Fabian Vogelsteller

By March 3, 2018evangelist

Fabian is the creator ERC-20 standard, lead DApp developer at Ethereum Foundation. He works on Mist and web3.

fabian vogelsteller

Q: Hi Fabian! Can you tell us about yourself and what you're working on?

I am working since 3 years for the Ethereum project and initially build most of the user-facing applications, like the Mist Browser, the Ethereum Wallet, and others. I am currently working on web3.js the JavaScript library that people use mainly to interact with Ethereum nodes.

I started out as a web developer, building my own content management system, called feindura.org. Over my 20s I’ve build numerous websites for small businesses using this CMS.

Today I am deeply involved in the blockchain space working on the tech-tools, giving talks on conferences and advices to people and projects. Additionally I help to standardise smart contracts, like the ERC 20 token standard and ERC 725 identity, and work on my own project called lukso.io.

Q: How did you get into the Ethereum project?

I got interested in bitcoin in March 2013 when i read that a Canadian wanted to sell its house in bitcoin. This was the wakeup call for me and brought me deep into the blockchain space. I saw how altcoins popped up, and everybody created its own blockchain to create custom tokens. Sometimes with little to no innovative value, sometimes complete build from scratch with a lot of innovation.

It became more interesting as the mastercoin project explored the idea of using the Bitcoin blockchain as a secure layer for so-called colored coins. When they did their crowdsale, it was the first of its kind. A crowdsale purely in bitcoin.

At the end of 2013 I heard about Ethereum and followed the project since inception, but didn’t have the time to contribute myself due to my full-time job and family. Later when the startup I worked for dissolved I was eager to find something in the space I filled all my free time with already.

When the bitcoin center Berlin opened, a planned co-working space for blockchain startups in 2014, I went there to see if there was anything interesting for me and if they are able to pay salaries 😉

Sadly it looked all rather like bootstrapping and a strong focus on bitcoin, as a payment system. Mostly wallet and invoice service ideas.

But at that party I met with Aaron Buchanan, back then the person who managed the administration for the yet very young Ethereum project. I asked him about possibilities to help out, but they also got no money.. until the next day, when the presale started!

It came as a surprise to me and others, as we were all waiting for months for this event. It took still a few months more until I’ve met Aaron again, now in their new office in Berlin before things started to roll for me.

Alex van de Sande contacted me and asked if i want to build Dapps and the Mist browser for Ethereum. Since this january 2015 I work for the Ethereum project.

I’ve since been part of the team and lived through the Launch of the network, the DAO debacle and all major planned and unplanned forks and turbulences of Ethereum.

Ethereum frontier block

Q: What are you working on in Ethereum?

In the first months I’ve built a chat application which uses the Whisper protocol, it is actually still not yet integrated into Mist, but will be once whisper version 6 is out. I then worked on the Mist Browser and the Ethereum Wallet, which were my first bigger projects in 2015. On the side, I helped shape the RPC API and helped out with web3.js, the JavaScript library used by most Ethereum developers in one form or another.

Q: What is Mist Browser? What purposes can it be used?

The Mist Browser is a container to run decentralized applications, so-called DApps. The idea of a DApp in Mist is an application which only runs in the frontend as a single page application, gets downloaded from Swarm or IPFS, and utilizes smart contracts on the Ethereum Blockchain as its core logic.

Mist Browser

Mist is the first tool which showcased this new web 3.0, but had some usability issues  in recent months due to the slow syncing network. Mist comes with a full node, and the team is working hard to add remote nodes to make Mist useful again.

Its vision is to implement the full decentralised web.

Its vision is to implement the full decentralised web where no component is relying on trusted middleman and providers anymore. This needs tools like automated formal verification checks on contracts using pre-generated proofs and reputation systems as such. Better transaction handling and settings and improved UX to make using this new web as easy as using any apps today.




Q: Will Ethereum remain the leading Smart Contract platform? There are many competitors appearing. Are you ready for the battle?

None of this is a battle. I would call it co-creation. In the end, it is not about this or that blockchain, because every blockchain project and tools bring the whole space forward. It is a learning for everybody.

Ethereum might very well be the Netscape of the blockchain space in some years time, but as of now it is the innovator in the space when it comes to smart contracts. All the tools building the knowledge acquired, the standards being set will not go away just because another project appears. If at all we will see a merging of these new platforms tools and technology.

Ethereum might very well be the Netscape of the blockchain space in some years time.

