Exclusive Interview with the CEO of AION: Matthew Spoke
For today’s blog, we are going to interview the CEO of AION---Matthew Spoke. Not only is Spoke the founder of AION Network which is now one of the most aspiring blockchain platforms worldwide, he is also the co-founder of Nuco, a leading blockchain infrastructure company. Spoke hopes to combine all the scattered blockchains and make a more equitable as well as more integrated Internet. He has been putting great effort into achieving this goal in the past four years and his contribution in the blockchain field has gained more and more recognition nowadays. In addition, he also serves as a board member of the Ethereum Business Alliance and advisor of both the Ontario Securities Commission and the Ontario
Ministry of Finance.
Bianca: Can you please tell us how you got into this field in the first place?
Matthew: In 2014, I was working at Deloitte as a chartered accountant and I wrote a research paper on why bitcoin would make accountants and other people evolve it. This research paper was the premise of my original hypothesis. Deloitte funded me to build a R&D team for two years. Through this opportunity, I built the first consulting company with a blockchain focused team. The team and I built a couple of implementations similar to a private enterprise network and we helped to launch the Enterprises Ethereum Alliance. This is the reason that I sit on the board of directors of the Enterprises Ethereum Alliance.
We left the company in 2016 and then started a company focusing on enterprise infrastructure. The more we worked with companies, the more we realized that most of the challenges were still at the infrastructure layer rather than the application layer. Since we were building numerous networks and we saw thousands of projects launching on different blockchains including private blockchains and public blockchains, we started thinking about the methods to scale and connect these networks. The next generation of the Internet requires one seamless network instead of a thousand different networks, so we began to take interoperability as a solution for scale.
Bianca: Since you started from the application for enterprise and then moved to a more infrastructure side, I’m curious about the reason for this change of direction and whether you had a hard time finding a good infrastructure.
Matthew: Most of our work was about building an infrastructure. Even though we were doing an enterprise project, our product is actually a code base for enterprise networks. We were solving problems like the methods to build new consensus algorithm and the right way to do database management inside a blockchain. Afterwards we realized that the enterprise market is not really ready for this and thus we should not be too concerned about the requirements of the enterprise.
Henry Ford said: if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses but we invented the car. Therefore, if we asked the enterprise what they wanted, they would think about their current business model and how current business models fit into a blockchain. We started to realize that we were using a wrong approach. The enterprise should understand that this is a new technology leading to new business models instead of a new mechanism for old business models, so we stopped focusing on the enterprise market.
We are still doing integration so that we can connect a private chain with a public chain, but we want a design with a reinvention of what the infrastructure should look like rather than what the enterprise looks like today.
Bianca: Can you please tell us about how AION is different from other public chains like Ethereum?
Matthew: One part of our hypothesis is that there will be many public chains and many private chains. All chains have to coexist with each other. What we have failed to see today is the idea that instead of only being an operating system we are also a decentralized routing system. The routing system means that people can connect into AION and use AION as a mechanism to relay messages and thus they can build applications on top of AION and relay messages through AION from one blockchain to another blockchain.
If we decide to connect all the blockchains(many of them are written with different protocols), since Ethereum, bitcoin, EOS, Cardano, and AION all have slightly different nuanced ways of operating transactions and creating blocks, the messaging layer on how to verify a transaction on one chain and bring it into another will need to become an interpreter or a common communication protocol. We should make sure that we can standardize the way messages are traded between different blockchains since those blockchains do not have the same DNA. This is a big focus of AION. We have been designing a function called a bridge which is a communication protocol between blockchains. The bridge can recognize differences in different protocols and still be able to act on the basis of the transaction that happens somewhere else.
Bianca: What will be the common use case for this design? In other words, what kind of application or dApp will be suitable?
Matthew: We try to stay very focused on the long-term types of applications that are coming later in the market. If we look at the crypto market in early stages, there will be an obvious use case around trading where people have assets on different chains and right now they have to exchange. This is one use case in the short term. For long time bigger use, businesses are going to build applications that are natively on top of multiple blockchains.
I do not think that people are going to get Ethereum apps and bitcoin apps and stock out. Instead, they will get blockchain apps. Inside those apps, there will be functions called under for chains and transactions processing them on many infrastructures behind the scenes. From the application perspective, people will not care what chain they are on. This is our view of the future, so the missing piece for this view to be possible is AION interoperability.
I can build an application with some logic on Ethereum, some assets from AION, some triggering of transactions on bitcoin. From the user’s perspective, it is all a single application. All of its logic is managed in a decentralized app. One trade off we did not want to make is centralizing any part of this architecture, so it is all very decentralized.
Bianca: As far as I know, scalability is a big issue for many chains. What is your opinion on scalability?
Matthew: I probably have a different perspective from many projects in this space because one thing that I have seen is a huge trend towards talking about performance, transactions per second and scalability from a transaction layer. Since performance today is sacrificing the decentralization or sacrificing some other layers of the architecture, I’m afraid that we are making the wrong tradeoffs too early in the industry to be talking about performance. In most cases if people dive into these architectures, they have made tradeoffs to make that network less decentralized.
Consequently, data integrity requires less trust. Our primary focus today are decentralization and system integrity, and then we will optimize for performance in the future. In my opinion, this is the right approach right now. Since if people only focus on performance, there are much better systems for performance than blockchains, they can go build at centralized technologies.
Although we have been focusing mostly on security and system integrity, we have already been able to do optimizations off of other public networks in our current stage. We have already done better performance level public networks, so we are not worried about how to get to a million transactions per second right now.
Bianca: Why is decentralization so important?
Matthew: This is a step by step process towards what we call the decentralized Internet. The decentralized internet is a more accessible and more equitable network where people can participate regardless of their country and currency and where we have less barriers to entry. The evolution of the Internet over the past 20 years has made the network a very centralized system. System that relies on Baidu, Google, Facebook, Amazon and a few companies, may be the 10 companies around the world that own the majority of the infrastructure of the Internet.
Over the course of the last several decades, we have all made tradeoffs. We get tradeoffs of data privacy, of ownership, of all kinds of things. Now people start to ask questions like why they did not realize that they were giving all kinds of data for free just to use the service, so we think that there is a chance to rethink the architecture. The decentralized internet is a way to recreate economics, such that the network and the infrastructure is owned by the world instead of technology companies.
We believe that if we can re-architect fundamentally from the ground up, it will be more equitable and more accessible system for all of the people around the world including those who never got into the financial system and who never got into the Internet.