Author: Zhang Sanwen
Media: Huobi Information
As an entrepreneur and technological true believer, ArcBlock CEO Robert Mao’s contact with Bitcoin and the blockchain started very early. When it comes to the creation of ArcBlock, he believes “success will come when conditions are ripe.”
As blockchain technology becomes more and more vital, it becomes increasingly important to simplify the operational platform for the blockchain development process.
Recently, Robert took part in KOL biding for Huobi Chain. He feels that this is a valuable contribution he can make along with other industry leaders. He hopes to form a good working relationship between ArcBlock and the Huobi Chain, which he believes can effectively integrate the developer’s ecosystem.
In an interview with Huobi, Robert Mao described his own project: “ArcBlock is like Amazon’s underlying technology services platform, Amazon Web Services.”
The following is the full text of the interview.
Huobi Information: Robert, as an entrepreneur, what was the thought process that led you to enter the blockchain field?
Robert: As a continuous entrepreneur, I am particularly sensitive to technology and take notice of new technologies. Back in 2009, when Bitcoin first appeared on the scene, in our geek circle the discussion was immediate, so I quickly tried to understand what Bitcoin is, and also tried mining Bitcoin.
At that time, even though anyone could mine Bitcoin, there were very few people trying. People didn’t realize its prospects.
In 2013, the concept of blockchain became more prominent. At that time, the price of Bitcoin was at a low point, and some of the so-called “geeks” were wondering whether it might be really useful as a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system.” This would push its technical foundation toward other uses, which was the budding stage of blockchain application development.
Of the projects that started in 2013, it can be said that most of them have already taken shape. When I left Microsoft in 2013, the concept of blockchain was beginning to be more widely discussed, but I didn’t immediately decide to start a business in this area, the main reason being that although I thought this direction was very interesting, it was still too early.
Since then, I have been closely observing its development. I have seen the growth and decline of colored coins, the evolution of Ethereum from a concept to a community, and its practical application coming to valuable fruition.
Essentially, I have been observing the blockchain and waiting for an opportunity. Success will come when conditions are ripe.
Huobi Information: We know that ArcBlock is a service platform dedicated to the development and deployment of blockchain applications, providing developers with development tools to achieve lower Dapp (decentralized application) development threshold. Can you introduce the concept of Dapp in layman’s terms? What is the difference between Dapps and regular apps?
Robert: Many people don’t understand how to define Dapp. I personally think that an app is not necessarily a decentralized application just because it uses blockchain technology.
What is a Dapp? “Decentralization” needs to be viewed in a few different ways, including the decentralization of the physical layer, the decentralization of the governance layer, and the decentralization of the logical layer.
Decentralization of the physical layer: the entire system is distributed across many different places, with different application equipment. From this perspective, most large-scale applications are now decentralized.
Decentralization of the governance layer: the application is managed by multiple companies. As an example, the blockchain itself is not completely controlled by any one company, it is actually decentralized.
For example: A bank system, or the Alibaba Cloud system, is controlled by a company or an organization, so it is highly centralized in governance.
- The decentralization of the logical layer: it consists of many different components that involve multiple services, each of which exists relatively independently. A particularly important point of a Dapp is this decentralization of the logical layer, that is, this application is a combination of many different applications, but it can provide a complete user experience. Such an application is a Dapp.
So how do Dapps work? A very important part is tokens. It is very difficult to decentralize an application before a token exists. It is not technically impossible, but because of the interest distribution mechanism, it cannot be done easily.
For example, if you make an iPhone mobile app, there is no doubt that Apple controls the entire user and the whole ecosystem. Developers can get sales revenue, and Apple gets the benefits of “Apple tax,” but it is hard for the third party modules to interact.
When a system establishes a valid token mechanism between one application and another, it is possible to use token technology for efficient value delivery. Any number of different apps can be more effectively connected together to form a whole, which I think is the true meaning of Dapp.
With such a definition of Dapp, there are very few “Dapps” that conform to this definition today. Apps may run on the blockchain, but they are not decentralized.
Huobi Information: What is the value of Dapps? Which Dapps will be developed on ArcBlock in the second half of this year?
Robert: I think the biggest value of Dapps is the possibility of collaboration. That is to say, multiple Dapps can effectively work together through the token economy.
Through the token economy, it is very easy for different apps and developers to collaborate, providing consumers with a more unified user experience. Moreover, the distribution of interests among various developers is easily coordinated, and it is fair, reasonable, and transparent. I think this is a great improvement.
We have positioned ourselves as the platform for future Dapps, but we have a lot of work to do in order to create such a platform.
Although the blockchain can implement the basic modules of Dapps, the current blockchain system is not a panacea. It needs a better framework and platform to handle all of the links between applications. This improved collaboration, through the token system, will be ArcBlock’s contribution to the progress in this field.
As far as which Dapps will be born on ArcBlock in the second half of 2018:
At first, there will be a lot of small Dapps produced on our platform. The first batch of Dapps that I foresee will improve data visualization for the existing blockchain, in order to analyze the data of the blockchain more effectively, and improve ease of data implementation. The biggest feature of the blockchain is openness and transparency, but because the development chain of the blockchain itself is not standardized, some data is not easy to obtain, especially the data that is recorded in the blockchain. Although it is public, it is not easy to convert and query.
There aren’t too many applications that can effectively analyze and mine this data. So after ArcBlock provides an open chain access protocol, we are committed to improving data accessibility. These are the first steps, which are also the easiest. In the future, there will be more complex applications.
Huobi Information: On the official website of ArcBlock, it says “Born for Blockchain 3.0.” EOS has also staked a claim to blockchain 3.0. What do you think of this? How did you define blockchain 3.0?
Robert: There is no clear definition of the definition of blockchain 3.0. Lots of concepts in the blockchain system lack specific definition. Even “blockchain” itself, and what kind of system should be called “blockchain,” is not completely defined.
However, it is generally accepted that Bitcoin is blockchain 1.0, which means that transaction information is the only data in the chain. Blockchain 2.0 represents Ethereum. Its transaction information and code coexist on the chain. The code can be made into a smart contract, which is the logic and defining feature of blockchain 2.0.
Blockchain 3.0, which is mainly about applications, should be able to provide applications in their entirety.
With this in mind, the ArcBlock platform is designed to make it easier for developers to develop and deploy blockchain applications. The goal we’ve set for ourselves is to be born for the blockchain. By being “blockchain native,” the barrier to entry on our platform for application development will be much lower.
As for EOS: I personally think EOS is a follower of Ethereum. Some people also refer to EOS as blockchain 2.5. Vitalik Buterin put forward a very innovative idea to turn the blockchain into a general-purpose computing environment, which, it should be said, would be a huge jump. When he attempted this, he faced some very specific problems, from performance issues to security issues, including implementation of EVM.
To some extent, EOS is trying to be a better Ethereum. It increases TPS by using DPoS. It uses WebAssembly to operate its virtual machine, and wants to try to use the features of WebAssembly, so that smart contracts can produce a variety of module operations.
But in essence, EOS seems to be an improvement on Ethereum. From the current public data, there is no particularly substantial innovation, and a move toward “centralization.”
Huobi Information: On June 30th, the first application of the ArcBlock platform, “OCAP Playground,” was officially launched. What improvements has ArcBlock brought to OCAP in the process?
Robert: OCAP is a very important technical component of ArcBlock, which provides an intermediate layer for different underlying blockchains. The benefit is that developers don’t have to write plugins for a particular blockchain. Instead, the chain is connected to a different underlying blockchain through a relatively standard middle layer.
Therefore, the value ArcBlock adds is a unified user experience for application developers. The Playground app is a special Dapp, an interactive developer tool.
Think of it like a query optimizer in a database: the query optimizer itself is a database application, its purpose being to help developers to optimize, test, debug, etc. We have provided such a playground in OCAP. Its main function is to let a developer start experimenting with it immediately. The entire Open Chain Access Protocol is designed to make it easier for developers of blockchains to streamline the development process.
So logically, Playground is the fastest way to get started. It should be said that before the launch of Playground, there was no product that would allow developers to operate this quickly on the blockchain.
Huobi Information: What is the strategic focus of ArcBlock in the second half of the year? What is your next big move?
Robert: Our strategic focus is the release of the entire product. The initial research and design of our roadmap was well thought out. Now it is up to us to strictly adhere to the plan. At present, it seems that there is no need to make too many adjustments in the second half of the year. To break it down a little further, our steps are to launch OCAP first, allowing developers to master using blockchains from a variety of applications. Our first application was the OCAP Playground.
