Alexander Filatov – CEO and one of the founders of TON Labs.
Interviewer – Polina Vishnevskaya
- Alexander, could you tell us what interested you in TON even before Pavel Durov publicly announced it?
I have been observing so-called exponential technologies for a long time. And Blockchain is one of the brightest of them. I and many others believe that the decentralization of the Internet has been lost. Large corporations use users’ personal data and generally centralize Internet activity. This is a serious problem and blockchain is one of the solutions. Previously, there was no technical platform with what is called user experience and user interface (UX/UI). To make it the same experience as with simple applications. The emergence of TON strategically solves this problem. Users have the opportunity to work with a decentralized ecosystem with the same user experience as a centralized system. This is the great idea that interested me.
- Do you personally know the Durov brothers?
We know each other, and it’s not a secret. There is public information that TON Labs helped with TON debugging, code engineering, and documentation preparation. This technical partnership is a well-known fact.
- What was your reaction to the news that TON will not be launched?
Mixed feelings. The entire community would like Telegram to be able to launch TON and TON Labs to launch their TON operating system.
On the positive side, the launch approach that the community took in May after Telegram abandoned the project is more decentralized. This is definitely a plus for the project.
The exit of Telegrams from the project with its user base became a challenge for the community. But it was able to answer it with a partnership system that will provide content for the ecosystem. This is a pretty elegant solution. At first, of course, the movement will be one-way – from partners to users. But over time, the ecosystem will grow and be able to share users with partners. And then the partner flow will increase, and the speed of Free TON will increase even more.
- Is the finalization of the Free TON project the main mission of TON Labs?
TON Labs was specially created to provide technical support for the TON project. Debugging (finding and fixing bugs), contribution to documentation, TON OS, in which there are more than 2 million lines of optimized code (the blockchain itself is about 0.5 million lines). We do not hide this and are very proud of it. TON Labs has no other projects. The mission of the company in recent months and even years is Free TON.
- So TON Labs is exclusively engaged in Free TON right now, right?
Yes. It is impossible to do something else while leading such a large project. If you look at the consensus documents that the community has chosen, you will see that the network is positioned as a decentralized Internet.
- How many people work at TON Labs and do you have an office?
TON Labs has about 60 employees. This number has been stable for the last two years. We have slightly expanded our staff due to the workload on the company. We had to become a network developer, not just TON OS.
We do not have an office and this is a successful example of a decentralized team. As someone who has worked in an office for 20 years, I was skeptical about this. But in the end, I am delighted with this decision.
The fact is that as soon as you open offices, there is a link to something, you start recruiting employees in a certain geolocation. This is such a psychological moment. Therefore, offices are the kind of bindings that we avoid.
A known risk of a decentralized approach is that the team may not be cohesive. However, TON Labs has a rather complex system of planning and organization of work, which allows you to work efficiently without an office. We use different systems to motivate and control employees. In addition, employees themselves try to make communication more intimate and warm: for example, someone sends pizza to colleagues, someone sends flowers.
Of course, you need to meet periodically. We do this once a year. And in order to integrate employees who do not speak Russian into the team, we have all streams, demos and documentation in English.
- They write a lot about Governance 2.0 in chats. Tell us what makes it unique.
Free TON as a decentralized system is still managed by a group of people, chosen to some extent intuitively, on the basis of some kind of sympathy. Therefore, some kind of distribution within the system is needed. We already have 10 points of independent management – nine functional and one pilot, geographic, in South Korea. There will be even more of them.
Therefore, we are pleased to see how Governance is distributed. Even the theoretical centralization point will disappear at some point. At this very moment, the community will be completely self-governing, there will be no leaders or someone who centrally influences decision-making. This is everyone’s dream and it is gradually materializing.
- How is Free TON different from other blockchains?
Free TON has three fundamental differences. The first one that is most often mentioned is that Free TON is extremely powerful due to its dynamic sharding. It provides speed and performance sufficient to support any kind of transaction. Free TON has a more complex and advanced virtual machine than other blockchains. The entire system consists of Smart Contracts. The design is such that in Smart Contracts almost any logic can be implemented, no matter how complex it is.
