done by June or July. documentation also includes a repository for formal specifications and architectural diagrams. We also wanted to do a formal methods driven development process. All major components of the system are now maintained in a formal approach. This is a legacy for all future maintainers and the CIP process.

Best in class

We also needed a multi-asset standard and with the development of the extended UTXO model we believe that we are prepared to offer the best in class multi asset platform. We are writing specifications for this now. We believe that it will be easier to offer, maintain and track an asset on Cardano than Ethereum because all tokens are treated like ada. In Ethereum new assets are not treated like Ether, they are treated like a separate class. The tight coupling with our extended UTXO standard allows us to do this.

We also had an identity standard in scope. We began work on this late last year and we have been thinking about this for a long time. The space has been thinking about this issue for a long time and it makes no sense in our estimation to build an identity standard from scratch if there is coordination around a single platform. Prism is our framework for identity and it will ship along with Cardano. It will be available for dApp developers. This is all in scope for Cardano 2020.

Smart contracts

We also needed a smart contract system. After millions of dollars and a great deal of research we have settled on a philosophy that we believe is superior. This is a DSL driven approach with the extended UTXO model and Plutus for domain specific applications. This allows one to write the majority of dApp code in a language they enjoy like Java. This was a model that didn’t exist anywhere in 2015. We believe that this could be a workable solution for bitcoin as well.

We also thought about how the system will be handed off to other providers. We began governance research because of this. We will not leave the project until Voltaire as the governance layer is brought into the platform. This includes a voting system, a debate platform, and a way of making proposals. We are actively working on Voltaire at the moment and it is in scope for 2020.

Emerging performance

In terms of Basho there is a question as to how much scalability is required. At the moment we believe that we can achieve Ripple level performance in a single shard environment. This is at full deployment and operation. There is an open question as to if we need to have a sharding model this year. We have created one which works with Cardano interoperability as well. At the moment there is discussion as to if this should stay in scope for 2020 or be elevated to Cardano Commercially Critical Infrastructure.

We will work on Ouroboros and stub out everything for Hydra to a second team which will work on it long term. There is also the question of Lightning support or adding a DEX. This is not in scope for 2020. However, we believe that we will get Hydra done.

Critical infrastructure

In terms of Cardano Commercially Critical Infrastructure or CCCI, this is what we need to complete aside from building an end-to-end cryptocurrency which will enhance Cardano’s ability to achieve marketplace success. This is highly dependent upon the industry and userbase. Currently CCCI includes lite clients, tooling, and stablecoins. We are going to follow the lead of the Cardano Foundation in this case. We want to ensure that CCCI is rolled out in a multi vendor approach. This decentralizes the system, de-risks the delivery, and gives the opportunity for parallel construction of elements.

We have begun pre-building and stubbing CCCI in 2020. Our best effort is to get as much as we can out. However we are ensuring that we have, full ledger rules, full consensus protocol, peer-to-peer, stable network protocol, full documentation, the ability to do hard forks in a graceful way, a multi asset standard, an identity standard. This has all been done with formal methods, peer review and third party audits. We are excited that this enormous amount of work is coming to a successful conclusion.

Our best days are ahead of us. The Byron reboot gives us a solid foundation for rapid deployment and we are now working in parallel on each component. This lets us move quickly and do so with principles. It also allows us to lay the groundwork for future vendors.

Making for the future

Any vendor that comes forward must work with and go through the CIP process. They will also have meet the documentation standards. IOHK is incentivized to ship rapidly but we are constrained by principles and a solid process. This will be apparent when the Byron reboot is launched.

It has taken years to develop a workable philosophy for developing a cryptocurrency end-to-end. This is formally specified and peer-reviewed. Given that this work has been done we can rapidly iterate on the model and philosophy. We can also share it with other projects in the space. This has moved the entire state of the industry forward. We believe that there will be nothing on the market that is as good as what Cardano offers.

Generating on community

We have interoperability, academic involvement, multi-asset standards, a voting system, decentralization, smart contracts and many other valuable components to Cardano and the space as a whole. As we communicate we have actual specifications which allows us to speak with abject honesty to the space and to our supporters.

The community has always risen to the occasion. Tens of thousands of people have joined into help us whenever we have begun an initiative. In this next phase we will see the community begin to be monetized for this. Voltaire will allow the community to access funds from community contributions. This builds a positive feedback loop for everyone.