Currently 80% of smart contract Blockchains use the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) to run smart contracts. And if they came up with their own system it is a niche with little tools and developers. It is also hard to imagine that JavaScript will go away anytime soon, though at some point even that might happen.

For the foreseeable future Ethereum – the protocol and its EVM will remain the core piece of smart contract evolution and innovation. In fact, we are working ourselves to supersede the EVM with a better virtual machine based on EWASM.

Q: What are the biggest hurdles for Ethereum to overcome?

The biggest hurdle for any Blockchain today is scalability. Ethereum is here no different, but has already a better throughput than Bitcoin and others.

I always compare it LCD displays, they were initially clunky with little colors and pixels. Today we have 4K displays and VR displays which make it almost impossible to distinguish pixels even when one is very close up.

The same will happen here. It is just a matter of improving the architecture. As of now, we are using the simplest form, where every node is verifying every transaction. It is like a single-threaded computer, which processes task linear. The next step would be to make it a multithreaded computer, and then to improve the parallelization.

Q: What are the Ethereum’s plans for the next 12 months?

I am probably the wrong person to ask that, as I’m not participating in the AllCoreDevs meetings that often. But all in all, it is to get Caspar ready for a testnet and introduce it to the mainnet. This will be the basis for consensus sharding, which is the multi-threaded computer I talked about above.

Important is also to create tools for formal verification and debugging of smart contracts, but there are already a lot of good starts.

Standards is also an important part of the ecosystem, as it allows for compatibility between systems and users. I am working on a standard for Identity on the Blockchain, called ERC 725, and pushed ERC 20 to gain attention in 2015.

Q: What preparations does Ethereum need to finish before beginning its mass adoption?

Scalability is certainly an important piece, but easy to use wallet proxies, where the loss of single keys is not that dramatic anymore would be necessary. This is also a problem for all the other Blockchains, and improvements in space overall help all platforms, as everything is open source, and knowledge gets shared.

Q: What is ERC-725 Identity standart and how can it help to create the world a better place for humans?

ERC 725 is a smart contract standard for identity. It standardizes how to use and interact with an identity. There are many standards around self-sovereign identity, but this approach lets people experiment with it. Identity doesn't necessarily need to be the one of real people, it can be personas, gamer profiles, work profiles, or even things and robots. ERC 725 is meant to be a root identity, from which many other nonpublic identities can be linked.

ERC 725 identity standard

In its basic form it is a smart contract that holds keys people use to sign, and transact with. It has an execution function to allow for interaction with other smart contracts and a registry to add claims. These claims are the core of the identity, as they allow others to make statements about one self. So can an estate agency issue claims about biometric data, or residency to fulfill KYC requirements. These claims would contain the data itself, but rather reference it. The claim issuer then would hold the data and control the access rights to it. But the claim issuer could also be another smart contract or an encrypted container that can proof things.

Q: Tell us about your own project – Lukso.

Lukso is my latest project together with my wife and a great team, interested in the fashion industry. We will start an Ethereum based consortium Blockchain for the Fashion and Design industry.

Lukso logo

I am talking since two years on stages about the future of Blockchain and I am very convinced that the time of special purpose and industry Blockchains is here. What corporations have seen on the public networks will repeat itself for specific industries, and it allows these industries to explore this technology in a somewhat controlled environment.

The nice thing about a Proof of Authority (PoA) Blockchain is that it allows every participant to verify the chain, but gives those who create the blocks a gatekeeper role, that allows for a controlled growth. It also lets the players in that industry benefit from the growth of that network, as a native token will be necessary to protect the network from spam.

We initiate and maintain this industry specific Blockchain, and build first use cases together with leading brands.

One use case will be the authentication of high end fashion and design products like expensive bags and furnitures. If you place a chip in them that are able to sign any messages with their built-in private key, they can authenticate themselves without that they can be replicated. Those items public keys will then be registered on the LUKSO NET in smart contracts of those brands so that everybody can verify its authenticity.

Q: Show off your workspace, please!

Fabian Vogelsteller workspace

Q: Mention 3 blockchain links.

I found a very useful link to be the Ethereum Glossary, it contains a lot of useful explanations about basic terms, and helped me a lot a few years ago to understand them. I would also give a big shoutout to all the developers at ConsenSys who build so many awesome tools over the last years, especially Time Coulter, Nick Dodson and Simon de la Rouviere and a few more.

Q: Where can we go to learn more about you?

I have a blog which I write once in a while, but I mainly use Twitter, where i post everything I find important and interesting. If people google my name, there are plenty of things I’ve build and videos from talks I gave, it should be easy to find me online.


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