One of the early stars of Ethereum is placing his future hopes on its own blockchain.
Dapper Labs, the startup that raised around $ 39 million from venture capitalists after its brief success with the CryptoKitties collectible in late 2017, launched a simulator for the upcoming Flow blockchain on Thursday.
With this move, Dapper Labs is one of a number of startups looking to create protocols that will use Ethereum as the blockchain of choice for a wide variety of applications.
“We created this blockchain because we wanted another blockchain to build our games on,” said Dieter Shirley, co-founder of Dapper Labs.
The Flow Playground, as the Dapper Labs simulator is called, is designed to attract app developers.
“When you have a new programming domain, it makes sense to have a new programming paradigm,” said Shirley of the startup’s new programming language, Cadence.
In his view, scaling restrictions weren’t the only reason Dapper Labs switched to Solidity, Ethereum’s native language. Shirley said that Ethereum’s upcoming sharding approach in Eth 2.0 “would really limit what you can do with smart contracts,” and his team wanted to use a more “consumer-centric” platform that could handle gaming volumes without clogging the network like CryptoKitties once did the Ethereum blockchain.
Dapper Labs was unable to achieve sustainable traction after its breakout hit with Ethereum-based games. This week, CryptoKitties attracted fewer than 200 users, according to DappRadar, compared to the 2017 high of 14,914 active users per day. Recent partnerships with sports leagues like the UFC and NBA suggest general efforts by the company that helped promote Ethereum’s NFC (ERC-721 Non-Fungible Token) standard.
With almost 100 employees looking forward to their next big success, the Dapper Labs team is planning a token sale for accredited investors, the details of which are still unclear.
“Blockchains have their own sources of revenue as part of selling tokens,” Shirley said, adding that tokens are not sold to the public until it is legally “prudent” to do so. “We believe that funding for building a blockchain should be separate from funding through the games. The games must make sense on their own. “
The startup uses partners from science to test the new blockchain at an early stage.
“If Ethereum is Blockchain 2.0, we consider Flow to be Version 4.0. We see flow as a blockchain technology for the mass market, ”said Purdue University researcher David Broecker, explaining why his team will one day operate a flow node. “It’s incredibly exciting to be able to expand the possibilities for faculty and students.”
However, inventing a new programming language and blockchain structure to boot like Dapper Labs is notoriously difficult.
“Designing languages is almost incredibly complex,” said Kogman. “I can’t think of a single programmable or scriptable system that actually worked this well, unless the language itself was a focal point, developed with clear principles and requirements in mind.”
It is for this reason that some Ethereum competitors are taking so long to lay the foundations, and in the meantime they are eagerly vying for limited developer mindshare with simulators and competitions.
Dapper Labs is hardly alone with this approach. Numerous startups are shooting for the throne of Ethereum.
For example, Chia CEO Bram Cohen is also inventing a language for the upcoming Venture-backed Chia network. Cohen said he could “completely take Ethereum off the site” with Chia, which will ultimately enable token issuance and smart contracts, just like the two blockchain projects mentioned above. (While Flow does not yet have an expected start date for the mainnet, the start of the Chia network should take place before 2021.)
Cohen said the chia ecosystem will not be based on Eth 2.0’s upcoming pro-of-stake (PoS) model, which he sees as fundamentally centralized. Shirley, on the other hand, opts for this part of Ethereum’s strategy and has the stakeholders lock up funds to strengthen the network. On the flip side, Shirley disagreed with the idea of using Ethereum-inspired projects like Tron, which is already popular with game developers, because Shirley said Tron was too central to its goals. Every founder looks at centralization risks through his own lens.
Likewise, Larry Pang, head of business development at token sale-funded startup IoTeX, expects more companies like Dapper Labs to move away from Ethereum once grants, events and other sponsored perks have been used up. (Dapper Labs did not receive any such grants, but Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin was a former advisor to the fund that owns Dapper Labs investor Fenbushi Digital.)
Unlike Chia and Dapper Labs, IoTeX did not invent a unique programming language for its token, which raised nearly $ 30 million in 2018 as part of an initial coin offering (ICO).
“Our blockchain is coded in Go … it was important not to completely isolate us,” Pang said. “The ability to port smart contracts from the IoT world was also important to us.”
Regardless of whether Pang, Cohen or Shirley Ethereum ultimately “flip”, said developer Cindy Zimmerman, who worked on AxisPoint projects for clients like Dapper Labs investor Warner Music Group (WMG), that this was a “smart move” for Companies trying to help corporate customers stop relying on Ethereum. There are many reasons, she said, including the cost of running nodes and greater congestion on the Ethereum network. (WMG could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.)
“Developing its own internal blockchain solution would allow WMG to better control the blockchain from a variety of directions, including information and security,” said Zimmerman. “The challenge they could face with their internal blockchain solution is viability for both customers and other actors in the space.”
Therein lies the million token question: is there enough demand for blockchain-related products and services to justify the multiplayer battle between business-to-business startups?
Pang from IoTeX said, “We recognize that you cannot change how companies see it [their processes] and you have to meet them where they are. “
Currently, Shirley of Dapper Labs said his team is focused on attracting developers and potential stakeholders to the nascent blockchain.
“To start with, the people who run nodes will likely be our investors and partners, people we know. However, for security reasons, the architecture design of the blockchain does not depend on a small number of known participants. It can scale to thousands of anonymous participants, ”said Shirley.