Asia Blockchain Review recently spoke to Loong Wang, CTO of Ren Project, an open protocol that provides access to inter-blockchain liquidity for all decentralized applications, allowing for the free movement of value between all blockchains and the transfer of tokens in zero-knowledge. Wang talked about preserving the privacy of users and data, the company’s latest product (RenVM), the uses of Darknodes, and his vision for the future of a secure and private blockchain.
Asia Blockchain Review: Can you tell us about the mission of Ren Project and its long-term goals?
Ren is an open protocol that enables the permissionless and private transfer of value between any blockchain. Our core product is RenVM and in the simplest terms, RenVM brings interoperability to DeFi (Decentralized Finance).
It comes in the form of an SDK (software development kit) and provides one of the only practical privacy and interoperability solutions that can scale and is the only solution that allows for private computation over multiple inputs and multiple parties. For many decentralized applications, particularly in decentralized finance, solutions for privacy and interoperability are fundamental pieces of the puzzle that are still missing. Trustless privacy and interoperability are absolutely necessary for achieving truly decentralized applications that are secure, usable, and liquid. Dark pools, DEXs (decentralized exchanges), leverage, lending, collateralization, transferring digital assets, and many other use cases are now made private, interoperable, and practical through RenVM.
RenVM essentially serves as a plug-in for decentralized finance, and therefore, any DeFi application can incorporate RenVM’s capabilities into their applications and existing smart contracts.
As for the future, what we really want to see is an ecosystem where it no longer matters which blockchain a digital asset is on. When you set out to build something, you can do it on any blockchain and not worry about what digital assets you will be compatible with. The answer will be all of them.
ABR: Can you tell us more about RenEx, launched at the end of 2018?
Ren began in late 2017 as Republic Protocol, a cross-chain, decentralized dark pool — a secret exchange where traders could open orders without anyone knowing what their order was.
During development, we quickly realized that dedicating an entire network of machines to a single dark pool — consuming their compute power, storage, and network bandwidth — did not make sense. So, in 2018, we started expanding the protocol to allow anyone to build their own dark pool with its own set of rules. RenEx was the first of these dark pools, built and supported by us, and launched at the end of 2018.
We continued to advance the underlying technology in an attempt to solve the problems that still remained. A hidden order book was one thing, and it was a huge step forward, but the protocol needed more than that to capture a true use case. End-to-end privacy was needed, from opening orders to executing them. Cross-chain interoperability was needed, integrating liquidity from different blockchains, from BTC to ZEC to EOS to everything else and forcing order execution (in ways that atomic swaps never will). This is what led our evolution to Ren and our current core focus, RenVM.
ABR: Why did you decide to focus on preserving the privacy of users and data?
With the above said, it was evident that we had solved something much bigger, beyond the challenges faced by just dark pools. All DeFi applications need a way to solve privacy and interoperability, and our solution could be made generic. While it solved privacy and interoperable liquidity for dark pools, it also solves the same issues for DEXs, lending platforms, leveraging platforms, collateral platforms, and so much more.
This is exactly what we have done with the evolution of Ren — bringing privacy and interoperable liquidity to all of DeFi.
ABR: How does RenVM allow for the interoperability of cross-chain assets in a completely trustless, permissionless, and decentralized setting?
Ren is built on top of a decentralized virtual machine known as RenVM. This virtual machine can be used by anyone and is replicated over thousands of machines that work together to power it, contributing their network bandwidth, their computational power, and their storage capacity. These machines are known as Darknodes.
Darknodes communicate with other Darknodes around the world to keep RenVM running. Without them, there is no virtual machine upon which Ren can exist. RenVM uses Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) consensus algorithms and secure multiparty computations (sMPC) so that Darknodes can be operated by anyone without needing to trust them. The core technical pillars underpinning RenVM are outlined in the below graphic.
These are what makes RenVM decentralized, trustless, and permissionless.
ABR: Can you tell us more about Darknodes and how they work?
Darknodes power RenVM. As noted above, RenVM is replicated over thousands of machines (Virtual Private Servers or VPS’s) that work together to power it, contributing their network bandwidth, their computational power, and their storage capacity. These machines are known as Darknodes. Darknodes around the world are used to keep RenVM running, and they are rewarded for doing so. Anyone can run one now, and more information can be found here.
ABR: Can you tell us about some of the obstacles for developing RenVM and how you tackled them?
Our main goal right now is getting RenVM, our core technology, to a place that is stable and secure (testnet). This means lots of testing, peer review, and audits. Doing it right is a lengthy process, but when you’re dealing with people’s money, there is no other way to do it.
ABR: What other projects and developments can we expect to see from you in 2019-2020?
Our core focus for the remainder of 2019 is bringing RenVM to mainnet and pursuing ecosystem-wide adoption. If you’d like to know more, we have a great community and we encourage individuals to get involved!
ABR: In your opinion, what will the future of a secure and private blockchain look like?
I think something that is clearly becoming increasingly important is privacy. It has always been something that is important to people in the crypto space, but now more than ever, I see a lot of people expecting it by default and being critical of technology that does not take it seriously. It is not without good reason.
Privacy is a problem that extends well beyond the boundaries of crypto, but in crypto, we are uniquely positioned to prove that systems are behaving and keeping things secure. I think that we will begin to see people (and the teams behind DeFi projects) working and coming to an understanding with regulators to ensure that privacy is not the goal for some and the enemy for others. I’m confident this will happen, if for no other reason than that crypto is designed to be unstoppable.
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