March 13, 2023 | 8 min read
Web3 began with Bitcoin when the vapor of Austrian economics condensed into an engineering solution. Ethereum gave birth to decentralized finance (DeFi) and with every 10x improvement in speed, transaction costs, and security, even more use cases are annexed from TradFi into the decentralized future.
However, as Web3 speed-runs its evolution, scalability problems have led to Layer-1 (L1) nation states becoming Layer-2 (L2) city states, with all of the economic and social friction that entails.
One lesson from history is that trade is ruthlessly unsentimental - it migrates to wherever it is most welcome. In the 11th century, Florence was a pastoral backwater, but by 10x-ing its law, money and network it grew 25x in size and magnitudes more in wealth. Web3 is no different in principle and moves at 1000x the speed, as illustrated by blur.io unseating opensea.io in three months by 10x-ing its fee structure, user experience (UX), and liquidity.
In a few weeks’ time, Radix will storm the citadels of Web3 with a network, language and constitution that, if successful, is again braced to turn shepherds into kings. Every one of Radix’s innovations is a 10x moment in itself, but compounded together they become an irresistible magnet for commerce and a candidate for the dominant Web3 protocol.
Exit Florence, enter Babylon…
Let’s begin with a 100,000x moment.
Radix’s Babylon release will introduce several innovations that will combine to dramatically improve the utility and UX of Web3.
- Native Assets will 10x developer experience (DX) by allowing developers to work with assets intuitively at the platform level rather than via smart contracts.
- Smart Accounts will 10x DeFi security by enabling on-chain multi-factor authentication and gated accounts.
- The Radix Wallet will 10x UX with encrypted connections to DeFi apps.
- Personas will 10x privacy with customizable data sharing.
- Transaction Manifests will 10x security and UX with clear summaries of every transaction.
Native assets are especially transformative. Without them, Ethereum is stuck with a laborious peer-review process to agree standards on innovations like rental NFTs or soulbound tokens. These processes can take months. In contrast, adding access rules to tokens is trivial on Radix, requiring only single lines of code:
The following video takes a deeper dive into Radix’s implementation of soulbound tokens:
2. The Radix Engine
Native assets on Radix live inside an application and execution environment called the Radix Engine, so-called because it acts like a physics / game engine that enforces asset and transaction rules by default. Just as Unreal Engine has transformed the gaming and VFX industries, the Radix Engine is a 10x for DeFi developers, who are free to build complex applications without having to worry about basic logic and safety considerations.
Scrypto is a secure smart-contract language written in Rust and designed specifically for DeFi. Working with the Radix Engine, it reduces asset operations to single lines of code, making it possible to build complex decentralized applications (dApps) like Uniswap in 155 lines or others like chess that are barely feasible on Ethereum.
Data suggests that there are 14x more Rust developers than Solidity developers worldwide and Github hosts ~48x more repositories written in Rust than Solidity. By building on Rust’s existing ecosystem and developer community, Scrypto significantly improves the DX for existing developers and reduces the barriers to entry for those new to DeFi.
The following video takes a deeper dive into how Scrypto 10x’s DX:
Radix’s founder Dan Hughes spent seven years testing the limits of distributed ledger technology before combining a pre-sharded architecture with the Tempo consensus mechanism to achieve 1.4m transactions per second (tps) in 2019.
Following Tempo, Cerberus enables the cross-shard parallel processing, meaning that unrelated transactions do not have to wait in a global queue to be processed. Multi-threading opens the door to linear scaling where throughput is limited only by the number and power of validators.
Cross-shard processing will be fully utilized by Radix’s Xi’an release in 2024. In the meantime, Web3 is waking up to Cerberus.
5. Atomic Composability
Atomic composability is the ability for multiple operations to be batched and executed as a single transaction. It is essential for DeFi and one of Radix’s core concepts.
While L2 solutions like Zero-Knowledge (ZK) rollups are prime candidates to 10-100x the throughput and security of Ethereum, their sequencing time and trust boundaries impede the ability to atomically compose transactions. In contrast, Radix operates within a single trust boundary and upon the release of Xi’an will atomically ‘braid’ substates across shards, easily exceeding the throughput of rollups, without their limitations.
6. Sharding / Linear Scaling
Now for a 2^256x moment.
