December 2021 AMA recap with FTM Alerts
On December 6, 2021, Austin of FTM Alerts held an AMA with Michael Kong, CEO of the Fantom Foundation and core team members Simone Pomposi (CMO), John Morris (Head of US), and Samuel Harcourt (Head of Business Development).
For this episode, community members submitted over 100 questions, from which Austin selected the most important that opened discussion into where Fantom is now and the exciting places the project is going.
- What was the purpose and motivation behind the change to the incentive program, and will the Foundation plan for additional means to encourage starting projects?
- Is bringing fUSD to the one-dollar peg a priority? If so, what are the actionable steps, and how long will it take?
- What additional avenues can be opened between the community and the Foundation to better serve the success of Fantom?
- Is it possible for the Foundation to employ ambassadors who are plugged in at a grassroots level so that they can act as an important conduit between ground zero and the Foundation?
- When all FTM tokens are in circulation, what happens to staking? Is there an incentive and then a share of the gas fee? How is that going to work?
- Where does the Foundation struggle the most? What areas of day-to-day operations prove to be the most challenging?
- Does the Foundation do any traditional marketing like other Layer 1s? If so, can you share with us some of the avenues most used or any PR firms involved?
- Artion had an admittedly less than perfect launch with some bugs, etc. What’s happening with Artion? Is there still a V2 in the works?
- The blockchain size has been increasing a lot. What solutions are you exploring to solve that issue? Are you considering decentralized storage networks like Arweave?
- Does the foundation have a plan to solve the liquidity issue when bridging Fantom from other chains to Opera?
- Do you believe having such a kind and supportive community is an important aspect for the ecosystem?
- Can you update us on the Tajikistan story and what, if anything, happened there?
- Is there a plan to control gas prices as the price of Fantom increases, and will the FVM solve this potential issue?
- Do you think Fantom is sufficiently decentralized at the moment?
- It was mentioned before that the fWallet would have some additional features implemented in Q3 of this year. What’s happening with the fWallet update? Is that still a priority?
- Some projects have already received the incentives for the developer program. Would it be possible to get some sort of a dashboard for more transparency to see which projects have received it?
- Is the Foundation planning to decrease the supply at some point of fUSD – like a Terra Luna approach?
- The community is full of very smart and plugged-in people who make great suggestions. Would it be possible to set up a community suggestions portal?
1. What was the purpose and motivation behind the change to the incentive program, and will the Foundation plan for additional means to encourage starting projects?
Sam: It’s diversification at the end of the day, and the dollar value of Fantom. Our aim is to attract more and more protocols and people. If we can diversify the number of protocols, we can further encourage growth across the network.
John: The reason for it was the great success of the program. We had to broaden the reach to make sure that it wasn’t isolated to a few actors.
FTM Alerts: Math is involved in the new criteria. Could somebody clarify what those requirements are exactly, just so that new projects coming in know what they’re up for?
Sam: Basically, one needs to first calculate the dollar value of the reward. So for the 500,000 FTM tier, multiply 500k by the price of Fantom. Then multiply that number by 20, since the reward dollar value represents 5% of the required TVL. The resulting number is the required TVL.
The idea was to make the system more dynamic. If the value of Fantom increases or decreases, the idea is to make the requirements coincide with that change.
Simone: The idea is to motivate projects to increase their TVL, because we saw that $5 million TVL is actually quite easy to reach, and also quite easy to game. We want healthy projects, a healthy ecosystem, and projects that don’t want to stop at the minimum and actually increase, not so much to get more rewards, but rather to improve user experience and the ecosystem as a whole.
2. Is bringing fUSD to the one-dollar peg a priority? If so, what are the actionable steps, and how long will it take?
Michael Kong: I have discussed this with Andre and a few others, and I think we might want to retire the fUSD that was originally issued from the Foundation. So what we’re doing is just finalizing the liquidation model, which is very similar to DAI. People can then pay back the debt. We really won’t add too much functionality because a few other projects may make their own fUSD-equivalent stable coins on Fantom. It’s better that the community run applications on the network rather than the Foundation.
One of the slight pivots that we’re going to be doing is not really focusing on building any sorts of applications anymore. So for example, not continuing to develop Artion and having someone else take it over. The same thing goes for fUSD. This will allow us to really focus on underlying technology development ‒ core development and middleware development.
We’re dramatically expanding those two teams on both fronts to deliver on things like: the new Virtual Machine, new storage, read and write data structures to replace the Merkle-Patricia Tries, and also continuous improvements to core consensus. We will also focus more on tooling to make it easy for developers to deploy on Fantom and attract as many developers as possible.
