In an exclusive interview, BNB shares it’s strategy for interoperability and the mainstreaming of Web 3 applications.
Binance’s BSC token has come a long way since its inception in 2017. It became the native token to Binance Smart Chain (BSC) in 2017. Now the token and Binance’s chain have rebranded as BNB, which, though it tortures the nature of an acronym, is meant to stand for “Build and Build”. A fine directive for a chain that has expanding capabilities and a set a goal of reaching 1 billion users.
BNB was already the most used blockchain network before the change in branding, so how will the newly renamed and retooled network perform in 2022?
According to the Binance blog, new features for the BNB network include:
Increased throughput on the BNB Network
Scaling from one chain to multi-chain
On-chain governance mechanisms
Improving scaling solutions and an expansion of the validator set of BSC from 21 to 41 (with 20 validators functioning as candidate block producers)
And of course, much more to come this year.
We spoke with Samsul Karim, Ecosystem Coordinator for BNB to learn more about where they are headed.
Samsul Karim, BNB
Tell me about the launch of the Binance chain and what brought you here?
“We launched the BSC chain in September 2020. Our focus was to develop and support infrastructure that will drive crypto adoption. We've been developing a number of different types of solutions.
The first chain we developed was called Binance chain. It's a tender mint-based chain, which was purpose-designed by Binance… But doesn't have the ability to support smart contracts. So developers can build applications, it’s just a single-purpose chain run by Binance DEX. After the launch, we had a lot of feedback from the Binance chain community to develop a public permissionless smart contracts infrastructure that would allow developers to build all kinds of use cases like a general purpose chain. We went about designing BSC to enable that.
There are a number of key factors that drove the design decisions. We wanted to make it really easy for the developer community, and pretty much all of the development, especially in DeFi, was happening on Ethereum. And we wanted to make it EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine)-compatible… But we also wanted to make it have much lower fees because of recurring issues with super high transaction fees on the Ethereum mainnet and we wanted it run faster to improve the end user experience.
We saw DeFi was becoming an antithesis to what it was supposed to be, which is an alternative financial system for a broad user base. With transaction fees it was becoming not as inclusive. BSC uses a proof of stake, consensus mechanism, proof of stake authority, it's a variation of delegated proof of stake. At the time, we didn't really have any grand plans around our early targets. We hoped to reach 30% of the transaction volume happening on Ethereum… But we quickly reached and then far exceeded that. Throughout last year, there was a huge underserved demand in the market. And obviously, a huge market expansion happened with tons of new users in crypto.
The newly rebranded BNB chain today has the largest number of users among any layer one chains with about 1.5 to 2 million daily active users, second place Eth mainnet was about 650,000 users…,” Karim said.
Why change the brand now for BSC?
“A lot of the community thinks that Binance owns and controls BSC. Of course, Binance was one of the initiators and one of the key supporters in many ways, including financially. But today, there's many more organizations supporting the BNB chain… We want it to be more loosely coupled by Binance from the BNB chain and then more tightly coupled BNB token to the BNB chain. Because BNB is the native token on the BNB chain… Plus, BNB is used for staking in the validator nodes, which is securing the whole network.
Those were really the key drivers for why we thought it was a good time. And also now the BNB asset itself has also changed its name from Binance going to “Build and Build”.
There's also a very ambitious technology roadmap for the BNB chain. There's a lot of community efforts around what the scaling roadmap would look like. If you think about today, even with being the largest number, or having the largest number of users among any layer one chain, it's at, I would say 50% of the capacity. If the number of users doubles it will hit the upper limits, but we're really looking at how we onboard tens of millions, then hundreds of millions and eventually a billion users to decentralized applications…,” Karim said.
Is BNB taking advantage of the complaints that Ethereum hasn’t been able to address yet in Eth 2?
“Of course, some of these challenges are still happening. But today, the layer two landscape is developing and a lot of great activity is happening there. I think that's relieving a lot of the pressure and transaction volume and activity that was happening on the mainnet. And now there's loads of EVM chains – Avalanche, Phantom, and Polygon and non-EVM chains as well, like Solana, Terra, and so many others.
I think that's important because if there's going to be this, like mass adoption of crypto, we need a lot of different types of infrastructures. And each of them will have different properties such as access points and other types of characteristics like EVM compatibility, that type of use cases that they're well suited to, and many other important aspects,” Karim said.
How would you compare the BNB approach to the other major players that are out there?
“I think today there isn't a general consensus in the community around what type of chain infrastructure can really support large scaling user scaling requirements. I think we're really more focused on supporting the whole ecosystem.