Our second application is called OCAP Playbook. The Playbook is an interactive live document, which is the demo code in the document itself, the relevant code written, and the result graph of the code, all of which are actual executable code.
This tool is based on a very popular idea that has emerged from the era of big data. That is, that the information and documents you see are not just a bunch of words, but really code that can be executed. The launch of our Playbook is also focused on a core “curriculum” that makes it easier for developers to learn how to develop blockchains and to share their knowledge, experience and skills.
After the launch of Playbook, the next app will be OCAP SDK, which includes an external SDK and a mobile SDK. The introduction of this SDK will lead developers to truly develop their own complete applications from start to finish.
After the blocklet is released, a developer’s application can be deployed on the ArcBlock platform. At the end of the year, the ABT main chain will be released. This is ArcBlock’s billing and operation support system, which is implemented by blockchain technology. This is a special blockchain. The main purpose of this blockchain in our first phase is to bill the system. The next phase is the generation of ArcBlock application tokens and the exploitation of Bitcoin, which is another strategic focus for the second half of the year.
Huobi Information: According to the latest data, the TPS value of the EOS main network has exceeded 3,000. You’ve said ArcBlock will reach the theoretical processing speed of 100,000 transactions per second in the future. What are the difficulties? How will this be technically implemented?
Robert: EOS has finally surpassed 3,000, but in their white paper, they originally expected one million. I have been skeptical of their ideas. To be honest, EOS has created a bad atmosphere in the industry by over-promoting its TPS capabilities.
Like the VISA system, the typical TPS is just over a thousand, and the peak TPS is in the tens of thousands. EOS’s theoretical million TPS, which can be technically implemented today, would still be very difficult. However, I think that the level of future blockchain TPS will inevitably rise higher.
Like Ethereum, EOS has a goal: to achieve a Turing-complete virtual machine. ArcBlock uses the blockchain for billing and business support. There is a very important design difference here.
Our goal is not to be a “computer on the blockchain” but to implement a “programmable token”. Our chain will not be designed as a Turing-complete system, nor will it require a virtual machine approach. This greatly reduces the difficulty of implementation, and improves security and performance.
In addition, ArcBlock is not a public chain in today’s sense, but rather a public license chain. In other words, the blockchain calculation node of ArcBlock is completed by resource miners. Only our nodes can participate in block generation and accounting, but verification and review can be achieved by anyone.
Therefore, it is neither public nor private nor alliance chain. It is a new form entirely. This is also the positioning of the ArcBlock chain dedicated to making programmable tokens. From this perspective, it will be much less difficult to implement than the blockchain of general-purpose computing. Because it is easier, it can be done especially well.
Huobi Information: We saw that in the planning stages of ArcBlock, the first area to be integrated is the Internet of Things. Why is this your focus, rather than other areas such as finance and traceability?
Robert: The main reason is that although finance, logistics, and insurance are very good, these areas are plagued with resistance, not just on a technical level, but also in politics, policies, and regulations.
As an application platform, on a technical level, the Internet of Things field is a particularly captivating industry, and relatively speaking, it is less affected by policy resistance. In addition, the Internet of Things has a feature that fits well with our mission: it does not have an enormous system of execution. Instead, there are a number of relatively independent components that work together.
We can imagine the Internet of Things in the form of smart home. Inside the smart home, there are different sensors in every light bulb, every switch, every air conditioner, and they are all very independent. Every Internet of Things application is a small decentralized application. IoT applications are suitable for authorizing and delivering value through the token mechanism.
Many have attempted a blockchain approach to IoT devices. Therefore, we feel that the combination of blockchain and IoT is ripe for a technological breakthrough, and we’ve strategically chosen to place our focus there.
Huobi Information: Companies are only as strong as their talent. Who are the talents who have joined the company recently?
Robert: Our team is very picky about recruiting, and everyone in our team is very good.
For example, the well-known people in the industry, such as Chen Tian, vice president of research and development, are experienced both at large companies and at starting their own business. A company he built received an investment in the “Innovation Workshop” and was later acquired by other companies. He is vice president of research and development at Tubi TV. Tubi TV is a fairly successful company in the original Internet TV field. He is a great addition to our team.
