Broadly speaking, there are two ways to think about scaling blockchains: break them into smaller pieces and try to connect them, or optimize and scale a single shard.
Rollups and sharding are the prime examples of breaking blockchains into smaller pieces. These approaches create several second-order problems:
- They break composability
- They increase latency
- They increase technical complexity for developers
- They increase the cost of social coordination among many uncoordinated devs
- They make cross-chain apps inherently fragile
The alternative approach is optimizing and scaling a single shard. The biggest problem with this approach is that there must be some upper bound on overall system performance at a fixed point in time (however, hardware continues to get faster).
The crypto industry frames this debate in a relatively binary way. But there is nuance. These approaches are not mutually exclusive. While most in the industry have traditionally argued in favor of breaking up the state into many pieces, we have argued in favor of optimizing a single-shard performance to optimize UX, DX, and maximize the design space for composable crypto apps. That conviction led us to triple down on Solana through 2019 and 2020, and hold through a meteoric rise in 2021. Which leads us to Aptos.
I’m excited to announce that Multicoin Capital invested in Aptos Labs’ $200M strategic round. The round was led by a16z crypto, and included participation from Katie Haun’s fund, 3 Arrows Capital, ParaFi Capital, IronGrey, Hashed, Variant, Tiger Global, BlockTower, FTX Ventures, Paxos, Coinbase Ventures, among others.
Aptos Labs is building a new Layer 1 laser focused on safety, scalability and upgradability. The team is led by Mo Shaikh and Avery Ching, two of the lead builders working on Libra/Diem, and Calibra/Novi at Meta. Unfortunately, Diem was held back from launching, which prevented their work from seeing the light of day. Rather than give up years of work, Mo and Avery left Meta, and are building on the Diem codebase, which is open source, to launch a new network called Aptos (which aptly means "the people"). Since leaving Meta, Mo and Avery and many of the core Diem and Novi developers have assembled to form one of the most impressive teams in crypto.
It is important to note that Meta and the Diem association are not investors in Aptos. No one from Meta—including David Marcus, Mark Zuckerberg, or any current Meta leadership—is investing in the project. That separation is important. However, given the maturity of the team and technology, it’s not starting from scratch; in fact, as part of the funding announcement today, several brands, including Anchorage, Binance, Blockorus, Coinbase, Livepeer, Moonclave, Paxos, Paymagic, Rarible and Streaming Fast have all expressed plans to build on Aptos in the near future.
The Aptos team believes in scaling single-shard performance as noted above. In addition to that, the Aptos technology prioritizes a few key things:
- Given how easy it is to write buggy smart contracts, safety is imperative. It’s clear that code written today will be used to secure trillions of dollars of value in a few years time. Since announcing Move, the programming language used by Aptos, three years ago, it has been widely acclaimed as being an outstanding VM and development environment. It rivals the efficiency of Rust and C++, while offering many safety features that make it much more difficult to write smart contracts with vulnerabilities. Moreover, the Move Prover makes it very simple to formally verify Move contracts, offering very strong safety guarantees. We have long believed in the importance of optimized and opinionated development environments, and think Move will become one of the most important development environments in the year ahead.
- Hotstuff Consensus, which is now on its 4th major iteration. Again, like Move, Hotstuff is widely acclaimed, and formally verified. Hotstuff is fast, provides battle-tested safety properties, and is low overhead.
Building an organic community around a new chain is hard. Given our experience with Solana, we learned that one of the best things Layer 1 teams can do is launch with a custom programming environment instead of just being another EVM chain. Move is an outstanding piece of technology, and we believe it will attract developers from a diverse array of technical backgrounds and accelerate the growth of the crypto ecosystem more broadly. With its emphasis on safety, we think it will help a lot of developers and companies get off the sidelines and build. No one wants to be the person that advocated for a project that is ultimately riddled with bugs and causes people to lose money. Move meaningful reduces this risk, and we expect many developers to write their first smart contracts in Move deployed on Aptos.
With hundreds of millions of dollars of research and development, Aptos is a mature piece of technology. Developers can start building on the Aptos testnet on March 15th. Aptos is launching the incentivized testnet in Q2 and mainnet in Q3 this year. The Aptos team is already 20+ strong, and with years of knowledge around this codebase, they are moving quickly and hiring like crazy.
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