Epicenter turned 5 years old this month – that’s a long time in the blockchain space! When the podcast began in January 2014, the entire ecosystem was made up of only Bitcoin and a handful of altcoins. Soon after, the Ethereum white paper was published which ushered in a new era of crypto assets and decentralized applications. Since then, we have released 270 episodes and interviewed some of the leading thinkers, entrepreneurs, and engineers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry. Needless to say, we have learned a lot about the blockchain industry, but also what it takes to run a successful podcast in this space.
This week, we look back on the early days of Epicenter and how the podcast has evolved over the years. We also answer your questions in our first ever AMA. Finally, we take stock of 2018 and the trends that marked this past year.
- Microsoft Azure: Deploy enterprise-ready consortium blockchain networks that scale in just a few clicks. More at aka.ms/epicenter.
Brian Fabian Crain: My name is Brian Fabian Crain and we’re now five years in basically of doing this podcast so we wanted to come together for a kind of a special episode with just the hosts. Basically everyone except Meher who is still on leave. So I look forward to a discussion we’re going to speak a little bit about some announcements, we’re going to have some questions from listeners that we’re going to respond to and then we’re going to speak a little bit about sort of our take about the blockchain space where we’re at and where things are going so hopefully you’ll enjoy that.
Sebastien Couture: So just before we get started and into the meat of things I do want to mention I was at the Hyperledger Global Forum in December in Basel Switzerland and I was invited by the Linux Foundation to do some interviews with some people there and I recently released those interviews so there are five interviews that were released with Brian Behlendorf, Leanne Kemp, Matthew Davies with a company called Kiva, Doug Johnson Poensgen from a company called Circulor, and Jesse Chenard from MonetaGo. and you can find those on our YouTube page. So they were published by the Linux Foundation and Hyperledger but there’s a playlist on our YouTube page and you can also read a takeaway article that I wrote on our medium.com/epicenterpodcast and all the takeaways from that event are there including the videos if you want to find them. So it was it was really interesting event, definitely very different from the other events we had attended in the recent months. You know the Dev Con 4 and Web 3 and everything it was a very different vibe but nonetheless very interesting so I hope you’ll enjoy those interviews and the content from that conference. So with that, just want to maybe spend a few minutes on the recent announcement that we turned 5 and so we mentioned in last week’s episode but I mean maybe we reminisce a little bit on on the last 5 years of the show. I mean for me when I first got introduced to block chain and Bitcoin particularly back then. I was working as a user experience consultant you know very very different career I guess trajectory that I had in front me. But discovering this space like just totally changed my life and I guess for the better. I learned a lot. I think that’s one of things that I didnt mention last week but thinking about it after listening to the episodes that just how much I’ve learned in the last 5 years, just tremendous, Not only about computer science and cryptography but also just generally about finance and economics and the way that global finance works and this sort of thing and that’s been really really really fascinating. What about you Brian.
Brian: True. Yeah I guess that’s something that maybe becomes more clear when you look back on things. You know interviewing so many people and you know you always do a few hours of research and then you interview them. It is a great way to learn. I mean that was initially one of the reasons why I wanted to do the podcast because back then I learned about bitcoin and it’s like oh this is amazing I want to do something in the Bitcoin space as it was called back then and didn’t really know what to do. But of course I felt like OK learning is going to be key. Meeting people is going to be key and interviewing them is a great way to do both. So I think it certainly succeeded in that regard.
Friederike Ernst: Quiz. Any any favorite moments during your five years at Epicenter. Both of you?
Sebastien: There’s a lot of great moments. I think for me it is not one moment in particular but it’s you know the 5 years has been punctuated by moments where I felt incredibly grateful and humbled to be speaking with the person that I was speaking with. And I remember getting that on a few occasions and one was the first time that we had David Andolfatto on the podcast. 3 years ago I think. Getting the opportunity to speak to a central bank economist and to be able to ask him questions in an open forum where I have no formal training in economics or finance. I don’t come from academia. I was just really really a very intense experience. Also speaking with people like Brendan Eich who founded Mozilla and even like Brian behlendorf. When I speak, the most humbling moments were those moments where I got to speak to people that founded the Web and created the Web. And who were there at that time. And there’s there’s a lot of other occasions I think when that happened.One moment I think that sticks out the most, which is kind of a funny moment, kind of an anecdote. I was in Toronto once with a friend and we’d been out drinking and we were in a taxi and we’d gotten this taxi and after a few minutes in the cab it’s like an uber actually after a few minutes in the Uber the guy looks in the rearview mirror and although we had been speaking about nothing of a blockchain or anything, he looks in your rearview mirror and he says Hey man do you do a blockchain podcast, he was actually like a blockchain consultant with a side job as an Uber driver and my friend who didn’t know much about the podcast kind of looked at me and was like wait a minute is this guy recognizing you in a taxi. So that was one of the funny moments that I remember the most last five years.