One of the lessons that we learned is that it’s not necessarily good to build applications that we think are lacking in the space at a particular point in time. I got feedback on Artion, suggesting that it discouraged a lot of development on Fantom, because developers were not willing to create marketplaces to compete against something that was zero fee and that was basically funded by a Foundation that people know has money.
We don’t want to be an active player trying to compete against the people in our own ecosystem. We want to be very supportive of people in the ecosystem and to be as neutral as possible. This is why the incentive program isn’t based on subjective viewpoints from the Foundation, and instead based on hard numbers that people can calculate. Our goal is to really continue building out the underlying technologies so that the network becomes more scalable and more secure. This is very important.
FTM Alerts: To go back to fUSD, Michael, would you mind explaining what’s actually going to happen with fUSD a little bit more? There are significant holders of that particular token and I know they’re probably going to want some more information.
Michael: Auctions liquidation will help stabilize fUSD. So fUSD will continue to exist, and you’ll be able to use it or you can pay back the debt. From some of the analysis that has taken place, it seems that debt positions are not underwater, so people will be able to repay the fUSD to get the FTM and then be able to use the FTM elsewhere.
On a separate topic, I saw one person ask about FNS. Yes, there is an FNS application going out. It’s already been done on testnet, and we just need to get the design a bit better before we push it out. Building applications like FNS is a good idea because it’s more of a tool. It’s not a product that competes against anybody. It’s a tool that developers can use in the same way ENS works on Ethereum.
FTM Alerts: And by FNS, you mean Fantom Name Service, basically domain service?
Michael: Exactly, a domain name service ‒ it works just like ENS.
3. What is the biggest challenge you’re facing every day to promote Fantom technology?
Simone: The biggest challenge we’re facing every day to promote Fantom is common for everyone, and it’s, of course, the token price. I could say this for every other project in the blockchain space. Everything is unfortunately linked to the price of the token. Price goes up ‒ things go well. Price goes down ‒ then suddenly everything goes in the wrong direction.
Nothing changes fundamentally. We keep doing the work. We keep promoting the same way we have always done, but unfortunately, it’s perceived differently. There’s not much that we can do to fix that, unfortunately. It’s nobody’s fault ‒ it’s human psychology.
John: At least from my travels and talking to Web2 brands and exchanges, there really is no problem promoting Fantom. I know this doesn’t address the question, and I apologize. But frankly, everyone that we speak to is wildly impressed by our success, speed, and all the other attributes everyone in this community knows about. The story resonates quite well with that group, so there’s not necessarily a challenge to promote it.
Simone: That is an excellent point. So we go back to the perception that comes off on certain social media channels ‒ let’s say Twitter or Telegram groups and so on. It’s
not what the reality is. We have calls every day; I would say three or four calls every day with different brands and projects of every possible type. And as John said, they’re very well aware of Fantom. They know what we’re doing, they’ve been following the progress, and they’re impressed by the growth.
Let’s be clear. Fantom is great tech, but it’s not the only Layer 1 network with high performance. We have several other ones, and they’re all needed. I repeat this all the time. There’s never going to be one chain that rules them all, no matter how performant it is, no matter how the chain claims to be superior. Say Solana and the claim of 50k transactions per second.
But we know that Solana is great. Every chain is going to have its own space in this multi-chain ecosystem. All these chains perform similarly. They’ve seen similar growth and adoption.
However, what we’re hearing about specific to Fantom is how the community is different. Compared to other communities in other ecosystems, the Fantom community is quite different, and certain projects are drawn to us because of the unique community.
But this is not related to us directly. We cannot promote the community, but it’s good to hear about it because it’s organic and very natural.
Mike: I want to add that I think Fantom’s technology is better than the competitors out there. I’ve been looking at quite a bit of data in the past couple of weeks, and I think the key play for Fantom, in the long run, is competing against the other Layer 1s and exceeding them. I’ve been working with the team, dramatically expanding the number of core developers, collaborating with the middleware developers working on new FTM research and development, and supporting new storage, which is very important to scalability.
We have to keep running faster and longer, which is my primary aim. That’s what I wanted to emphasize in answer to a previous question. The game plan here is to focus on online development. This is what Andre and I talked about at the Fantom Developer Conference. We build from the ground up. I think that when you build from the ground up, everything else falls into place, and it works out in the long run.
4. Is there a native Fantom fiat gateway with SDK for dApps available, and if not, is this a priority?
Michael: We’re talking to a couple of fiat gateway providers basically to plug them into the network, and from what I’ve seen in the documentation, it’s not that complicated to do, but we’re working on fiat gateways. There are some potential legal issues that we have to look at that have delayed things a bit, but we’re looking to get that on board very, very soon, I hope, on the website.
