Charles Hoskinson on "Deadlines & Delays" - 23/03/2020

Charles Hoskinson on “Deadlines & Delays” - 23/03/2020

(Written by @Eric_Czuleger)

On March 23rd, 2020, Charles Hoskinson sat down to discuss about “Deadlines and Delays” in achieving milestones for Cardano.

Brief Summary:

  • Cardano started as a scientific project which means that it is subject to a challenging development timeline in exchange for making foundational contributions to the crypto space.
  • IOHK is constantly building and developing its ecosystem through releases, blog posts, videos and updates.
  • All challenges and missteps have been learning opportunities for the further advancement of Cardano.
  • The Cardano ecosystem was built in order to generate a decentralized global social and financial operating system, it was not created to make day traders wealthy.
  • We encourage all supporters to be patient and to await more information from Aparna Jue.

Science first

We are always transparent and open at IOHK so we wanted to take a moment to address questions which have recently come up on Reddit. The Byron reboot is releasing soon. This is the culmination of 18 months of engineering effort. To explain where we are today we need to look back at the history of the project.

Cardano started by stating that it is a scientific project. This means that we did the unpredictable and often time consuming work of science. At the moment, we have a global pandemic which has the potential to kill millions of people. It is shutting the entire world down. Why does no vaccine exist? We have several candidates which might or might not work. We see many people looking at a drug which has a single study of 40 individuals. This is not a safe drug. This tells us that people cling to hope and want immediate results. The point of science is to remove human beings from the process and reveal a systematic way of thinking.

Changing the game

Cardano was never a project that signed up to build another cryptocurrency. We had many including Bitcoin, Ethereum, IOTA, Tezos, and EOS. There were hundreds of options. If Cardano entered into the market on this basis, all it could offer was smart contracts, good consensus protocol, and a good ledger. We would only be one voice among thousands. Cardano. Instead, Cardano decided that it would bear the burden of scientific due diligence in the industry. Instead, we said that we would assume nothing.

We started from first principles in 2015. What is a ledger? What are the accounting models? How do you write a smart contract programming language? What requirements must it have? This process is methodical and slow. Everyone knew this from the beginning. We said this at the outset. Peer review and evidence based software takes significant amounts of time. It was 2017 before we released a product owing to this.

Learning while building

We learned enormous amounts in those two years. We learned about architecture, how cryptocurrencies are written, and we learned that it would be inconceivable to wait 10 or 20 years for a product to hit the market. This meant that we needed to include the ability to ship products quickly. So we decided to embrace a two-pronged approach in 2017. One was to hire a group of individuals to take a fork of Haskell Bitcoin and put Ouroboros on top of it. From there it was to be built out similar to what we were trying to accomplish with the Incentivized Testnet. That group released the very first version of Cardano. This was known as the Byron release.

The hope for this was that a parallel team could start from first principles and build a perfect cryptocurrency. This would take 3 or 4 years to complete. That group was led by Duncan Coutts group, Well-Typed. These are some of the most skilled engineers that the world has. The other group was led by a firm called Serokell. However, not everything went according to plan. The software we released in September 2017 had a lot of small design flaws which at the time of building were difficult to catch and they became evident problems as we got closer to release.

This meant that we spent all of 2018 attempting to resolve something that we assumed could be iterated to a point of stability. This introduced the first wave of delays. We believed that we could have put Ouroboros Classic with a delegation system on top of the Serokell codebase while Well-Typed working with its skunkworks kept building the evidence based software version of Cardano. This would be the permanent protocol which would ship in 2020.

Parallel development

We then began pulling resources from the other team into the first team in an attempt to correct the software. Unfortunately, it was written in a way which made maintenance incredibly difficult. So in September of 2018 we pivoted and no longer decided to remediate the software problems. Because of our focus on delivery we decided to develop a new team with Cardano Rust, which delivered Icarus to market. This became Yoroi which became our most successful and fastest adopted product. It was also our fastest build product.

We then had this team build a parallel, agile, rapidly produced version of Cardano so that we could replace what we were planning on doing with Serokell. This allowed us to bring things to market faster. That team was successful. In 2019 we shipped the ITN. If we were just another cryptocurrency, this would be Shelley. It is stable, decentralized, it has hundreds of operating nodes, and it is secure while being performant. On top of that we have a path to over 1000 TPS in the market today. It is not just another wallet, it is a full cryptocurrency. I could deliver the promise of Ouroboros Genesis, our wallet backend, and everything else we have spent years building. But we have committed ourselves as a project and we made a social contract with our community and the scientific community that we would follow an evidence based approach.

New releases

That is why we are working on the Haskell side. This takes more time. No one has been waiting around. Our engineers have worked thousands of commits every week. This has amounted to months of hard work writing specifications. Anyone can see this code. It is in our GitHub repositories. A chain of custody can be seen plainly there. This software has evolved from a proof of concept to a production grade piece of software. We do this by shipping every week.

