Hundreds of developers attended æternity Universe One — the first conference dedicated to latest research and development in the blockchain space and æternity.
The developer track of æternity Universe One featured more than thirty technical discussions. The topics ranged from æternity’s unique core features, the Sophia smart contract language, and FATE — æternity’s fully-customized virtual machine, to security, UX/UI design, and dev tools for smart contact development.
Below you will find a summary of some of the most noteworthy core protocol presentations and a short update dedicated to the hackathon that took place on the weekend before Universe One.
FATE — Bringing Safety, Speed and Efficiency to Smart Contracts
The new æternity virtual machine is one of the most anticipated features to be introduced with the Lima Release. During Universe One, Dr. Erik Stenman, an Erlang veteran and lead of the FATE team, focused on the most important advantages that the new virtual machine will bring to the æternity ecosystem. The most important one of these is security.
FATE — Fast æternity Transaction Engine, is a virtual machine (VM) built specifically for executing smart contracts on æternity. It has æternity transactions as basic operations and functions directly on the state tree of the æternity chain. This is a new paradigm in blockchain VM specifications which makes it possible to create type safe and efficient implementations of the machine. FATE uses a typed language, functions with type signatures, arbitrary sized integers, local and external contract calls, and æternity-specific operations that work directly on the chain. The latter relates to protocol-integrated oracles, state channels, naming system, and operations used for contract calls.
In addition to improved security, FATE introduces significant efficiency gains over both the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and the æternity Virtual Machine (AEVM), which is an æternity port of the EVM. To exemplify this point, Dr. Stenman provided an example of the assembly codes of a simple smart contract function in EVM and FATE:
As evident from the screens above, FATE enables significant code size reductions when compared to both the EVM and the AEVM. More specifically:
A FATE contract is only 10% of the size of an EVM contract. Smaller code size also translates into faster and cheaper smart contract execution by orders of magnitude.
So how much better will FATE be in practice? Anyone is welcome to find out by themselves:
FATE is already part of the æternity Mainnet!
You can watch Dr. Erik Stenman’s talk on FATE in YouTube.
Finally, using FATE will not require learning a new programming language, since developers are able to use a compiler that turns Sophia contracts into FATE bytecode.
Generalized Accounts — Customized Transaction Signing on æternity
During Universe One’s second day, Dr. Hans Svensson took to the stage to present the benefits of Generalized Accounts (GAs), a unique technological feature of the æternity protocol. GAs were introduced in the Fortuna Release and were further improved with Lima.
In a sentence:
Generalized Accounts allow the use of a smart contract instead of a signature when signing transactions.
Why is this important?
According to Dr. Svensson, GAs allow for the use of any signature scheme without first having to introduce it into the core protocol with a harfork, or making consensus breaking changes to the account management process. This improves the flexibility of the æternity protocol, enabling developers to use any signature scheme of their preference when developing applications or introducing æternity support in software and hardware wallets.
Generalized accounts are simply a special type of Sophia smart contract which is attached to an existing account. Unlike all other types of contracts, the cost of execution of the Generalized Account contract is 0 if the transaction signing fails. You can watch Dr. Svensson’s full Universe One talk on GAs on YouTube.
æternity Naming System Auctions
The æternity Naming System (AENS) has been part of the protocol since Mainnet launch. It allows for accounts keys that look like this:
to be associated with a human-readable name, and start looking like this:
So far users have only been able to claim test names which use the .test extension. With the æternity Mainnet now running Lima, users are able to participate in auctions which are an efficient mechanism to determine a fair market price for a specific name.
To learn how to register your .chain name, visit this Forum topic:
On the stage of Universe One, Michal Zajda, the AENS team lead, explained that the crypto-economic rules that have been applied to the auction process follow a simple economic logic — the shorter a name is, the more expensive it will be. The auction price for the most expensive, one letter names will start at about 570 AE. Names live in a protocol-protected state thus making them fully secure.
Go to AEknow.org to learn what names are currently being auctioned:
You can also watch Michal Zajda’s Universe One presentation on AENS auctions on YouTube.
Governance æpp and Delegated Voting
To facilitate the process of formally providing an opinion on any issue, AE token users will soon be able to use a Governance æpp. It will be accessible inside the Base æpp and will enable users to launch and participate in polls.
