Pontem Community Livestream Recap September 16, 2022

Events

Our guest is Pontem co-founder and R&D lead Boris Povod. Boris is a pioneer of the Move language, having led development of the Move VM compatible with WASM, and on the Move application stack with our Liquidswap DEX on Aptos.

Alejo: So, Boris, tell us about yourself!

Boris: I came into crypto development around 6 years ago. We had our first idea to build something similar to Cosmos, but with many chains and in Javascript. We ended up splitting into two projects, and my part of the team went to build other products. The whole time I worked on blockchain technologies, wrote Solidity smart contracts, worked on security for Solidity smart contracts, and other projects. We ended up having a lot of experience with Cosmos and Polkadot.

Alejo: So throughout that time, what have been some of your favorite moments in the crypto space?

Boris: I think one of my favorite moments was when I started to understand how blockchain works. It’s a complex topic, and that moment when you understand how blocks are produced and transactions are verified is awesome. It’s cool that it can be trustless and anyone can become a validator on some networks. You don’t have to trust the guy who is the validator, but at the same time you can still give him your transaction due to the nature of the system.

Alejo: What are some of the real use cases you see today? Where do you see blockchain technology and crypto going in the next 5 years?

Boris: It’s a hard question because things change every day. In the past, most people thought that Bitcoin and cryptocurrency would be the kind of money you can use to buy a Coca Cola at the store. But I’m not sure what it will become one day. In my opinion, it’s too complex to use to just simply buy something at the store. But it can be great for DeFi and the NFT market. If you deposit your money in some bank, your financial freedom is actually quite limited, which is why I think we’re seeing a lot of DeFi and NFT projects right now. I still haven’t seen a good implementation of blockchain for the Internet of Things and IOT devices. I think what we might see in the future will be that we still have the DeFi and NFT markets, but I also think we’ll see blockchain develop in the direction of IOT.

Alejo: What are your thoughts on some of the WiFi ones like Helium?

Boris: There can be decentralized WiFi networks as well as match networks, if you’ve heard of those. Match networks are like the Internet, but built by a community of people who are launching new access points. Match networks can also be just interactions. I’ve heard about such projects in the past, but it hasn’t become very popular.    

Alejo: I think the paradigm shift is in the data ownership and how information is shared. You don’t have to trust that a centralized institution like a bank or even a CeFi platform like Celcius is going to manage your funds effectively and not lose them. You now have the option to store it yourself or give it to a custodian. I think once there’s feature parity and people realize they can own their own information, that’s potentially when we’ll start to see mainstream adoption.

Boris: I think this could also be an interesting direction, but it would mean that governments need to approve this kind of system and I think that would take a lot of time.    

Alejo: That’s true, but we’re starting to see them becoming more comfortable, especially with Bitcoin and Ethereum. We’re starting to see more bills being introduced in governments and I think it’s only a matter of time before they can no longer ignore crypto and have to embrace it.

Boris: Also, mentioning IOT devices again, I’m not exactly sure how it should look ideally.

Alejo: I think this notion of Web3 is kind of centric, and we just appropriated the term. Web1 was just text and images on a webpage. Web2 saw the flow of information become bi-directional with people posting and interacting with each other. I think Web3 is now the evolution of technology. I don’t think it’s just crypto. It’s also IOT devices, like you said.

I think one of the biggest barriers to adoption is Ethereum being so slow and expensive, but it’s the most decentralized one. We recently went through the Merge, so it’s now just starting to catch up to proof-of-stake, which other chains like Aptos will natively support. I know you pioneered one of the first proof-of-stake blockchains, so I would love to hear your thoughts on the benefits of proof-of-stake and Ethereum and where it’s going.

Boris: When we talk about the Ethereum Merge, it’s not so important that it’s proof-of-stake, as it is that they enabled sharding. Proof-of-stake is just a method of how validators produce blocks. In the past, proof-of-work was the standard approach where miners mined blocks with their devices. Now, it’s proof-of-stake, where there’s a list of validators who stake their own coins, which allows them to mine blocks. The most interesting thing is sharding. Sharding can produce a lot of transactions, because through the shards, transactions can be processed in parallel. It’s one of the interesting approaches that can work, but it’s still Ethereum and only has EVM, and you can’t launch very custom solutions like you can on Polkadot or Cosmos. I think in the future we will see how Ethereum can process a lot of transactions at one time and if it will become cheaper to use Ethereum. This still doesn’t mean that Ethereum is the only solution. There are still a lot of other projects, like Aptos, Sui, Solana, Polkadot, and Cosmos, that are also important.

Alejo: EVM was a paradigm shift in how we do blockchain. What made the EVM so great and what are some of its downfalls that the Move VM improves upon?  

Boris: If we talk about EVM and Solidity and such, they were the first try. It’s very hard to design a good and secure language on the very first attempt. Although, I respect Solidity and EVM because they were the first of their kind of technology and allowed us to write smart contracts, at the same time they’re not really well designed to write financial smart contracts. As an engineer, you wouldn’t choose a language that allows you to make a mistake very easily; you would choose one that prevents you from making mistakes. If we talk about Solidity, it’s simple and anyone who knows Javascript can start writing with it, but because it’s simple, it often leads to security issues and holes. It wasn’t designed taking security into account initially, which was fine because it was the first try. If we talk about modern solutions and computer engineering, I would say that the most secure language right now is Rust. But Rust is not easy to learn.

