By teaming up to run as one, Pocket Network and Figment Networks bring to the P-Rep campaign two areas of expertise for the price of one. The collaboration blends knowhow in product development and node management with a holistic approach to decentralization that could bring dramatic changes to the way the ICON network operates.
The Canada-based partnership also brings accountability and a proven track record.
“We think it’s useful for blockchains to have node operators who are non-anonymous, easily identifiable and have accountability in place,” says Figment CTO Matt Harrop. “We’re a real company. We exist. You can look us up.”
“I think it’s really important that we have P-Reps who can stand on what they’ve already done,” says Shane Burgett, head of business development at Pocket. “And that’s where I think Pocket and Figment are able to stand out from the crowd, having done real products and having worked with many other blockchains. Because for interoperability, that’s what I’ve been doing in the space since 2018.”
Pocket Network is the team behind Pocket, a universal API layer that allows any DApp to interact with any blockchain on any device in a completely decentralized way.
Figment Networks, meanwhile, is a professional staking-as-a-service operator. Currently operational on six mainnets, the company is a top 10 validator on the Cosmos hub and active on IRIS and TERRA.
The P-Rep campaign partnership was a natural one. Figment was already running a node on Pocket’s network to connect to Ethereum and ICON’s testnet. Harrop says, “It was a really easy decision to make for us because of our previous involvement with Pocket into gatewaying onto other blockchains.”
Burgett recalls how the two sides began their involvement with ICON.
“We’re enabling applications to interact with blockchains in a decentralized manner through a simple API. So we’re very engaged as a blockchain agnostic platform,” he says. “But then when ICON had released everything, that’s when I talked to the Pocket team. We looked at ICON and looked at the value add that ICON is bringing as a platform.”
“Then we engaged in a conversation with Figment to ask them if they’d like to take on the node management side because they understand and get the technicals on a level that is notable for us. And then we could focus on the value add side because that’s what we do best.”
Pocket/Figment promises to bring two things to the ICON network.
Firstly, Pocket wants to build a decentralized node infrastructure for the ICON DApp ecosystem that utilizes and rewards ICON node owners. Developers who develop a SCORE have to run it on a citizen node that allows the application to interface with the ICON blockchain. Right now, they have to rely on one citizen node. “You could have an entire DApp ecosystem relying on one citizen node,” says Burgett. “If something happens to that citizen node, you could have an entire DApp offline.”
What Pocket would do is enable ICON’s software development kits, or SDKs, to let applications talk to a network of ICON nodes instead of just one dedicated citizen node. Every time the application interfaces with the network, it would go through a different node. “It’s sort of like a node as a service, but it’s universal,” says Burgett. “Any application would be able to use it. And you’d be able to get decentralized consensus on your calls and queries to the ICON network.”
This would involve digging directly into ICON’s SDKs. Burgett says his team already likes what they’ve seen. “We’ve already reviewed ICON’s SDKs, and they are very well written,” he says. “Our tech team was very impressed with how well the SDKs were already written. And so we would come in and enable those SDKs to actually utilize a decentralized infrastructure via Pocket.”
Pocket would finish its work on the SDKs in December. After this, they would start onboarding P-Reps, citizen nodes and other members of the community to start monetizing their nodes. Burgett says there are two markets here — one is making it simple for applications to interface with ICON, while the other is generating revenue for people running ICON nodes. “It incentivizes a strong network because anyone who runs a node doesn’t have to do it for charity,” he says. “They can actually be part of an actual ecosystem and be rewarded for maintaining a strong citizen node.”
Pocket/Figment also promises to provide a top tier P-Rep node that scales to accommodate ICON’s network expansion.
Harrop points to Figment’s extensive expertise in running nodes across a number of blockchains. He also points to his company’s location in Canada, providing a stable regulatory environment.
In particular, he says it’s important that blockchains avoid putting all their proverbial eggs in a single infrastructural basket. Many blockchains suffer from a high concentration of nodes on a single cloud service such as AWS or Google Cloud. While convenient, this could also prove dangerous. A month ago, Google Cloud suffered a global failure that took offline many companies that were dependent on the service. Several blockchain companies witnessed their nodes counts drop, too. “There’s nothing wrong with using AWS or Google Cloud,” says Harrop. “But we just think it’s important that nodes don’t concentrate.”
Accordingly, Figment doesn’t plan to run its P-Rep node on the AWS platform. Rather, it will operate a mixed network across different cloud providers and the company’s own physical infrastructure in a co-located environment. Harrop says, “We think that’s really important on a resiliency front.”
Blockchain as it should be
Burgett says his team is passionate about application development and application tools. He also points to his team’s efficiency in creating tutorials and walkthroughs. This is something else they could provide ICON DApps.
At the end of the day, however, Pocket/Figment is taking a holistic approach to decentralization, albeit in their respective fields of expertise. Burgett says this is what blockchain is supposed to be about.
“Having a system where developers are paying the community to run their applications because their applications are running off a decentralized network of community nodes, I feel like that’s the essence of blockchain,” he says. “That’s exactly what blockchain should be: a decentralized system benefiting and providing support to applications that can’t be turned off, because there’s no infrastructure to turn off, because you can’t turn off a decentralized network of ICON nodes that are incentivized to keep running really powerful, awesome ICON nodes.”