In the wake of announcing their second edition of DevCon in Seattle, Washington in February 2019, I had the opportunity to the founder of NEO about their expectations of the second installment and the industry as it stands today. He is very much in touch with the tough times the crypto market has seen, and so he has appropriately called it, “ContiNEO – We keep on going”. This speaks volumes about his determination, as well as their faith in the Smart Economy.
I caught up with Da Hongfei, the founder of NEO and Onchain and pioneer of the blockchain industry. He is a serial entrepreneur, as well as a DLT advisor to a number of banks, brokers and clearing houses. In 2014, he founded NEO a DLT to register, transfer and exchange digital assets and it became the golden standard in the Chinese blockchain scene.
What was the general feedback on the 2018 DevCon, what do you expect for 2019?
“The first DevCon was quite successful, it happened in San Francisco and about 600 to 700 developers attended, and it proved that NEO is already a very globalized community. Many developers attended and came from all over North America and Europe. This was initially just a project developed by Chinese developers, so we were really pleased to see people get involved from all over the world. As usual, diversity always rewards and we had many interesting discussions and many novel ideas were brought up”.
Dan Boneh, a Professor at Stanford University delivered a speech about bulletproof cryptography skin, a new cryptography skin. We saw during the last year that there are many companies implementing this new technology. There were many other projects that gave their first presentation at the DevCon”.
What sort of developers will you target?
“There are three types of developers. The first type is the lower level core developers of blockchain. The second type, is dApps developers that build on top of certain blockchains, for example, games and other decentralized applications. The third type of developers are those who are trying to pioneer blockchain transformation, whilst also trying to promote their own business on to blockchain. They would probably work for big companies like Microsoft, Accenture etc.”.
The location for the event is Seattle, will any particular companies of note be participating?
“I cannot say which companies are participating, but we have invited a lot of tech-savvy representatives from Microsoft to join us and speak and give the audience an update. They will introduce what their organization is doing with blockchain technology. The reason why we choose Seattle is that there are so many developers there”.
We have not seen the agenda for Devcon although the list of speakers has now been published. Could you tell us more about that and the main content of the DevCon?
“The conference will cover a lot of topics including technology issues, such as zero-knowledge proof, cross-chain protocols, distributed storage, and quantum-safe cryptography. I think one very interesting topic will be delivered by Dr Zhiniang Peng, a security researcher, and he will be speaking about how he discovered some very serious pain points with blockchain technology”.
Besides tech-oriented developers, we have also invited people from the Government, Washington, from their ICT section, plus people familiar with a regulatory framework for DLT to exist in. Technology subjects will be most of the focus of DevCon, but we also have compliance, regulation, and government adoption topics too”.
What are your views on the market, and what the market will hold for 2019?
“Blockchain and the cryptocurrency industry is very different from many other industries. We have a primary market, an investment market with venture capitalists, and then we have a second more speculative market. If you want you can look at all those prices on the market every day, every second. I do not check the price very often, maybe every few weeks, unless there are big movements in the market”.
At NEO we are more focused on the technology and the project itself, as well as the ecosystem. I think the market always reflects people’s emotions and sentiments, so I do not think it is a good index for the future health of the industry”.
Do you have any more information about NEO’s plan to release control of four consensus nodes?
“We are in a process of decentralizing consensus nodes. At first, NEO tried to run all seven of the consensus nodes but the software was not yet mature or stable enough, so we needed a lot of upgrades and finetuning until we got to efficiency.
Today, we are confident that our product is more stable and needs fewer upgrades, so we are in the process of distributing those consensus nodes to capable partners including Swisscom, KPN and others. But it is still a process, and we cannot do it overnight. We still believe it will be a year or two to become fully decentralized and to let the community run all the consensus nodes. We are not limiting ourselves to seven nodes; seven is not the magic number it can be 10,13 or even more”.
At this point, it’s important to note that, to ensure optimal fault tolerance under the delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerant(dBFT) consensus mechanism, each new batch of new nodes should be added in batches of three. That is, after the first seven consensus nodes should be 10,then 13 and so forth. Once the 7 existing consensus nodes are fully decentralized, the number of consensus nodes is likely to increase through additional selection cycles at the discretion of the NEO foundation.