Simone: That’s a good clarification because there’s already one called Transak.
Transak offers FTM mainnet support, and it’s a direct fiat gateway on-ramp with an SDK for dApps. So any projects that want to integrate Transak in their dApps can feel free to reach out to either them or us directly.
5. What does the Foundation think about Binance Cloud and the coming exchange from Harry Yeh?
Michael: I think it’s a really important part of the ecosystem because many people have been asking about exchanges and liquidity for other tokens on the Fantom Network. Harry’s main focus is to provide more liquidity and to get more people onto the Fantom platform by hosting this new exchange on Binance Cloud, which is going to be, from my understanding, packed with quite a few features. I expect that there will be more announcements about this.
The Binance Cloud exchange is mainly driven by Harry, so he’s the one that has the most information about this project. But from my understanding, the aim of it is to basically try and get as many people onto the Fantom platform as possible.
John: If I could add color to what Mike is saying: it’s a very long cycled process to get on an exchange. Mike and I bang our heads for sometimes 6 to 12 months to get Fantom listed on different exchanges. This is a tool for the ecosystem that will be incredibly powerful, and that will mitigate the long ramp to get onto an exchange. They can get capitalized and start doing great things.
FTM Alerts: To be absolutely clear: this is Harry working specifically with his team to bring an exchange which is going to be denominated in FTM and TOMB pairs, from my understanding, which would be great for the ecosystem because he’s going to get some of our Fantom blue chips on that exchange. But it is not directly coming from the Foundation, correct?
Michael: Yes, that’s correct, so it’s basically a new exchange called Felix that’s being built by Harry’s team and also the team at Binance, so it’s kind of a joint effort. But this effort is independent of the Foundation. We appreciate what Harry has done. Harry is, as you know, a huge supporter of the Fantom ecosystem and network, and just the amount of money and time he’s poured into Fantom up to this point has been tremendous.
What he’s doing with the Binance Cloud project is just another contribution to promote the Fantom ecosystem. He brings so much support ‒ like the sponsorship for F1 or the sponsorship of the Fantom Developer Conference. He did all the hosting and logistical work to set it up at the Emirates Palace.
Those kinds of things are not easy to do, but he has done them. He delivers, and if I had to name the biggest community supporters out there, I’d say it’s Harry and his team.
6. What additional avenues can be opened between the community and the Foundation to better serve the success of Fantom?
FTM Alerts: It sounds like he’s asking how the community and Foundation can work together to drive towards the common goal.
Sam: We kind of mentioned this one before. We have community members that help us communicate with the broader community. Maybe we need to think of expanding that group.
But at the end of the day, anyone can deploy on the Fantom network. You don’t need the Foundation’s permission. If you have any ideas that you want to try or run, just deploy and go and test. Once you’ve deployed something, come to us and tell us about what you’ve created, and ask for support. Generally, we offer marketing and integration support.
John: I love the question, so thanks to whoever asked it. Like Sam was intimating, we’ve tried to put together some different tools, but generally, our approach is also just to be available 24/7 as evidenced by Mike, who should be sleeping. We’re glad to jump on calls anytime with anybody, but if anyone has ideas for formalizing a process more so than what Sam described, I think we’re all ears.
7. Is it possible for the Foundation to employ ambassadors who are plugged in at a grassroots level so that they can act as an important conduit between ground zero and the Foundation?
Simone: I need more time to think about an ambassador program. I’m thinking of other examples, and it certainly has its benefits. But at the same time, we need it to be decentralized and organic. So maybe instead of an ambassador program, it could be some sort of guild ‒ small DAOs without the tokens.
Guilds can do different things and be auto-governed, so it’s the community for the community. I think that’s probably much better than us appointing someone as an ambassador, which would mean keeping track of what the person does because then we have a responsibility.
Say we hire Bob as an ambassador, and Bob acts maliciously somehow. Then we’re responsible. This would distract us from our core business, which is building the infrastructure and the technology. For autonomous groups, remember that there are some of them already around; it’s just a matter of getting organized and appointing leaders among those groups so that things go smoothly. But this is a good idea for us to reflect on.
8. When all Fantom are in circulation, what happens to staking? Is there an incentive and then a share of the gas fee? How is that going to work?
Michael: That’s a good question. So right now, the current model is that you earn block rewards, and then you earn fees, so when the block rewards run out, then you’ll just earn transaction fees, which are quite substantial.
