KuCoin AMA With Iron Fish (IRON) — Let Us Make Web3 Safe; Financial Privacy While Deterring Bad Actors
Dear KuCoin Users,
Time: April 26, 2023, 14:00 - 15:47 (UTC)
KuCoin hosted an AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) session with Elena, the founder of Iron Fish and CEO of the Iron Fish Foundation, and Jason, the interim CEO of Iron Fish Labs, both in the KuCoin Exchange Group.
Official Website: https://ironfish.network/
Whitepaper: Click to view
Elena — Founder of Iron Fish and CEO of the Iron Fish Foundation
Jason — Interim CEO of Iron Fish Labs
Q&A from KuCoin
Q: Please tell us about yourselves.
Elena: I'm Elena. I worked at Microsoft right after school as a software engineer and later at a start-up in Silicon Valley that Airbnb bought.
In 2017 while I was a software engineer at Airbnb, I went to dinner at Juan Benet's (founder of Filecoin), and everyone was talking about Ethereum. The price was roughly $30, and people were excited! I later went to the first ETH Global Hackathon at ETH Waterloo, where Crypto Kitties first appeared, won a prize, and went to more hackathons, conferences, meetups, and more until I quit my job and joined crypto full-time.
Iron Fish is a result of that journey!
We wanted to tackle something with the biggest potential in this space, and privacy was a clear answer. Even in 2018, it was clear that a privacy solution would need to rely on zero-knowledge proofs, an incredible technology, and privacy is an incredibly important topic to work on.
I don't believe we can have an unbiased decentralized world currency platform system without privacy—not only does the transparency hurt the average user by forcing them to leak all their blockchain activity to the public, but it also discourages real businesses and financial institutions from participating on the blockchain.
Jason: I'm Jason. I started my career as a game developer for various companies, including a game from Nintendo. I love game development, but I've always had an extreme passion for fixing real-world user problems. So I joined tech companies building and focusing on technology and products that impact normal people.
Ultimately I decided to join Iron Fish because I've felt frustrated at the state of software in the crypto world. I am passionate that software doesn't have to be difficult to use. It's just a choice. Many crypto developers decide to forgo caring about the implications of their technical design choices regarding developer experience and consumer experience.
We want to continue iterating on Iron Fish and make it easier for Layer 1 to integrate with and use. Ask me about doors with pull handles, but you must push them to open!
Q: To kick things off, please briefly introduce Iron Fish and how it differs from other Proof-Of-Work (POW) based projects.
Elena: Iron Fish is a new L1, PoW chain where every single transaction is encrypted, meaning that every transaction is private, and validation happens through zero-knowledge proofs rather than transparency. In transparent chains like Bitcoin or Ethereum, transparency is required for transaction verification—if I send you a Bitcoin, every validator has to see all previous transactions associated with my wallet to determine if I have that Bitcoin's trying to send. In Iron Fish, every transaction is encrypted, hiding the sender, the recipient, and the amount. A zero-knowledge proof is used instead to give validators the confidence that the transaction is correct.
We view Iron Fish as a collaborative project. We're not trying to compete with any other chain but rather become the privacy platform for web3. Iron Fish does not have smart contracts, but we have the ability for people to mint custom private assets. This feature is fundamental for bridge operators in the future to bridge Iron Fish to/from other chains, primarily transparent chains, to carry transparent assets over to Iron Fish so they can live in a private environment.
For instance, in the future, we want to have bridges to/from chains like Bitcoin and Ethereum so that, for the very first time, we could have truly private Bitcoin or truly private stablecoin.
I also want to add a little bit to Jason's introduction. Iron Fish was started in ~2019, but the code base of Iron Fish is a lot younger. Jason joined Iron Fish in mid-2020, at the height of the pandemic, and has been directly or indirectly responsible for every single part of the codebase. He is directly responsible for how Iron Fish, as a technical product, looks and feels and has put in a tremendous effort to ensure the CLI tool is a pleasure to us.