At this point, we can relate it to Move, which was announced initially by the Diem team, and now powers Aptos and Sui. If we look at Move, it combines some good security approaches from Rust while also being much simpler to work. It’s like a combination of Solidity and Rust, I would say. When they started working on Move, they started thinking about how to build a language that would be perfect for financial smart contracts, and at the same time be simple to learn and secure enough. And this is what we’re seeing right now on Aptos and Sui.

Alejo: Do you think there will be less hacks with applications built with Move, and therefore people will feel more comfortable coming into the space?

Boris: I can say that there will probably be much less hacks, but at the same time you have to understand that even if a language is designed very well, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to make mistakes. Even with Move, developers can make mistakes.    

Alejo: Do you think that some of the processes for auditing code will become easier? For example, with the prover once there’s enough libraries, and dependencies have gone through formal verification.

Boris: I think some of the misunderstanding will be removed and it will be much clearer for developers how to write code. Also, formal verification is important. With Solidity, you can also do formal verification but it’s much more complex. In the case of Move, even though it’s not very stable right now, it’s still very simple.  

Alejo: There are different types of languages for different types of applications. Why are some languages better for certain things?

Boris: Some languages like Javascript don’t have strict type definitions, which increases the chance of making a mistake. Move has dynamic codes which is when you code some function but you pass some byte, insight, or another function that is decoding the byte or executing code. Solidity supports it and many hacks happen because of it, like the famous DAO hack. Move does not support this. One hand, it makes developers work not so simple because you don’t have a lot of freedom, but at the same time it increases the security a lot. In Move you always know what function you’re calling and which function will be executed during some transaction. This helps Move be more secured and protected from input and protects users from mistakes.

Alejo: Have you looked into some of the other languages that came after Solidity that are purpose-built for blockchain? How does Move compare to those?

Boris: I mostly worked with Rust and Substrate, but I don’t think it’s right to compare languages that are built for common computer engineering with languages built for writing financial smart contracts. I think they’re very different. But if you talk about Move, it’s very similar to Rust, just much simpler.

Alejo: That makes sense. The language that comes to mind is Hardened JS, which is like a modification of Javascript.  I don’t know if you’ve looked into that one.

Boris: Well, Javascript is mostly used for front end. It’s very simple to learn, but at the same time, it’s very simple to make a mistake in Javascript. It’s the most famous because of how it’s designed. I don’t think it’s right to compare a language built for web and front end with financial smart contracts where money can be lost.

Alejo: Is it possible to build some of these financial applications on Bitcoin?

Boris: Right now? Unfortunately, no.

Alejo: Let’s take some questions from the community:

  1. Will you have your own token and when might it be released? Also, if you have an NFT marketplace, will there be a way to have it be protected from screenshots? Will we be able to mine your token?

A: There may be a token, and we’ll make a public announcement once everything has been figured out. We’re looking into how tokens play a core function in utility. One of my favorites is voting escrow, because it’s the standard on how you allow people to participate in a way that is aligned with the protocol and the long term sustainability of the project.

B: We have planned staking and governance, but we really want to improve our token idea and model it in the right way. So we’re currently waiting. We aren’t on the development stage yet, we’re still on the research part.    

As for NFTs, what’s important is that you have ownership of the NFT. It doesn’t matter if someone takes a screenshot.

  1. Is it possible to build a system like Metaplex for Aptos? If someone doesn’t know anything about code, is it possible to learn Move and how would I go about doing that?

B: To build something like Metaplex, I don’t think you would need to become an expert at Move. You would just need to build a user interface and write codes to smart contracts. Aptos has NFT contracts already, so you just need to write code for it. And you’d probably need to build a user interface. I do think it’s very possible to create something like that.

What I can suggest about learning Move is that it would be better if you had a base to work off of. You should be able to write other code, and if you start with Move, you’ll miss a lot. But you can start with Move if you’d like. I’d start with some tutorials and the Move book.      

Thank you Boris for joining us and we hope to see everyone next week for our livestream. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter and join our Telegram chat to stay up to date!

About Pontem

Pontem Network is a product studio building the first-ever suite of foundational dApps for Aptos. It includes Pontem Wallet, the first wallet for Aptos, which is now in its 1.6 version. Download it from the Chrome Web Store.

You can  use Pontem Wallet to store and send any tokens issued on the Aptos testnet. The wallet is integrated with Liquidswap, the first DEX (AMM) for Aptos, also developed by Pontem Network. The DEX features both regular uncorrelated pools and stable pools for correlated assets. It also has an integration with the Topaz and Souffl3 NFT marketplaces for Aptos.

Pontem’s other products include the browser code editor Move Playground,  the Move IntelliJ IDE plugin for developers and the Solidity to Move translator ByteBabel - the first implementation of the Ethereum Virtual Machine for Aptos.

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