Trends For Ethereum Blockchain Developers and Protocols

October 17, 2017

Returning from the wonderful ETHWaterloo hackathon, I was fortunate enough to observe some interesting trends around developers in the Ethereum Blockchain ecosystem.

Below I share and summarize my thoughts.

1. Multi-Frond End Contracts

It was an interesting realization that despite our desire to build Web 2.0 like applications (cf. Google, Facebook, Air BnB, etc) in the blockchain world, we are still building the protocols and piping to the decentralized world.

0xMe

0xchange.me On 0x Protocol

What it meant by this is, great token offering projects are building protocols NOT products in the decentralized world currently. Such protocols are open-source, much like IMAP, POP, HTTP, and allow technologists and entrepreneurs to build on-top of them with their own products and ideas.

congruence

Congruence DApp on 0x Protocol

Protocol contracts are in a way public infrastructure, giving rise to the notion of multi-front ended experiences. Developer can create a 0x exchange however they wish, but are all using the same underlying 0x Protocol. This is much like how it is possible to use a GMail or Outlook client overtop the same mail protocol.

This trend is important for two reasons.

A. Protocol Creator Point of View

From a protocol creator point of view, this means in order to be successful it is paramount to focus on designing an effective and open mechanism for others to build on. Meanwhile, the protocol creator need not focus as heavily on the “product” side.

B. Developer Point of View

From the developer point of view, this multi-frontend contract framework provides clarity to this currently vague notion of an “open and public” contract. Really at it’s core it’s just an open protocol like TCP, IP, HTTP and many others. Just like how we build different websites and apps on HTTP, we build different DApps on different protocols.

2. Successful Protocols Bake In Developer Incentives and Profit Opportunities

I am quite found of the 0xProject and believe its a good model to study on how to build an interesting and extensible protocol.

0x bakes in incentives to attract developers and entrepreneurs to build on-top of it with the notion of a relayer that participates in facilitating the protocol and may charge fees to do so.

Relayer

The relayer is a feature of the protocol, it makes it easy to quickly ideate, link in and create a revenue generating application. This is a lot easier to conceptualize than given a certain technology determine a business model to it.

I’m not saying all protocols should try to determine a way for builders to make money (after all HTTP doesn’t permit browsers to charge fees in serving static content), but it’s certainly a good way to attract developer interest in the space.

3. Developer Tools Are Everything

If you’ve had an opportunity to develop DApps in the Ethereum space you’ve probably heard of or used tools like Etherscan, Truffle or MetaMask.

The developer experience has come a long way since Ethereum’s birth, but working with blockchains is still far more frustrating than it’s web 2.0 counterparts.

For this reason, there is a huge opportunity and gravitation towards developing better tooling for creators in this space.

At ETHWaterloo alone, 4 out of 8 of the finalists developed some sort of amazing tool for developers.

Rufflet: A transactions visualization tool (by Benny Giang, Jordan Schalm, Arthur Camara, FabianoPS)

Third Eye: P2P Platform for Smart Contract Auditing (by Alexander Shevchenko, Vladimir Manzyuk, Pavel Ivanov, Denis Kaiser)

third eye

Happy ENS: *.eth domain DNS server resolver for browsers (by Collin Chin, Eric Tu, Tim Siwula)

ens

MetaMask Brave Integration: MetaMask Extension in the Brave Browser (by Anthony Tseng, Sergey Zhukovsky, Augbrey Keus and Kamil Jozwiak)

meta

The evidence seems to indicate that for the time being if you’re looking to make a big splash in this space start looking at tooling vs products or ICOs/Tokens.

Conclusion

Overall, I’ve never experienced a community of such open minded, friendly and ambitious persons.

Just sitting in the finals and seeing these creations I couldn’t help but slip into a humbled position to soak up the magnitude of what these people created.

We’re moving very quickly but this is still such an early stage of the development in a new order of economics and organization for the world.

Massive shout out to the ETHWaterloo team, Ian Pilon, Sonya Wach, Jacob Willemsma Liam Horne, Nabil Fahel, and many more for organizing a wonderful hackathon and community event 🔥