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Blockchain’s Drive For Freedom, Stablecoins, And Smart Chains: An Interview With Komodo CTO Kadan Stadelmann

Komodo CTO Kadan Stadelmann has been doing this stuff most of his life. His background is in IT, engineering, and software development. He comes particularly from an OpSec and DevSec background, before he started actively engaging and researching the cryptographic space and decentralized software applications. Komodo is a multi-chain platform enabling developers to multiple chain architecture.

“I thought [blockchains] were basically driving freedom, freedom of speech, and all these things,” said Stadelmann, who actively coded during high school and University. 

“I started with a C++ coding language and I quickly dove into intrusion detection system development,” he said, referring to software that tracks traffic on a network. “You’d basically end up coding pretty close to the physical layer, the networking layer.” 

Stadelmann also worked on installing the software on relay nodes for central European governments. “We developed systems that did not just track and detect intrusions and malicious packages, but also injected additional data into these malicious packages, and tracked it back to its source and origin.”

The Bitcoin protocol is written in C. The first person to help Satoshi Nakamoto write code, Hal Finney, specialized in C++. Stadelmann says that while knowing C++ helped transition into the blockchain industry, it’s not a prerequisite. He says, if anything, it might have saved him time understanding the code. Anyone with a coding background, including Javascript, can go deep into the blockchain tech stack.

Most of Komodo’s software is written in C++ and C. But, they’ve also imported Rust, Mozilla’s programming language, which Stadelmann thinks gives Komodo certain advantages, especially when it comes to things like static analysis, memory efficiency, and overall performance. 

“This new Rust layer that we are using is really saving us time in developing software, but also the end results are crazy, and we are seeing an increase in performance and efficiency,” he said. 

But it’s not just limited to these few coding languages. “I’d say our team is really using most of the existing and popular coding languages and technologies, such as Flutter, for example, a new technology provided by Google that enables you to develop mobile applications in a very efficient way.” 

With the aforementioned technologies, Komodo has built one code base to underpin multiple operating systems and platforms. Their cross chain Atomic Swap Dex technology features a multicoin wallet with a native Dex, and is currently available for iOS and Android.

“We try to really stay open, not just like when it comes to crypto and to blockchain, but even when it comes to utilizing new coding languages, new tech stacks,” said Stadelmann. “We’ve really tried to keep evolving and continuously improving and optimizing, not just our applications, but even the underlying tech stack that we’re utilizing for these applications.”

Komodo recently rolled out a new feature module enabling anyone to create their own stablecoin in just a few clicks or commands. The stablecoins are collateralized with Bitcoin protocol-based cryptocurrencies. While the stablecoin module is one module of many others on the Komodo blockchain, Stadelmann believes it is a key piece of the Komodo architecture. 

These stable coins link to the traditional fiat world into the traditional financial system. “And we believe the next step is getting the stablecoin tech actively used and adopted in an AtomicDEX. And, also to be fair, this is not limited just to our next technology. I mean any other DEX, and any other blockchain project can utilize this tech to get stablecoin out.”

To a certain degree, coding in C++ made the implementation of such stablecoins easier to rollout. “At the end of the day, this experience allows us to design this technology, and the architecture of such a stablecoin module, in an efficient way,” he said.

Anyone can create a chain of their own blockchain, called a smart chain, with the help of dozens of modules designed by Komodo. The PEX CC module is a stablecoin module, for instance. 

While some stablecoins have a centralized component, Komodo is decentralized. “Let’s say you wouldn’t want to rely on these already existing stablecoins, because of various reasons,” said Stadelmann. “One of these reasons is the lack of transparency, for instance. We do not know if specific stablecoins are backed [by what the proprietors claim]. Most of these layers, DEXs, trading platforms, et cetera, still operate more or less [like the] Wild Wild West.”

Komodo also provides modules to enable cell data on the blockchain and to spin up a lottery system for users in a decentralized blockchain-based fashion. “We even have a module, which is called tokens and assets module, which would allow you or any user to just tokenize whatever you want to tokenize.”

The smart chains are 100% independent and don’t rely on their Komodo parent chain as such, unlike other platforms, in which children apps are reliant on the parent. In such scenarios, third-parties that build dApps are at risk if that parent chain fails. “They’d have to migrate [to another chain],” said Stadelmann. “With Komodo, you really get a fully independent standalone blockchain. Other than inheriting all of Komodos features and technologies, there isn’t any other relation to the Komodo mother chain. So if, for whatever reason, Komodo disappears, your smart chain would remain unaffected.” 

Smart chains composed atop Komodo are fully customizable, and not limited to just the feature sets novel to Komodo. “Our tech layer would allow you to basically implement any new logic into your smart chain. So, you could literally implement your own consensus rule implemented in a simple manner. This is Komodo smart contract technology. We call it ‘CC’, [short for] crypto conditions.” 