Since Iron Fish was launched, we created a Foundation that I am now a part of, and Jason has taken my place as leading the engineering team that created Iron Fish at IF Labs.
Q: With a project like Iron Fish, an amazing team works behind the scenes to assemble everything. Please explain a little about the team's structure behind the projects and any prominent investors or partners that support the project.
Jason: The Iron Fish team is kept extremely lean. We have a highly skilled team of Engineers that we push to understand all or most of the protocols. This is compared to teams with hundreds of engineers, where each engineer may need to learn how to block validation works.
Creating a team of highly knowledgeable developers can help us achieve our goal of building the most prolific private Layer 1 cryptocurrency.
Elena: We have been fortunate to work with incredible supporters and investors. I know many teams use the same line, but I mean that. We have incredible support from firms like Electric Capital, a16z crypto, Sequoia, Dragonfly, and many incredible angel investors, some of whom have launched L1s. They have helped us build a great team, helped with regulatory questions, connected us with other founders and project leaders, and guided us greatly along the way. Of course, there might be some negative reactions to working with VCs in crypto. Still, if you work with great supporters, they amplify your project greatly and help make it a reality.
Additionally, Iron Fish is a privacy project, and privacy (especially financial privacy) has always been a sensitive topic in many jurisdictions. The support we have has been extremely helpful in helping us navigate different regulatory concerns.
And yes, to add to Jason's point—our engineering team is truly incredible. We have hired extremely talented engineers, most of whom had no previous blockchain experience, and now they are world experts in blockchain technology as they have worked on every part of what makes a blockchain.
Our engineering culture is also one of the healthiest, kindest, and warmest ones I've ever worked with—our people are great humans, and I think it shows in how we collaborate with our community.
Q: We've heard about Iron Fish's focus on privacy and decentralization. Can you tell us more about how the network ensures the privacy and security of its users' transactions?
Elena: At Iron Fish, we care about decentralization. People use different definitions or metrics to grade networks on decentralization. For us, one thing we look at is the number of full nodes that are supporting the network. Our job is to decrease the barrier of entry into the Iron Fish network as much as possible so that anyone can join and run a full node. We made the installation process just one line: npm install -g ironfish. If you want to run a full node, it's just ironfish start.
We launched the mainnet just a few days ago, on April 20th. The Iron Fish SDK does not automatically collect telemetry. Still, if you're running a node, you could optionally run a separate command to collect some telemetry for us to understand how well the network is doing. All those stats are available publicly.
We suspect the network is larger since this telemetry is coming only from nodes/people who have turned it on, but at 1200 nodes, we're doing pretty well compared to others!
The privacy aspect comes from zero-knowledge proofs. Every Iron Fish transaction hides the recipient, the sender, the amount, and which asset was sent. Many hacks and phishing attacks happen because of publicly known information, like which wallets were created using a particular smart contract, which wallets interacted with a certain protocol, or even which wallets have expensive NFTs. In Iron Fish, that information is private.
Whenever a user mints a new private asset, when it happens, it is publicly known which address minted that asset, how much, and some details about the asset. Likewise, whenever a user burns an asset, it is public what asset was burned and how much. We did this intentionally so that minting an asset can always be audited by the community. Aside from that, every transaction is private, and no details are revealed.
Every Iron Fish wallet has a private key, a public key, and a view key. The view key reveals the transaction history associated with a wallet without the ability to spend assets. The view shows all details about incoming and outgoing transactions, such as where the money is coming from or going to, how much, what asset, and the timestamp. We did this for usability—you can use a view key instead of a hot wallet to check details about an account. And we also did it for better bookkeeping. For example, many regulated entities must audit the wallets they support; a view key provides that information.
Jason: One of our goals to protect privacy is not to have caveats. We aim to build a product where we don't have to tell the user, "Your transactions are private if..." Instead, use the product as expected, and your transactions are private, no matter what, without conditions or exceptions.
Q: What steps are Iron Fish taking to ensure the network remains decentralized over time?
Elena: I think of decentralization in several ways:
● How decentralized is the network?