During the first day of the Universe One developer track, Emin Mahrt, now a member of the æternity crypto foundation board, stated that as blockchain protocols develop, governance and governance bodies will become more important.
A crucial step towards improved community governance in æternity will be taken with Lima. After months of dedication by blockchain developers, smart contract experts, and UX/UI designers, æternity’s Governance æpp will launch on the Mainnet.
Apart from cryptographically secure polls on any subject, the Governance æpp will enable delegation of voting power without the transfer of tokens.
The Governance æpp is currently being developed for the Mainnet and will become available inside the Base æpp very soon (<week). Once the app is live on the Mainnet, the æternity community will be able to express their opinion by backing it up with their token weight — one token, one vote — using their mobile devices.
A hardfork-signalling mechanism that will facilitate the execution of hardforks by community consensus will also be introduced. Since it will not require consensus-breaking changes, the mechanism will become part of the protocol after Lima. It will be interesting to see what the first polls in the Governance æpp will be.
Erlang for High-Performance Blockchain Platforms
Robert Virding, one of the co-creators of the Erlang programming language, joined Universe One remotely to talk about the problems that Erlang was built to address. Interestingly, the challenges that Erlang had to overcome are similar to the ones existing in blockchain platforms today.
Robert Virding concluded his presentation by mentioning some of the most noteworthy companies that rely on Erlang-based infrastructure for high performance, scalability, concurrence, and stability. æternity is the only blockchain platform in the industry whose reference implementation is written in Erlang by some of the most experienced Erlang engineers.
You can watch Robert Virding’s Erlang-focused presentation here.
Consensus and Stratum in æternity
The second presentation by Michal Zajda was dedicated to Stratum. Michal discussed the challenges programmers face when developing reference implementation for pool mining software that works well with Bitcoin-NG, the consensus mechanism employed by æternity.
The solution was to introduce Stratum and make it part of the full node. Currently, a “Stratum mode” could be activated in the node, enabling pool configuration. It allows the node to distribute work to miners in the most efficient way possible. In addition, a payment Sophia contract that could distribute the AE tokens payout to miners is also available (PPLNS scheme).
The Stratum mode of the æternity node and the Sophia payout contract facilitate the process of setting up an æternity mining pool.
To learn more about æternity’s Stratum implementation and find out how to set up a mining pool, visit GitHub.
On the stage of Universe One, Michal also mentioned that, thanks to an implementation level trick, even less powerful devices could participate in the mining process. An algorithm will compute a unique target for each device to make its work meaningful.
The æternity community’s feedback is needed so that Stratum could be further improved in the future. You can share your thoughts in this dedicated Forum topic:
Highlights From the Universe One Hackathon
An æternity-focused hackathon was organized the weekend before the conference. Ten teams took part in the dev-focused event and competed for the grand prize — 10000 AE tokens and a chance to get additional funding from AE Ventures and the æternity crypto foundation.
Some of the most interesting use cases developed during the event included:
- Pæy, a decentralized payment system that makes it easy for students and companies to efficiently receive payments in Nigeria. Pæy also allows the exchange of AE tokens for fiat currency (NGN & USD).
- Lexon-powered æternity application for smart community sign-ups and human-readable smart contracts useful in the legal field.
- MemeHunter, a platform that allows meme creators to monetize their products.
- Gameternity, global login system for any gaming platform (like Steam, GoG, Epic Games Store) as a first step towards a decentralized gaming platform.
- Fiæt AutomicDex, a decentralized exchange that will enable users to exchange cryptocurrencies for fiat.
- Earlycrypto, a trivia game that enables users to create/host a game, add questions and answers, register players that pay a participation fee, and launch a game. The winner gets all participation fees.
The winner of the Universe One Hackathon was Identity of Things, a Sophia smart contract-based registry that works with minuscule tamper-proof NFC chips featuring a secure element. In combination, the software and hardware components allow proving the authenticity of a physical product, enabling a wide range of supply chain management use cases. The IoT team included Marco Walz, Nandan Joshi, and Guillermo Prado Obando.
You can watch the full presentations of the five hackathon finalists here:
All æternity Universe One videos are already available on YouTube. Access them by following the link below.
If you would like to dig deeper into æternity technology, start by visiting the Documentation Hub:
Interested in æternity? Get in touch: