Last week, Cardano Foundation flew to Poland to attend and speak at meetups. The first stop was Warsaw, where we stopped by the Wicked Crypto Meetup. They host regular meetups with 1000’s of enthusiasts from the area. Special thank you to organizer Sonia for having us and for hosting such a wonderful meetup held at the Google Campus in Warsaw.
The meetup started with event sponsors, Luno, who are a wallet, exchange and enterprise providing API’s for merchants. Magdalena from Luno presented on two surveys their company conducted in Poland on the crypto market. Their first survey described the general market with stats such as:
- the population in Poland is just under 40 million people
- the average turnover on crypto in Poland is about 1.3 billion Euros
- with the average daily turnover in Q1 of 2018 totalling to 43 million (which is quite high for a nation)
- this is also observed through the rankings of currencies used in crypto transactions, where the Polish zloty ranks fourth, after USD, EUR and JPY
- other takeaways from this research survey found that over 50% of the population of Poland are familiar with the concept of crypto but only 8.4% of internet users in Poland actually declare to having crypto
- out of the surveyed, 20% of internet users (above the age of 18) would consider owning but were not happy with: unstable crypto prices, associated risks of loss of funds (ie. exchanges being hacked) and the official position of the Polish government
- most users also considered the use of crypto to be too complicated
Magdalena went on to describe the Poland crypto market compared to other countries and some of the notable findings she presented was the breakdown of the percentage of the population who were familiar with cryptocurrencies with the percentage of that group who actually owned any cryptocurrencies.
- As mentioned before, about 50% of Poland’s population are familiar with crypto, and out of this group, 17% own some coins
- in the Netherlands, 39% of the population are familiar with crypto and out of this group, 27% own cryptocurrencies which is quite high
- another country which also showed high ownership was France with 39% familiarity and 19% ownership
- RSA had 69% familiarity and 29% ownership
- Indonesia had 63% familiarity and 40% ownership
- Lithuania had 81% familiarity and 3.8% ownership
- the main reason for buying crypto, across most countries, was for investment
Finally, Luno described their second survey which attempted to create a customer profile around crypto-enthusiasts. They looked at gender, age, and distinguishing interests of this demographic.
Up next, Cardano Foundation took the stage! Tom and Jon from the Marketing & Community Team at Cardano Foundation talked through the history and generations of cryptocurrencies before delving into the Cardano project. They talked on the unique selling points of Cardano, the roles and responsibilities of the 3 entities involved with the project and finally, how the meetup attendees can get involved with the Cardano community!
The last speaker at the Warsaw meetup was Duncan Coutts, Director of Engineering for Cardano at IOHK. He is a long-time computer scientists and programmer, who is also Partner of Well-Typed, a Haskell consultancy program. His presentation revolved around the development of Cardano, including the development philosophy:
How we’re building Cardano
Duncan starts off by asking the crowd why its important to care about software quality. Of course, this seems obvious but the fact is that most software is not built well and the industry standard for software quality is terribly low. In crypto, it is especially important because, of course, we don’t want it to fail and because it would be expensive to fail since it is money.
He goes on to explain why there are security updates with certain software, and this is due to the fact that they were built wrong to begin with. And these opportunities for system failure are everywhere, such as flawed protocol design, incorrect implementation of the design, amateur cryptography fails, collapse under load and failure to scale to name a few. To add to the list, missing performance deadlines can also be a way a crypto systems can fail. For example, in Bitcoin, the system deadlines occur every 10 minutes, while in Cardano, slots occur every 20 seconds. If failures happen that cause performance deadlines to be missed, they can quickly add up and create a fatal error. Additionally, social or voting collapse can cause a system to fail. Duncan explained how Bitcoin has no formal process of upgrading the system. Plausibly, Bitcoin’s system can fail because people won’t be able to agree and/or make changes to move forward without a proper voting system.
Cryptocurrencies are new and Duncan compares them to Icarus, a story from Greek mythology of a boy who flew too close to the sun, melting his wings made of wax and feathers, and plunging to his own death. There are cryptocurrencies out there that have been built in the same way where they feel the rules don’t apply to them and they will inevitably fail.