Friederike: Well that’s super cool. Yeah I think it’s you know speaking to people who are experts in something other than you’re an expert in, that’s one of the high marks of this of this ecosystem right because it brings together so many diverse people that in most instances when you talk to someone interesting and they’re an expert in something and it’s usually not the thing you’re an expert in so yeah I totally I totally get that. What about you Brian, what were your favorite moments?
Brian: I think one thing that came to mind when you asked the question is so you know years ago the space was much smaller and back then some people will remember that there was the whole Bitcoin scaling debate which started many years ago and I just remember when we did an episode with Mike Hearn and in that episode, at the time it wasn’t really obvious that there was so much conflict within Bitcoin development. I think people were unaware of it. And then he said this thing oh Bitcoin development had ground to a halt and afterwards there was these Reddit discussions with hundreds of responses and you know it feels a little bit I mean I may be wrong about this but at least you know it looked like that kind of came to the public attention like all of these rifts that they were in the different directions you know that later led to dissipate with in to Bitcoin cash and Bitcoin and then you know Gavin Andresen Mike Hearn and others kind of leaving the community. So I felt like you know the podcast we did back then with these people had this kind of role in that. So I think that’s kind of an interesting thing.
Sebastien: I remember that standing out to me as, I mean of course in hindsight but at the time thinking Wow we’re getting some attention because of this. It was just kind of surreal that this discussion that we had with this person on a Skype call was now making all these waves and getting noticed on Reddit and all these other forums.
Brian: And also what I thought was very cool or cool in some weird way was when the FCC wrote this paper about the Dow and then like quoted our episode as like evidence that the Dow was his security. So I though that was pretty funny.
Sebastien: That was that was also fantastic.
Friederike: OK so today I learnt you both like drama and causing drama and stirring up drama.
Sebastien: We haven’t we haven’t caused that much drama. I think we’ve been pretty drama free. Considering. Generally people don’t come on Epicenter to cause drama. There are other places where they can do that. But there’s definitely some cases where people have said things where we thought this could maybe cause some drama but then didn’t that much.
Friederike: For last week’s episode for the introductory 5 year episode, you said that you didn’t see this coming so 5 years ago this would have felt daunting and knowing that you would actually have to put out an episode every week consistently for the next couple of years. What was the point in time when either of you realized that you would be doing this for a while now?
Sebastien: I think I’m still realizing it. I mean it may be worth mentioning that I left stratum earlier this year and I spent most of the year kind of traveling and not really paying attention to blockchain very much and when I started coming out of that later in the year sometime around September or October, the only real thing that I felt like I wanted to do at the at this time was to spend more time on Epicenter and spend more time kind of like growing the business and growing the podcast and sort of generally working on the more business side of things, bring on new hosts potentially. But. Yeah. Until then it really felt kind of like a side project. You know we were obviously had sponsors and we’re generating revenue but never really paid ourselves. Or you know. Since I guess 2014 maybe 2015 when both Brian and I were not spending time in other projects I hadn’t really felt that this was something that we could do more long term but now more than ever I think like feel that, okay here’s still lots to do when I have my checklist of all of these things that I did check off in order for Epicenter to become a great business.
Brian: From the beginning I felt this is something you have to do for kind of an extended period for it to make any sense in so many ways like first of all you get better with time and then you know that building up an audience is a very gradual thing. I mean Sebastian mentioned it a little bit like kind of podcasting as a business but I think podcasting is a business. Still today is in its infancy right. You really have the first companies, bigger podcasts turning it into proper businesses in the last 2 or 3 years maybe there are very few that are earlier. So I always felt it could be this like long term thing. So I mean maybe I misremember but I don’t think it’s so unexpected to me that we ended up doing this for such a long time.
Sebastien: I think your views have changed about this though because I remember when we were first when we first started talking about this early on my recollection is that. And maybe you were right at the time is my recollection is that you felt that this wasn’t really a business that you could scale that much or at least if you were going to scale it you had to have like massive audience. But it’s true that that has definitely changed in the last few years with the growth of podcasting in sort of the more general population whereas before it was kind of a niche thing.