In its 2024 Xi’an release, Radix will upgrade its state model to 2^256 shards. Compared to the single-chain or dynamic sharding solutions of other L1s, pre-sharding delivers several significant benefits:
- Keeps fees low by enabling the validator set to expand at times of high usage.
- Enables transaction constituents (substates) to be mapped deterministically, reducing lookup times.
- Guarantees that unrelated transactions will always use separate shards, enabling massive parallelization.
- Guarantees that transactions are randomly distributed across shards (and hence that validators are randomly selected according to shard coverage).
- Allows validators to dynamically adjust their shard coverage according to processing power.
- Makes it viable for low-power IoT devices and mobile phones to participate in validation.
The main benefit of sharding on Radix can be summarized as linear scalability; making transaction capacity a function of validator count.
A second order effect is that miniscule shards allow anyone to participate in validation, which is at least a 10x for decentralization, with positive implications for network security and wealth distribution.
7. Low Fees
It is hard to overstate the importance of low transaction fees to a healthy market economy. By penalizing transactions, high fees prevent accurate price discovery, leading to poor decisions and the misallocation of resources - a kind of economic dementia. Contrarily, intelligence is the ability to error-correct - the lower transaction fees are, the more accurately prices can signal the true cost of production / demand, and the more ‘intelligent’ an economy is.
Fees on Radix are currently ~500x less than Ethereum and likely to decrease further after Xi’an when the current validator cap is lifted.
8. Delegated Proof of Stake
Switching from Proof of Work (PoW) to Proof of Stake (PoS) made Ethereum 100x more energy efficient, 100x more economically efficient and 5x more secure. However, validators must stake a minimum of 32 $ETH (~$53k) to benefit from staking rewards. Third-party staking is available for less but comes with smart contract and slashing risks. Radix has a minimum stake of 90 $XRD (~$4) to deter spam but otherwise allows anyone to stake their funds to a validator to earn staking rewards. This system is known as Delegated Proof of Stake (dPoS) and is a 10x for network participation and distribution.
9. Burn the Bridges!
Prior to Radix, no protocol has had the capacity to unite Web3 as TCP/IP united Web1. High demand on Ethereum block space led to high fees, which drove users and liquidity providers to deploy their capital to newer L1s, sidechains, rollups and other L2 scaling solutions. Because of the trust boundaries of blockchains and other digital ledgers, bridging to these alternatives usually requires assets to be locked in a smart contract on the original chain and newly minted on the other. This has had several deleterious effects on the growth of Web3:
- Bridging is a poor user experience, costing time and fees.
- Spreading capital across separate ledgers fractures liquidity, leading to higher interest rates, higher spreads and less money velocity.
- Bridges are vulnerable, accounting for ~50% of all DeFi exploits since September 2020.
Being fast, linearly scalable and atomically composable, Radix eliminates the reasons for bridges, which is a 10x for UX, liquidity and security.
By attempting to build a global financial system on a slow, monolithic chain without native assets, Ethereum is having to resort to Byzantine solutions like Proto-Danksharding to scale. Throw in competing ZK circuits and cross-chain bridges and eventually complexity itself becomes a drag on growth: every increase means fewer engineers, charging higher wages for sub-optimal solutions. If the complexity were a byproduct of new functionality then it might be justified, but the current stack is still grappling with the basic provisions of data availability and - by breaking atomic composability - actually reducing functionality rather than increasing it.
History in the Making
By the 16th century, despite issuing the World’s reserve currency, Florence grew insular and began to stagnate. Instead of adapting to competition from other states, the Grand Duke fixed the gold price. Unproductive Cain killed productive Abel and, true to form, commerce moved elsewhere.
The less from history is that economic growth is not difficult, it just requires a commitment to reduce friction enough to entice capital away from its sunk costs and into a new ecosystem. With that, the virtuous relationship between liquidity and growth is fairly linear, shown by a $1m trade on the ~$5tn forex market being ~50x cheaper than one on the ~$100bn stock market. Marketing campaigns might help at the margins, but, fundamentally, commerce is a marriage of convenience, not looks.
Characterized as a nation, Web3 is heir apparent: it has sound money, inviolable property rights, no defence expenditure, no immigration restrictions, and no national debt. All it lacks are lower operating costs, understood broadly as DX and UX, as well as transaction fees; in short, a ‘broadband moment’. On this measure, Radix has too many 10x’s to ignore, and is ready to make history.