I think that fees are something like 20% of the block rewards. Block rewards are still the majority. In terms of rewards to validators going forward, that’s something that we’re discussing internally, in terms of what sort of model we want to implement for the community.
There’s also a question of what sort of model the validators want to see. We have many discussions with the validators, and they are the ones that are staking; they are the ones running the nodes. So we’re having those discussions right now.
FTM Alerts: The next question has to do with the NFT space on Fantom. We actually have a massive NFT space, and here’s a big shout-out to the Tombheads Auction House. Those guys have been keeping the buzz going over there; that’s a Discord server, in case you didn’t know.
9. Are there criteria for which NFT artist the Foundation chooses to support?
FTM Alerts: Before we get into this, I want to say personally that there are so many new NFT projects coming onto Fantom. I am not educated enough to decipher who’s who and which will be the good ones. So personally, I’ve just chosen to leave the NFTs to some of the other accounts. But are there criteria specifically for NFT artists to get some Foundational support? I think that the person who posed this question must have seen a tweet or something.
Simone: It’s very much what you said: there are so many NFT projects, and it’s very hard for us to keep track of them. Not just NFT projects, it goes across the board. Right now, we have hundreds of projects like DeFi, NFTs, and so on. So I would say the criteria is the team reaching out directly to us.
Commenting on Twitter or tweeting something is not a good way to do it. So reach out to us directly on Telegram.
Sam: For the moment, you could also just email [email protected].That will hit everyone and you’ll get some eyes.
10. Where does the Foundation struggle the most? What areas of day-to-day operations prove to be the most challenging?
Michael: Each of us would give a different answer here, but from my perspective, it’s trying to hire more high-quality developers, particularly in the core and the middleware side of things, because they’re hard to find. I have spent a lot of time looking for them, and I would say that we have been somewhat successful. Definitely, the contacts at the university have been helping out. It might not end up being too much of a big issue, but that’s something that I’ve struggled with.
The developers that are working at the moment have done an absolutely amazing job. They’re the ones that have delivered the platform that has been used by many hundreds of thousands of people, so that’s a big achievement. But they have many tasks and ideas that they want to be working on that they simply don’t have the time or the bandwidth to do.
John: My point of view is different from what Mike talked about because I don’t speak with the developers very much. But from my point of view, it’s the classical challenge of just scaling. We’ve grown at a breakneck pace, and now we have an awful lot of inbounds that come in every day from, as Simone was intimating, all different genres or use cases trying to understand how Fantom could fit with their business. So that’s the classic challenge that we’re figuring ‒ ”cross the chasm” type stuff.
11. Does the Foundation do any traditional marketing like other Layer 1s? If so, can you share with us some of the avenues most used or any PR firms involved?
Simone: Yes, we use a PR firm. We’ve been using a PR firm for about a year and a half. Just Google Fantom, and you’ll see the results. We have tons of placements. We did a lot of SEO work and keyword optimization, along with third-party placements. We’re working with our PR firm on some cool stuff like podcasts and interviews with Michael. Of course, there are the usual announcements and news coverage.
John: I was just going to say that Simone goes 24/7. Honestly, he is the most impressive guy, along with the other two gentlemen on the call, that I’ve worked with in terms of consistency and getting the message out there.
But I’m going to channel my inner Mike Kong and just say that if we do marketing just like everyone else is doing, how do we get different results than all the other Layer 1 chains? Mike was implying that this is sort of a race. We have to figure out differentiation, so just going with the same PR firms and going down those same paths isn’t going to lead to a better result. I think you know that our ethos and our approach has always been to just put good stuff out there. That on its own is its own marketing. I don’t know if the team agrees, but that’s how I see it.
FTM Alerts: I can just confirm that as someone who talks to Simone fairly regularly, he’s like a duck. The feet are just paddling really hard under the water, and he’s smooth up top!
Am I right in saying that and that, with what you had mentioned about inbound inquiries, that there are things the community is not going to see on Twitter? That it’s not something that will be laid out in a spreadsheet and shared with everyone?
Michael: A lot is happening behind the scenes that people don’t necessarily see. Many people say things to Simone and others depending on the direction of the price, but I can personally tell you that Simone is always there. He does a lot of not just marketing and PR work ‒ not just putting out tweets and messaging ‒ but also working on the design, hiring and organizing designers, and managing a lot of people as well.
I think the direction in which we’re going is the right one to promote the ecosystem while we continue to do the core development. That strategy, which is a medium to long-term strategy, is the one that will work in the end. It’s the only strategy that Andre and I believe is the one that will work because it is exactly the same strategy we’ve been doing from the very beginning, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.