Brian: Yeah I also one thing that I just think very strongly here is that podcasting is so limited at the moment by the technology that it’s run on so basically delivery through RSS feeds. So I think if you didn’t have that. So that has a lot of implications right. Like we don’t know exactly how many people you know listen to the podcast. We don’t control that experience. That kind of user experience and the way that people consume it. Right. So that is extremely limiting. And I do think yeah that’s kind of just a way podcasts are delivered. You know it should I guess is historically based on Apple and iTunes and the decision they make and leveriging RSS standard. I think that’s really confined podcasting enormously and I think if it wasn’t like that you would see so much more innovation and activity around podcasts. So I am still in the back of my mind always waiting is like when is an alternative going to come. And it’s interesting because I recently read an article I don’t know if this data point is true but it was in this article that in the U.S. you know the industry size of podcasting is something like 300 million. So that’s their revenues across like all the podcasts so it’s really kind of tiny industry. But that in China it’s I think 20 times as big. Right. Even though China is a much smaller economy. And you know much more not technologically as advanced or in some ways maybe it is but just because there’s totally different ways that podcasts are delivered and consumed there. And so yeah that’s that’s one of the things I’m still you know hopefully somebody will crack this. But it’s of course extremely hard problem because people are so used to the way they consume podcasts. So creating something different is.
Sebastien: I think it is changing a little bit and we’ve seen this more in the last few years and there’s a shift now towards, it kind of started with Stitcher and where now people are consuming with with Spotify and they’re consuming with with Stitcher and Google Play and all these different platforms. Of course the majority of listeners still listen through the good old fashioned RSS feed. But we are I think seeing kind of a shift. And what would be interesting is if if really the audiences are flattened out across all these platforms. Well essentially what would happen then is that we’d have a very decentralized type of distribution where as you feel like at sort of video distribution you’re producing video today, he only game in town really is YouTube if you’re outside of China or like any market that has kind of a specific platform and you can get deep platform or like lose your revenue very easily whereas with podcasting the way things are going I think that maybe in 5 to 10 years things will be much more resilient and you will as a content creator, you’ll will have this multitude of platforms where you’re publishing and maybe revenue streams coming from different places.
Brian: Yeah I don’t think that’s for the point because even something like Spotify you actually have no no control whatsoever about the experience. And you know in many other industries are many many other products you can say OK I’m producing this and I can like give you this product and you give me say a dollar or something like that right. Which is something that for example in podcastings is basically not possible really in the way it’s it’s delivered. And I do think that’s a big, you know for example that has meant that podcasting is largely advertised in German and for example in China the reason why this is so much bigger industry is because people podcast producers can just charge people for listening to podcasts.
Sebastien: I see what you mean. Yeah. OK. So more on the. Yeah I agree on. On the on the business model side of things it’s difficult to produce stuff and charge for it I mean there are platforms to do it but it’s not inherent to the experience of the way that people listen to podcasts which most people listen like us which is the RSS feed. But yeah this is a whole other discussion.
Brian: So we got some questions submitted from some of you. So we wanted to address some of those questions. So one of them was so looking ahead to 2019 are there any guests in particular that you really are going to have on the show or I think sort of related question to this maybe I got there any areas that you’re particularly interested in doing episodes about.
Sunny Aggarwal: One idea that I’ve honestly had kicking around in my head for a little while now is I thought it would be really cool to have a pseudonymous guest on the show. So like you know I’m talking about think about like you know Satoshi hasn’t been like you know very public for the past few years kind of hard to get a hangout get get get reach off but you know I think it’ll be really cool, there’s some very cool interesting pseudonymous teams working out there right now. So for example like the Avalanche team or a lot of the Grin team and so or you know even some individual contributors such as like there’s a guy named Dex Rand in the Ethereum classic community or Cobra Bitcoin is that you know he’s very popular on Twitter so I don’t know I just thought it would be really cool and like a novel interesting experience to get a pseudonymous person on and I also think it’ll be just a very interesting technical challenge for us to like figure out how to do like how we’re gonna do this is it gonna be like some garbled speech thing is it gonna be a text to speech. I don’t know how this is gonna work and I just think that’ll be a very interesting and unique experience and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any podcasts do it before.
Sebastien: Yeah you’re mentioning that in our slack channel. I think the most interesting aspect of that is is how would we actually prove that this person is who they say they are and how do we convey that to our audience in a way that they could trust that this person is actually who they say they are.
Sunny: That’s true. I mean how do how do these people can convince that anyways like when they’re like just posting on message forums and stuff how do we know that the Cobra Bitcoin on Twitter is the same as the one on Reddit.
