DevCon3 Day #1

Ethereum is only a few years old but every year, the core team and the community at large gather somewhere around the world to talk about the progress of the platform and present new initiatives around the Ethereum blockchain.

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The first edition took place in Berlin in November 2014, the second edition was in London in 2015, the third happened in Shanghai in September 2016, and this year was in Cancun, Mexico. And this year was the first time the ChainSkills team could participate. Here is what we will remember from this awesome 4-day conference.

The day kicked off with a presentation of the entire core team, Vitalik and friends, and a short presentation of what their main areas of focus are.

And then was a very interesting presentation from the guys at Coin Center. It was interesting to see such a structured approach to lobby (mostly American) regulators about crypto issues. I’m pretty sure we are (again) lagging behind in that regard in all of Europe. At the same time, it seemed almost pointless to spend so much time and energy on trying to make a centralized Nation State regulate (or more accurately de-regulate) a decentralized ecosystem. I know that we are still decades away from the complete obsolescence of these structures, but still, it reminded me of this:

Then, we attended a talk from the awesome Damian Vogelsteller about a couple of Ethereum Improvement Propositions (EIP) he recently submitted regarding an identity standard for the Ethereum blockchain: ERC725 and ERC735. Really interesting stuff as it should play a key role in what we are thinking about with ChainSchool, making it easy for students to prove their certification to potential employers without having to reveal their identity. Funny thing is that the guys at uPort quickly commented on ERC 725 that this EIP overlaps with their work, only to be reminded that standards are necessary (look what standard ERC20 did to tokens) and that uPort should have been the one to introduce such an EIP. But that’s how open source works baby: if you don’t do it, somebody will do it for you.

Then we went back to the main hall to see Karl Floersch’s introduction to cryptoeconomics. Very inspiring stuff that completely reinforced us in the impression that this technology gives us developers incredible power to change the way society works in major ways. But as he said himself:

After that, we were curious to hear the latest updates about Casper, the implementation of Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithm, by the great Vlad Zamfir. He promised us we would understand everything, that his slides would have diagrams and stuff to help us understand, and for a while, we hoped… And then he started to talk. And about 37 seconds later, we were completely lost. Obviously he tried to cram a 3-hour explanation into a 20-minute talk, speaking way too fast, changing slides faster than in a PechaKucha (except he could go back and forth, which was even worse). And unless you were a mathematics post-graduate, I don’t see how you could get what he said. The guy is obviously brilliant and it’s good to know that people like him are working on something that critical. But definitely, understanding something and explaining it are two very different things.

Then I attended a talk about ZoKrates, a zkSnarks toolbox for Ethereum. Still very low-level stuff, but definitely necessary on the path towards full untraceable transactions implemented in Ethereum. To be continued.

And the last talk of the day was Vitalik presenting us a roadmap towards sharding… and much much more. Basically, he insisted on the contradiction between the growing demand for stability by the community and the necessity to shake things up to introduce indispensable improvements for the scalability of the system, sharding being one of the most important ones. And just like that, in a 30-minute talk, he solved it before our eyes: basically, he proposed a roadmap for Ethereum 2.0 that would involve a parallel blockchain to implement sharding, with one-way bridges to the main chain that would continue to grow more carefully. And once the sharding chain is ready for prime-time, we should be able to migrate to it entirely with a two-way bridge where the main chain would be just of the shards. And since this is necessary for  sharding, that parallel chain would be the perfect breeding ground for all the crazy features that core developers have been dreaming about and that were very hard to think about in the context of the current implementation. The brilliance and the pragmatism of this guy will never cease to amaze me.

As always, these conferences are also a good opportunity to meet other people in the community, and one of the guys we met that day was Eduard Kotysh from Solidified, an audit platform for smart contracts. Very interesting and obviously necessary when you think of the kind of bugs we still had to face last week with Parity’s multi-sig wallet.

In the next post in this series, we will talk about our Day #2.

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