The Ethereum blockchain’s well-known scaling problems have opened the door to competing Layer-1 networks bidding to provide a more capable foundation for decentralized applications. There has been a lot of interest in these alternative blockchains, with the likes of Avalanche, Solana, Fantom and others all getting a lot of attention. But one of the most promising competitors to emerge could well be Aptos, an up-and-coming blockchain that’s based on a more advanced programming language called Move.
What’s Aptos All About?
If you haven’t heard about Aptos yet then start paying attention. Still under development, Aptos promises to be a faster, more scalable and more secure blockchain than its existing competitors. Notably, Aptos was conceived and built by experienced engineers who formerly worked on Meta Platform’s Diem blockchain, the same people who created the Move language.
Those engineers are Mo Shaikh, Aptos’s CEO, and Avery Ching, the CTO, who previously also worked together on the Novi crypto wallet. With Aptos, they say they’re focused on creating a Layer-1 network that can advance decentralization without sacrificing its reliability, usability and safety. These are the main problems that are holding back adoption of blockchain, they say. To overcome these challenges, they have reassembled many of the original designers and creators who were involved with the Diem project, which was ultimately sidelined by Meta not because it didn’t work, but rather due to regulatory concerns.
Aptos’s technology foundation clearly has a lot of potential, and that has been recognized in a big way. The project has raised some serious capital, with an initial $200 million funding round led by a16z crypto, Multicoin Capital, ParaFi, Haun Ventures, PayPal Ventures, FTX Ventures, Coinbase Ventures and others, then a $150 million Series A round led by Sam Bankman-FTX Fried’s Ventures and Jump Crypto, and finally, an undisclosed investment from Binance Labs. Aptos has consequently been valued at more than $1 billion, despite not even launching its mainnet yet.
Move: Aptos’s Secret Sauce
The newly developed, Rust-based Move programming language is the key feature of Aptos. Move was first developed by Meta to enable greater scalability and security for Diem, and now it’s being used by Aptos for exactly the same reasons.
The Aptos team says the main advantage of Move is the way it uses system resources. For the uninitiated, resources refer to a protected method of storing data within a system. With Move, these resources have a higher status within the code’s architecture than they do with alternative languages like Solidity. This means that resources cannot be copied or accidentally deleted.
In an interview, Hsuan Lee, co-founder and CEO of the Blocto smart contract wallet and portto, the company that built Blocto, told us that Aptos’ decision to embrace Move will provide it with key advantages that no other blockchain can offer.
“The Move language and resource model solves a lot of performance and security problems that are seen in most other Layer-1 protocols,” Hsuan said.
He explained that the key thing to understand with Move is that essential information such as tokens and smart contracts are stored as resources, ensuring that these assets are much more secure than with other blockchains. The Move language is used to implement the key elements of Aptos, such as user accounts, transaction fees, validator node management, configuration and a standard library.
There’s more to Aptos than just Move, however. Security was one of the main considerations for its designers and they have incorporated numerous other features beyond what Move provides. For instance, Aptos relies on a powerful consensus method called DiemBFT v4, which is derived from Diem’s HotStuff protocol.
DiemBFT v4 is notably Byzantine Fault Tolerant. This means it solves the Byzantine General Problem that’s necessary to solve in all decentralized networks. The problem can be thought of like this: Imagine there is a group of generals who’re all working together to create a battle plan. The generals know that one of the people in their group is a traitor, passing on false information, but they don’t know which one. So the dilemma is how to create a plan, given that there’s a traitor in their midst. With decentralized networks, this problem refers to the network participants, or validators who must cooperate to confirm or deny transactions without any trust.
DiemBFT v4 solves the Byzantine General Problem by ensuring the network runs smoothly irrespective of the actions of any one validator. It does so while maintaining blazing fast transaction speeds. The way it works is, it uses a reputation system for validators to manage rotations, synchronizing voting with a pacemaker. Aptos claims to be able to validate transactions in under a second, making it one of the fastest blockchain networks ever built.
There are other security features that can help to protect user’s assets, including a unique key recovery system for those who lose their private key, and a key rotation system to protect against fraud.
Aptos’s other big promise is around speed and scalability. Blockchain transaction speeds can be measured in a couple of ways, either through transactions per second, or time to finality. The first one, TPS, is all about throughput, or the number of transactions that can be processed by the network each second. As for TTF, this refers to the time it takes for a transaction to be committed to the blockchain, where it is then considered final. TTF is important because it represents the amount of time it takes for tokens that have been sent to be accessible in the recipient’s wallet.
Demonstrations on the Aptos testnet have shown that its TTF is under one second, meaning it ranks alongside super-fast chains like Avalanche and Fanton. At the same time, it has recorded a record-breaking 160,000 TPS under test conditions.
Aptos achieves this feat due to the way its execution pipeline is decoupled from its consensus mechanism. It allows transactions to be organized like an assembly line, where consensus and execution happens independently and simultaneously. Aptos has also incorporated an improved HotStuff BFT engine that makes it possible to validate transactions in just two network hops, far faster than other blockchains, which require multiple rounds of voting by validators.
In addition, Aptos uses a technique known as parallel execution to speed things up even faster. Most blockchains use serial execution, which refers to a single chronology of transactions that are updated by the system each time new activity is recorded on the blockchain. With this method, each new transaction is added to that single chronology one at a time. This protects against fraud, but slows down transaction speeds.
Parallel execution involves running multiple chains simultaneously, instead of just one, enabling more than one transaction to be processed at once.