Sebastien: Yeah I mean I guess they could they could just kind of tweet and say like hey I was on Epicenter this week and this is actually who I am. Yeah I guess that would be one way to do it.
Sunny: Yeah. And then beyond that. Another thing I really like was I like so far this year we started doing a lot more like you know spreading out a little bit from just like cryptocurrency projects and we’ve been doing a lot of book authors lately which I actually really found fun,I don’t know maybe something about like people who are really good at writing their thoughts out on like like hundreds and hundreds of pages also really get it like speaking or something but I always just thought the conversations we’ve had with book authors have always been really good. So I’d love to have some more of them on.
Sebastien: Yeah I agree. What about you Friederike.
Friederike: So basically if you look at the other cryptocurrency projects currently that have a lot of users they’re all exchanges. So what I’m looking forward is to cryptocurrency projects. So that the DAPS that have a lot of users. So basically if you look at the usage of the DAPS currently it’s at most a couple of hundred users per day for the very top of a very top DAPS and that’s mostly decentralised exchanges. But I mean that’s bound to happen. So we’re bound to see the DAPS with say 50,000 daily users probably, my guess would be like that sometime mid this year. And I find that actually having users using a platform typically matures projects a lot. So if you look at the professioniality of people running big exchanges that there really is a gap to people who are bidding gaps just because that’s I mean basically you grow with with with the number of users and the experience grows and your problems grow and hopefully you find solutions and I think that’s going to be that’s going to be a super exciting first having someone on with a DAP that has a tonne of usage. The other thing that that I really look forward to is seeing zero knowledge application that applications and interviewing people who are building them just because there’s a whole different set of challenges that comes with that such as often ceremonies and toxic waste and things that most of us don’t think about, most of the time.
Brian: The one thing that comes to mind that is I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while is just more episodes on Bitcoin. I feel Bitcoin was very at one point something we talked about a lot and I feel with you know done a lot on Ethereum and I think we’ve become sort of too overweight on Ethereum and haven’t covered Bitcoin enough so I’d be interested in doing some episodes about you know what’s going on in Bitcoin development. Like what are some of the technical things people are working on. I would be interested in doing some lightning or network episodes. I mean we’ve done I think maybe 2 before but it’s been the last one is probably 2 years ago and I think there’s a lot of development there that seems to maybe finally be somewhere near actual usage. So yeah I would like to to do some things on that.
Sebastien: Yeah I echo that and what I answered in one of the Reddit questions is I feel that we’ve been we’ve been commandeered by all the Web 3 stuff and to some extent of kind of neglected Bitcoin. I actually like I’m honestly pretty misinformed about what’s going on in that space at the moment. You know there was that whole thing with BitcoinS.V. a little while back and we probably should’ve covered it all. There’s a lot of drama happening there.
Brian: That’s not what I mean.
Sebastien: No. No of course not. I know that’s not what you mean. But still like there there are things happening in the Bitcoin space and we haven’t been paying particular attention to it. But also I like on the technical side. What’s the state of being able to build DAPS on Bitcoin that sort of thing. Or what’s the state of a network. What’s the state of the different implementations there are people being able to process payments this sort of stuff. So yeah maybe we shouldn’t make that a goal for 2019 is to do at least 5 episodes about Bitcoin.
Sunny: Given that the question was which guest in particular who would be maybe like you know let’s say you could have like one dream guest on that like oh my god that would be such a reach like I’ll be amazing if we could. I would love to do an episode with them. Who would that be for you guys?
Sebastien: For me I think early on and I thought maybe this was a little bit more relevant a few years ago because it’s more vocal about it was getting someone like Richard Branson or his name escapes me but the former Greek finance minister.
Sebastien: Yeah Varoufakis. And recently we kind of threw down the idea of maybe getting Christine Lagarde on the show which would be just amazing to be able to speak to someone with that level of visibility and political experience and yeah I think those will be on my list.
Friederike: Yeah I second that so I would also have gone with real world people because it feels like people within the space that they’re usually super happy to come on. So there’s no one really who has so far really resisted. So it’st he people who are shaping the financial the financial world out there are the you know aside from from crypto currencies that would also interest me most.
Sunny: For me I guess I would have to choose either between the first would be Peter Thiel because I just know I love his book Zero to One and I just really like how he thinks he has like a very you know he’s just like very you know pretty libertarian but like you know he has his own little interesting take on it which I always thought was a bit cool. And then my second choice would be Rick Falkvinge who was the founder of the Pirate Party. I always I was like I was super fascinated by the Pirate Party.