● How decentralized is the community?
● How decentralized is the open source community (e.g., developers working on the core implementation of Iron Fish)?
For the first one—how decentralized is the network:
During our tests, we barely ran any nodes. Our 2nd incentivized testnet had >11k full nodes online, and our 3rd incentivized testnet had >60k full nodes online. Now with our opt-in telemetry, we are reporting ~1200 nodes online only a few days post-mainnet launch worldwide.
How decentralized is the community?
We have a community of over 50k Discord members speaking well over 20 languages who have created blog posts, articles, Youtube videos, and many other educational materials on Iron Fish in many languages. I feel very grateful for the amazing community we've built.
How do we keep the open-source community decentralized?
We have nearly 50 open-source developers outside Iron Fish on the core repository. This is an area that we need to grow in the most. Now that we are mainnet launched and have a Foundation, increasing the open source developer ecosystem is going to be a large focus.
Jason: Another way we are promoting decentralization is through our foundation governance.
The Iron Fish Foundation governs Iron Fish. The foundation ensures the project remains decentralized and grows over time. Part of that responsibility is reviewing improvement proposals, creating grants, and listening to the community.
In general, the foundation is an extension of the community that hears feedback but also looks for years in the future to make sure the protocol is expanding rapidly to allow for new features and use cases.
Elena: The Foundation is about five (5) days old, but that is indeed the goal, and we are working on setting up the infrastructure for proposals, grants, and ecosystem partnerships. The largest goal of the foundation is decentralization and getting people worldwide to support the Iron Fish network.
Jason: As Elena said, decentralization of protocol is also very important. We want to ensure no one party controls the consensus mechanism. So we're working closely with our community of miners to ensure the protocol remains decentralized and no single party can take control of it.
You may be familiar with this in terms of concepts like 51% attacks. We're working to establish a very close relationship with every pool that operates on the Iron Fish network.
Iron Fish has attracted a great set of pool runners. F2 Pool, flex pool, and hpool are just some of the great miners on our network so far.
We'll continue to reach out and manage the mining community and understand their needs in the coming months and years.
Q: Can you tell us more about Iron Fish's focus on community involvement and how the project engages with its user base to drive development and adoption?
Elena: Our Discord is very active. We are directly engaging with the mining pools that are mining Iron Fish. Our engineers are in Discord almost every single day answering questions. We have amazing community members who we've highlighted.
We are constantly learning from our community and are taking their feedback very seriously. By talking with our community, we have rearranged our roadmap prioritizations in the past, added more features that community members have asked for, created better tooling, and much more. We view the community as an extension of the team, especially the longer-term community members who have been with the project for over a year.
We've also directly asked our community for opinions about the design for Iron Fish every step of the way and have listened to their feedback. Ultimately, we're building Iron Fish for the community!
Jason: Like Elena said, every engineer working on the project is in Discord, talking to people and listening to their issues daily. It is important to have no wall between the people working on the protocol and the community using it.
Iron Fish has a reputation for an extremely helpful, kind community. Some of our most active community participants have gained a reputation for being extremely helpful and vocal. There is one person that is so helpful and kind, some people call him crypto dad!
To keep that reputation strong, we must be active in painting and help demonstrate the community culture we want our community to have.
This also comes in the form of our product decisions. Ensuring our documentation is very easy to update by the community and having spaces where the community can edit docs and manage their information is important to us.
Free-Ask from KuCoin Community
Q: Where can I get the latest updates or more information about the project?
Jason: The best way to get the latest updates about Iron Fish is our Discord announcements channel. You can also pay attention to our Twitter. Generally, our Discord is where we interact with the community, so please join; I'll see you there even after this AMA!
Q: Do you consider community feedback and suggestions? Are we considered in decision-making?
Jason: Yes. What you're talking about is our governance model. The Iron Fish Foundation is currently looking at publishing this soon. As part of the governance model, how protocol improvements (FIPs) are adopted and voted on are part of that. So watch for more information as we formalize how this will work.