Polygon are great friends of ours as it was a Binance Launchpad project. And we maintain, or we try to support innovation and development across the whole ecosystem holistically. I think for us were want to be able to support chain infrastructure architectures and infrastructure work before wherever there's developer demand.If there's significant traction on particular types of chain architectures, or even different clients, or other than, or even languages other than Solidity or EVM, will be very happy to support the development and scaling of those infrastructures…,” Karim said.
What is your approach to working with developers and attracting developers?
“We want to support a broad range of developers, from the one man team that's got an early idea through to the more established teams that are already well on their way towards achieving large user scaling. We're trying to support the developer community in a number of ways. One is really understanding their infrastructure and tooling requirements, and developing and providing the user experience that they really want. The second part is really around providing both financial and non-financial support that includes funding investments, marketing support, supporting them by connecting them with teams that could be beneficial for them in terms of partnerships… We are really trying to support developers at whichever stage of the journey they are towards helping them on the product development, and then with accelerating their user growth and adoption,” Karim said.
How is blockchain going to handle the enormous amount of data required in use cases like gaming? What will it take to create a blockchain-based Fortnite?
“Game developers really need to think carefully about even the game architectures like what needs to be on chain. How can it be done in a way that really scales to ten of millions, and eventually hundreds of millions of users.
For sure, there's still a long long way to go. Because if you look at Axie Infinity as the most successful blockchain-enabled game today, it has around 1 million daily active users. It's still a long, long way away from the more mainstream really big hit games like Fortnite… I think we need to have a lot more experimentation with different types of chain architectures, as well as thinking carefully, really about how to really optimize what is on chain…,” Karim said.
Does the future of enterprise-scale, global blockchain apps rely on interoperability?
“We really believe the web three is going to be a network of networks. Interoperability is going to be one of the key things there, so for a lot of chains I think today that multi chain future is like multichain reality. The DeFi OG applications are already multichain, but I think we'll see a lot more innovation around truly multi chain applications. For example, users being able to collateralize assets on chain A and issue a chain issue alone on chain B, while still having efficient cross chain like liquidations, for example. The infrastructure that will enable a lot of this is emerging today, but it's still fairly early there. I think that's a key area that's going to be that we'll likely see a lot of innovation happening that will enable this type of interoperability and new types of use cases that are really cross chain as well as multichain.
That's what we're thinking about day in and day out, is what are the types of chain infrastructures and what are the infrastructure scaling requirements required to be able to support decentralized applications that can reach a billion users,” Karim said.
What is the time frame for reaching your stated goal of 1 billion users?
“Timeframe is very hard to predict, because I think it could be a short number of years, it could be longer. I think there's a lot of other factors that will drive that. Whatever guesstimate I give on a timeline, I'm sure it will be wrong. But I think our focus is really on how to accelerate that. There are a lot of external factors that will drive what the timeline is. But for us, we're focused really on how we make that happen sooner than later and as fast as possible…,” Karim said.
There are around 5 billion internet users now in the world, so reaching 1 billion users requires huge mainstream adoption. Isn’t crypto itself an impediment for users considering blockchain apps?
“Yeah, I can see that perspective. But I think there's also a lot of benefits for users to be able to use these decentralized applications that have tons of benefits, like compared to the Web 2 alternatives. Users having really full control over their data, being able to use applications that are, for example, like natively digital programmable money. And being super accessible for users wherever they are is not really a friction point, and has a lot more value.
A lot of the developer tooling, especially around user experience, will eventually make it quite seamless so that users don't even need to custody their own keys for certain types of applications. Even the game developers or the application developers will be able to pay for the transaction fees on behalf of those users. Some applications will eventually become quite seamless, so users don't even know or even care that there's a blockchain that's powering the application in the background. A lot of these tools are becoming more mature. And definitely today, the user experience for a lot of daps is not that great. There's a huge opportunity for developers to build solutions around addressing some of the challenges,” Karim said.
When we set out to interview all the major “alternative DeFi” networks BNB was not on the list, but this expansion and rebranding makes a lot of sense coming from the world’s most popular exchange.
By separating the brand from Binance exchange and expanding their capabilities to serve DeFi use cases, Binance has a good chance of expanding their presence as a blockchain of choice for developers based on the name recognition and technical track record alone.
Their posture toward developers is encouraging as well. More major players are focusing not on becoming the one solution, but on ways to become part of an overall network of networks, and their focus on easing interoperability reflects the necessity of what is required to bring blockchain technology to a fully mainstream audience.
Of course, with both BNB and Gemini’s metaverse project boldly proclaiming the goal of 1 billion users, it does make one wonder if they are the same hypothetical billion people and where these users will come from. A world in which a large portion of the overall online audience is using blockchain is still hard to imagine, but incrementally we seem to be moving in that direction.
*Cover image modified from photo by FreeSally on Pixabay.
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