Ethereum Devcon 5 Recap
From October 8th to 11th, the fifth annual Ethereum Devcon was held in Osaka, Japan. A total of 183 keynote speakers, 57 lightening lectures and more than 300 sessions were held with more than 3,000 developers attending the event. So, what were the results of the DevCon? Moreover, as an active member of the blockchain community what were we able to learn from the Ethereum Developer Conference. ArcBlock CEO, Robert Mao, shared his thoughts before, during and after the event.
Upon arriving at the event, it is safe to say that the Ethereum community is very active and strong. Having participated in a wide-range of previous developer conference events like Amazon AWS re:Invent, Apple's WWDC, Microsoft Build and Hyperledgers annual conference, we are able evaluate and compare the developer events. The Ethereum Devcon event is not as large as some of those other events, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in both content and diversity within the community. The event is not planned by the organizers, but by the community with many sessions, lectures and keynotes being held by community partners and developers. These talks range from launching new technologies, discussing specific research topics, or user experiences; and provides a good representation of the event.
Overall, I believe that the Ethereum community is well-front of many competing blockchains, communiities and is the leading developer platform at this time. First of all, Ethereum currently enjoys its first mover advantage and being one of the first public blockchains to embrace the developer community. Secondly, Ethereum itself is relatively open, and as a public chain, it can easily position itself to meet a wide-range of application and service needs due to some early design decisions that they made.
- Smart contracts - this has unlimited expansion capabilities and smart contracts have the potential to interrupt entire industries and user interactions.
- Building a community - Ethereum was the first to offer this capability and many companies and tokens successfully built and launched their communities this way. As a comparison, this same capability on Bitcoin is virtually impossible. Bitcoin itself has a relatively simple function and other public chains like EOS and their 21 super nodes make it very difficult for other people to participate.
While attending the event in person, it is very easy to see the "openness" of the community, and from the very first session it is apparent that the event is a not a scripted marketing event, but rather a loosely organized organization focused on community communication and building together.
During the event, I freqently ran into other participants and one of the mornings I met another participant in the elevator of the hotel. It seemed like many participants were living in a hotel far away from the venue, so had the opportunity to chat along the way. The other participant indicated that this was his 3rd devcon event and so I asked him what he thought of this DevCon so far. While he was excited to be the event, he also expressed some confusion. "At least it is better than last year. Ethereum 2.0 might get us back on track."
As a participant and developer, I admit that I also have some confusion about the Ethereum DevCon. This specific event focused was focused on DeFi (decentralized finance), the idealistic DAO (decentralized autonomous organization), and Ethereum 2.0, which aims to solve the performance and scalability. For These are exciting topics - ideal and forward-looking, however, most of the topics are conceptual, prototypes, and/or still at the experimental stage, and there is almost no new product or business services available to end-users.
If you don’t participate in other industry conferences, it is easy to focus on learning lots of new things that give you the feeling that the community is building something amazing. However, compared to other past developer conferences such as Apple's WWDC, or Amazon's AWS re:Invent, those events give me a greater sense of completion. I am able to study, learn, and the go and try something that I can get started with. Each day at the end of the event, I will be busy late to try out new tools, services or features that in the end have the potential to benefit end-users. For the Ethereum Devcon, even if you see some interesting concepts, they are still just a concepts. The majority of what you see is very rough and very early, and can only be released sometime in the future.
When you think of Ethereum, the first person you always think of is Vitalik. He holds a special in the community and represents the epicenter of Ethereum. I paid close attention to the meetings where he was participating looking for not only his input, but also what type of direction he provides to the community to help propel Ethereum forward. During some sessions that I attended, he was typically the only person answering core development questions with perhaps one or two other people adding thoughts or opinions. I was surpsied that many of them are silent, or have no opinion. From the communities perspective, it is perceived that Vitalik doens't directly manage engineering and research, and is actually more engaged in research and forward-looking issues. Most of his energy is focused on the "what's next" for Ethereum. From my opinion, it seems that he doens't not pay much attention to the applications or external cooperation opportunities that could be engaged during this stage of the project.
Like many attendees, I am worried about the slow development of Ethereum 2.0,and the lack of real-time mature applications including the emergence of dApps that have the potential to change public perception. I understand that the loose state of Ethereum comes from the open source hacking culture that began from its earlier days and cotninues today even in the development process, but I believe that this is not always a good thing for software development. Today, the community includes a wide range of developers, businesses and partners who without specific direction will begin pulling the community in different directions putting additional strain on the whole community and ecosystem.