In the past, developers had to hard fork your chain to add new consensus rules.  “Otherwise all network participants, all nodes, would have to run the same new consensus code-base to be on the same chain,” said Stadelmann. “What we did is basically implement this tech, in order to not require a hard fork to implement such new functionalities to basically integrate and run and execute new smart contracts without having to basically roll out a mandatory upgrade.”

With so many on the team coming from the security space, the Komodo team has always challenged themselves to make Komodo-based chains as secure as possible. Komodo decided to apply the consensus algorithm dPoW, Delayed Proof of Work. 

“It is a native element of the Komodo core,” said Stadelmann. “Komodo would basically take the Komodo blockchain information, as well as all Komodo-based blockchain info that utilize this technology and store it into the Bitcoin blockchain, basically storing a small backup, a small checkpoint, into the Bitcoin blockchain.” Komodo then uses this checkpoint in the Bitcoin blockchain to validate the old chain. 

If, at some point of time, a malicious actor decides to attack the Komodo blockchain, they would have to first attack the Bitcoin blockchain and take the Bitcoin blockchain over. “Once that is achieved, he’d be able to attack the Komodo blockchain, because it’s relying on Bitcoin,” said Stadelmann. “From a technical perspective, this is not possible. But, from a practical perspective, it’s pretty much impossible, and it would require immense resources to achieve this. So, it would probably require government, national level resources to achieve that.”

Komodo also features a multichain architecture. “Blockchains always come with limitations,” said Stadelmann. “All blockchains come with limitations. Limitations in transactions per second in the maximum block size, and so on. So we gave the Komodo platform the ability to spin up parallel chains, sidechains, which would literally like interoperate with the base change.”

Let’s say you created a chain X and chain X reached its limit due to so many transactions taking place, blocks being overfilled, and the fees going crazy.  “We need to scale this somehow.”

Komodo solves this by generating a second chain, which is part of a cluster. “The cluster is formed with the main chain and the side chain, so we have like a scaling protocol that would allow you to literally send coins from chain A to chain B. At that moment, they will literally be burned on chain A, and reissued on chain B, the second chain. This cross chain burning protocol will allow you to remain fully in sync, and would also mean that you have technically two chains.”

That means two times the limit, two times the underlying infrastructure, two times the block sizes, and so on. “This is something that scales up infinitely. We could literally set up a thousand side chains. That was how we achieved a million transactions per second. We [conducted] an experiment to prove that Komodo scales efficiently and easily. That’s something we did last year.” 

Komodo runs in a dual daemon environment, in order to make the multi-blockchain environment possible. “You’d have basically the Komodo core operate in your block on your environment, similar to if you would be running Bitcoin, and at the same time you’d be running a completely different chain;  for example, Litecoin. But, you will have a specific interface to allow these two daemons, these two chains, to communicate with each other and to literally issue transactions between two different blockchains.”

Stadelmann says the potential for blockchains and stablecoins is considerable. “You could literally have an inventory of your sneakers store or if you’re like such an exclusive sneaker trader, you could have all your sneakers represent a specific token or NFT. A token represents your sneaker.” 

Call it SneakerCoin. It’s technically possible. “There are other things you would have to think about afterward,” said Stadelmann. “How do I enforce that this token is really worth a sneaker, for example. We would likely need some sort of a decentralized trustless storage space, where you could have these specific sneakers in one box per pair, which is locked as soon as the sneaker token for that sneaker is issued. You would have to first burn this token, in order to release the secret. But, that goes deep into the physical layer already.”

The Komodo network uses Bitcoin’s security through its Delayed Proof of Work technology.

Komodo’s block time confirmation takes place every 10 minutes, the same as Bitcoin’s. “On every Bitcoin block, we store blockchain information,” said Stadelmann. 

Komodo, whose protocol is Bitcoin-based, enables developers to build on top of Bitcoin-based protocols. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that a Bitcoin protocol-based chain is really based on the Bitcoin code-base,” said Stadelmann. “Sometimes, someone would just go ahead and fork Litecoin or fork a Dash or fork Komodo itself. Most of the blockchains in existence today are Bitcoin-based blockchains. And even most of the second and third generation blockchains, too.” 

Komodo forked specifically the Zcash codebase, which is a Bitcoin-based protocol. “We identified with their basic vision regarding security, privacy, etc.,” said Stadelmann. “There were a few things that we didn’t necessarily like. We basically removed that stuff and added the bits that we did want to have. The interoperability, the smart chain platform, et cetera, that’s all Komodo specific technology. That’s stuff that we added basically on top of the Zcash core. And the Zcash core itself was like a pure fork and clone off of Bitcoin.”

Zcash had done the same thing: they forked Bitcoin and added whatever they wanted to add, including a new algorithm, their privacy technology, a mining scheme that funds the project. In short, while there are a lot of similarities between Komodo, Bitcoin and Zcash, there are also a lot of differences. 