Simone: When it comes to marketing, I would like to point out one thing: it’s a very simple scapegoat when things don’t go as someone expects them to ‒ at which point it’s a marketing problem. It’s not like that. I suggest that you guys in the community go and check on the other communities because you will see the same complaints. In any other project except Bitcoin and Ethereum ‒ go from number three down ‒ and you’re going to see complaints about marketing.
So my question is, what does lack of marketing mean? How do you measure that? We have internal ways of measuring that, and the data we have tells a very different story. I can reference the Google Console reports where all the data since the beginning of the year is going up and to the right. So that data tells me that what we’re doing marketing-wise, tech-wise, and community-wise is working properly.
However, we’re a very open team, so anyone who has any concrete idea, any practical idea on how to improve marketing, or anything else ‒ if there’s any technical improvement that we should consider ‒ then please reach out to us. But statements like “they have to do something,” or “when marketing?” don’t mean much.
12. Artion had an admittedly less than perfect launch with some bugs, etc. What’s happening with Artion? Is there still a V2 in the works?
Michael: Regarding Artion, this is one of the lessons that I think we learned as a Foundation, not just in terms of the development but also the actual idea behind it. Unfortunately, in terms of development, I hired the wrong developers ‒ I’ll just say it plainly ‒ who didn’t build what I expected them to build. That was a lack of oversight on my part which led to trying to scramble to put something out there that had a number of issues.
So in terms of V2, Jakub and his team have been working on it. They have V2, and the codebase is all open source. It’s all written in GraphQL with a Golang backend. It’s all rebuilt, and so the only thing we have left, apart from just testing, is making sure that it works with V2 of the auction contract, where the NFT that is auctioned off will go into escrow.
A lot of the issues with auctions arose from the fact that the NFT placed up for auction by the seller wasn’t going into escrow, which was a mistake. We’re just integrating the latest auction V2 contract, and then we’ll switch from V1 to V2, add features like being able to create collections from ERC1155s, 721s, 2981s, and a few more as well.
Hopefully, another team will take over Artion, and we’ll leave it as an open-source product. Separate from the development, the lesson learned is that it was a mistake for us to try and build applications in the ecosystem that we thought were lacking. That had a chilling effect in terms of development on our platform.
13. Any updates on the Fantom Virtual Machine Development?
Michael: I don’t want to just talk about FVM because it’s more than just the FVM. Just a bit of history: when we started working with the University of Sydney about three years ago, the initial thought was that we just needed to build out a new virtual machine that improved on the limitations of the EVM. For example, having a register-based machine rather than the stack-based machine; that means having things like super instruction sets and many other features on a virtual machine that are very technical.
I won’t go into all the details, but based on research that they’ve completed, we know that the truth ‒ both theoretically and empirically based on the study of all available smart contracts on Ethereum and some on Fantom ‒ is that the biggest issue in terms of scalability is not so much the execution of virtual machine instructions. That’s only a small part of it. Maybe 5-10%. The EVM is slow for us and every other EVM-based chain because of how reads and writes are done from the EVM to the chain to run virtual machine instructions.
So the way data is read from the chain and written goes through a data structure called a Merkle Patricia Trie. And essentially, this data structure is like a tree that gets progressively slower as the chain gets longer. So you have to do more and more steps in the reading and writing process to execute particular instructions. The more of these, what we call s-load and s-store code operations, executed per smart contract, the slower the EVM execution will be.
So what the guys are working on is building out a solution that uses an alternative data structure, basically, a flat storage structure with pseudo-constant time accessibility in terms of reads and writes. We’ll essentially replace the Merkle Patricia Trie (MBT) with a flat storage structure and save the cryptographic signatures differently.
One of the biggest benefits is that it can compress byte code on-chain by several orders of magnitude, which would shrink the size of the chain because most of the chain data has to do with byte code.
It will also have an interpreter and compiler, which is Solidity compatible. So from the developer’s point of view, they’ll be able to write Solidity and deploy it using new compile and deploy instructions. So there’s not much learning that a developer would have to do because they’re still coding Solidity and deploying Solidity, but the underlying technology on the underlying byte code will be very different.
Also, backward compatibility is an issue that we’re thinking about. We’re thinking about different ideas about how to do it like a switch ‒ previous to a certain block is the old middleware stuff and past a certain block is the new middleware stuff. It might be the case, as with Ethereum, that a node has to run some extra software. It’s one of the negatives, dramatically outweighed by the positives that come with using a new middleware stack.
John: Is it worth mentioning the orders of magnitude gains the university is looking at? The potential gains?
Michael: The trouble is that you have the theoretical and empirical research that has been done and what actually happens on-chain. I don’t want to make promises in terms of specific percentages. What I’m going to say is that it should definitely be better. I have a pretty good idea how it will run on-chain, but I don’t want to make any promises until we’ve done the testing, which is still a few months away.
FTM alerts: Am I right to assume from your earlier answers that allocating developer resources towards the FVM has become somewhat of a priority for you guys?
Michael: Yes, absolutely, so now a lot of the engineering work is going on now, so of course there’s still research going on, but there’s also engineering work that’s beginning.
It has taken quite a while to figure out a series of solutions to these problems, but we’re finally there.
14. The blockchain size has been increasing a lot. What solutions are you exploring to solve that issue? Are you considering decentralized storage networks like Arweave?
Michael: One of the ideas that we wanted to start exploring was potentially using IPFS or other decentralized storage solutions on-chain. To be honest, that research hasn’t advanced that much just because we’re working on other things, but in terms of storage, what we’re mainly working on is testing a SnapSync solution.
We had to do quite a lot of work implementing a SnapSync solution, because the way Ethereum does SnapSync is very different from how SnapSync would work for Lachesis. So we’ve had to construct our own algorithms that we call the Lachesis Light Repeater.
I hope that SnapSync comes very soon because there will be dynamic state pruning, and that should solve a lot of the block size issues because it’ll cut down on the amount of data stored via the MPT.
15. Do you believe having such a kind and supportive community is an important aspect for the ecosystem? If yes, do you have any strategy to keep it this way?
Sam: Yes, the community helps us a lot when we’re talking to different companies worldwide because they see us, and that’s one of the things they’ve highlighted. They’ve said that they really like Fantom because of the community, so it helps us when we’re out there talking with different stakeholders. The way I think we keep it is we don’t try to be too selective ‒ the incentive program is all metric-based.
You hit a certain target, and you get the reward. It doesn’t matter whether you’re friends with the Foundation or you’re not or even whether we get along. If you can achieve the target, you get it. I think encouraging that kind of fair ecosystem is something that we really push, and it’s starting to show now in a pretty cool and crazy community that’s awesome to see.
John: I was just going to say, to Sam’s point, we are talking to these different companies ‒ and the authenticity of that community is really important to them because they know if they partner up with a chain that essentially, to use Andre’s phrasing, are a bunch of locusts that are just there for you know some short-term gains, it’s not going to sell very well with their own customer base.
Simone: I would add that there shouldn’t be a strategy for us to keep the community that way because the community really formed and grew organically, and that’s what resonates with a lot of the people we’re talking to. Other chains are actually trying to replicate what we do. I know specifically that what you, Austin, are doing with FTM Alerts is so amazing that others are trying to replicate it. But guiding the community non-organically is not going to happen. So I always say this: as much as I would love to support you and FTM Alerts more officially, I think that the independent way FTM Alerts operates ‒ like other key players and influencers in the Fantom ecosystem ‒ is the strength of the Fantom community itself.
FTM Alerts: I don’t think the community realizes that you guys definitely don’t want me affiliated. I say things that would not reflect well. If I had some sort of Fantom Foundation tag behind my name, it wouldn’t be for very long. I can assure you that!
We have this foundation of OG Fantom holders that have been around for a long time. They understand what we’re driving at, and that’s the willingness to help one another. We don’t have these wild swings and people joining the community and then dropping out of the community and that sort of thing that you might see with money incentives or a marketing push coming up and then, now they’re gone. The community is a bit more sticky in that regard.
16. Does the foundation have a plan to solve the liquidity issue when bridging Fantom from other chains to Opera?
Michael: The issue occurs because there’s an imbalance between the exchanges and Anyswap as to where mainnet FTM is. This is a consequence of having FTM ERC20, which we might want to consider retiring or doing a hard token swap in the future. But the reason we kept the FTM ERC20 was basically for liquidity issues: it would have been very hard when mainnet FTM came out to force everyone to do a token swap. The exchanges would have to quickly support our mainnet FTM, which requires some work and reliance on their part, which could have been very destructive for us. That’s why we still have the FTM ERC20.
That being said, what we do in the Foundation is to reroute mainnet FTM. So we’ve got FTM ERC20, and we swapped it out for mainnet FTM on exchanges to provide liquidity to Anyswap. That’s what we’ve been continuously doing, so a lot of it’s a rebalancing act. This is an ongoing problem for Fantom. It shows that many people want to use FTM on the network. For some reason, people have been holding FTM ERC20, and now they want to swap that to FTM mainnet so that they can start using the ecosystem. So that’s what’s going on here. So we’re trying as best as possible to provide liquidity to the bridge.
