It was on a chilly snowy day in January 2020 when your correspondent first visited Conflux Network’s workplace in China. Located within the coronary heart of Beijing’s technology zone, Conflux’s workplace is understood for having its mascot, Confi, a blue beaver cartoon character, displayed in every single place.
Conflux is a Layer 1 public blockchain that claims to unravel what its founders say is Ethereum’s trilemma—safety, scalability and decentralization. It does this through a so-called tree-graph consensus mechanism. At its core, Conflux desires to incentivize parallel block generations, which improve throughput, and unify the information via a tree-graph construction earlier than settling the ultimate transaction on the primary blockchain. It’s a special paradigm in comparison with the extra frequent sharding, state channel and Layer 2 strategy.
After I visited, the corporate was busy growing its mainnet whereas making a sequence of announcements with provincial governments. Now, 10 months later, with its mainnet having just lately launched, I (nearly) sat down with Fan Lengthy, Conflux’s co-founder and a professor at the University of Toronto’s Laptop Science division, to debate his firm’s positioning in an more and more aggressive public blockchain panorama.
Made in “Yao’s Class”
This 12 months has seen many promising Layer 1 protocols both go stay or make critical progress, together with Polkadot, 0x’s Matcha, Near and now Conflux. Every protocol is advertising its personal aggressive benefit. For Conflux, its message has all the time centered on having been incubated by the “Yao’s Class.” Professor Andrew Yao is a recipient of the distinguished Turing Award and is the dean of Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences (IIIS) at Tsinghua University, one of many extra elite Chinese language tech colleges. It recruits a extremely selective few thousand of the 10 million students who take part in China’s faculty entrance examination.
Educated each in Yao’s Class and the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise, Lengthy first tinkered with the concept of Conflux, in 2017 after he graduated from MIT and returned to China to hang around together with his buddies, most of whom graduated from the identical place.
After listening to a lecture from Professor Yao, only for kicks, Lengthy and buddies began wanting into how one may make a blockchain scalable, and subsequently revealed a paper on the subject. It wasn’t till traders began knocking on their doorways that Lengthy determined to show his analysis challenge into an actual firm.
“Conflux is really a revolutionary know-how that may form our society just because it permits a brand new solution to construct belief,” Lengthy informed me. “It is a significant approach to make use of my experience in Programming Languages and Safety,” two areas by which he concentrated his research.
Due to its educational roots, Conflux was born with a golden spoon. It stood out in 2018 when most tasks had unsurprising, cookie-cutter white papers. Utilizing that legitimacy, Conflux shortly established itself as a government-approved public blockchain, making bulletins with provisional governments. That appeared a bit safe at a time when many crypto corporations, reminiscent of OKEx and Huobi, had been dealing with far more durable regulatory scrutiny.
Play a special recreation and give attention to being compliant
The largest problem with any public blockchain is to make sure that folks truly use it. “We’re enjoying a very totally different recreation than most chains on this planet,” Lengthy informed me. “Many chains are enjoying the decentralization recreation that facilities on communities of anarchists. However for us, if blockchain has to evolve to the subsequent stage, it needs to be in regulatory compliance with real-world purposes.”
That, as Lengthy later emphasised, doesn’t imply a blockchain should cease being permissionless, however it needs to be compliant. So, how can it’s directly compliant with Chinese language rules—and permissionless and censorship-resistant?
For Lengthy, the query is as but unanswered, primarily as a result of the blockchain regulatory panorama remains to be evolving. “Just like the US authorities, the Chinese language authorities doesn’t know how one can cope with a revolutionary know-how reminiscent of blockchain,” he mentioned. “There isn’t a instruction e book, and no inflexible guidelines. That is why for us, the at the start tactic is to keep up a communication channel on what we are attempting to work on so there are not any surprises.”
Granted, the communication channel must be left open, however to me, the actual query stays: What if the federal government decides to make use of its hammer and smash sure options and initiatives? Would Conflux sacrifice its permissionalessness?
Lengthy didn’t have a superb reply, and maybe that is why Conflux’s preliminary use instances give attention to purposes that don’t contact any delicate knowledge. An instance Lengthy gave was utilizing Conflux to file the small print of a constructing’s lifetime, from its design to its development and upkeep.
Seems like a kind of blockchain-enabled use instances circa 2017?
Being Ethereum’s Layer 2
Maybe Lengthy can be conscious that growing real-world blockchain use instances might be a Long March. The Conflux workforce, as an alternative, desires to offer a Conflux-powered infrastructure that enables belongings to stream between public blockchains.
“We’re watching Ethereum very intently and trying to onboard purposes which are handicapped by the transaction charges on it,” Lengthy mentioned. “We’ve additionally constructed a cross-chain bridge ShuttleFlow so customers can map their BTC and ETH belongings 1:1 to the Conflux community, making Conflux perform virtually like a Layer 2 answer of Ethereum.”
By constructing this cross-chain bridge, Conflux can faucet into Ethereum: as soon as these belongings turn into fluid, they’ll enter the Conflux ecosystem and be used for all of the DeFi video games that Ethereum is so good at.
That appears to be the answer for a lot of public blockchains, however the bridge is especially vital for Conflux, as a result of it has no belongings of its personal. Being the one public blockchain with out a token, Lengthy and his workforce are taking time to design what a Conflux native token would seem like.
“There will likely be a token for governance, and we’re speaking with the large centralized exchanges. However the problem is that we wish to keep in step with the federal government till regulation round token issuance turns into clearer.”
Conflux sits at a singular place. It looks as if an outright Chinese language public blockchain however with technical prominence and a worldwide workforce. Since most real-world blockchain use instances have up to now yielded little fruit, Conflux has shifted its focus to the burgeoning DeFi group by establishing “Open DeFi,” an alliance aimed toward bridging jap and western DeFi tasks.
That sounds nice besides it isn’t the one one constructing a bridge. Huobi, one of many largest crypto exchanges, additionally introduced its personal DeFi alliance with main DeFi blue chips.
Conflux will proceed to face fierce competitors from each blockchain networks and change gamers. It may play the Far Japanese card every now and then. However the actual query stays whether or not its community will be utilized, both as Layer 1 or Layer 2 of Ethereum. Within the meantime, a minimum of it has a cute, blue, beaver mascot.
Are you aware?
“梭哈” which implies “present hand” in Chinese language. It’s extensively utilized by Chinese language degens as a solution to say “all in.” It was once all in on DeFi farms. Now maybe, it’s all in on DeFi blue chips.