Sergey Yegorov, the CEO of Pruvendo – a company that conducts formal verification of smart contracts on the Free TON blockchain, talks about what a mathematical proof of a smart contract correctness is, as well as why Free TON is destined to become the most high-tech decentralized platform.
- You have been working with the Free TON ecosystem for 1.5 years already, long before it entered the market.
- When we started there was no Free TON, but there was a TON project by Pavel Durov. Free TON is about a year old, so we know the project from its very “birth”. Now a whole subgov of formal verification is formed inside Free TON and I am its active participant (Free TON does not have a centralized management and all processes are under subgovs management)
- What does the formal verification of a smart contract even mean? It sounds very complicated for a layman.
- It can be compared to launching a satellite into space. When we launch a satellite, we understand that if a mistake is made, it will fly away to a wrong place, will not get into orbit and will be lost forever. Smart contracts are somewhat similar to that. If there is an error in it, and it is already running, you may lose all your funds and you will not be able to return them. Formal verification of a smart contract is a mathematical proof of its correctness, proof that everything will go well.
In addition, we all use different applications and often face the fact that they do not work correctly. Most often, these are minor flaws that can simply be ignored. But in the case of a blockchain-based smart contract, even a small error can become critical. The funds can be stolen or simply hang up. So mistakes and errors are unacceptable.
- Have there been such cases in the history of the blockchain?
- Yes, the most famous, perhaps, is the hacker attack on the DAO in 2016. As a result of a vulnerability in the project code, a hacker stole 53 million USD from users, which led to a complete collapse of the DAO exchange rate, and after it, Ethereum, which was used as a basis for the DAO decentralized platform. The Parity and Rubixi projects also had problems in the code. There are lots of similar examples. In all cases, users lose huge amounts of money or experience other inconveniences, which is why our work is so important.
- Where is it easier to steal money from – a blockchain or a bank account?
- The blockchain is safe if there are no errors in it. But the decentralized blockchain is open to all winds anyway. The bank account is protected by firewalls and information security departments work. But, as you know, banks can also fail.
- That is, if there is an error in the smart contract and it is running, then it can no longer be fixed?
- If you find a bug, you have several tools, if you took care of it beforehand. But if you did not, then nothing can be changed.
- At what stage can errors occur and when can they be corrected?
- The error may occur as a result of writing a smart contract. There are programmers who write a smart contract. Then it is turned into machine code, which is sent to the blockchain, like a ship to orbit. Errors are formed at the writing stage. Before launching into the blockchain, the quality of the program is checked. For verification, several methods are used – formal or mathematical and traditional verification, that is testing. Formal methods are strictly mathematical, they prove that there are no errors. Both formal and traditional methods require a huge amount of work.
- Mathematical approaches to blockchain verification are expensive, and there are few specialists. Where do you find them?
- This is a huge problem, because there are no trained specialists. Out of the entire team that works for us, only one employee came to us as an already established specialist. As a rule, we take programmers or math students who understand programming. Because mature mathematicians do not know how to program, and not all programmers understand mathematics.
- Let’s go back to Free TON. Now, when visiting its site, it is not very clear for a layman how it can be useful and how to use it. From the programmers’ point of view – what is the main idea of Free TON?
- My opinion is that the idea of Free TON is to finally teach people how to use blockchain technology. Today, blockchain is associated with tokens and with the receipt of speculative income or gray and black schemes. A few years ago, Ethereum appeared and everyone thought that smart contracts would finally come to the masses. And Free TON is a high-tech platform for developers to write various fast DEFI applications that will be useful to all people.
In addition, Free TON, as a project, clearly shows how you can manage a project together, without having a single center or office. This is basically its philosophical mission. Blockchain and smart contract technology, of course, are sometimes used where they are not needed or are inefficient. But this has a good effect on the market – a lot of strong players come into it. Blockchain is useful wherever you need fast, cheap transactions, when you need to transfer and analyze large volumes of data, when you need to exclude the possibility of information forgery, confirm rights, and in many other cases.
- Free TON, created for people and allowing very wide use, is still known only to professionals: programmers and investors. Why so?
- In fact, Free TON is the most technologically advanced decentralized ecosystem in the world. But only professionals really know about it yet. Why? Because programmers – roughly speaking – are intermediaries between a person and a computer or other device or technology. Free TON is a project for people, there will be many useful and interesting applications here. But for it to become a project for people, programmers must fill it in.
Today, Free TON is still a project for programmers, and the TON Crystal coin is still traded on a limited number of exchanges. There was a lot of noise when Durov’s TON project was closed, and the fact that Free TON was launched was not widely announced. The project was in the shadow of all this hype around the SEC. The recognition of Free TON is only a matter of time. Recently, the developers of China’s state-owned blockchain drew attention to Free TON – and, of course, this is recognition.
- Free TON is a decentralized project and it strives for absolute decentralization. Is it convenient for you to work in such conditions or is it easier to come to the customer’s office?
- Decentralisation has its pros and cons – it’s not heaven on Earth. The main disadvantage is a fairly long decision-making and voting process, but this is fixable with the development of the project. And the main advantage is that no one can come and change the rules of the game. Such a system is protected against abuse, fraud, or censorship.
- Where is Free TON heading in terms of programming?
- The most important thing that can be seen is the appearance of DEX – a distributed cryptocurrency exchange where you can trade TIP-3 derivative tokens, exchange them for TON Crystal, and where bridges with Ethereum tokens will be created. This is what a lot of users are now expecting. Everyone wants to issue their own tokens, including NFTs.
- Why is the TON Crystal rate not growing now, when all altcoins are growing?
- Free TON is not about PR, it is a deeply technological platform. As soon as users understand this and start using applications, the growth will occur natively, without hype.
- Tell a few words about the technological advantage of Free TON today?
- The two main advantages are speed and scalability. Speed is the high throughput of the blockchain due to the TIP-3 standard. Now this blockchain is the fastest in the world. And about scalability. You can see for yourself what is happening with Ethereum – transactions are becoming slower, fees are growing. Free TON will be almost infinitely scalable without compromising end users.