Celestia launched on mainnet in November as a new "data availability" network that aims to usher in a new era in blockchain architecture.
Is it a modular era? This next project thinks so Celestia launched on main net this month as a new data availability network. The project says this is a new era in Blockchain architecture. Joining us now to discuss is Mustafa Al Bassam who now serves as CEO of Celestial Labs. Welcome to the show. Hello, great to be here. Great to have you here. Now, let's talk about Celestia, but let's just zoom out here. This started as a research paper while you were doing your phd, talk to us about the problem uh or that you were trying to solve or um the hypothesis you were trying to prove when you set out on this uh research journey. Sure. So this last year was created in 2019 as a white paper when I was doing research into layer one scaling solutions. And previously I had co-authored a project called uh Chains Space, which was one of the first Blockchain sharding protocols that was acquired by Facebook, but I didn't join Facebook and I started Celestial instead, which was formerly known as Laser Ledger. And the reason why I started it is because at the time I saw that there was a lot of very complicated layer one scaling solutions being proposed. This was a time when Ethereum had its six phase Ethereum 2.0 road map before roll ups even existed. There was this extremely complicated Ethereum kind of scaling roadmap with 1000 shards and a 66 phase roadmap. So I kind of decided to kind of like go back to the basics and really ask myself the question is, which is how would I create a Blockchain? A very simple Blockchain from scratch or like what is the, what, what is the fundamental aspects of a Blockchain? And how can we scale that? So, Celestia is just basically an extremely minimal Blockchain that only does consensus and data availability and scales that really well and leaves and it doesn't have a smart contract environment, it doesn't have an execution environment. Instead it leaves that aspect to the developer to deploy their own execution environment on top of it in the form of a roll up. And that's what we basically call a modular Blockchain design where previous blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, they try to do everything, for example, you know, uh Ethereum has its consensus mechanism, but it also has an embedded smart contract environment. But with module blockchains, the base layer is no longer responsible for execution and it only just scales consensus really well. And on um on top of that, you only have roll ups on top or layer twos that are responsible for the, for the execution. So this is a, a I, I'm trying to use a lego analogy because everyone knows LEGO. Uh so one would think they're not even just, this is not even lego blocks. This is just sort of like the, the that green platform you get from LEGO that you could build on top of correct. That's the best way to describe it. Yeah, I think that's a pretty good analogy actually. Um what we're trying to do is make that green platform as big as possible and not, and we don't, it's like buying a green platform without any LEGOS on top of it already. And developers can create the logos on top or design the logos on top. However, you, however, it fits their use case. So like instead of having um the Ethereum virtual machine, for example, if you're on Ethereum, you have to, you have to um use the Ethereum virtual machine and create a contract in solidity. And that's part of the reason why Ethereum can't scale, for example, because the Ethereum isn't paralyzed and everyone has to execute the same transaction. Um because Ethereum has this world computer model where everything runs on the same execution environment. Um Whereas with roll ups, the idea is that you can create effectively your own virtual blockchains where every application could have its own chain or you could have multiple different chains. For example, you have optimism, you have arbitra, those are all like kind of independent chains with their own environments. And so um it's just a, it's a fundamentally more scalable way of scaling Blockchain technology than having this single smart contract environment where everything happens on top of it. Instead, we have a modular, modular ecosystem where you can swap out different components and different applications can run independently with each other, just like how the web works today. Like you have different websites running on their own servers. You don't have every single, you don't have every single website running on the same server on the same data center. So it, it how would I judge? How would anybody judge its performance relative to the likes of, let's say thee uh give us some numbers here that you know that you do better, that celestial does better than a theorem. Sure. So the main um in this kind of like modular landscape and the way to judge performance is not transaction three report but through data three report. Um So right now with Ethereum um has, has a roll up specific scaling road map where it's supposed to scale with roll ups. But right now in Ethereum, the bottleneck for roll ups is that data availability just that the cost of posting that roll up data on chain is very expensive. And that's because the Ethereum chain right now because it only handles something like 10 kilobits per second. It's, it's kind of like in the dial up era. Um It has very low data three report for these roll ups to post their data onto it. But with Celestia, the idea is to kind of like bring um blockchains into the broadband era. And so with Celestia, it has a more of an order of magnitude of, you know, a megabit per second of of data freeport 100 X as much data throughput as the, the I'm gonna do right now and that removes the scaling scaling bottleneck for these roll ups because now there's a lot more data throughput for these roll ups to actually post their data on or as you as you use in your analogy um making the green platform for the LEGO is much bigger. Now, we've spoken about the benefits for developer building in this ecosystem versus some of the other ones out there. What are the benefits for the end users of the applications that these developers uh would be building? Sure. I think there's kind of like two main benefits. One of the most obvious ones is is scalability and scalability results in cheaper transaction fees. If you have a more scalable, you know, Blockchain architecture, you obviously have cheaper transaction fees for users. And they're most like and we're more likely to get adoption that way. But one of the other benefits which I think is um underrated is that developers can create much better products. Thanks to the fact that they have much more flexibility and how they design their uh applications. Because as I said, because developers can create their own layer twos and roll ups. They're no longer limited to using whatever smart contract environment is is on the base layer like the Ethereum virtual machine. Instead they can kind of create um a environments that are more uh like uh suited for the use case. So to give you one example, there's a, there's a, there's a, there's some gaming projects called Curio and August, which are building gaming engines on Celestia that can run unchained games that simply are not possible in a traditional Blockchain paradigm. For example, Curio have actually managed to put like a real time strategy game with like a 0.5 2nd kind of like what they call a tick engine that you can. If you move your character, it moves immediately and is reflected on chain immediately. And that's because they've managed to modify the Ethereum virtual machine to embed that actual game logic directly into the Ethereum virtual machine rather than having to implement it as a smart contract. And so it fundamentally, it allows applications that have not been possible before. Just like um on the web, there's all sorts of all sorts of web infrastructure that only made possible. Thanks to the fact that people can deploy their own servers easily. Now you've had some competitors pop up that are working on a similar solution. There have also been layer ones and layer twos that are also trying to solve the scalability uh issue in different ways. How do but they still haven't been able to gain market share from Ethereum. How are you planning to gain market share as the project continues to grow? Sure. So I I should mention that Celestia is currently the first and the only uh specialized data availability that has launched. There's some other data availability layers that will launch. But right now, Celestia is the only one because we started way earlier as I said as II I kind of saw this as a problem in 2019. But right now, we have a rapidly growing e ecosystem where uh because we're the first to launch. Um thanks to the efforts of the of, of the developer community. Uh There's various, there's various roll up frameworks that you can go and use today to deploy a roll up on Celestia. So for example, you can deploy optimism roll up by using Celestia as a data layer. You can deploy arbitrary nitro roll up using Celestia as data layer. Uh because Celestia is the only one that actually exists right now that provides um that provides specialized data availability. All right, Mustafa, we are going to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining and congratulations on the launch. Thank you. That was Celestial Lab, Ceo Mustafa Al Bassam. Make sure you sign up for Coin Desk's protocol newsletter. Which explores the tech behind crypto one block at a time. You can find that at coindesk dot com slash newsletters.