Move: The Javascript of Web3?

Look around Twitter feeds and crypto publications, and the names Sui and Aptos feature heavily. What is the deal with these new high throughput layer 1 blockchains and why are they attracting investments from the likes of a16z, FTX, Multicoin and co? Both blockchains have a deep history with Diem and use a new programming language — Move.

In this article, we will dive into the features of Move, take a brief look at Sui, Aptos and other blockchains who are adopting Move, and look back to the birth of Solidity/EVM before drawing parallels as to whether Move and the MoveVM can carve out a vibrant ecosystem of their own.

The Genesis of Move

Move is a Rust-based programming language, and it was developed for the purpose of Meta’s Diem blockchain project. The team was looking at other smart contract languages and none possessed the properties of scarcity, determinism and verifiability, which led them to building Move.

The existing Move github repository is currently managed by Mysten Labs, with teams from both Aptos and Sui forming part of Move’s core developer team. The vision for Move as a programming language in Web3 is to become what Javascript was for Web2, to be the framework for developers to build blockchain applications safely, easily and quickly.

Benefits of Move

Move is platform-agnostic and enables shared libraries, tooling and developer communities across blockchains. The language design places emphasis on safety, preventing issues such as re-entrancy vulnerabilities, poison tokens and spoofed token approvals where many Web3.0 users have fallen victim to. Digital assets are also treated as resources, which means that assets cannot be replicated or accidentally destroyed.

To provide additional protection, Move was co-developed with the Move Prover verification tool which allows developers to write formal specifications for the key correctness properties of their application, and use the prover to check for correct execution of the code, all within 30 seconds.

Moreover, the data model for its assets within Move allows for high composability. Move assets are arbitrary user-defined types; this means that assets can be passed as arguments, stored inside other assets and more importantly, move freely across contract boundaries without losing their integrity. This is a stark contrast to EVM assets written in Solidity, which can only be accessed from within the contract they are defined in (i.e. they cannot be accessed externally).

Who’s Building with Move?

  1. Sui by Mysten Labs

What is Sui and who’s behind it?

Sui by Mysten Labs is a decentralised, proof of stake blockchain with horizontally scalable throughput and storage. The team behind Mysten Labs came from Novi Research, the advanced blockchain R&D division within Meta that was working on the execution and cryptography of the Diem blockchain and Move programming language. The founding team includes CEO Evan Cheng, CPO Adeniyi Abiodun, CTO Sam Blackshear (creator of Move), Chief Scientist George Danezis and Chief Cryptographer Kostas Chalkais.

Funding

Mysten Labs is in talks to raise $200m in Series B funding at a $2 billion valuation, with FTX Ventures leading the round. Mysten Labs previously raised $36 million at the end of 2021 in a Series A funding round led by Andressen Horowitz.

Performance

Sui can process over 120,000 TPS with sub-second finality on independent transactions and up to 3 second finality on more complex transactions involving shared objects. Dependencies of transactions are mapped out before execution, allowing independent transactions to be processed through a Byzantine Consistent Broadcast while transactions involving shared objects are handled by another consensus protocol called Narwhal & Tusk.

Move on Sui

While Sui is using Move, it has made certain changes from core Move, most notably on the global storage operators and key abilities. These changes retain the security and flexibility of Move, but optimises the storage and address mechanisms, driving improved network performance and reducing transaction confirmation times.

Roadmap Developments

The Sui DevNet has been publicly released since May while the team has announced the launch of the incentivised TestNet in August 2022. Sui Hackathon registration is also open since the end of June.

Traction

Information on projects building on Sui has been scarce. To date, Sui Wallet, a chrome extension self custody wallet, has been launched, while third party Ethos Wallet has been active on the DevNet.

2. Aptos

What is Aptos and who’s behind it?

Aptos is a layer 1 blockchain with a mission to create universal and fair access to decentralised assets for billions of people. Aptos is co-founded by CEO Mo Shaik, formerly Head of Partnerships at Meta and CTO Avery Ching, formerly Principal Software Engineer of Meta’s internal Blockchain solutions. Prior to Meta, Mo was with Conesnsys, BlackRock and Boston Consulting Group while Avery was with Yahoo. The rest of the Aptos team consists of PhDs, researchers, engineers, designers and strategists with work experience across Meta, Novi, Amazon, VMware etc.

Funding

Aptos closed a $200 million investment led by a16z, with participation from Tiger Global, Katie Haun, Multicoin Capital, 3 Arrows Capital, FTX Ventures and Coinbase Ventures among others in March, followed up by a more recent $150m raise led by FTX Ventures on 25 July.

Performance

Aptos can manage up to 10,000 TPS to date with a theoretical max throughput of 160,000 TPS. Most transactions are validated in two network trips which results in a time to finality of 250ms. Key to Aptos’ throughput is the ability to separate the transaction execution layer from the consensus protocol, enable parallel execution capabilities through Block-STM, and achieve sub second latency through state synchronisation. The consensus engine is adapted from Diem’s HotStuff with the team onto the 4th iteration of it.

Move on Aptos

Aptos extends core MoveVM with additional features via an adapter layer which includes parallelism via Block-STM that enables concurrent execution of transactions without any input from the user, tables for storing key, value data within an account at scale, and fine grained storage that decouples amount of data stored in an account which affects gas fees for transactions associated with the account.

