Former Ripple CTO Launching New Tech ‘Codius’

Stefan Thomas, Ripple’s former CTO, is planning to launch a new smart contracts platform which is going to go against Ethereum.

The platform is called Codius, which is an open-source project that Ripple released in beta in 2014 but shelved the next year. Thomas announced his departure from Ripple in May but he is re-launching Codius as the technical base structure for his new company, Coil.

Codius aims to change the way websites monetize their content, says Coil. Ads, paywalls and user data harvesting has been primary ways on monetizing on content, but his new project, by using Interledger, an open-source protocol that was developed inside Ripple for sending payments across different ledgers, plans to allow users’ browsers to make micropayments to websites they visit.

Codius make use of a “revenue disbursement contract,” which generate revenue as people watch a movie and pay that money out to all the parties that made the movie – and not in batch payments, but little by little. Or a Codius smart contract could help news outlets and their readers interact in that it could manage readers’ authorizations and subscriptions “and act as a sort of switching board for your money,” Thomas said.

The implementation released on 6th June and it comes with tutorials for uploading and hosting Codius smart contracts, to try and push developers to start using the platform right away.

Telindus, a Luxembourg-based IT solutions subsidiary of the state-owned Belgian telecom Proximus Group, can use Codius to “push forward novel direct e-commerce models,” said Telindus chief architect Thomas Scherer. Josh Williams, who has previously invested in well-known game platforms Unity, Zynga and Kabam, plans to use Codius in new ventures, including a gaming company that is currently in stealth.

Williams told CoinDesk:

“Teams in games and elsewhere are building on Ethereum and running into the cost and scalability issues we’re all familiar with. Codius has great potential in addressing these concerns, and we are eager to work with it.”

Thomas agreed and said that Ethereum has demonstrated few of its own weak spots as Ethereum-based applications continue to run into scaling difficulties. Unlike Ethereum, Codius was designed to allow developers to write smart contract code in any programming language and have the smart contracts work as “smart oracles,” communicating with outside data sources.

Thomas said Codius has an opening: “The people that are reaching out to us are saying, ‘Hey, we’re experimenting on Ethereum. We’re running into scalability issues. It’s too expensive, too slow. It’s not flexible enough. We don’t like writing in this awkward language,'” he said.

When Codius was shelved, the primary reason behind it was that the idea seemed premature. Ripple engineers touted the platform as a model for interoperability at the time, saying it was able to handle not just XRP – the cryptocurrency most closely associated with Ripple – but bitcoin, ether and fiat currencies.

It has its own drawbacks though. Adding smart contracts opened up new ways to attack the ledger, and the technical pattern was difficult to build. Speaking in 2015, Thomas said that building smart contracts into a blockchain was like writing software directly into a database – difficult.

The team realized, this problem had been solved by computers in the 1970s by developing a three-tier architecture, in which a “logic layer” sits between the database and user interface layers.

Codius would serve as that middle layer, Thomas said, adding, “You would have a bit of code that’s accessing some assets on XRP ledger, that’s accessing some data that’s in Ethereum, and maybe it’s making an HTTP call and so you have a much more flexible architecture. And most importantly you can have those kinds of contracts call other contracts as well.”

But building that kind of platform required efficient communication between ledgers which lacked at that time, hence Ripple began developing the open-source Interledger Protocol to allow for this communication.

Now three years later, Thomas is ready to launch it. Thomas, though, argues that Codius’ design enables developers to balance their own priorities, rather than having to accept the network’s compromises as a given.

“You can choose the level of decentralization,” said Thomas. “If you upload it to four or five hosts, you’ll have a decentralization level that’s similar to Ethereum [and] you’ll have a cost that’s still orders of magnitude lower. Or you can upload it to 100 hosts, and you’ll have a much greater level of decentralization than you can get with Ethereum.

Codius’s network is built on HyperContainer, an open-source project that uses Docker containers to isolate a given contract’s code and minimize its vulnerabilities to attack. And secondly, Codius developers aren’t locked into a nascent programming language like Solidity, which they’re unlikely to know as well as JavaScript, for example. These features make it superior to Ethereum.

“I think that a lot of the issues and compromises, big hacks and so on have been directly related to the fact that these are all new languages whose security’s not very well understood,” said Thomas.

For Thomas, launching Codius is the baby step towards standard protocol for monetizing web content, as well as the ecosystem around it. Eventually, Thomas believes firms might decide to host websites on Codius rather than AWS, with Coil serving as a kind of “Spotify, but in an open way” – a protocol connecting consumers, internet service providers, websites and content creators.