We cut releases two to three times a month for the wallet backend. Daedalus cuts releases as well. The Cardano node has been maintaining a bi-weekly release cadence. We have now moved beyond the waterfall process of formal methods. We are not on a rapid release cycle. No other software company in the world has done this the way IOHK has. We are also getting to the end of an era.

The Byron reboot is not just another release regardless of what critics say. It is the culmination of 18 months of hardcore work rebuilding Cardano from the ground up. At that point, we are masters of the code. We can add to it every two weeks. After this, there will be no more monolithic releases. Our hope has been that we would have an iterative code base that would hardfork to the evidence based codebase. However, the first attempt did not work. But it didn’t slow down or stop the first attempt.

Bringing Byron online

The Byron reboot is the biggest release we have ever done as a community or ecosystem. It is built with evidence and quickcheck. We have resolved hundreds of bugs before release. In terms of when it will release, it will be very soon. This will be announced by Aparna Jue. We are currently resolving bugs rather than adding features. We are now pulling together, Daedalus, the wallet backend, and the node. We are now able to send transactions, process blocks, and restore wallets. We can do everything we need to do. Now it is a question of when Aparna feels comfortable announcing this.

At that point everything afterwards is not a monolithic waterfall style release. There is latency in certain things with a scientific method. For example, we have candidates for a Coronavirus vaccine, however, in spite of the profound economic consequences of taking the requisite amount of time, we will not have a vaccine until 2021. Similarly, there was latency in the procedures that we adopted. This was exacerbated by the difficulties with the Serokell codebase.

Protecting the community

To compare these issues with our competitors we have seen major hacks, and networks being shut down. There have been years of delays in projects throughout the space. The difficulty is that the end user doesn’t see the product until we get to where we currently are with the Byron reboot. Our supporters have seen our project from the scientific beginnings. It took 8 years for the hololens to become a beta product. Much of the research and development from major companies like Apple and Microsoft goes unseen by supporters. Cardano has been transparent with supporters since writing its original scientific papers.

We see this as showing the scientific process in action. This is what it takes to deliver something based on evidence based programming to market. Much like a vaccine, the world can’t get it until the proper processes have been completed. But, once it is delivered, it changes everything. In the case of the vaccine the world goes back to normal. In the case of Cardano, we have succeeded in the most significant scientific process in the history of our space.

Moving the space forward

Everything about this project has carried an enormous burden. Haskell programming had to be made better. We had to correct sub-par libraries. We had to work on cross-compilations so that Haskell could easily compile to JavaScript and WebAssembly. We had to get Haskell to work correctly with Windows. This has been a colossal effort. The people working on this are spending the best years of their careers on it as well. If you look at the commits, and dedication it is plain to see the dedication and excitement around the project.

In November, outside of IOHK, EMURGO, and the CF no one knew how to run Cardano as a network. Now, we have thousands of people in our telegram channels who understand how to run the software independent of our organization. We have hundreds of stake pool operators who have identified themselves and their projects through videos. This includes technologists and stay-at-home moms. Stake pools are being run by both big and small organizations. This is what decentralization looks like. None of this existed 100 days ago. In 100 more days we believe that we will be even more decentralized.

Making something new

We will have smart contracts, scalability, decentralization, and governance by the end of this year. These are the fruits of years of decentralized research. Our critics never mention our papers. This is because of a lack of understanding and because they tell a story about our team of dedicated researchers working to build something different. We are making something different, new, and exciting. It took years of effort for bitcoin to be constructed before anyone ever saw it. Cardano has been building in the open for all to see. This has opened us to a great deal of criticism.

This resulted in criticism of the Incentivized Testnet when it was an alpha product. Currently, the ITN has 99 percent uptime. Sadly, the critics have begun to ignore the success of the ITN and pivoted back to the Haskell side. We see this is a lack of fairness and honesty. At the end of the day we believe that the critic’s definition of success is a high market cap. If it is high then we are a success and if it is not high then Cardano is a scam. We believe that these people will be gone in 3 to 5 years.

Staying power

We did not build this product or ecosystem for critics. We did it to make something which would be around in 50 years. We have laid all the foundations. Cardano lives in the academy. It lives in evidence based software. We have revolutionized every component of our system from assets to DLS and how our consensus protocol works. We solved proof-of-stake. This has been the single hardest problem in our industry which we solved in a 5 year timeline. We also solved how to scale as far as we want. We can get to 1 million transactions a second. None of these are trivial. We did them through peer-review and in an open way which was accepted to conferences.

Creating and contributing

Competitors are currently citing IOHK papers. We believe this means that we have contributed greatly to the foundations of a decentralized society. This is not easy to build. We have to think about a process which means that our code will always be sound. This is far more meaningful than getting code out quickly.