We also have Wang Shijun, a front-end engineer, Wang Shijun is well-known in the field of blockchain development in China. He has written e-books about Ethereum development, and he has also worked on Ethereum development training. His technical ability is particularly strong. He is a star developer. We are also very honored that he joined us.
We have increased our recruitment throughout the Elixir community, so we will also participate in and sponsor the upcoming ElixirConf International Conference. We expect a few geniuses from the Elixir community to soon join our team.
Huobi Information: Since the beginning of this year, the public chain has been a particularly hot topic. How do you explain this phenomenon?
Robert: One reason why the public chain is so big recently is that many people make a lot of money on the public chain, but I personally think that there is no need for so many public chains. The world may need a lot of blockchains, but they can all be based on just a relatively small number of public chain agreements. Although today’s public chain is very hot, most of it will no longer exist in the future. This boom is an inevitable phenomenon in the early stage of any new technology.
Huobi Information: How do you feel about Huobi’s public chain? You are leading this effort. What should people look for under your leadership?
Robert: I participated in the election of the Huobi Chain leader because of the warm invitation of Dean Yuan Yuming. I am primarily technical in nature, so I am not particularly keen on running for these things.
Prior to this, Dean Yuan published a lot of articles on the public chain aspect of the token economy, which I admire. He invited me to Huobi, and I feel that I can do something meaningful with the big guys in this industry.
Huobi gradually expanded from the exchange to the entire blockchain ecosystem, which is a very good long-term layout. Most of today’s exchanges are centralized exchanges, but the future blockchain is decentralized.
Because the blockchain is still not fully mature, the centralized exchange still plays a very important role. User transactions require high performance and high reliability, so centralized exchanges are needed.
However, in the long run, when the blockchain gradually improves its underlying technology, centralized exchanges will no longer be the trend. I think Huobi is on the cutting edge of the new trend of decentralization, and the public chain is relatively young. But Huobi has realized that if its exchange is centralized, it may be eliminated in the future as the tide turns.
Huobi Information: As the founder of ArcBlock, what advantages do you think ArcBlock has as the potential Huobi Chain leader?
Robert: The positioning of ArcBlock is very good. Our goal is to be a unified middle layer on various blockchain protocols by being the most developer-friendly.
We hope to form a cooperative relationship with more and more public chains by helping them build a better developer community, which contributes to the overall developer experience. The public chain, in this way, becomes our future partner in development.
Huobi Information: As a technical expert, what are your expectations for the Huobi Chain?
Robert: First, we expect Huobi to be an OCAP partner for ArcBlock, although Huobi is the leader in the industry. If the Huobi Chain is used as an application development platform, we are actually very willing to cooperate with it in this regard.
In addition, if the Huobi Chain can effectively integrate the developer ecosystem, I think it will be a very valuable addition to this community. This is my hope for the Huobi Chain.
Huobi Information: It is public information that NetEase’s CEO invested in ArcBlock less than one month after its establishment. Can you disclose some details? What other investment institutions and individuals are currently involved?
Robert: There is a disclosure on the official website. There are dozens of different institutions. In fact, in the fundraising process of ArcBlock, based on the requirements of KYC, we also turned down many institutions.
The explanation for Ding Lei’s early investment is very simple. Ding Lei was interested in blockchain very early on. He is especially attuned to new technology. When the ArcBlock project was released, it was the only application platform in the overall blockchain industry, so he became interested.
On a personal note, Ding Lei and I have been friends for many years.
Huobi Information: Summarize your theory of entrepreneurship. What traps are important to avoid?
Robert: Entrepreneurship is about learning from mistakes. You have to pay attention to the lessons you’ve been taught. At the same time, you can’t be afraid to make more mistakes and learn more lessons.
One trap is that due to market fluctuations, it’s very difficult to stick to your roadmap. The market is always changing. Sometimes things look bleak. Or sometimes the market will become particularly good and it seems that some shortcuts can be taken. In these cases, it is very difficult to stick to the original plan.
You must, however stay focused on your original goals, and execute your plan, regardless of the quality of the market or other outside pressures.
Above is the English except from the original interview in Chinese: https://t.cj.sina.com.cn/articles/view/6401501049/17d8f277900100cc5q