We did an AMA on Qudem yesterday with 40+ participants asking 25 questions. Our co-founder Nick White answered questions asked by the community! The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q : How realistic do you think Open Consensus for 10 billion people really is and why do you feel passionate that Harmony can even achieve this?
A: Open Consensus for 10B is not just realistic, it is a must. We’re facing so many challenges today as a human race, meanwhile our financial and political systems are failing us. We are trapped in outdated institutions, and we need global structures for governance, finance and data. Blockchain provides that structure. Harmony provides the infrastructure to grow blockchain to global scale. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen in our lifetimes. Harmony will grow with the blockchain revolution.
Q : Harmony is entering a very crowded market, isn’t this just more of the same, another blockchain promising things that most people don’t understand or need at the moment?
A: I understand your point of view. I think in the end, when blockchain has seen true mass adoption, none of these terms like “deep sharding” will matter. What will matter is that blockchains will have been able to scale to actually reach that mass adoption in the first place.
For now, we’re still in the very early stages of this new technology paradigm and there’s much that needs to be built to deliver that scaling. In this regard, deep sharding is very important as it’s the most comprehensive way to think about blockchain scaling. Sharding alone will not give the kind of performance and power that we’ll need. Sharding provides the key element of parallelization and horizontal scaling, but vertical integration takes it a step further. By optimizing across all layers of the technology stack we can squeeze the best performance out of the entire system. We go *deeper* than just the consensus layer into the networking and systems layers, hence “deep sharding.”
Deep sharding is a way to conceptualize our blockchain’s design. What will really matter is how well our blockchain actually performs in key metrics like TPS, time to finality, cost per transaction, storage cost, and security. And we are confident that Harmony will deliver. The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak.
Q: When will you end the strategic partner program and announce the partners?
A: The strategic partner program is ongoing as we continue to bring on new projects and dApps onto the Harmony platform. We also have a program for those who want to run a Harmony node called the “foundational node program.” You can learn more at https://harmony.one/node
We have a rich batch of roughly 30 partners, but not all of them are public yet. We’ll be releasing more information over the coming months as things progress.
The more partners we can bring on, the richer our ecosystem will grow. Any teams building dApps now should build on a scalable base layer like Harmony now so they are prepared for the future and the next wave of adoption. Get in touch at https://harmony.one/partners
Q: What is special about deep sharding ? Ontology has similar mechanism ,what is the difference?
A: This is a great question. I addressed this a bit in a question above. Deep sharding is special because it does not just stop at sharding alone to reach scale and performance. We go well beyond sharding and optimize all the other aspects of the protocol and integrate them together into a cohesive whole.
You can think of sharding as providing “horizontal scaling” or the ability to parallelize the blockchain in order to increase capacity. But if you parallelize a slow blockchain to begin with you’ll still have a slow and low performant chain. So we take it a few steps further and do what’s called “vertical integration” which optimizes over all the layers of consensus, systems, and networking to squeeze all the performance out of the protocol. Since we go deep to optimize all these layers, we call it “deep sharding.”
You can think of it like an Apple product. Apple vertically integrates its products to optimize the performance and end-user experience. They control everything — the device, the software, the operating system and even sometimes the chip itself. That’s what makes Apple products so great. We take a similar approach to blockchains.
For specific ways in which we optimize our protocol, you should look into our whitepaper at harmony.one/whitepaper. Some to mention here are 1. FBFT, our consensus algorithm which uses BLS multi sigs to cut message complexity down to O(n) ^2. Adaptive IDA, which accelerates block syncing using fountain codes, and our unique randomness generator which uses VRFs and VDFs to create an unbiased random beacon. If you’re curious to learn more about the technical details, message us on our discord (harmony.one/discord) or post on our forum (https://talk.harmony.one/).
Q: Can people with modest quantity of tokens participate in staking ?
A: Yes that should be no problem. We’re a champion of the little guy! First of all, we have designed the protocol to allow for a low threshold of tokens in order to have enough to have a voting share/node in the network. Second of all, you should be able to stake your tokens through validators or staking as a service providers linked to the Harmony network. We are speaking to many of the top staking companies to support Harmony.
Q: Do you have exclusive developments or patents?
A: We have developed many novel algorithms and techniques relating to scaling blockchains such as FBFT, Adaptive IDA and our VRF + VDF technology. So yes we have produced many exclusive developments. However, we believe in open development so we have not patented any of it. We want the whole ecosystem to grow and succeed and patents will slow progress.
But something we have that no one can replace is our team. With 3 Google engineers, 3 Amazon infra engineers, 1 Apple engineer, 2 PhDs, a Harvard MBA, graduates of top universities like Stanford, CMU and Penn, and 2 serial entrepreneurs/founders, we are well positioned to execute on both our technical and business visions. And we’re already doing it! We’ve made a ton of progress over the past year and you can read more at https://harmony.one/milestones
Q: What is the Harmony Cuckoo rule for resharding and who came up with the name ?
A: The cuckoo rule is a mechanism that determines how to shuffle nodes/voting shares between different shards in the Harmony network. Randomly sharding the network at the outset is good, but it’s just a start. In order to keep the network secure, we need to continue to reshard the network so that an adaptive adversary doesn’t take over a single shard.
So the cuckoo rule says that when a node is shuffled into one shard it kicks out a few nodes that are in that shard to other shards. I’m not sure who came up with the name, but the original idea comes from a paper called “Rapidchain” which I encourage you to read. If you want to learn more I encourage you to check out this post by our team member Alok: https://medium.com/harmony-one/understanding-harmonys-cuckoo-rule-for-resharding-215766f4ca50
Q: The Harmony team seem extremely strong from an academic and professional standpoint, how did you come together to make Harmony a reality?
A: Thanks for your compliment. We’re really lucky to have the privilege of working together. I feel blessed to be around such smart and talented people everyday. But what I love about the team is much deeper than that. I love that we are all motivated by a deeper desire to bring the value of blockchain to the world. We feel that blockchain will have a tremendous positive impact for humanity and we want to use our various talents and abilities to make that happen.
To answer your question, most of the founding team met through a meetup organized by our now CEO, Stephen Tse. The meetup is called TGI and it is a place for founders, engineers and investors to gather and discuss the latest technology trends including AI and blockchain. That meetup is closely aligned with the ex-Googler community which is why we have so many Googlers on the team!
Anyway, we all shared the belief that blockchain would open up many previously monopolized industries like finance, data/AI and the internet, but in order to do so blockchains need to scale. We saw lots of ways we could bring research and industry insights from our experience in big-5 tech companies to the blockchain space to solve this problem. So we decided to found Harmony.
Q:When is mainnet scheduled?
A: Our throttled mainnet launch is scheduled for the end of Q2. Before mainnet launch, we plan to hold “Harmony Games” our own version of Cosmos’ Game of Stakes campaign. In the lead up to mainnet we will complete our developer SDK and have some demo apps from ourselves and partners to demonstrate Harmony blockchain’s capabilities.
I encourage you to try out our recent puzzle game at https://puzzle.harmony.one/
Q: Are any projects already considering moving to Harmony from ETH, EOS, TRON and other platforms?
A: Yes, we are talking to several partners that are looking to migrate or bridge their existing applications to Harmony. None of these partners are yet public, so stay tuned for more announcements in the coming months.
There are many reasons that people want to move to Harmony over existing chains. 1. Cost — Harmony is much cheaper to run your application, 2. Speed — Harmony is much faster, giving a better user experience, 3. Scale — Harmony can support more users which is important for applications with lots of users now or those that plan to scale greatly in the future. No one wants to run into the same problem as crypto kitties and crash just when your app is going viral. That wouldn’t happen on Harmony.
Q : What will the minimum requirements be to run a node after mainnet launch?
A: The minimum requirements for running a node will be comparatively light. You will need the equivalent of a t3.medium instance on AWS which is about 4GB of RAM and 2 cores. You’ll also need some storage.
If you want to learn more about our node program, check out https://harmony.one/node and join our #nodes channel on discord at harmony.one/discord. We’ve got a lively group of node operators in there discussing daily :)
Q: Can you give us a brief intro into your background and how why you decided to co-found Harmony?
A: That’s a great question. I grew up in Hawaii and then went to Stanford where I studied AI and received a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering. I then went to Hong Kong to work at an AI incubator called Zeroth.AI.
While I was in Hong Kong, I realized that many AI startups were having trouble competing in the AI landscape because giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook controlled all of the data. Data is absolutely crucial for training in AI, and is often the key difference between a good and a bad model. I saw that AI was only concentrating, wealth, power and data into the hands of these tech giants and there was little that an AI startup could do about that. Then I discovered blockchain. I realized that blockchain offered the potential to create a new infrastructure for data and break down these data monopolies. This was an absolutely electrifying realization and I decided I wanted to get involved in making that a reality. As I got deeper into the industry, I quickly realized that vision was not possible on the blockchains at that time. We needed to develop much more scalable and faster blockchains to actually reach the scale where we could take on the Googles and Facebooks of the world. And I co-founded Harmony to go out and build the blockchain that could do exactly that.
