Blockless Interviews: Michael Chen
This is a transcript of an internal interview initiative. Learn about our Core Contributors and their perspective on the future of Web3.
Annie: GM Michael! As a Core Contributor at TX Labs, could you please tell us who you are and share a bit about your crypto story?
Michael: Of course! Before this initiative, I had been on the Binance team for about 3 years, where I mainly served as a project analyst at Binance Research.
Michael:I left the company about a year ago and have been thinking about meaningful things to build in the industry. So one thing I did was launching an inflation-proof stablecoin called Ouro, which is now live on BNB Chain.
Michael: Last October, I met Liam and Butian, who are also Core Contributors here at TX Labs today. Back then they were all investors. We discussed the issues we see in the industry and our vision for the future of Web3. We also went through a few project designs that we believe could greatly push the industry forward.
Michael: This is how the ideation of TX Labs began. We were all looking to support projects that expand the current service boundaries of Web3 and had some ideas about the services these projects should provide.
Michael: One of the key areas that deserve more attention is the so-called “off-chain ecosystem”. Since the launch of Ethereum, building on-chain has been incredibly easy. But on-chain is just one way to achieve a small group of functionalities needed in a decentralized internet. All the other ways of achieving other functionalities are categorized as “off-chain”. It is one of those overlooked territories with enormous potential.
Michael: This is also why we decided to together support building Blockless, the first modular execution layer that offers decentralization as a service for off-chain applications. Currently, the entry barrier for building a non-blockchain-based, decentralized application is simply too high for an ecosystem to emerge.
Annie: So you mentioned Butian and Liam were investors before TX Labs. Can you talk a bit about them as well?
Michael: Butian and Liam are very experienced crypto natives. I was initially hesitant to participate in any other initiative besides the stablecoin project. This project alone is already a lot of responsibility. But with them the TX Labs initiative became promising. It is personally fulfilling to find like-minded people and be able to work together with them.
Michael: Butian has ample experience in both Web2 and Web3. Previous to crypto investment, she was the COO at Wabi (rebranded to Tael Tech), a blockchain-based supply chain solution project launched in 2017. She also worked at Lightspeed and Deloitte for many years. Liam used to be a researcher in financial markets at NYU and has published quite a few papers. He later on started his crypto career as a fund manager. Both are very knowledgeable and I very much appreciate them being here.
Annie: Which part of the Blockless has the most significance?
Michael: Initially we thought about building an off-chain coordination network for an automated OTC cross-chain token marketplace. Then we figured that building an off-chain project like this would at least take us 6–12 months. This is because we need to build the whole infrastructure from scratch. Ethereum takes care of the base layer for on-chain applications, but for various off-chain applications, there is no universal infrastructure like that.
Michael: That’s how we started. The significance of this project, from a different perspective, is that blockchains have innate service boundaries. They are very good at bookkeeping by conducting global consensus. For example, you have 1,000 nodes and they all do the same thing. They check with each other on their final results. This offers very strong security, but it also means you have to make compromises for that security you want. If you have a large number of nodes doing the same thing and they have to coordinate with each other, then there will be a very high cost in terms of speed and volume of transactions that you can process.
Michael: But another constraint for blockchain is that it is a closed transaction system, meaning if I’m a blockchain node, at one point, I can only access the current blocking state and the new transaction input. I can’t access anything that’s out of the ledger. This is why we have oracles, cross-chain bridges, etc. This is also partly why the likes of on-chain prediction markets are yet to fully blossom.
Michael: If we are envisioning a Web3 future, meaning we do things in a decentralized way with decentralized ownership. Then we cannot rely on blockchains alone. They are not optimized for all the different functionalities that we enjoy today in Web2. So what really needs to happen is that there need to be various decentralized off-chain applications. For instance, they use various Layer-1 and Layer-2 for data availability and consensus. But for the actual execution of tasks, they will have individually optimized node networks that facilitate the process.
This is why we all participate in the building of Blockless.
Annie: Can you also talk about the plans for Blockless going forward?
Michael: I jokingly talk about Blockless as the off-chain Ethereum. Ethereum provides convenience for on-chain developers. If a developer wants to make an on-chain application, she doesn’t need to write or maintain her own blockchain. She can simply focus on business logic. This has already become the norm.
Michael: Before Ethereum, there was barely any on-chain ecosystem. The way people imagine on-chain applications is very limited. This is all because the entry barrier was too high for building an on-chain application. The same is for various off-chain applications nowadays.
Michael: So for an off-chain, functionality-based Web3 ecosystem to emerge, I believe Blockless will be the cornerstone that brings Web3 to the masses.