Pretty much all blockchains are based on Bitcoin, even if it’s only philosophically so. And the same applies for all the other blockchains that are around.  Let’s take, for example, blockchains that have implemented different protocols. Some might have an Ethereum layer, for instance.  

“They’re based off a chain based on the Bitcoin protocol, and it also shows that this tech doesn’t have any real limitations,” said Stadelmann.  “The vision, the base idea, it’s pretty much all the same.” 

Stadelmann touts Bitcoin’s huge community, noting the team behind Komodo have long been captivated by the Bitcoin protocol and blockchain. He mentions Bitcoin’s huge base of application and text libraries that are compatible with Bitcoin. 

Like Zcash, Komodo provides some privacy for those who need it––many enterprises have lamented blockchain’s transparency––which made Bitcoin a natural choice to build atop. “You could create a chain that only has shelled transactions, one hundred percent anonymity, not traceable. That was another main reason to use the Bitcoin protocol and bitcoin-based protocol fork.”

Komodo wanted to remain fully independent. “We didn’t want to rely on a mother chain or a parent chain or even pay for chain creation, and the chain operation itself. The Bitcoin protocol was the optimal candidate for our choice.” 

AtomicDEX

Komodo’s flagship product is its AtomicDEX, a mobile multi wallet with the native Dex. “It’s fully decentralized, one hundred percent blockchain-based,” said Stadelmann. “AtomicDEX is Komodo’s third-generation atomic swap exchange. It’s a decentralized exchange and we certainly do see the possibility to spin up new stable coins based on different fiat, gold or any sort of backing value [and have them on the DEX].”

Stadelmann’s interest seemed particularly piqued by a gold-backed stablecoin. “A specific amount of tokens would represent a specific amount of gold,” he ideates. “That would allow us to use gold or any metals as a backing for these stablecoins. But, on the other hand, we know there are decentralized blockchain-based derivatives, so we could also have like stocks or we could have like a company back stable coins.”

The stablecoins could bring in liquidity, says Stadelmann. “You have a fiat-based evaluation of liquidity in the DEX network.” Komodo started the DEX implementation in late 2013, early 2014. The Binance Academy gives credit to Komodo and to James Lee, Komodo’s founder, for issuing the first fully automated cross-channel atomic swap. 

The Komodo team has over half a decade of experience in DEX development, says Stadelmann. “We started on the DEX years ago,” he said, noting they’ve recently refactored it. “We rewrote the whole DEX technology.” Komodo’s second generation DEX is capable of carrying ICOs out.

Around two years ago, Komodo noticed a huge shift among internet users from desktop and server environments to mobile environments and devices. “Nowadays, we do see global internet access taking place like with over 60% from mobile and other devices,” said Stadelmann. “In order to make their DEX technology as robust as possible, Komodo wanted to rethink their tech layer based on the move to mobile. They ported the technology into a completely new tech stack, from C to Rust, targeting mobile device users. Not just smartphones and tablets, but IoT devices and wearables like smartwatches and smart glasses. 

Komodo launched its public layer beta last year, and are looking to go live at the end of 2020. They consider the tech production-ready, but, in order to really prove it with long ongoing wildfire tests, the team decided to have at least a one year ongoing beta program. Komodo’s DEX technology is publicly available in the Android Play store and in an iOS test flight program. 

Stadelmann says other DEX technologies and platforms are sort of experimental or even in a pre-alpha stage, while many others have failed. There aren’t any public betas ongoing nor is there a publicly available DEX. He says Komodo is to date the only provider for this type of tech. “Compared with all the other technologies, apps, and depths that we provide, I personally think that the AtomicDEX and our DEX multicoin wallet is the market leader, when it comes to [the] DEX [market], and how solid and how stable is technology.”

Komodo wants to leave the beta program to officially classify the DEX as production ready by year’s end. “We are also spinning up various liquidity boosting tools and features into that ecosystem,” said Stadelmann. 

Komodo also contracted a highly trusted and well-known security firm to review all its applications, dapps, features, and technologies so developers can know to trust Komodo. “Many projects or parties that consider creating a chain still are very insecure, when it comes to the security of the technology, what to use, etc.. Simply expressed, many projects just don’t know what to do or what to use or what’s best right now.”

The ongoing review will help show the industry that Komodo is close to having production ready systems, and then the technologies and applications the project has out now, and that are on their roadmap, will exit the beta.  (Check Komodo out on github.com/komodo)

Komodo technology is dynamic and flexible. Stadelmann says the Komodo technology is designed to be so flexible that huge investment from hedge funds or trading firms can use it. “In a matter of time we’ll have a decentralized government, and, once this happens, Komodo will be able to quickly adapt the technology to add additional enterprise features. We can improve, we can extend, and we can optimize.”

The use cases are likely as limitless and as endless as the technology itself, Stadelmann said of blockchain. “We always tried to solve very complex problems, and you’d have to literally first understand the complexity of the problems, in order to understand the solution, and the potential use cases of those solutions.”


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