Once again I really like his book which is called Swarmwise and I even like so when I was a student at UC Berkeley we had this like little student government thing called the ASCC and so I actually created a Pirate Party. So at Berkeley there were already political parties and stuff like two big ones. And so I you know me and a couple of other friends we created a new political party called the Pirate Party at Berkeley and we ran and we actually won one of the seats on the student government which is kind of cool. So I know Rick Falkvinge just seems really interesting to me I really like how he thinks I would be like a lot of his work on like swarms. I think it’s a really there’s a really cool like comparison to be made on like you know swarms and dows to me seem like 2 different types of decentralized organizations but with like very different designs to me like dows are like safety favoring decentralized organizations while swarms are liveness favoring decentralized organizations which I think this is like a cool concept I don’t know a lot of people and putting a lot of effort into like you know structuring using dows I think swarms are another really cool opportunity to explore as well. So we’d love to have him on.
Sebastien: Interesting anecdote about Rick Falkvinge is one time a long time ago I think probably in our first year we were short a guest and we needed a guest for the following Monday. And I don’t know why Rick came to mind and I went to his website and there his website was his mobile number and I texted him. Like Rick we’re a blockchain in podcast or Bitcoin podcast back then. We’d love to have you on the show. You come on this week and he never responded.
Sunny: Oh no no.
Brian: Yeah I’m sure that’s possible. Yeah. We we should have him on. I suspect that we won’t be an issue. I guess 2 actual people that come to mind. One is Yuval Harari. So he wrote this book called Sapiens and basically he spoke about sort of you know human history and the future of humanity and its just like excellent incredible mind.
Yeah they’re amazing books. And he thinks so much about the trajectory of technology and where things are going. And actually one of the things that stood out to me in his book is like where is blockchain and you know it was kind of missing but I heard an interview recently and he did mention a bit. So I think he’s probably become more familiar with it since he wrote this book. So I would love to to have him on and learn a bit about sort of his thoughts about how blockchain and crypto currencies fit into these broader technological and societal narratives.
And the other person that comes to mind is you know Brian Armstrong. He I think hardly gives any interviews right. You never see him on on any podcasts or anything like that but he’s just built such a an incredible company with Coinbase that has such a huge influence on the space. So you know he will be great to have on and then a third one comes to mind but I don’t know a particular person here but I would be interested in hearing from somebody who comes maybe from a kind of a military background and who has some thoughts about cyber warfare and you know the role that blockchain and crypto currencies could play in that and how these type of organizations. You know I think a lot about your geopolitical conflict and how to get advantages over other nations how do they look at block chain and crypto currencies.
So yeah if you know somebody.
Sunny: So this guy is asking about how to like you know use cryptocurrency for war.
Brian: Yeah war or maybe defensive. Right. You could potentially also use some blockchain system maybe to make your own country more resilient. But you know I also remember years ago I read this book called Currency Wars where he spoke quite a bit about the way people can or countries can manipulate currencies in kind of you know economic warfare in a way. So be interesting to hear how you know how people like that think about it although presumably it will be very difficult to find somebody. You know the come on to to actually speak about that.
Sebastien: One thing that just came to mind and I think is worth mentioning because as listeners you don’t really get access to this, but we’ve been consistently putting out episodes every week for 270 weeks now. Except for one week earlier and sort of in September of 2018 when we release an episode. But,there have been a lot of times where. It has come down to the wire where it’s Monday or Tuesday and we don’t have a guest or a guest cancels or something happens so you just just know as a listener that there’s a lot of effort that’s gone into making sure that every week there’s an episode and there’s been a lot of near misses and there’s a lot of times where I’m sure I’ve lost hair overthinking about what we’re gonna do this week but yeah I think it’s gone pretty well. But a lot of sweat has been shed from trying to get episodes every week. Sometimes.
Brian: So we got another question and I think I’ll briefly answer it and maybe some of you other people can also weigh in. But what criteria inform our choice for guests and topics? And I think there’s a few things. Of course. You know how interesting the idea is it’s something big and novel and if it works could it fundamentally change the blockchain space or the world. So that’s certainly one thing and then the quality of their project. You know they have they worked on this for a long time or they like serious about it. Was this just showed up and when to do an ICO or something. And then something that has changed at least for me is that I now really kind of prefer projects to come on a little bit later in their lifecycle. So I think in the past we often had projects on many it was just like a white paper and at the time that was necessary because projects were just much early on in their stage right. So there were fewer projects that were more advanced and there was just less going on in the space. But now I feel like we’ve gotten to a point where this really a lot of quality projects and they tend to be further advanced. And you know when we have a project on generally we have them once. And only if they become something huge like let’s say it’s Ethereum we have them on again. So I feel when people come early on often I’m like you know let’s revisit it in like 6 months or a year and I don’t think I’ve ever regretted that. I think it’s always been good that they have some more time to actually build out something or is something you can actually use and see. I mean Dharma is an example here. We did the Dharma episode I mean I met Dharma almost a year ago and they were just starting out and I think Ryan at the time was like say hey meet these guys you should have them on Epicenter and and you know when I met them it was clear okay at some point probably I should have them on but I think it was good to wait for them to develop. And I think it is a better episode because of that.
Sebastien: Yeah I totally agree. And I and I do want to say that Brian you’ve been a really great filter for filtering out potential bad content on Epicenter. I know myself and Meher have suggested episodes and you’ve been really good at like putting your foot down and saying no we’re not going to do this because its going to be a bad episode and I think this is interesting so we have to go back to the drawing board and try to suggest something else as an episode. Thank you for that.
Brian: OK so another question was what what ten blockchains will be around 5 years from now. Friederike what are your thoughts?
Friederike: That’s mean picking on me like that. Oh yeah. So there are a couple where I am fairly certain they’re going to be around. I’m Pretty sure Ethereum in some shape or form is going to be around. Pretty sure Bitcoin is also going to be around and this is a little bit where the uncertainty for me creeps in. So that there are a number of contenders after that things like Zcash and then it goes downhill quickly from there. So 5 years actually. You know. You know what. Let me rephrase. So I think in 5 years a lot of the a lot of the chains that we see today are going to be around I don’t think a lot of them will have died by then. I think a lot of them will have become marginal though. So I’m pretty sure that things like Zcash and Monero and all their friends are still going to be around in some form, I just don’t think that that stake is going to be as big. So I’ve made it to 5. So maybe now Sunny can jump in.
Sunny: So I guess you know my vision is always that I think that there’s been a lot of change in a couple of years. But you know I would say one of the things that I definitely think is the things that have the most staying power are the things that have the most meme power and so the things that have the strongest memes are probably what’s going to stay around for a long time. So I think Bitcoin has a great meme around it like this whole like digital gold thing it has going on I think Litecoin has a great meme around it. It’s like you know it’s the silver to Bitcoin’s gold is it like any technologically better.
Brian: That’s a horrible meme then.
Sunny: I don’t know. It’s working it’s been working for like years and explain to me why Litecoin is like you know top five on COIN market cap or whatever it is now like but like you know it is I always found Litecoin so fascinating because it’s just like you know it is bringing almost nothing to the table from a technological standpoint. The only thing it is bringing to the table is this pure meme and that somehow has been giving it, you know how if we put this question in the reverse which coins from 5 years ago are still kicking it today and Liteoin is one of them right. It is one of the coins that’s like over 5years old that still in like you know the top 5, top 10 in coin market cap. So you know meme power works and so you know that’s why I’m still long Dogecoin.
Brian: I think that also ties into an interesting question which is how do blockchains die. And I think for a long time people had this idea oh blockchains are always around right there’s always going to be like some kind of trading or block chains and you know somebody mining and even if nobody uses it. And I think what we are seeing now and I think what we will see a lot is actually blockchains dying. I think we’re seeing it a little bit with you know we see side of the process by which has happened at least for proof of work blockchains may be different for proof of stake blockchains but for proof of work blockchains if they all use the kind of same mining hardware it becomes extremely cheap to attack it right and to double spend it. So then I think you have exchanges trading these coins and easily an attacker can go in and they can you know for little money they can do a huge reorganization and basically scam the exchange. And that’s just happened where Ethereum classic which you know isn’t even such a small chain. So and then I think last year it happened quite a bit with smaller blockchains. But I think that’s going to probably happen like you know at scale and then they get delisted from exchanges then there’s really no point anymore mining it. Right. There’s no revenues.
So I think you will have this kind of gradual death of many especially smaller proof of work chains. And then of course developers abandoning the chains happens all the time. I think that we’ve had for a long time.
Sunny: Yeah I’ve been like you know relatively decently like you know involved with the Ethereum classic community for a while and you know it’s been very interesting to see the state of that chain in the past year or so everyone’s you know there’s a lot of hoopla around like the whole 51 percent attack this week. But I think one thing that may have went under the radar for a lot of people was about a month and a half ago there was a huge kind of like split between a lot of the dev teams and so one of the things that happened in Ethereum classic was there was a lot of dev teams working on it. But then it seems that over time a lot of the dev teams have started splitting off and working on other stuff like IOHK started working on, you know kind of shifting 100 percent of their focus towards Cardano. You know there’s a lot of conflict on some of the stuff. To me I think when the developers stopped caring about it and the community is just not there ready to pick it up that’s kind of when things start to die off.