Aptos recently demonstrated the capabilities of parallel execution in an experiment designed to showcase its ability to solve one of blockchain’s biggest challenges – the minting of large collections of NFTs. In that test, Aptos was able to mint millions of NFTs in under an hour.
Aptos said this demonstrates the potential of its blockchain to launch new projects in record-breaking time compared to other blockchains.
Aptos claims its blockchain will be the most scalable of all, referring to its ability to cope with an ever-expanding number of decentralized applications using its network. Scalability is a key consideration for any blockchain as adoption increases, and is the main source of Ethereum’s growing pains. The issue is that as the number of users grows, the performance requirements of each dApp increase exponentially. If crypto is ever going to replace fiat money for day-to-day transactions, and if dApps and Web3 are going to replace Web 2.0, the underlying blockchain will need incredible scale.
Luckily, Aptos solves this too, avoiding network congestion through the aforementioned parallel execution technique. At the same time, Aptos manages network validators on-chain, making it easy to hold votes and upgrade its network without downtime. Finally, Aptos uses “state sync” to future-proof its blockchain. Whereas other networks add new blocks to their chain by executing transactions that are replicated by other users, Aptos enables non-validators to distribute data, ensuring all of the network’s participants stay in sync. It also uses an accumulator to help network nodes stay in sync, as opposed to having them download the entire transaction history of the ledger.
A dApp Developers’ Darling
For a blockchain project that has yet to even launch its mainnet, Aptos has demonstrated its ability to grow an impressive ecosystem of dApps.
One of the biggest companies building on Aptos is Pontem Network, a design studio for decentralized tools that was originally focused on the Diem blockchain. Given that Diem failed to get off the ground, it made complete sense for Pontem to carry over its efforts to Aptos. Pontem is keeping itself busy, creating a range of foundational products for the Aptos and Move ecosystem. These include the Pontem Wallet, Liquidswap, which will be one of the first decentralized exchanges on Aptos, the Intellij Move IDE, and ByteBabel, which is a Solidity to Move bytecode translator for porting EVM-based dApps to Aptos.
While Pontem might be building the most initiatives for Aptos, there are many other big names in the crypto space that are also looking at this blockchain. One of the biggest names to embrace it so far is Hsuan’s Blocto, whose community recently voted to not only integrate with Aptos, but also to provide it with a 7 million BLT token grant to enhance that integration.
Blocto’s goal with the integration is to enable 30 second onboarding with one of the most promising blockchains to launch this year, it explained in a blog post. It’s going the whole hog too, with plans to enable an Aptos wallet asset card within the Blocto application, along with the ability to deposit, withdraw and transfer Aptos-based tokens and NFTs. Other features will include a native Web3 browser for Aptos, plus native staking for Aptos tokens. Of course, Aptos users will also be able to take advantage of Blocto’s unique choice of custodial or non-custodial modes, giving them the option to hand over their privacy keys to Blocto for safekeeping. Blocto will also launch its native BLT token on Aptos.
Hsuan said Blocto and its community has taken the decision to embrace Aptos early because it understands just how revolutionary its network can ultimately become. What’s more, he pointed out that Blocto is not alone in sharing these sentiments, with over 100 projects reportedly building on Aptos already.
“Aptos has attracted a huge developer community already, even before its mainnet launch,” Hsuan said. “The number of projects building on Atmos now is similar to how many were building on Solana several months after its mainnent launch.”
Aptos launched its developer testnet back in March and in no time at all it hit its peak of 18,000 active nodes, becoming the largest proof-of-stake node community in the blockchain industry. That was followed by stage one of its incentivized testnet, that ran between May 24 and June 9, during which 100 validators were selected from 30,000 submissions. The test was a big success that also helped the team to discover numerous bugs and strengthen the network.
“Aptos has created a good developer experience, with a platform that’s well suited to building mass-market facing dApps,” Hsuan said. “Overall it’s a pretty balanced ecosystem, good for both crypto-native user-facing apps like DeFi, and newbie-facing apps such as casual games.”
Aptos’s D-Day Approaches
What really makes Aptos stand out from the crowd is that it attempts to solve existing blockchain problems while keeping users in mind. This is an approach that stems from its founder’s belief that in order to reach mass adoption, blockchain must provide a significantly greater degree of security and scalability. If Aptos can get these things right, it will have a serious competitive edge over other networks.
Aptos’s user-friendly developer experience is an important asset too, because this directly impacts the quality of the dApps that are built upon its network. Within the blockchain industry, funds flow like this: Capital > developers > users > transactions > total value locked > price. By investing in the earlier stages of this cycle, i.e., by focusing on the developer experience, Aptos believes it can enhance value all throughout this chain. The proof is in the pudding, of course, and Aptos can already boast a strong developer ecosystem that includes not only Blocto and Pontem, but also names like Binance, Coinbase, Anchorage, Livepeer, Paxos, Rarible, Moonclave, Paymagic and Blockorus, to name just some.
The strength of the Aptos community can also be observed on its Discord server, which has more than 63,000 members and counting. Finally, Aptos recently announced a new developer grant program that will see it use some of the millions it has raised to boost its ecosystem directly. With the grants, Aptos is focused on infrastructure, governance, developer tooling and dApps in areas such as DeFi, NFTs and gaming.
The bottom line is that Aptos has a well-funded, extremely experienced and very skilled team, backed by an incredibly strong, and growing community of developers. With a modern, future-proofed technology stack and a highly efficient programming language in the shape of Move, the launch of its mainnet later this month could well be one of the most significant occasions in the crypto industry so far.
Image source: Aptos