More Viable Plasma: Paving the road never travelled by.

In Blog, OMG Network by OMG Network

The following is a transcription of the More Viable Plasma-focused interview Kasima had with Uptrennd.

Q: What would be a consumer side or a business side example of when someone is going to be using OmiseGO in their daily lives?

A: Things like making everyday payments, using it for loyalty points, or game tokens.

The more exciting stuff revolves around decentralized finance. We aim to remove intermediaries from various financial structures and instruments. Ultimately, we’re building the OmiseGO network in a way that will allow people to build different projects on top of our network.

Q: I see four main categories that a project strives to achieve: security, decentralization, speed and cost. With these four in mind, how is plasma competing, or one-upping what these other projects are doing?

A: The security aspect defines Plasma and because of the way it’s built we can achieve high speed and increased throughput.

We do this by borrowing the security of Ethereum and coupling it with our Proof of Authority (PoA) consensus. This gives us two-layers of protection while letting us reach transaction speeds we couldn’t before.

Q: Ethereum is moving to a new consensus model, how does that impact OmiseGO?

A: We are a multiplier working on top of that, so that’s going to be pretty good for us.

Q: In terms of ease of use, would you say OmiseGO is “grandma proof? What is the process for using the service?

A: Good question! That’s something we’re laser-focused on. I mean, the world doesn’t need another crypto network that’s hard to use. I think a lot of that process comes with product and UX work that we’ve put in place.

Obviously, as we talk about blockchain, crpyto, and  self-sovereignty, there’s a trade-off to be made. It’s a see-saw between usability and security. So we have to be quite smart about making those concessions.

We believe in letting people reach complete sovereignty, but we also want to be able to ease people into it. I don’t think we’re looking for the perfect solution but are working towards something pragmatic and practical.

We’re currently defining that ‘ramp-up’ into the system. So we let users reach full sovereignty if they want to, but also offer them the option to ‘minimize trust.’ 

Meaning, there is some trust in the system, which offers lesser control, but it’s something a user opts for. Usability is a critical piece of what we’re working on here.

Plasma is built on the psyche of full trustlessness, it’s a core component of what we’re offering. If you are a proper participant in the system, you can never, ever lose your files.

In some cases, it can get difficult for a new user to operate in a full-fledged Plasma system. So the idea is to build a minimized trust service on top of it that people can opt-in to.

For instance, in Plasma, watchers keep things safe. If you’re an inexperienced user, you might not know how to run your own watcher, so we allow you to delegate that responsibility to a third-party. 

So you’re giving the third-party some level of trust and allowing them to act a certain way on your behalf. Yet, your funds still remain in your custody.

Q: Within these last couple years, there’s been a lot of new competitors in the payment processing space that do daily transactions such as the Coinbase Card or Crypterium. How is OmiseGO differentiating itself, apart from those, and what your competitive edges over these solutions that are potentially very easy to use?

A: I’ll circle back to the fact that we are trustless. The payment space is interesting for us and one of the first thrusts of what use-case we’re building. 

The meat of what we’re trying to approach here is not solely payments, it’s the entire psyche of exchanges. Our key differentiator is not only Plasma, but all the features we’re going to put together for an exchange.

We’re looking at a bigger model of what we’re trying to build, not just consumer payment

Q: Status of Plasma?

A: If you read the “How’s OmiseGOing?” article I wrote a few months ago, you’ll know our process from about a year ago until now.

The past six months was the ‘next step’ of engineering that allowed us to be more flexible with how we operate the network. We were inspired by the predicate contract work that came out of the Plasma Group. We were looking at ways to incorporate that into our work in a way that makes it easy for people to use our network.

That has led us down the road of building an Abstract Plasma Layer Design. This infrastructure lets us add other transaction types to our existing network, without asking users to join a new network.

It’s a lot of foundational engineering work. And our goal right now is to proof out Plasma in production, especially our version: MoreViable Plasma.

Once that’s working without fault, we’ll focus on building/integrating features and applications on top of it. We are in the thick of it to get to a place where we can audit our contracts and get something ready for people.

At the same time, we’re doing all kinds of exchange research. 

A lot of that has been product work around what exchanges need. As well as what’s interesting about Plasma that a centralized matcher might think is useful.

And then melding those findings with what’s capable. I hope very soon we’ll have something to announce and show people and invite people to play with, integrate with, and build on top of.The team is pushing hard and we’re super excited to talk about the next thing when we can.

Q: What is the status of DEX?

A: Plasma is an interesting construction, so we need to approach the service like a product. That involves a lot of interviews and conversations to try to look at the problems we can solve.

We’re talking to potential users and businesses to understand what we need to do refine the product design to make this useful. It’s a little bit of a moving target, and so that’s coming up for us after we get the Plasma foundational stuff in place.

If you look at the whole DEX community, most designs coalesce around a general model of centralized matching and non-custodial settling. A lot of research we’re doing is heading in that direction too. And you can keep track of it on our GitHub.

Q: To the people who are concerned about the development roadmap and delivery, what would you say to “put their heart at ease”?

A: When we started this project Plasma was a design pattern, and so implementing is one thing, but taking it to production is a different ball-game.

I’ll be honest, this is the hardest engineering project I’ve had to work on in my career. Make no mistake, this isn’t cutting-edge, but bleeding-edge technology and I think the next steps being unknown add to the excitement. We have to pave the way ourselves. It comes all the way down to tooling, best practices around production, and none of this is defined.

So yes, it might not appear to be going as fast as it should, but trust me, it is.

Plus, the difference between getting the software to work vs. getting it production-ready is significant. That’s our goal here, we’re trying to build the safest production-ready Plasma as possible.

And as cliche as it sounds, the last 20% of the work takes 80% of the time. We’re getting to that last 20% and making sure that it’s as water-tight as it can be.

Q: Is it possible for OmiseGO to “not work”? 

A: Before I proceed, “not working” isn’t a binary process for us! I mean, if there’s something wrong we won’t just walk away.

That said, for me, ‘not working’ is part of the cycle and a lot of engineering is about mitigation of failure. And if we do ‘fail’, learning from those mistakes and trying again.

I’m confident that we’ll put out something useful that has value for people. 

Now that we’ve talked about ‘not working’ let me address what ‘working’ means to us.

For me, it’s the difference between theoretical and practical. Engineering is incredibly practical, seeing how systems behave, and if our assumptions play out.

‘Working’ for us is getting things out in the real world and seeing things happen. An example of working is Bitcoin fragility. This idea that Bitcoin’s been secure for over a decade now, and that says a lot about the protocol.

You have to come a long way from a theoretical whitepaper on bitcoin to seeing the software on the market for over a decade. And that’s what we’re working on — trying to get something out there while mitigating the risk of failure and bugs.

However, we also know software has defects and bugs. We’re trying to be as resilient as we can, and being sure that we can recover from those bugs as best as we can.

Q: What are you most excited to be working on right now?

A: I’m an engineer, so I love building things for people. All the contract work we’re putting in place is engineering-focused and seeing it mature is so exciting. 

The next thing I’m chuffed about is our OmiseGO Developer Program and seeing projects come through that. It’s open to anyone and things are already being built on top of our network, which makes me really happy.

For instance, EMBARK did a Plasma plugin for us and the community video discussing how Plasma Exits work was great too. We’re building an ecosystem and that’s what gets me up in the morning.

Q: What would you want somebody to build in your developer program?

A: I’d be delighted if someone built their own implementation of our watcher. At this point, we have one implementation and are satisfied with it, but if something goes wrong, the issue will cascade. So a watcher in another language with your own interpretation of the protocol would increase network resiliency.