Sebastien: Which will be the MySpace of blockchains in 5 years. It’s like to your point Brian, well what what constitutes a dead blockchain and by what metrics do you qualify a blockchain to be dead, you know if there’s still some activity on it or not. One question I think maybe is interesting is to consider what new types of blockchains might emerge that we might find unlikely. So I was recently like I said at this event and there there’s this blockchain in Switzerland that was built by Swiss com and the Swiss Post and it’s regulated and people are building applications on top of it for trading equity basically. So will we see this type of nationally controlled per say. blockchain emerge in some places in some markets and will there be some significant activity there is maybe one possibility.
Sunny: Oh I actually have another interesting story about a dead blockchains. So one of my co-workers and friends Chris Gose, he works with me on Cosmos, but he has a side project called Wyvern. It’s like a decentralized exchange he’s built on top of Ethereum. And for this exchange project he wanted a token that for purposes of governance like he wanted dow that kind of controls the upgrade path of the chain. But he didn’t want to do like an ICO or anything like that. And so what he did was he went on Bitcoin Talk and just flipped through super old dead threads of dead chains and he found this one called Wyvern of this coin from 2014 or something, 2013, like a proof of work chain, it’s completely dead. No one’s mining on it. It’s a completely haltedchain and he just messaged that Bitcoin forum thread and he’s like hey I’m launching this new project I want to I wanted token distribution, if I just airdrop all like all these tokens to like you know the last known distribution of this chain would you guys be like willing to jump on and take over this project like that like you know be the dow holders of this Wyvern Dex I’m building and like you know it works somehow and he actually has a little community kicking around just from reviving a dead project which I thought was very interesting.
Sebastien: Now that we’ve covered all these questions from the AMA and thank you to those who ask questions. Let me spend a little bit of time on in 2018 and you know the events of last year. So. Maybe to all of you I would ask, what is the most important thing that happened in 208?. What sticks out in your mind as the most significant event?
Brian: But I think the most important thing certainly is the bear market right. So did the complete collapse of prices you know, I mean the change that has gone through is so enormous. No you had all of these mainstream people, I remember like Christmas last year. Everybody was asking about blockchain and Bitcoin should I buy this. So and then you have S.E.C. going after projects. I think this bear market is like a huge thing and it’s not clear exactly what are all of the second and third order consequences. So I also remember reading some articles where people talked about you know for example crypto funds right when crypto funds collapse in their assets under management like economically doesn’t really become that meaningful anymore for their fund managers to keep going because they have to go up so much until they actually make money or they earn too little to pay for their operations. Right. So what happens when all of these crypto funds shut down, so that could be sort of a second order consequence. But I’m really curious what what are these consequences that we’re not seeing yet of this bear market.
Friederike: Yeah I also think it’s the bear market. But I see a different different facade as well so. Well now that alot of the investors and blockchain tourists have departed, it changes the energy of the space in the way that it makes it more amenable towards people will actually build stuff and gives them time and takes off the pressure to present done projects and it just gives people time to build solid technology and of course there’s a flip side to that. So in the past couple of weeks we’ve seen huge lay offs and many big established companies in the space and obviously there’s a lot of hype that comes with that. But I think for the ecosystem as a whole this has the potential to be a really good thing.
Sunny: So yeah it’s kind of like going off of that. You know what I thought despite the bear market what I thought was very promising in 2018 was we saw the launch of a lot of big projects so you know we saw a launch of a lot of big daps like Zero X, Auger, Maker. Maker in the tail end of 2017. But like you know December so it really kicked off in 2018 and then as well as a lot of new platforms like EOS and Tezos so you know this is kind of, it was heartening to see that despite the bear market people were still building stuff and launching stuff and the space is still moving forward despite the price crash.
Sebastien: I think it will force companies to really think differently about how they’re building products. One thing that I would say is probably a good thing is to try to solve your own problems. I think that’s a very underrated aspect of building a product is building something that’s meaningful to you and building crowds that normal people can use. So in this bear market where resources are now all of a sudden for a lot of people very scarce. Learning how to be frugal and experimenting with less and being more lean. I think it’s probably a good thing for the ecosystem as a whole and it would be interesting. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of that. So in the next let’s say this bear market continues and we enter a crypto winter much like the one of 2014 when Bitcoin was hovering around 200 to 300 dollars. If we stick into this bear market for maybe 2 or 3 years once again or more who knows, it’ll be interesting to see what we what people will have built during that time and how that will have affected some of the teams building things.