In some of the earlier conferences I attended, it seemed that everyone would work together to form a consensus: the goal of Ethereum 1.0 is good, but may not be heading in the right direction due to specific limitations created by early engineering decisions. Today, everyone is excited and now pinning their hopes and expectations on Ethereum 2.0. Unlike 1.0, there are multiple teams that are working on 2.0, but are all loosely organization without specific goals and directions causing the work to be slow and somewhat inefficient. While it is possible that no one wants the process to be highly efficient, it will also be difficult to onboard traditional software companies and/or others who can further push blockchain adoption forward. Ethereum 1.0 still has issues and 2.0 and said to be more than 2 years away. In the blockchain world, this is a very long time.
I came to Osaka, Japan to attend the Ethereum Developers Conference. On the one hand, I came to study Ethereum as the industry's best public blockchain project in the industry. I also wanted to see how their DevCon is organized? How's the community? What can we learn and do better for the ArcBlock community? Because ArcBlock is a blockchain application development platform for developers, we are also preparing to organize our own developer conferences, and one of my goals is to learn from the industry's top project.
In addition to learning, the DevCon also provides a great opportunity to network and build new partnerships within the ecosystem. Many of these Ethereum developers can also become ArcBlock users in the future, can also help facilitate and user our new TokenSwap (bidirectional 1:1 pegged token swap services) service that we are linking with the Ethereum ecosystem.
The ArcBlock ecosystem still has a long way to go. While our team is hard at work building development tools, documentation, training materials and more, our community is now beginning to progress and attempting to build nodes, tokens and develop dApps. However, we have to ask ourselves - if we hold the developer conference can we have a third of the content come from our ecosystem developers, and another third from our ecosystem partners?
Today, I don't think it is possible. If you come to the developer conference now, it will be more of a training seminar, that is, most of the content is going to be created and delivered by ArcBlock, but we believe that a real developer conference should have just as much content from our developers and ecosystem partners, not by the organizers.
Fortunately, we have a well-established ecosystem foundation. Today, ArcBlock already has an application development platform that can deliver and support a wide-range of applications, and support for different blockchain miner roles including resource, component, and operator miners. In addition, we have an inteoperable multi-chain network, scalable network resources, tools and blocklets to build development components, or even complete applications. So, We have what we need to unite the blockcahin ecosystem and to give everyone what they need to build real, useful dApps and services.
Therefore, one of our next goals is to more actively encourage the community to work with us to build the ecosystem. Not only to develop products with our platform and technology, but also to add more active members in the community. The possibilities are endless and the bigger the ecosystem and more diverse and useful ArcBlock will become for everyone.
Ethereum is becoming the "DeFi Hub" is defiintely a step in the right direction. Because Ethereum supports the release of various digital assets, the openness and security of its platform have been validated with more than five years in the open market. Today, Ethereum is currently the most likely to become the public chain connecting the world's largest and most diverse exchanges. ArcBlock is a platform dedicated to Dapp development and is suitable for creating user-friendly, Internet-level applications. If you can get through with Ethereum, developers can easily enjoy benefits of both platforms. The upcoming Universal TokenSwap through ArcBlock. The service enables applications running on the ArcBlock platform to seamlessly interface with Ethereum's Passport, leveraging Ethereum's DeFi resources and enable new implementation ideas to applications in Ethereum.
Although the ArcBlock product is not well known in the Ethereum community today, most people who had the opportuity to view Forge Framework , Blocklet and our Universal TokenSwap were amazed at the level of sophistication of our products and the awareness of the user experience in our product details. From a product perspective, ArcBlock products are more advanced and complete than most toolchains and development environments in the Ethereum ecosystem. In particular, our support for developers and end-user support are more comprehensive.
ArcBlock, and myself, also benefitted greatly from the real-time feedback that we received from Ethereum developers for our TokenSwap service. Some suggestions resolve some of the design blind spots of our previous products in terms of usability. TokenSwap has already arrived at the release status. I have listened to these valuable suggestions and I feel that we can and will make it better and better. In some places, it takes a while to re-examine and then release it. With a good product, it is really meaningful to have a completely decentralized ecological cooperation with Ethereum.
As a development company, we have a lot of experience in software engineering. We should be able to find a more optimized method to avoid the current loose and slow state of Ethereum. If we can combine the mature software engineering development experience of large enterprises and mobilize ecosystem partners and communities we will be able to innovate and deliver user-ready products faster and more efficiently than any blockchain ecosystem today.
One of the frequent questions I was asked about during the event was about our recently released Blocklet. Todays blockchain developer knows that to make a complete dApp, it is not enough to simply rely on a chain, but they also have to deal with a lot of the corrosponding services to actually make their dApp work. Blocklet's are designed to give developers a package of tools, modules, and more in an easy to launch service that immediately solves 90% of what is required to build a dApp. Developers can also combine Blocklet's, or build Blocklet's for other developers to use and generate revenue using smart contract capabilities.
Today's blockchain projects are big on promises, but when it comes time to delivering usable services and products those promises are rarely delivered. We realize that in order to be successful, everyting we do much ahve products that are immediately available, and we can play/hack things to push the applications even further.