Voyager marks the first listing for Nervos Network (CKB) in the United States. Our team had the privilege to speak with Kevin Wang, co-founder of Nervos Network to talk about the origins of Nervos, Kevin's past and how it led to the founding of Nervos, and so much more.
Voyager: Hello, Mr. Wang. Thank you for your time today. Let’s get started with your background - tell us your story of how you originally discovered blockchain technology, and what brought you into this industry.
Kevin Wang: Thanks for having me. As mentioned my name is Kevin Wang, I'm one of the co-founders of the Nervos Network. I have an engineering background and started my career working on big data solutions at the IBM Silicon Valley Lab. Before Nervos, I co-founded an online software engineering education platform called Launch School. I got into Crypto around 2012 after coming across Bitcoin and reading the whitepaper, and have been hooked ever since.
One of the things that drew me to blockchain early on is that it reminds me of the golden age of open source when people were working together toward a common goal, which is really exciting. As an engineer myself, I’m focused on building for the future, which is a big part of Nervos’ ethos.
V: Going back a little further - you previously co-founded Launch School, an online developer education platform, as well as worked at IBM, and hosted a very successful technology podcast called “Tea Hour.” What did you learn from those experiences that helped you in creating Nervos Network?
Kevin Wang: Having worked as both an engineer and as a supporter of developers, I’ve always had an affinity for the developer audience. I've come to really understand not only their passions but also their pain points. In founding Nervos, I was able to use my experience to guide the creation of the technology to be developer-first. As a project, we’ve worked to ensure Nervos is developer-friendly on many levels. We work with other teams to get the tooling as user-friendly as possible and use dev-friendly languages because we don’t want developers to have to learn new languages or code multiple versions of the same dapps for different blockchains. We also realize it’s important to cater to all of the different developers—those new to the space and those who are already experienced.
One of the best examples of our focus on the developer experience is the Force Bridge, our cross-chain bridge that connects other blockchains like Ethereum to Nervos. Most Ethereum bridges require users to complete several steps before moving an asset — deploying a new asset on the target chain, registering the address on Ethereum, and specifying the relationship between transferring assets, for example. With Force Bridge, users only have to deploy the ERC-20 contract to begin the movement of assets to a user or a dApp, as the bridge supports all ERC-20 contracts automatically.
My experience also helped me know what the developer journey looks like and understand the importance of providing an infrastructure that can enable developers to scale their projects from a simple idea to millions of users globally, which has historically been a big obstacle in the blockchain industry.
V: So let’s talk about the origins of Nervos - What is your mission and what problems did Nervos set out to solve?
Kevin Wang: Nervos is an open source public blockchain ecosystem and collection of protocols with a mission to create the foundation for a universal internet-like public network. We envision a truly interoperable decentralized world of networks and businesses all interacting with one another seamlessly.
But our origin story really starts with our founding team. We have strong roots in China’s blockchain ecosystem. Beyond my own experience, my co-founders have a wide range of experience in the space, from founding massive Ethereum community EthFans, mobile wallet with most users in the world - ImToken, #1 Ethereum mining pool SparkPool and blockchain software development firm Cryptape. Our chief architect Jan Xie was one of the first Chinese Ethereum core developers.
Well-versed in the blockchain and crypto space, our founding team sought to solve the biggest problem faced by first generation blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum—like interoperability and scalability—through a hierarchical approach. Our Layer 1, the Common Knowledge Base, is focused on providing security and decentralization, while developers can build DApps and other systems on Layer 2 that are securely rooted and interoperable within the layer 1.
Nervos really began with a different design decision for smart contract platforms. Nervos uses the “cell model”, inspired by Bitcoin’s UTXO model as opposed to the popular “account model” used by smart contract platforms. It has lots of implications, for scalability, security, and flexibility. Transactions can be processed in parallel without sharding. Users have full control over their assets (not smart contracts). The project attracted a number of world-class researchers and engineers, and additional innovations such as CKB VM, NC-Max, and the economic model were added to the project. Each one of these is a conversation of its own.
V: Nervos is a blockchain that powers Universal Apps. Can you explain the concept of what a Universal app is, and why it’s important?
Kevin Wang: To understand “Universal Apps”, let’s use our experience with the Internet as an analogy. The public internet today is powered by a suite of interoperable protocols. When users visit the internet, they can seamlessly browse from one website to another, and interact with content and apps with their web browser, even if they’re hosted on different servers by different owners. However, that’s not the case for the public blockchain world today. To interact with blockchain applications, users have to go through the process of setting up wallets for those blockchains, know how to pay fees with cryptocurrencies of that blockchain, estimate gas cost, etc.
Applications built on a specific blockchain are also very difficult to interact with applications built on other blockchain, limiting their utility. At Nervos, we’re building solutions such that applications built on Nervos will be multi-chain from day one, can seamlessly interact with applications from other blockchains and provide friction free user onboarding user experience.
V: We know from your website that Nervos is a layered crypto-economy network that separates the infrastructure of a crypto-economy into two layers: a verification layer (Layer 1) and a generation layer (Layer 2) for high-performance transactions and privacy protection. Can you give us a quick overview of how these two layers operate - and how you combine Layer 1 & Layer 2 blockchain technology on one platform?
Kevin Wang: There are several reasons that we believe a layered approach is the right way to build a blockchain network.
There are many well known trade-offs in building blockchain systems, such as decentralization vs. scalability, neutral vs. compliant, privacy vs. openness, store of value vs. transaction cost and cryptographic soundness vs. user experience. We believe that all of these conflicts arise because of attempts to address completely opposing concerns with a single blockchain.
We believe that the best way to construct a system is not to build an all-encompassing single layer, but rather to decouple concerns and address them at different layers.
By doing this, the layer 1 blockchain can focus on being secure, neutral, decentralized and open public infrastructure, while layer 2 networks can be specially-designed for unlimited speed and flexibility, which can then connect into the secure, permissionless and decentralised layer 1.
V: How would you describe the other elements of the Nervos ecosystem?
Kevin Wang: In addition to the more technical aspects of our chain, we have community programs and partnerships that play an integral role in helping us grow as an ecosystem. Last year, we created the Grants Program to foster innovation and development by giving developers funding, hands-on support and tooling to build on Nervos. While we provide our grant recipients with resources, the Grants Program also helps us to become aware of promising projects in the space and encourage them to build on Nervos. We also want to be a conduit for innovation in the blockchain space, so we created CK Labs, a four-month-long program to support passionate teams working on user-centric projects on Nervos.
Our community leads also play an integral role in our ecosystem, as they nurture our growing communities across the globe. As a community-led project, we realize the importance and impact the community has on our project. That’s one of the reasons why we recently launched the TrailBlazer program to give community members to be not only involved but also get rewarded for their efforts and contributions.
It’s also important to note that we have the backing of some key investors in the blockchain and financial space, including Sequoia China, Polychain Capital, and China Merchants Bank International, as well as partnerships with blockchain giants like Huobi and Cardano.
V: We saw you are planning to launch a DEX. Can you share more about the vision for that?
Kevin Wang: The DEXes we build will not be just yet another run of the mill copycat of Uniswap - you'll see unique capabilities that take advantage of CKB's design. GliaDex will make use of Force Bridge which was specifically developed by Nervos’ core developers as one of the three components of Universal Passport to enable users from any blockchain to operate any asset or Interoperability 2.0, and to bring cross-chain more interoperability to Ethereum-heavy blockchain sectors like decentralized finance (DeFi).
Often referred to as Interoperability 2.0 by Nervos team members, Universal Passport focuses on the implementation of cross-chain systems to solve issues such as incompatible standards and scattered user experiences. The other two components of Universal Passport are PW Core, a powerful SDK which makes applications accessible to users across all chains, and Polyjuice, an Ethereum compatible layer on top of CKB. Together, they create an easier, more efficient, and seamless experience for blockchain developers and users.
V: What are the key benefits and features for projects building on the Nervos Network blockchain?
Kevin Wang: Nervos has strong roots in China, and our developer community is one of the largest in China. For international projects looking to expand their presence to Asia, working or partnering with Nervos is an ideal way to gain access to local blockchain and developer communities, as well as potential partners.
Nervos’ unique crypto-economic “store of value” design is also appealing to projects because they have access to a secure and immutable infrastructure to build on while still having the ability to scale without the risk of obtaining exorbitant gas fees.
Another key benefit is our interoperability features like Force Bridge, which I mentioned previously. As one of the core pieces of our Universal Passport, which is basically our vision for Interoperability 2.0, teams building on Nervos aren’t limited to just building on Nervos. They can expand their DApps and user base outside of the Nervos ecosystem to Ethereum and other chains in the future, and vice versa.
V: The listing of CKB on the Voyager app is the first for the United States. What’s your vision for mass adoption in the U.S. and the World for Crypto & Nervos?
Kevin Wang: We’re very glad to see that Voyager decided to list $CKB and allowed our community in the US to gain access to the market with a trusted partner.
The U.S. is an important market as we not only have team members distributed across the country but also have a growing community here. Globally speaking, Nervos has a strong presence in the Asian markets like China and South Korea, and a growing presence in Latin America, Russia, and several other countries. At the end of the day, we see ourselves as a borderless blockchain looking to help expand blockchain and crypto adoption around the world, so our approach has been global from the start.
V: Can you give us some insight into what’s next on the product roadmap?
Kevin Wang: In 2021, we’re expecting growth on many fronts—more tools, more applications, and more users as well. This year the development will be more decentralized and the growth before driven by the community than by the core team. As such, we plan to expand our developer education and onboarding resources, provide more developer incentives through programs like the Nervos TrailBlazer Program, and continue working on several community projects we have under development, including those related to stable coins, NFTs, STOs, and other exciting areas.
There is also a large amount of ongoing research and development on payment channels, sidechains and rollup-based scaling solutions. The Muta sidechain framework will allow anyone to launch a blockchain platform and leverage the security of CKB.
Looking ahead, we can expect a lot more developer activity, hackathons and user-facing products utilizing the tool sets that are being built now. We also expect increased interest from businesses and individuals in operating Layer 2 infrastructure to broaden the network's capabilities.
V: Thank you so much for joining us today. Is there anything you’d like to add or tell our readers?
Kevin Wang: I’ve touched on this a little, but at Nervos our focus is making blockchain interoperability a reality. We want to ensure any user can access any dapp, asset, or data on any blockchain, and in essence, be your Universal Passport to the blockchain.
This universal approach is rooted in our belief that blockchain isn’t a zero-sum game, but rather, one in which we can achieve greatness collectively and usher a new decentralized--an Internet 2.0 so to speak.