After the Byron reboot we will have merged both roadmaps. The agile and slow methodical evidence based roadmap will have become one. Shelley and Goguen will follow this release. Teams are currently working in parallel. We are number 1 in commits this year and likely will be this next year. We take umbrage with the criticism that we are consistently delaying.

Inevitable delays and lessons

If you look at our competitors who work in science and research and development, delays are inevitable. However, the process results in important contributions. The consumers of Cardano are seeing our process end to end. Just as in the example of vaccines, in spite of enormous demand, the proper process must be gone through in order to ensure a positive outcome. This means that we will not get a vaccine as quickly as desired.

This research pressure is the same that we live with while building Cardano. The good news is that the science is done. The protocols have been designed and they work. Five years of work has been rewarded with a template for decentralized society. We then had to bring a great team together from over 20 countries to write great software. This is a massively complicated constellation of software from the wallet backend to Daedalus and the node. These took years to realize, bring to market and test on billions of configurations like Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Process over price

We then had to build processes to ensure that this software worked for everyone. We have processed tens of thousands of help desk tickets throughout the years. We make releases and commits every single week. The work can be seen clearly every single day. This has all made Cardano better.

When Shelley and Goguen ships we don’t believe that there will be an immediate 50x on the price of ada. We are currently in a global depression. There is no salvation in the price of ada, if this is a users primary concern we believe they should leave crypto. We are here to build the foundations of a decentralized society not to make day traders rich. We are here to build something which is as useful today as it will be in ten and twenty years. This can be used for political systems and payment protocols to transactions and property. These are the things we care about. If users want to be a part of this then that is what ada is for. It is not here to make users rich.

Cryptocurrencies cannot make one rich. They are a hedge against a failing system. We are now seeing this in real time. Things are coming from IOHK. They are coming with principle and character. They will be delivered in a systematic and stoic way. Our staff will continue to push and we appreciate your belief in our process.

Building the cutting edge

What we are now releasing is new. It has never been done before. We built it from the ground up. We believe there will be a thousand forks of Cardano similar to bitcoin. The extended UTXO model alone can bring smart contracts to bitcoin in a responsible way. With the advancements we’ve made in consensus we can run a global system with 10 kilowatts of power. These are amazing achievements from our scientific work. Bringing them to market is a difficult proposition. They have to not only be brough, but they have to be maintained if we are to achieve decentralization. This is the year it all comes together.

We encourage our consumers to have patience and faith in the people working every day to solve and build these protocols. We have been as open, transparent, and honest as possible. We have nothing to hide and if users can read the code then they will see it. We will get this done. We are incredibly proud of those that are unifying behind our cause by being a part of our community and running our software.

Community first

When we neglect to show how to configure something, the community writes a guide. When we fail to explain something properly, then our supporters write something. This is the foundation required for a platform to grow to the size of bitcoin and eventually to the size of TCP/IP. We have an amazing community and great leaders who are not motivated by hype or FUD. Our community believes in what we are trying to accomplish.

Our supporters will become leaders in our community who will take power by democratic mandate, or possibly funding to pursue projects. These people will write smart contracts to make Cardano the top DeFi platform. They will run the thousands of stakepools which will make Cardano the most decentralized operating system ever conceived. These are the people that will write the next wave of software in addition to EMURGO and IOHK. This social progress is deeply important. Software and protocols change. Releases happen all the time. What matters most is who will execute the next phase of development.

Moving the world

In these five years, we have built a global movement of people unified by the belief that the scientific method is the best method for us to create new protocols. They are unified by evidence based software which can change the world. Finally, they want to change the world. In some cases this is a local community. In others this is a global community. When these things turn on they have a chance for the first time ever to make a positive change.

There have been mistakes made in terms of staffing, architecture, ordering of products and other aspects. But we have learned from every misstep and continued to execute. We were funded two orders of magnitude less than EOS. In spite of that we continued working. We have honored our commitments from the scientific side and this year we will honor the engineering side. Without the help of our community we cannot honor our social commitment. That means that it becomes a totally decentralized vibrant ecosystem.

Community first

We see this coming because every time we have asked the community to do something they have accomplished it. We saw this with the ITN, we will soon see it with Shelley, the Goguen testnet, and the Voltaire testnets. If a user is here to view ada as a development platform, to govern, or to operate the platform, there is plenty to do.

We encourage everyone to be patient. Aparna Jue will make an announcement regarding dates at the end of the month. The Byron reboot is imminent and Shelly is coming soon. Our best days are ahead of us. Things will continue to grow and iterate. For proof look no further than the weekly releases of software, videos, blog posts, product management updates, and papers. All of this is proof that we are relentlessly moving forward.

“We will get this done!”