The development team at IOHK behind Cardano believes that though cryptocurrencies are new, there is danger of ignorance and hubris of believing that it is all only new and that old ideas are not needed. It is a mistake to think you can create a high quality crypto product and protocol by only being an expert in cryptocurrencies. There are other areas of knowledge that need to be put into use to be a great cryptocurrency, such as:
- computer science and formal methods
- programming language technology
- software engineering and system design
- secure system design
- concurrent system design with ‘hard’ real-time deadlines
- network protocols, control theory
- incentives, microeconomics and game theory
- voting systems and governance
- macroeconomics, decentralized monetary and fiscal policy and so on…
Philosophy of Cardano Development
This led into the introduction of the philosophy behind Cardano, which is to use the best available academic knowledge and skills, and to rely on expertise from mathematics, cryptography, comp science, economics and other mentioned specialties. Furthermore, the philosophy includes the need for original research where necessary.
A Brief History of Cardano’s Development
Duncan gave quick insight into the history of Cardano’s development, both for development releases and updates and for exchanges:
- September 2016: first git commit
- April 2017: last beta testnet
- August 2017: release candidate testnet
- September 2017: mainnet release
- March 2018: start of regular rolling releases
- June 2018: Cardano 1.2 release
- August 2018: Cardano 1.3 release
With exchanges, the history was as followed:
- started with one exchange
- with the addition of a second exchange a couple months later
- currently, there are a dozen exchanges with significant ADA volume
- expect more exchange to integrate our wallet
- the new wallet API in Cardano 1.2 is better designed for exchange
- and the coming wallet implementation in Cardano 1.4 is designed to allow exchanges to operate better and to scale
Lessons Learned from Launching Mainnet
In the final portion of Duncan’s presentation, he described the good and the bad of launching the mainnet. Of course, some things worked very well. The core system was very stable, running 24/7 since the launch. The system is globally distributed to survive local failures, which was observed through outages that occurred beyond IOHK’s control and despite these, the system was stable throughout because of this distribution. They also had good system monitoring which provided great insights. Additionally, 95% of transactions were observed to make it into the “next block” (which is 20 seconds in Cardano) and they also achieved good throughput for exchanges.
And on the other hand, there are some things that didn’t do so well. Duncan noted that performance requirements need to be clearly understood, performance engineering needs to be done much earlier and that distributed concurrency and networking are hard! The corollary that evolved out of this was that ‘hard problems need more formal approaches’.
As an example, Duncan talked about the wallet backend. Every system needs a wallet and Cardano first deployed with one that was good enough for desktop users but not for exchanges. There was a lot of remedial work that was needed. The IOHK team has been rewriting the wallet backend from scratch as a result, and they now have a 40-page semi-formal specification.
This semi-formal specification describes what a cryptocurrency wallet really is and what it needs to do. This is written in mathematical logic and notation. And the act of doing this design process forces one to think clearly and to simplify as much as possible. Unfortunately, the original wallet design had accumulated complexity that was not necessary and this accidental complexity is the worst thing for software design.
And what makes it semi-formal? Their process includes the task of stating properties and testing them to make sure they match the specification. The golden standard or the formal method would be to prove each item of the specification, but there is a necessary trade off between quality and actual implementation to be able to move forward. From this, they were able to eliminate huge amounts of accidental complexity from the original design and create a one-page, basic model of a wallet for a cryptocurrency.
After an informative hour of presentation and discussion from Duncan, the meetup was drawn to a close and attendees were able to network and mingle with each other. Overall, it was a great evening, full of interesting conversations on crypto and Cardano, and we are excited to see the Polish community grow.
Watch Duncan’s presentation from this meetup here:
For a recap of our second meetup in Poland, in Krakow, and the second half of Duncan’s presentation, please click here!
You can join the Cardano Meetup group in Poland and stay up to date on upcoming events here: https://www.meetup.com/Cardano-Poland/
Note: Cardano Foundation was invited to speak at the Wicked Crypto Meetup and are not an organiser or sponsor of this event or any other events hosted by Wicked. Also Cardano Foundation is not affiliated with Luno, who sponsor Wicked Crypto and also spoke at this event.