Sohrab Hosseini is the head of engineering at Lab Eleven. This article discusses blockchains and whether they are just another API.
Bitcoin is like digital gold. It has value and can be transferred between people, like digital assets. Ethereum is programable money, but with smart contracts, which run a piece of code on the chain rather than just having it as digital money.
Solana is a third generation after bitcoin and Ethereum. It has a smart contract functionality and is faster than Ethereum.
A lot of people think of blockchains as just ledgers. In reality, it is much more than that. They are a way of getting a bunch of nodes that don’t trust each other to agree on something, like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It is about getting a majority on the network to agree that a piece of work was done correctly. With something like Solana, it’s more about getting all nodes to agree and use intrinsic values to achieve a consensus.
The network is made up of Solana Validators. Nodes are running in different clusters. Some are in the US, Europe, Japan, South Asia, and Australia. The network picks a leader, and that leader uses his time slot to look at all the transactions coming in, run that transaction and pass the hat to someone else, who becomes the leader and does that work. So it is a network and not just a ledger.
This network comes with a few attributes that are quite interesting.
A planet-sized computer – It’s like one giant computer that you’re interacting with, made of 1000 plus nodes. It is getting bigger and bigger.
Globally-available state – You are running programs on the chain. Those programs will have a state or need to be fed a state, and these states have to be available globally. So, no matter which validator becomes the leader, it can run a transaction. There is a cost associated with these states.
Natural transactionality – You naturally have contract transactions. When you send a transaction to the blockchain, it does the work. If it succeeds, it becomes part of the chain. If it does not, it does not become part of the chain. It has a natural rollback mechanism where if something fails, it doesn’t become part of the chain, and it’s almost rolled back to the last block. This may sound trivial, but when you think about it, this transaction, especially on this sort of public blockchain, is running across five different programs built by five different teams.
Permissionless – There are no gatekeepers. Anyone can start a validator, run a transaction against the main net, or deploy something. There are no companies you have to convince for you to deploy. There are no subscriptions to buy.
Composability – We have primitives that are very useful but are very low-level. Other companies, teams, and platforms have taken these primitives and built more complicated and sophisticated things on top. The modern players use this to disrupt the whole ecosystem.
Solana architecture – It is usually a client. It could be a mobile, or a web app could be just some automation, a CLI, talking to some sort of RPC node that is talking to the validators. To a client, it looks like a single API. You are sending transactions to it; you are acquiring accounts; you are subscribing to something to listen to different events that are happening on the chain.
There is a very common API interface, and all the clients talk to that common API interface. Even the validators use a common API interface to talk to each other.
To conclude, I still think we’re very early. A lot is happening in this space. There are no permissions or listeners. Anyone can be in here doing things. Any of us can be the next big tech giant in this space, as there are no gatekeepers.