Friederike: I think if if the bear market is going to last that long and I don’t think that’s impossible, I think it will impact the ecosystem in a sad way and that that’s not going to make projects leaner. That’s going to make a lot of projects dead so there’ll be spaces to fill that were previously occupied by other companies that somehow didn’t make it. I mean often it’s said that there’s a second mover advantage to people just because the first mover has so much stuff to figure out. And I think that’ll also mark the influx of a whole different set of new people with new ideas tackling old problems.
Brian: Another question we can address here is what are the most important things that you feel are going on today in the blockchain space or in the year ahead. So let’s maybe start with you Sebastien.
If I look back on the last you know 5 years when I became interested in Bitcoin I remember people telling me that one of the major barriers to entry for them as sort of a mainstream adopter, was the price volatility. And to that extent I think that stable coins, I mean people are talking about stable coins an awful lot within the space but outside of the space. And in the more general population I think has a massive potential for really making apps usable and daps adoptable in a sense, where someone comes in and to the ecosystem and wants to use an application. Of course there has to be products for that and very much ties to my my previous point about building things that people want to use but having a stable currency that allows people to lend money borrow money. And it kind of ties into the decentralized finance space. But that’s kind of the base layer that the entire ecosystem needs should it have aspirations to build communities with hundreds of thousands of users.
Brian: I have two things that come to my mind. You know it’s kind of like really big impactful things going on. I mean first of all and you know Sunny couldn’t even speak much more about that but I’m excited about the launch of Cosmos and of course you know I’ve been started working on Cosmos over 2 years ago and first with the Cosmos team and then independently with Chorus One and now it’s finally like almost there of game of stakes and there’s a live network with 200 validators and it’s super active and it’s working really well it seems at this point. So that’s really exciting and I think that is gonna be a major major thing because you’ll be able to have blockchain so they’re highly performant and highly secure and fast and can scale. So I’m excited about that. And another thing that comes to mind is just the ability to earn money using your crypto. So staking on Tezos is 1 example. You can stake your tezis and earn some money and in Ethereum lots of things are emerging where you can lend Ether and stuff like that. And I think that’s going to be also a huge thing, in the future soon you’ll be able to earn probably money on much of your crypto currencies and there’s so many different types of infrastructure and applications that need to be built around that.
Sunny: So yeah thanks for the shout out for Cosmos. Obviously I’m very excited about Cosmos as well. I’ve been working a lot of stuff on the proof of stake side of things so I’m pretty excited to see proof of stake hopefully actually work in a large public setting with the full incentive systems that we’ve been working on and then the other part of Cosmos that I’m actually pretty excited about though is the application specific blockchain so that’s not even look at Cosmo specific thing it’s just a general ecosystem thing where you know I like this shift that I’m seeing in a lot of things like whether it’s in Cosmos or Polkadot or Loom for example. A lot of projects have been starting to shift towards a framework of application specific blockchains where you’re not running your dap on a smart contracting system you’re instead running it on a specialized chain that’s custom designed for your use case which I’m pretty excited about. And then the other thing that I’m pretty excited about that I see a good trend going on right now is lot of development in new cryptographic primitives. So I think there was like a set of cryptographic primitives we had access to 10 years ago when Bitcoin first came out with we had like you know Merkle trees and the public key cryptography and whatnot but I think we’ve kind of explored the entire design space of putting together these existing technologies in different configurations. And I think any new developments at the protocol level are coming from and will have to come from newer cryptography. And so it’s really promising to see a lot of people doing a lot of work on zero knowledge proof stuff. I think like RSA accumulators are going to change a lot of make things a lot more efficient and like open up a new realm of possibilities. A lot of cool stuff happening right now with multi-party computation and threshold signatures. So yeah I just you know hopefully seeing a lot more cooler cryptographic primitives that will enable much more interesting protocols.
Sebastien: Cool so with that we’re at the end of the episode. Thank you all for being here today and for coming on the show to talk. I really like these these these episodes where it’s just us hosts, we don’t do it often but it is nice to do it once a year and kind of wrap up and get to talk amongst ourselves amongst each other rather. So thank you to our listeners for tuning in and thank you for being with us for the last 5 years. And hopefully you’ll stay with us for the years to come and we’ll be happy to continue bringing you Epicenter every week and being a voice in the space. Thanks again and we look forward to speaking next week.