Stellar Development Foundation founder Jed McCaleb spoke at a meetup with eToro on the future of blockchain. Below are some of the most interesting quotes from his Q&A. You can watch the full livestream here.
On why he left Ripple:
I didn’t think they were taking it in the right direction…so I started what became Stellar. Some of the things that we wanted to improve are the way that the coins are distributed. The original vision for Ripple was that we would distribute the coins very widely because I think for any of these things to be adopted you need a huge network - it’s all network effects in payments. You to do this massive airdrop to as many people as possible, and they weren’t really doing that. And more fundamentally, it was set up as a for profit company, which I think was a mistake. It made it where the incentives were wrong. If you just imagine the internet created by a for profit company, it would not have worked. It would be a very different world. You want the thing to be as open and neutral as possible.
On how Stellar's technology is better than Ripple's:
So we set up the Stellar Development Foundation as a nonprofit, and along the way we realized that the Ripple codebase wasn’t really tenable, so we rewrote everything. So technically, there are a bunch of improvements. It’s safer, it has a better consensus algorithm, it’s more scaleable, it's much easier to use. Software is very iterative, so you learn a lot from each iteration, so if you rewrite something, you can do it much better. So as a developer, it is way easier to develop with.
On Stellar's airdrop philosophy:
The biggest one is essentially an airdrop to individuals where we intend to give about $10 in lumens to everyone. That’s basically paused right now. We are waiting until the ecosystem is better - there needs to be better wallets and better things that you can do with it before it makes sense for everyday people. Ultimately, we want to get it into the hands of tens...hundreds of millions of people which I think will be possible once we have the right ecosystem in place.
In response to how suddenly sitting on $4B worth of assets changes SDF:
We are not very cash constrained anymore, so we are able to do a lot more. We have been hiring like crazy over the past month or two.
On something big coming:
Confidentially - well not that confidentially because I’m broadcasting this - we will probably be announcing something very interesting soon.
On a likely cryptocurrency bubble and potential future crash:
Having been in cryptocurrency for a long time, it’s unclear how long this will last. All these assets are very volatile. I do think that there will eventually be a correction. We are kind of in this dot com bubble situation, and a lot of these things are vapor and will eventually go away. We want to make sure that we are real enough by the time that the correction comes that we’ll ride through it the same way that Amazon or Google rode through the dot com crash.
On Stellar vs Ethereum for ICOs:
Not every ICO is a fit for Stellar. We have a different model than Ethereum. What we are good at, we are much better than Ethereum, but we are not good at everything that Ethereum is good at. Ethereum is a more general platform where you can do all kinds of stuff, whereas if you want to simply transfer value or store a security where you are just transferring assets, then Stellar is just a much better fit. It’s more efficient, it’s faster, it’s cheaper, there’s a built-in exchange. For all these reasons, it’s a better fit for the simpler ICOs. If you are doing something like KIN for example, it’s way better on Stellar. Whereas if you are doing Augur or something like that, then you need the full capabilities of Ethereum.
On improving scalability for incoming "massive" projects:
[Stellar] is definitely more scalable. What we are working on in 2018 is trying to improve that even further because there’s a lot of projects with potentially massive scale that are coming onto Stellar that we need to be ready for.
On Stellar's decentralization:
If we went away, the network would keep going. I think that is the real test - is there one party that would go away and the network would go down. In our case, it’s no.
On IBM's bank relationships in relation to Stellar:
Our partnership with IBM is a very good fit for us because we don’t focus on large financial institutions because it’s really painful to deal with them. They take a really long time, and, if you are a small company, they can end up wasting all your time. Whereas IBM has relationships with all the major banks, and so it’s easy for them to go in and sell to them. I think it will be a long time before major banks do anything on any blockchain, but it’s good to start those conversations and IBM is doing that on our behalf.
On centralized PayPal vs decentralized Stellar:
[IBM] embraces Linux. They embrace these open-source technologies even though they are a huge entity because this is the only way you get worldwide adoption. PayPal will never be used by everyone because it’s a central company, whereas you could imagine this open payments standard could be used by everybody in the same way that all the internet standards are used by everyone. [IBM] doesn’t need to own the network; they just want to provide services to these banks.
On what you can do with Stellar smart contracts when compared to Ethereum:
We don’t have a Turing complete scripting language; we just have simple primitives. Making an asset on Stellar is a simple primitive; there’s no coding involved - it’s just fundamental to the network. If you want to do these things that are built into Stellar, it’s much faster and much more efficient. But you can’t do everything. What we tried to do was pick a certain, simple set of things that allows you to be pretty expressive. 90% of the things you’d want to do you’d still be able to do on Stellar. Most of the ICOs that we talk to are able to massage it into the way that Stellar works; keep the logic of the system outside the network so that all the nodes don’t have to run it and having constraints - either with the accounts or the transactions - like time bounds or signatures.
On physical assets on the network:
There is still some entity that is holding the physical asset - gold on deposit or real estate - and you are trusting that entity to actually have the gold or have the real estate. You either give them the gold or buy the gold from them and they give you the token that you can now send around.
On chain interoperability and scalability:
The main thing we are doing with interoperability also [relates] to scalability - we are working on an implementation of the Lightning Network now. That will help with the scalability of Stellar and also interoperability between chains. I think that will be really interesting when there’s lots of cryptocurrencies that have this; it will [create] a much more flexible world.
On the lack of user-friendly wallets across blockchains:
Even in the cryptocurrency world in general, there’s not very many good wallets. The user experience isn’t like Venmo or one of these easy to use mobile apps. We want that. We want something where the user doesn’t really realize they are using crypto because they probably don’t care. They just want money to go from A to B. It has to be a simple app - there's a lot of user experience that needs to go into it. There’s more experienced consumer-facing teams getting into the cryptocurrency ecosystem in general.
On real world use:
For us, I’m excited because we are going to start having real world use. There’s a lot of remittance companies joining the network over the next six months or so. Once a significant amount of money is flowing and it’s being used by companies, I think that will drive a lot of interest.
On IOTA's recent issues:
IOTA did have some legitimate problems but it’s very hard to have an intelligent discussion about that because there’s superfans that will jump down your throat. The fact that [IOTA] wrote their own hash function is a pretty big red flag; the fact that they said they had this exploit on purpose is a super big red flag.
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