The other two differences are less noticeable, but more global.
This is the previously mentioned decentralized governance system, which is gathering more and more people like a snowball. The closest analogue of this phenomenon is Wikipedia, which is a fairly decentralized community, although not without its bureaucratic nuances.
Some new territorial communities are constantly appearing in the Free TON system. For example, Mexican community has recently appeared. This is one of the most active chat rooms in the community.
I am now manually helping the African community to create their own point of control, which is quite difficult in a region with several language groups and a large number of countries.
And the third is a simple Free TON business model. There are no points of potential speculative interest on the part of anyone in the ecosystem. There is no centralization, 100% of tokens are in the process of being distributed to three groups: validators, developers and partners with their own user base and content. This is a unique feature of Free TON, which allows the community to grow to a billion users, which in turn makes it possible to become the first truly decentralized system that exists today.
- How do you see the development of Free TON? Will it lead to the emergence of a “new Ethereum” or even something more? Could you share your opinion on the prospects for the next year or two?
I have great respect for other fundamental blockchain structures, so I don’t want to criticize or compare anyone. The only thing I can say is that the incredible business model with the distribution of tokens in exchange for the added value of the network is a unique feature that will attract millions of users in a short period of time, most likely by the end of this year. In a more distant period, there are tens of millions of users, and then hundreds.
I think that not a single blockchain ecosystem in the world, due to its design and business model, is capable of this.
According to the latest reports, Ethereum has 1.3 million active users. This figure Free TON may leave behind by the end of the year. Twelve partnerships were signed just two months after launch.
Every day 2-3 new partners apply to the forum. Again, it’s a snowball. The intensity will only increase and the community will become more selective about partnerships. The user base will grow, which will attract more and more large partners.
- What problems can Free TON face? For example, a global Internet shutdown, 51% attack, or some other danger.
It is difficult to imagine a global Internet shutdown technically, but if this happens, then the problem will affect not only Free TON, but everyone in general.
I’ll leave the discussion of 51% attack probability to members of the TON Labs technical community. The design of the blockchain makes such an attack difficult, and as the ecosystem evolves, it will become more and more expensive.
Regarding other problems, Free TON has already passed some point. Next is the question of self-scaling. Free TON is no longer a centrally managed system.
- Is there a chance that Pavel Durov or someone from his team will join this project?
This is a question for Pavel. Relying on public sources, I can conclude that he closed the blockchain project for himself. Telegram is focused on developing its own ecosystem. In the short term, I see no signs that Telegram will join our project. The chances of this are exactly the same as if Viber, WhatsApp or Facebook expressed a desire to join Free TON.
Everyone respects the contribution of Telegram to the development of the code and it is noted in the “Declaration on Decentralization”. Free TON and Telegram are closer to their values than other communities. But nothing more. I don’t believe Telegram will join Free TON soon.
- Will Telegram have the opportunity to join Free TON as a partner?
I have never dived into this topic and, moreover, into the Telegram documentation. There are no restrictions on the Free TON side for this.
All partnership proposals are submitted for discussion by members of the ecosystem. And if such a partnership has added value for the ecosystem and the requested amount of tokens is considered adequate, then any partners will be able to join the network.
- What does Free TON need most at the moment?
More developers. If you look at the contests, there are already hundreds of teams. But even more of them are needed for content and decentralized applications to appear.
And even more activists who will join the network and accelerate the growth of the community.
I hope that with the growing popularity of Free TON, not only developers from blockchains, but also from big IT will come to us.
- What would you like to wish the community?
I wish Friton to join one of the largest experiments in the history of the Internet to build a truly decentralized autonomous community.
For example, an Austrian community team has proposed a transparency project in philanthropy. In my opinion, this is a great case. Because if you allocate money for something, you want their spending to be targeted. And blockchains provide a huge advantage in the transparency of such actions.
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