Simone: It’s worth mentioning the AnySwap router. Since there are liquidity issues right now, instead of using MultiChain, Spooky, or Spirit to bridge from Ethereum to Fantom, you can do it through AnySwap.
The way it works is that if there is liquidity, you’re going to get mainnet FTM on the FTM network. If there’s no liquidity, then you’re going to get anyFTM, and with that anyFTM token, you can just bridge it back to Ethereum and have your ERC20 FTM ‒ so at least you’re not stuck waiting for liquidity to come in. It’s a good temporary workaround, though not a fix.
FTM Alerts: Michael, when you were answering, you mentioned that you were sending ERC20 over to exchanges and pulling out FTM mainnet. With Binance very regularly suspending withdrawals to FTM mainnet, it got me curious whether or not that also has an effect on the refunding of Opera mainnet FTM.
Michael: So the reason why the Binance exchange gets suspended quite regularly is because of some technical issues that they’re having. Our development team is working with their development team to try and solve those issues. People say many things, but I can tell you 100% that there are DevOps issues, so we’re helping them solve that.
17. Can you update us on the Tajikistan story and what, if anything, happened there?
Sam: I can have a crack at this, and maybe Mike can follow up. It’s still ongoing to a degree. We did sign with a local bank there called Orion bank for the test pilot CBDC program there. We met with the Central Bank and discussed the Central Bank Digital Currency project. But due to multiple moving parts on both sides, it came down to miscommunication. Hopefully, we’ll have that resolved very soon and come to an understanding with everybody involved. But until then, we’re doing some pretty cool things, I’d say.
For example, to address the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in the Afghanistan region, we developed a blockchain app that tracked 80,000 pharmaceutical products from India to Afghanistan. We are choosing now to open-source the blockchain API tracker so that any enterprise can deploy and use the technology on Fantom for free. The fact that we can go open-source means that companies worldwide can try blockchain tech without having to pay for it.
18. Is there a plan to control gas prices as the price of Fantom increases, and will the FVM solve this potential issue?
Michael: Yes, it should go a long way in helping to solve the issue. The reason why gas prices go up ‒ and it’s the same thing on Avalanche ‒ is that both our chain and Avalanche have artificially capped how much gas can be issued to the network per second. The reason why is issues related to the growth in the chain. Once we have, for example, SnapSync dramatically decreasing the size of the nodes that you have to run to confirm transactions, we should be able to increase the gas per second overall for the network.
The gas price is related to supply and demand. The demand is how many people want to use the network or, more specifically, how much computational power people want to use versus how much computational power can be supplied from the network, in other words, the level of network throughput.
In simple terms, it’s scalability, so everything we do in terms of scalability in terms of improving core consensus, the middleware, the read-write access speed will, in turn, improve the supply of computational power to the network, which means that gas prices, everything else being equal, will go down because more people can do more transactions at a faster rate at a lower cost. That’s the economics behind how gas prices work, so the immediate step for us is to implement SnapSync to significantly raise the gas per second.
19. Do you think Fantom is sufficiently decentralized at the moment?
FTM Alerts: I recall this being a conversational topic in Abu Dhabi, about how you know it’s a benefit to the network to scale slowly due to this being experimental technology. Would anyone like to touch on that?
Michael: l think we can run 200 to 300 nodes relatively comfortably with the current technology stack. But in the end, it’s up to the voters to change the minimum staking requirements, because obviously the lower the requirement, the easier it will be for people to deploy validators.
There’s no right or wrong answer regarding how much decentralization we should have in the end. It’s all subjective, and my subjective opinion is it needs to be in the three-digit number of validators. All the work regarding scalability helps us get to having great performance while having an increased number of nodes.
Sam: I’d say that’s pretty correct, and we don’t have a majority vote on any of the governance proposals, so it’s not controlled by us. We don’t have a say in what’s deployed on the network. Right now, we are fairly decentralized, but we’d love to see more validators.
Michael: Decentralization comes in several forms. One is obviously the number of validators on the network, but there are other forms of decentralization as well. Fantom is open source, permissionless, and leaderless. Anybody can join and leave the network at any point in time. Anyone can set up a validator so long as they conform to the minimum network requirements. There’s no centralized organizational foundation, or group of individuals, or cartel/committee that controls nodes or acts as a gatekeeper in terms of nodes. The platform is out there, and it is decentralized because anybody can join, leave, and participate in any way they see fit. So in that sense, it is like we have achieved our aim in terms of decentralization, but in another sense, in terms of validators, I would say we still have a bit of a way to go.