On top of the governance model, we listen to the community no matter what. You can also submit a pull request; the core maintainers will always discuss it. We've merged tons of open-source code already!
Q: How does Iron Fish address the issue of regulatory compliance, and what measures are in place to ensure that the project remains legal and above board in various jurisdictions around the world?
Elena: Iron Fish has complete view keys that show the entire transaction history associated with an account. This is very similar to the non-crypto financial paradigm. If you are suspicious, a regulated entity will use the view keys to provide an audit, given probable cause. This makes Iron Fish more similar to the non-crypto financial system than most other crypto projects today.
Privacy protects the consumer, and regulators largely favor data privacy and consumer protection.
Q: Is your platform beginner-friendly?
Elena: Yes! Even though Iron Fish is currently a CLI (command line interface tool), several people run an Iron Fish node through the terminal even though it was their first time using it.
Q: How about integrating NFTs?
Jason: It's an extremely interesting idea, and it would require a protocol change. However, private NFTs are certainly a familiar idea. You could bridge your favorite Crypto Punk over to Iron Fish, privately trade it, and choose to bridge it back to Ethereum.
One criticism of NFTs is that they're essentially publically visibly owned art. So it makes you subject to very predictable wrench attacks.
Q: Do you have any bug bounty to check for weaknesses?
Elena: We're setting up a Bug Bounty currently through a platform called Hacker1. Stay tuned for more announcements as they come live soon.
Q: Will node operators be able to earn rewards on the mainnet?
Elena: Iron Fish is a PoW chain, so miners get a block reward for successfully finding a block that is accepted by the network
Q: Is your project a community only for English-literate people?
Jason: Our primary channels are English, but we have many international channels we feel passionate about and are an important part of our community.
On top of that, I've started learning a new language to interact with one of those communities. Crypto is a decentralized global thing. So you must have more than just an English-only crypto community and coin.
It goes against the very nature of currency without boundaries! Join us!
Q: What are the most ambitious future goals of your project?
Elena: We're building Iron Fish to be the privacy platform for web3. Privacy is an important piece in the future of decentralized assets, and we currently do not have a go-to privacy solution in the crypto ecosystem. Therefore, all our future major projects are related to making Iron Fish an accessible, easy-to-use privacy platform.
Q: What inspired you to come up with the project name "IRON FISH?"
Elena: We published an article titled, Why the name 'Iron Fish'? to depict how a complex modern concept can be described using relatively simple words, and it even has two tradable commodities (iron and fish) right in its name.
Q: Do you guys feel satisfied by seeing your progress and achievements till now, when you look back to the day you started this project?
Elena: Our tenets have done extremely well. We had ~400k registered accounts across our three (3) testnets, and we airdropped to ~53k users, which was a much larger number than we anticipated. Our final testnet had >60k nodes, which stress-tested the Iron Fish network. Post mainnet launch, we've had incredible mining activity. There's still a ton we can do, but I'm grateful for all the achievements we've had so far.
Q: Please prove that your project is feasible.
Jason: Well, for one, all of our promised launch features are out now. We currently have a brand new L1 with support for multi assets. Our "magic" private asset support works right now. You can see on the mainnet that many people have already started minting assets
In general, we're focusing on starting small and rapidly expanding. Once we're done working on stabilization, we will focus on demand from the community, like a GUI Node App product, to make it easier to run an Iron Fish node.
We plan to continue to expand the protocol over the next year. We've already started to put together a solid roadmap and look forward to having engineers work on those projects. There are a lot of features on it!
Q: Do you have any technological solutions or plans to enhance user trust in these issues?
Jason: Yes, we will release an Audit in the coming months. We'll also publish security reports and transparent information related to various activities when we can, like security breaches and vulnerabilities we're aware of.
We're currently looking to publish a security policy with information on how to understand the state of security of Iron Fish at any moment. This information will live in our Developer documentation or on our official website once it's ready.
We're also interested in adding canaries if you know Reddit's famous surveillance canary.
KuCoin Post AMA Activity — Iron Fish (IRON)
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