metaverse, VR, games; DAGs; web3 bizdev & NFTs; wallet security, gas optimization
1. Trend deep-dive: the metaverse, crypto, more
Elena Burger, Herman Narula, Sonal Chokshi
"Metaverse" is a hot topic, one that is vastly covered but also wildly misunderstood (or co-opted). Many arguments and discussions about the metaverse have hinged on what it looks like — should it be 3-D? should it be accessed immersively, in VR? — but these are actually debates about aesthetics, and are often conflated with technical considerations…
So what IS (and isn’t) the metaverse? Where do (and don’t) trends like virtual reality, videogames, on-chain gaming, DAOs, and others come in? Wherefore crypto, and the ethos of interoperability, composability, etc.? And how does the future of communities, brands, workplaces (really, just the way we live, work, and play) evolve with “the metaverse”?
In this series, we wind backwards and forwards across past, present, and future to cover all things metaverse, from tech and science fiction to the arts. Because it’s not just about technology… the metaverse is the latest manifestation of an ancient human tendency: the act of worldbuilding. Or so argues Improbable CEO Herman Narula, author of the new book, Virtual Society (Penguin Random House, October 2022).
listen to the episode
read reflection/ review
see also/ icymi:
Liz Harkavy, Eddy Lazzarin, & Arianna Simpson on essential ingredients for the metaverse
2. Fundamentals: All about DAG-based consensus
Andrew Lewis-Pye, Sasha Spiegelman, Ehud Shapiro
One of the most exciting developments in consensus protocols has been recent advances in DAG-based consensus — “directed acyclic graphs”, in which blocks can point to multiple predecessors. So in the ongoing a16z crypto research seminar series hosted by head of research Tim Roughgarden, we cover advances in DAGs:
Andrew Lewis-Pye of London School of Economics continues his fundamentals of consensus series [which we shared with you in our last newsletter] by offering a tutorial on DAG-based consensus — including definitions, use cases, challenges, and current deployment;
Alexander (Sasha) Spiegelman of Aptos Labs presents recent developments in the theory and practice of DAG-based BFT consensus, which is currently being implemented by several blockchain companies. Spiegelman also discusses how the Narwhal protocol decouples data to build a highly efficient DAG; and covers locally (with zero communication overhead) ordering nodes by using DAG-Rider/ Tusk/ Bullshark;
Ehud Shapiro of Weizmann Institute of Science explains his new DAG-based consensus family of “Cordial Miners” protocols, with optimally fault tolerant instances for the models of asynchrony and eventual synchrony. Shapiro also discusses how Cordial Miners fits into the blocklace, a partially-ordered generalization of the totally-ordered blockchain — which can realize all algorithmic tasks required for ordering consensus: dissemination, equivocation-exclusion, and ordering.
see latest videos here
3. How-to guides: building partnerships with NFT communities
Pyrs Carvolth, Maggie Hsu
As NFT communities and projects attract interest from web3 and traditional companies alike, various projects and brands have been wondering how to do partnerships. Successful partnerships can help builders and projects unearth shared goals, reach fresh audiences, and advance the space through exciting new experiments and experiences. The catch? It’s not always clear where to start.
NFT communities aren’t monoliths: they’re unique networks that differ tremendously in missions, products, and organizational structures. So any business-development outreach plan should reflect those differences. Just as some traditional customer acquisition frameworks are turned around in go-to-market for web3, business development for NFT communities involves setting aside more traditional forms of “outside-in” outreach in favor of a more “inside-out” approach rooted in community participation. We share a framework for researching, reaching out to, and building impactful NFT partnerships, below.
4. Security: the ‘non-custodial’ fallacy in crypto wallets
Nassim Eddequiouaq, Riyaz Faizullabhoy
“Not your keys, not your crypto” conveys a purist’s philosophy of cryptographic key management… but it’s better to regard wallet security with far more nuance than that. Especially because a number of high-profile non-custodial wallet hacks have undermined the conventional distinction between “custodial” and “non-custodial” wallets. (Crypto wallets that give individuals direct and sole control of their own keys are called “non-custodial”, meaning no outside parties have access — but non-custodial wallets do not really put users in full control of their keys: wallets are typically created by, and operated via, someone else’s software / hardware.)
Each touchpoint along the chain of key management — from key generation to storage to usage — adds risk, and together shatters the illusion of the “non-custodial wallet”. So in this post, we provide an overview of key management; cover common features of crypto wallet security and today’s custody platforms; help engineers identify and shore up frequent points of failure in wallet development; and share future directions/ areas of improvement here.
5. Methods behind the madness: Winning the IAmTheOptimizor gas challenge
Noah Citron, Matt Gleason
Gas golfing plays an important role in smart contract engineering. Not only does it save valuable blockspace; it is a fun and challenging task. So when 0xBeans launched the gas-golfing challenge “I Am The Optimizor” — a strange on-chain gas optimization contest that had some crazy solutions — we joined in.
Contestants (smart contract engineers and teams) compete to write a contract that solves the classic 3Sum problem. Contracts are scored by the sum of their gas usage and size. Those with the lowest score steal a special NFT from previous winners. So far, the NFT has been claimed by 16 such optimizors — most recently (and perhaps ultimately), by the authors of this post. We reveal details about how our solution works; cover some of the other approaches we built on; and share the unconventional (“insane” “in disbelief”) optimizations we used.
Bonus resource: Crypto Startup School 2023
Crypto Startup School is a twelve-week accelerator run by a16z crypto, designed around the specific needs of web3 startups seeking to develop and scale their companies. Launched in 2020, it’s now back for spring 2023!
apply here & FAQs
watch past lectures & discussions
--Sonal Chokshi, Stephanie Zinn, Tim Sullivan, Robert Hackett, and the a16z crypto team
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