20. It was mentioned before that the fWallet would have some additional features implemented in Q3 of this year. What’s happening with the fWallet update? Is that still a priority?
Simone: The updated version of the wallet is still being worked on, of course. We had to pause the development of the wallet to work on Artion. After the initial Artion release, we shifted all the development resources that were focusing on the wallet to Artion for a couple of months, and now we’re slowly bringing it back to the wallet.
I don’t want to give any timeline, but we’re not too far from the release now. There are some changes regarding what we previously said – specifically, we’re very likely not going to have the lending implemented in the wallet, at least at the beginning. We decided that it’s better not to do so, and the reason is quite simple: we don’t want to play favorites with one lending protocol over another. Implementing or aggregating multiple lending protocols would entail a huge amount of work that is not necessary. The wallet will be revamped, and it will include the DEX aggregator feature so users can decide which aggregator to use.
Michael: There are a few other things that are being finalized. One is Ledger support, the second is User Experience for governance, and the third is DeFi functionality. Those are the three tasks that are remaining. Everything else is pretty much done.
21. Some projects have already received the incentives for the developer program. Would it be possible to get some sort of a dashboard for more transparency to see which projects have received it?
Simone: This is a great idea, actually, and I really like it. I can give you some numbers in the meantime since we don’t have a dashboard. I don’t have the latest numbers, but I believe that so far, around 20 teams have received incentive rewards for a total amount of approximately $20 million, so more than 10 million FTM. In just two months, that’s pretty good. But I agree we definitely want to make that more transparent and public because it’s not hidden information.
22. Is the foundation planning to decrease the supply at some point of fUSD – like a Terra Luna approach?
Michael: We don’t really have those plans at the moment. It’s not something that we’ve discussed, but if someone has ideas, we’re more than happy to try and explore them and for people to discuss it on Discord or other forums.
23. The community is full of very smart and plugged-in people who make great suggestions. Would it be possible to set up a community suggestions portal? Even one good suggestion would make it worthwhile.
Simone: So just to remind everyone, we do have a community suggestion channel in the official Fantom Discord, so that’s a way to send those suggestions, of course.
Michael: Although, as Simone and I were discussing, there are a few software tools coming out that we might use for governance discussions or other sorts of discussions. We’re looking into these.
Simone: Absolutely, that’s a really good point that ties back to the governance. We noticed that governance proposals don’t get the necessary attention that they should. People don’t have a good way to discuss them. We have Discord channels for each governance proposal, but we noticed that Discord is not the best way to discuss those.
Looking at other protocols that have done governance before us, for example, Sushi, Aave, Yearn, and so on, the best way to discuss governance proposals is to set up a forum, and we’re working on that. This is a bit different maybe from the community suggestion but absolutely something worth mentioning that we’re looking forward to.
FTM Alerts: The overall feeling that I’m getting ‒ and I don’t personally know whether this like permeates throughout the community or it’s just a couple of vocal members ‒ is that the community has a desire to feel connected to the Fantom foundation, and they’re trying to figure creative ways to have a direct line, whether it be the ambassador’s idea, or you know the suggestions portal or whatever the case may be.
Is there anything you guys would like to add before we wrap this up?
Sam: I’d like to say that I like Simone’s guild idea for more community interaction. If there are lots of guilds that start to form, then those guild leaders could reach out. That’s a cool structure that can filter out a lot of the noise and really get to the substance, so maybe that’s something to explore.
Michael: Before we go, I have a request of the community, which is that if you or anyone you know is a developer who’s interested in working on core development, distributed ledger aBFT sort of work, middleware, databases, virtual machine, or compiler interpreter work then feel free to reach out to myself, and I’d like to have a great chat with you because we’re actively hiring. A serious amount of work needs to be done for the long term.
John: I’m really wicked excited about the FTM work that Mike and others are working on. It truly is a game-changer, and hopefully, we’ll have some other stuff on sort of the Web 2/Web three platforms that Sam and I are working on to come out here soon.
Sam: 100%, and I think that maybe in 2022, to kickstart the year, we could get together to chat about what we can expect throughout. I’d like to say another thing, which is that the dynamics have changed from, say, two years ago, when it was constantly us reaching out and trying to see where we could work. Now it’s the other way around. We have so much incoming, so it’s a growing pain, but it’s a good one. It’s great to see, and I’m super excited to see what 2022 brings us.
Michael: Thanks so much for setting this up. I personally appreciate your taking the initiative, setting up these AMAs, and being a really active part of the community.