Cardano (founder) Charles Hoskinson discussed the time and effort that has been put into developing Cardano, saying that the bulk of the work needed to launch it has already been done, in an interview with Messari’s Ryan Selkis. However, despite constant comparison with Ethereum, he believes that there won’t be any winners in the space for a long time, as the industry is now in the same state the internet was in 1991.
Recapping six months of hard work
After a hugely successful shipping of the Shelley testnet, Cardano has entered into the last stage of the race towards complete decentralization. Once Shelley, the era of the Cardano blockchain that will enable staking, is launched, the blockchain will have transitioned from a static and federated system to a dynamic and decentralized one.
In an interview with Messari’s Ryan Selkis, Charles Hoskinson, the CEO of IOHK, looked back on the effort that has been put into the project so far. The outspoken creator of Cardano said that it has been incredibly gratifying to see the products of five years of painstaking work finally come together all at once.
This year has been going great, he said, as the company has been hitting all of the benchmarks and deadlines it set. The same couldn’t be applied to the past two years, Hoskinson explained, as Cardano kept facing hurdles on every corner. These hurdles, which were a consequence of having two separate teams working on Cardano simultaneously, helped it become notorious for being “slow.”
Nowadays, however, speed and efficiency seem to be the only epithets that could describe developments at Cardano. Hoskinson said that the mainnet candidate for Shelley will be shipped as early as Jun. 30 if everything goes well with the testnet. Shelley will be turned on on Jul. 29, while all registered staking pools will be able to begin mining pools as early as Aug. 18.
To fill up a tiny open slot between major releases, IOHK organized the Cardano virtual summit, which will take place on Jul. 2 and Jul. 3. The event, Hoskinson revealed, will see everyone from heads of state and government officials to partners from the Wyoming research lab and IOHK’s commercial partners come together to discuss Shelley. But, with most of the major points of the impending mainnet launch already covered, the speakers will also focus on Cardano after Shelley—its UTXO, Plutus, smart contracts, etc.
Cardano virtual summit will also host one of the founders of the internet—Vint Cerf.
An upper hand built on formal methods
None of this happened overnight—Hoskinson explained that Cardano began its journey with a competitive advantage provided by the Haskell programming language. While using Haskell requires a huge up front in terms of tooling and development cost, it pays out later as it requires 5 to 10 timeless less code than C++ or Java programming languages do.
This kind of research-first approach enabled IOHK to harness good ideas from the entirety of the scientific community, instead of relying on a single, closed-off group of scientists. This can only lead to the creation of a closed-off system that cannot support cross-chain communication and is a mistake of the 1990s that shouldn’t be repeated.
Diversity of thought is what facilitated a rather unusual approach to Cardano’s development. The team working on Goguen, the era of Cardano that will bring about smart contracts, has been around for three years, despite smart contracts still being months away.
“They weren’t waiting for Shelley to be done,” Hoskinson said, adding that they have been developing their code parallel to Shelley. The University of Lancaster saw their first papers on Voltaire, the governance era of Cardano, published around the same time.
It took years to formally model Cardano of Bitcoin’s proof-of-work, despite the many shortcomings of the protocol, he told Selkis. Nonetheless, with all its flaws and limitations, proof-of-work actually provided Cardano’s own Ouroboros protocol both with solid fundamentals and the ability to introduce incredible innovations.
This, Selkis noted, is what many believe gives Cardano an upper hand over its competitors, the main one being Ethereum. But, despite its obvious “upper hand,” Selkis believes that Cardano still has a long way to catch up to Ethereum’s network effect. History, he said, seems littered with examples of superior technology losing the race to technology with better network effects.
Hoskinson met the remark with a good deal of annoyance and just a little bit of animosity, not towards Ethereum, but the rhetoric that puts network effect above science.
“It’s the biggest lie ever told in the space.”
There’s no network effect on Ethereum, he explained, not because Ethereum is inherently bad, but because the crypto industry is still so small that it’s virtually pointless to speculate on its effects. For every one dApp created on Ethereum, another thousand are created for mobile phones, a comparison that puts the network’s size into perspective. Being a big fish is, after all, relative:
“You’re a big fish in a very tiny pod next to the ocean.”
He went on to explain that not a single project in the crypto industry has managed to achieve network effect so far and that it will take another decade before any one of them manages to.
This isn’t theory however—Hoskinson went on to explain that the winning blockchain will be the one that best connects on and off chain and maximizes flexibility. Only a flexible blockchain whose protocol facilitates easy onboarding and offloading will be able to host what the industry refers to as “killer apps.” These killer apps, in his words, won’t be payment services, but supply chains, medical records, identity solutions, and voting solutions.
Coexisting, peer review, and plans after Shelley
With this in mind, it’s not at all surprising to hear Hoskinson say that we’re heading towards a world where a fully grown Cardano and a fully grown Ethereum can easily coexist. Any talk of one taking over the other is futile and leads to a toxic and unproductive environment no one can thrive in.
That isn’t to say that Cardano is heading into the battle unarmed.
When asked about how IOHK backs some of the claims it makes about Cardano, such as the protocol being “provably secure,” Hoskinson defended the company’s rigorous screening process.
Calling Cardano “provably secure” doesn’t mean that other proof-of-stake protocols aren’t—it means that peer-reviewed scientific research found proof that the protocol is able to defend itself from a particular adversary. The original paper that modelled Cardano after Bitcoin’s proof-of-work has over 800 citations, providing the company with a rock-solid foundation both in the academic and crypto circles.
All of the paper submitted by IOHK or any of its partnering organizations or scientists have been peer-reviewed, Hoskinson said, taking a jab at the self-proclaimed creator of Bitcoin:
“When we write these papers we don’t just write them and say ‘Here’s the paper, we’ve solved the problem.’ We’re not Craig Wright.”
These peer-reviewed, formally modeled proofs used in Cardano have for sure been an ambitious goal. But, both Hoskinson and the rest of the small army of people working on Cardano seem to be incredibly confident that they will be able to reap success.
He laid out big plans for the next couple of years, with the first major thing they want to focus on issuing assets on Cardano. The existing ecosystem already supports much of the functionality Hoskison would like to see out of this, which is automatic Daedalus support for tokens and an easy way to deploy tokens on exchanges that already list ADA.
The second thing will be making a major play for the Haskell community as a whole and getting them into the Cardano ecosystem. An influx of experienced and ambitious Haskell developers would enable a rich DeFi system to flourish on Cardano, as the blockchain operates from a native Haskell base. More about this will be discussed at the upcoming virtual summit, Hoskinson said, hinting that there will be talks about upcoming hackathons.
And finally, onboarding more stake pool operators to Cardano will be a major goal for the company in the coming months. Hoskinson said that he would like to see people running sustainable businesses on Cardano’s servers, an adoption effort that will most likely first catch on in developing regions such as Africa.
The interview ended on a positive note, with Hoskinson announcing a “pleasant surprise” for everyone regarding the first governance vote set to unravel during the virtual summit.