We did an AMA exchange with our collaborators at NKN.org on April 29 and 30th. In part 2, the NKN team answers questions from the Harmony Telegram community! The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: What is “NKN” ?
A: NKN, which stands for New Kind of Network, is a peer to peer network connectivity protocol & ecosystem powered by a novel public blockchain.
We use economic incentives to motivate Internet users to share network connection and unused bandwidth.
A simple example: I have a mobile plan that features 50Mbps and includes 8GB of data per month, how can I share my under-used speed and unused data to others in need and earn some rewards in return? NKN can enable that both in technology and business model.
Q: Is this like an Internet Network?
A: It is a software overlay on top of the existing Internet, so everyone can have direct connection without going through some centralized servers. And anyone who helps other relay traffic, will get NKN token as reward.
Q: Can you share how many nodes you have now and how you were able to grow the node operator community?
A: Right now we have 5,878 nodes globally, out of which less than 120 were run by NKN Project team. The way we approach it:
1) Use economic incentives: our test token on testnet (tNKN) can be converted at certain ratio to real NKN, so it has value
2) Make it simple: we offer 1-click images for AWS, Google Cloud, AWS, as well as GUI 1-click for windows 10, Mac OS, and Linux desktop. so novices (non technical people) can run their full nkn nodes and mining
3) We have community tools like nknx.org which can automate and monitor all the mining nodes and wallet, so a large mining operation can handle everything in a dashboard .
Q: What are the hardware requirements for running a node on testnet?
A: our NKN node sw requires very little resources, so it can run on home wifi router, Rapsberry pi, and any computer. Basically any CPU that costs more than $2, at least 256MB RAM, and an Internet connection
Q: What’s the biggest challenges you are facing in the adoption plan? Who could be potential stakeholders in helping you build adoption? What kind of partnerships you are trying to secure?
A: an influential VC once said: for a small startup, it is better to sell one great product than sell a giant platform. So we should not pin all our hopes on launching the mainnet, and then developers will come in droves to build on top.
We identified very early on, that we need to build our own great products that not only can compete with blockchain projects but also compete with non-blockchain solutions. We need to swim in the ocean with sharks, not be satisfied with being the biggest fish in the fishtank. We picked two products to focus on: decentralized Pub/Sub, and new kind of CDN. All of these products have universal appeal and can be used by millions or billions of people. We will take the future into our own hands by not only launching mainnet but also two great products on top of our mainnet.
Q: Can you tell us more about Pub/Sub and how people would use it/how it works? Or even when can companies buy it?
A: It’s basically a standard pub/sub API where subscribers can subscribe to topics, and sender and publish msg to topic which will be received by subscribers of that topic. The sender don’t need to know or care about who is listening to the topic. It’s a quite common components of modern applications. A few examples are instant messaging, real time data stream, or distributed data processing
Q: Can you tell us the industry NKN will focus on in the future?
A: We want to focus on one industry first, maybe even for a long time. This industry is networking and communications. It means sending packets from one person to another, or one machine to another, or between humans and machines.
we say we have three segments:
- B2B: help enterprises (e.g. telco carriers like T-Mobile) improve efficiency in international roaming and settlement, sell unused bandwidth
- B2C: help end users have better mobile or fixed connection anywhere in the world.B2D: help developers to build applications that can send data between any clients without a facebook like central server
- B2D: help developers to build applications that can send data between any clients without a facebook like central server
Q: Any industry which is the most promising to NKN?
A: Currently we are focusing on two products:
1) Pub/Sub or Publish/Subscribe: this is mostly for developers, e.g. to integrate chat function into their websites; or IoT devices streaming real-time data and control; multi-player game state sync, etc
2) New Kind of CDN (nCDN) or Content Delivery Network. e.g. how to deliver game of thrones to everyone’s TV not from 15 giant cloud data centers, but rather from 10,000 of your neighbors’ computer or smart TV.
Q: Will NKN develop some Dapp like whatsapp and facebook, and to be the competitor of them?
A: We already have a couple decentralized chat or instant messenger, but we realized that consumer business is mighty tough. the Internet giants are just so good with user experience and existing networking effect
Q: How do you compete with IOTA in terms of machine to machine communication? Also I wanted to ask you what happens with big data/ is it possible to pool them if the key owners agree with sharing their data?
A: We are partnering with IoTeX in IoT. We do the p2p communication and pub/sub, they use smart contracts to define device accessc control and logic.
We have a joint solution for smart homes:
IoTeX & NKN: Expanding the Reach and Impact of Blockchain Technology
Basically nkn client provides the low level functions for any devices sending data to each other in real time without any centralized server, public ip address, or even aware of each other’s net info. This should be a very basic layer of many real time applications while it’s not well stressed yet in the blockchain space
Q: Can you share a bit about your team as well? How are you guys able to execute so well on such a technical project in such short time?
A: We have been working in open source for a while, and understand that you need fewer but super star developers to build core systems. Like Linux kernel, like Big Table. And also a good design, with mathematically proven solution, will avoid lots of wasted effort on the sub-optimal implementations.
Q: Are you similar in approach with Open Garden?
A: They are now focusing on wifi sharing with OpenWRT plug-in, using their OG tokens.
We are software overlay on top of TCP/IP, so we can run over either wireless or wireline infrastructure. We are right now focusing on Pub/Sub and nCDN products, which are entirely different from Open Garden’s products.
Q: What would you say the competitive advantages of NKN over Orchid Protocol?
A : NKN has working and open source code for 10 months, and a public testnet for over 8 months. I’m yet to see a line of code from Orchid.
Q: B2D: help developers to build applications that can send data between any clients without a facebook like central server”, could you contrast yours to the libp2p approach?
A: libp2p is at the same position of our (open source) p2p network layer for full node called nnet. It’s for a bunch of peer node to form a p2p network. On the other hand, nkn client is for light weighed device or applications to send and receive data like a web app, or mobile app, or even smaller embedded device. It’s not quite feasible for these highly dynamic devices to form a p2p network.
Q: So you consider that third party could be trusted ? Are you working with any projects to better monetize such data — and potentially shape them in more productive data- sources?
A: We are not ready for tackling big data and ML yet. This is just some of thoughts from another life. Maybe one day I should start another blockchain project? 😂😂 . Back to trust, there are research in federated machine learning, that you do not need to share raw data, but meta results from a localized ML algorithm. Then you avoid the 3rd party trust issue all together.
Q: Does Stephen Wolfram give NKN some feedback?
A: Stephen Wolfram and his colleagues at Wolfram Research, help us identify areas that can be improved, and help us with simulations and consulting. For example: are there better consensus rules than simple majority? Are there better routing algorithms?.In addition, Stephen is also offering CEO mentoring, i.e. how to run a startup and grow into significant company.
Q: How is Whitfield Diffie doing it’s been a little quiet on his side ? What was the last time you spoke to him and what his advisory input been?
A: We had our regular steering conference with Dr. Diffie and other Cryptic Labs researchers about 2 months ago. He is quite busy with some joint labs in China.
Bruce (NKN founder):
The official 1-hour is over. So I would like to thank our hosts from Harmony for your hospitality. 🙏 We are happy to be in the company of #BUIDL focused projects and look forward to more collaborations.
Stephen (Harmony founder):
Bruce, a big thanks from our community! Best of luck and let us know how we can of help for your mainnet launch in June.