Q: There are some big companies who have invested in Harmony early, can you provide some detail into how you decided to choose the companies to help the company grow and the role they play?
A: We chose our investors on the basis that they were aligned with our vision, had deep roots in the crypto industry, and could give us a global reach. Our investors saw the scalability problem and believed that Harmony’s approach was the best to solve it. Many of them also have spent many years in the industry and could offer valuable advice and could help us gain traction in their respective geographies, which is important because blockchain is such a global industry and Harmony has a global vision.
Q: Nick, what is your role at Harmony, it says you are the co-founder but what is your actual position as I couldn’t find it online ?
A: As co-founder of Harmony I wear many hats and it changes pretty frequently. Some weeks I am working on research and development of the core protocol, other weeks I am working on hiring, sometimes I am speaking with partners or investors, sometimes I’m speaking at events or taking interviews. There are a ton of things to do! So in many ways it’s hard to come up with a well-defined role, but I would say that I bridge the technology and business sides of Harmony. With my technical background in Electrical Engineering and AI, I know the ins and outs of our protocol. At the same time, I can explain these concepts and work on less technical sides of the project as well.
Q: When can we expect the Harmony mobile app?
A : We have a mobile game you can play with already! Well it runs in browser but is mobile friendly. Check it out at https://puzzle.harmony.one/
We will launch a mobile wallet concurrent with our mainnet launch in late Q2 as well, so stay tuned :)
Q : Can you confirm who is currently building on Harmony at the moment and showcase any real life use cases?
A: You can see our current partners on our website at https://harmony.one. We have around 30 partners in total, but not all of them are public yet. We’ll be announcing them soon.
Q: Are there are restrictions eg by country for anyone that wants to use the Harmony platform?
A: Not as of now. There may be restrictions due to some regulations such as GDPR but generally speaking Harmony will be available to everyone.
Q: Do we have any incentive to run multiple staking nodes with smaller stakes or one node with big stake?
A: The amount you stake determines the number of voting shares you get in the protocol, the number of voting shares determines how many shards you will have to participate in. You will have to run at least one node per shard in which you are participating.So, in general, you’re better off just running one large stake which will then determine how many nodes you’ll need to run.
Q: What are kind of nodes in the network and how important they are? Does the network throughput depend only on validator nodes?
A: All nodes in the network are the same. There is no hierarchy of nodes. Yes, the throughput depends only on validator nodes.
Q : What is the utility of HARMONY?
A : The utility of Harmony is to power the next generation of decentralized apps with our revolutionary high-throughput, low latency and low cost protocol. But that’s just the first step.The big vision is to provide open infrastructure for data. This means breaking up data monopolies and democratizing AI and machine learning in the long run. Creating a rich ecosystem of performant dapps that scale is just the beginning of the larger transformation.
Q: ICO drops lists Harmony as having raised $18m in a token sale, is this accurate?
A: Yes this is accurate. We raised an $18m seed round by selling the tokens that power our protocol.
Q: Why did Harmony decide not to have a public sale?
A: Many have asked a similar question. Harmony did not do a public sale because of the compliance problems around such a sale. We like the idea of having many small investors and stakeholders but it just was not feasible at the time. That’s not to say that we won’t find a way to do it in the future.
Q: For decentralized platform you need the tokens to get into the hands of people, how do you do that? I read that IEO on one of the top exchanges is under legal review. Is that enough? Don’t VCs hold too many tokens? What’s your view on this?
A: I can’t comment on IEO or listing, but I agree that it’s crucial we get Harmony’s tokens into the hands of more individuals to grow our community. It’s a tricky situation to navigate securities laws. Harmony’s token is designed to be a utility token but it will be most likely recognized as a security until Harmony’s protocol is “sufficiently decentralized.”
That said, we’re working hard and are very serious about growing our community and having more people as participants and stakeholders in the Harmony network. We just need to do so in a compliant manner.
Q: Pchain did public crowdsale to allow everybody participate in ICO while Harmony did not , how you are saying Harmony is blockchain for 10b people ?
A: I understand your frustration, and that is our frustration as well. We want Harmony to allow everyone to participate in Harmony, but as a US based company we need to be very careful about compliance. That aspect has been holding us back, but we are doing what we can within the boundaries of the law.I promise you we do not want to be “exclusive,” it’s just that we have little say in the matter.
Q: For the foundational node investment, do you respect the price of ETH at the moment of investor’s contribution or when the program finishes and you close it?
A: For the foundational node program we respect the price of ETH at the time of the investment. For more information visit https://harmony.one/node