Ripple Labs, maintainer of the digital currency Ripple, has announced it will not continue the development of its smart contract project nearly a year after it was announced, saying the “small and nascent decentralization market” is too immature.
In a blog post, Ripple Labs CTO Stefan Thomas wrote that the company, which recently raised a $28 million funding round, has no plans to work on Codius, a platform that allows people to build distributed applications, and will instead build its own decentralized apps “manually.” He cited a lack of demand as the biggest reason why the project was closed.
“Codius is just a way to make decentralization easier," Thomas wrote, "it's an optimization, you don't need it,” but “If there is demand and corresponding supply there is an obvious incentive for somebody to capitalize on this opportunity.”
Codius’ source code can be found on its Github and is free for anyone to tinker or build with.
Not as decentralized, not as costly
Announced in July, 2014, Codius set out to build a platform that smart contract-distributed apps could be built on top of. Unlike decentralized Bitcoin apps, this platform would use hosting providers, like the ones that run many websites, to host the decentralized applications — not a decentralized network. The Codius project was devised to make the process of setting up your smart contract app in a hosting provider automated and streamlined.
While relying on centralized entities that require trust may not bode well with many bitcoin advocates – unlike Bitcoin’s proof-of-work system – Codius is much cheaper both in terms of computing power and electricity. (Both systems have advantages and disadvantages).
When Ripple announced the project, it said an industry like the one that was created around digital currencies would emerge around smart contracts. That vision hasn't materialized yet, although there has been recent interest in the space with two smart contract startups having just raised multiple-million dollar funding rounds.
It did get inquiries from a “significant” number of developers and companies, but ultimately, Ripple Labs saw the low demand as not enough to justify continuing the project.
Although Codius 1.0 was released earlier this year, much remains in the way of the advancement of the smart contract platform. In order to make the process further automated and secure, hosting providers will need to verify the programs being run by these smart contracts by certifying cryptographically what code they are running.
Other challenges remain in the highly fragmented world of online standards. Codius relies on being able to automatically pay hosting providers, but without a clear Web payment standard (like Bitcoin), that is a continued challenge. Ripple Labs did say it was looking forward to completion of the work by the World Wide Web Consortium on this front. The other challenge cited by the company was differences in hosting providers’ APIs, causing problems for Codius.
Ripple Labs seems optimistic that a lot of the problems will be solved as the industry matures. The company said it will continue working on its own distributed applications (possibly for all those banks it has been partnering with recently) and advised others doing the same, or interested in doing so, to join the Codius mailing list.