Roadmap Developments

The Aptos DevNet has been publicly released since March while the team has concluded Phase 1 out of 4 planned incentivised TestNets, with Phase 2 currently underway. Aptos also announced a grant program in June to further accelerate the rapid growth of the Aptos ecosystem with applications open now.

Traction

There are more than 1,500 forks on the Aptos-core repository and now over 100 projects across DeFi, NFTs, gaming etc. looking to deploy on mainnet. Teams such as Pontem Network, the Macalinao brothers, Nutrios, PayMagic, MartianDAO, Solrise are already getting ready for the Aptos mainnet launch estimated around the end of September.

3. Other blockchains adopting Move

0LA layer 1 blockchain protocol forked from the open source codeset that was created by Diem. The open source project started in 2019 as a community-driven initiative with no corporate sponsor, venture capital or foundation.

StarcoinA smart contract platform that uses an enhanced Proof of Work consensus, using the Move language. It optimises building of different ecosystems such as DeFi, NFTs, Gaming etc. through layered and flexible interoperability.

Comparison of Sui/Aptos vs Other Blockchains

Source: Aptos, Solana Explorer, Etherscan, Sui Node, Aptos Node, Solana Node, ETH Node

From the comparison above, Sui and Aptos are similar to Solana in terms of being able to execute transactions in parallel, and therefore having a higher throughput. However, both Sui and Aptos are closer to Ethereum in terms of having a lower barrier to entry when it comes to running a full validator node, which should help with greater decentralisation of the community validator network. Interestingly, the storage requirements on Sui and Aptos are much lower than Solana and Ethereum. It will be worthwhile to see if the need for greater storage will come once there is more historical state present on both nascent blockchains.

Solidity/EVM: How it became the most vibrant developer ecosystem

To fully appreciate the path that Move/MoveVM has taken to construct their own programming language and virtual machine, we need to look back to Solidity/EVM and what transpired for them to become the de-facto smart contract programming language today.

In the earlier days, there were two ways to write smart contracts on a new blockchain. It was either (a) use an existing programming language and run it through WebAssembly (WASM), a general purpose virtual machine or (b) construct a new programming language and new virtual machine from scratch.

While Solidity and EVM took the path less traveled, it looked to have come to fruition after the DeFi boom of 2020. So how did Solidity/EVM succeed over the general purpose WASM VM? @jolestar, a core developer at Starcoin, posits the three reasons below:

  • General purpose languages are more suited for operating systems rather than blockchains. If one were to strip away the operating system calls, file I/O, hardware, network and the concurrency libraries, the libraries that are shared between the smart contract and programming language are minimal. This defeats the purpose of using a general purpose programming language, where the main benefit is to leverage on existing shared libraries from the developer ecosystem.
  • While WASM could support different programming languages in theory, the reality was that programming languages with runtime systems (e.g. Go, Java) were ill-suited for blockchains, given the massive binary files once compiled. This effectively limited the programming languages to C, C++ and Rust, which from a new developer’s perspective, does not differ much from Solidity in terms of learning difficulty. Moreover, the various programming languages may have led to unintended fragmentation in the developer ecosystem.
  • Interoperability is still an issue given that the state processing mechanism of each chain is different, even if they run on the same WASM VM. Since smart contracts on each chain cannot be directly migrated to different chains, they also suffer the problem of a fragmented developer ecosystem.

Moreover, Solidity has proven to be sticky given its replicable open source library. The ability to reuse code that has already been audited is a huge bonus for application developers; secure smart contracts will require security audits, where every line of code results in additional costs. The larger developer ecosystem from the EVM community contributes towards a large amount of audited code, which only encourages more developers to come build on the EVM.

The Future for Move

Move/MoveVM is now embarking on the same path as Solidity/EVM did, and there are a few data points that are promising.

Source: a16z State of Crypto

Solana also made a similar choice to build their own virtual machine with the programming language Rust and have seen promising developer activity, matching Solidity’s growth trajectory from its early days. On the user front, Solana has also established itself as the chain with the most active accounts on daily, 7D and 30D metrics.

Given FTX Ventures are investors in Sui and Aptos, we believe that they can help develop the Move ecosystem, similar to how they did with Solana during its bootstrapping phase. Both Sui and Aptos are pushing heavily on their DevNets with grants and hackathons as mentioned above, and we should see developer activity start to increase in the coming months.

Moreover, to help overcome the initial lack of developer resources and to assist with gradual migration from other developers, projects such as Pontem have already developed a fork of the Diem MoveVM which can be deployed to other modern chains such as Polkadot, Cosmos, Avalanche, etc. and are working on a new EVM compatible with the MoveVM.

Overall, we believe that Move, as a programming language, can provide a safer, quicker and easier way to write smart contracts which will form the basis of a strong and vibrant developer ecosystem looking to build the next generation of Web3 applications to onboard a billion users.

Over the coming weeks, we will share our deeper findings into the Sui and Aptos blockchains.

Special mention to Jolestar who provided his technical expertise and views. Jolestar is an early adopter of Move and core developer at Starcoin.

Written By Henry Ang, Mustafa Yilham & Jermaine Wong

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