Codius: A Mistimed Protocol That Would Have Changed The Entire Ecosystem
The Ambitious Vision for Decentralized Hosting
Announced in July 2014, Codius embarked on a mission to establish a platform for constructing smart contract-distributed applications. In contrast to decentralized Bitcoin applications, this platform would leverage hosting providers, akin to those operating numerous websites, to host decentralized applications — rather than relying on a decentralized network. The Codius initiative was conceived to automate and streamline the setup of smart contract apps within a hosting provider.
History of Codius
During Stefan Thomas’ time at Ripple, he came up with the idea for Codius, a project he announced in its white paper in 2014. This paper talked about smart contracts, and it laid the groundwork for Codius. What’s interesting is that the idea partly came from conversations between Stefan Thomas and Vitalik Buterin, who was a Ripple intern at the time. Vitalik crashed at Stefan’s place for a few weeks in 2013. Later on, Vitalik started Ethereum, now one of the most well-known blockchains using smart contracts.
What was the vision of Codius?
The vision of Codius was to provide a platform that enabled the development and deployment of smart contract-distributed applications in a more flexible and scalable manner. Unlike some other blockchain platforms that relied solely on a decentralized network to host and execute smart contracts, it aimed to utilize existing hosting providers, similar to those used for websites, to host these decentralized applications.
By leveraging hosting providers, Codius sought to address some of the scalability and performance challenges faced by traditional blockchain platforms. The platform aimed to make it easier for developers to create and deploy smart contract applications by automating and streamlining the process of setting up these applications on hosting providers.
In essence, it aimed to strike a balance between the benefits of decentralization and the practicality of using established hosting infrastructure. It aimed to offer a more inclusive approach to smart contract development by allowing developers to write contracts in various programming languages, and by allowing applications to be hosted off-chain while still interacting with the blockchain for verification and security.
Why did it fail?
While Codius generated a fair share of buzz in early 2015, the idea behind it seemed premature according to Stefan Thomas. Additionally adding smart contracts opened up new ways to attack the ledger and the technical architecture behind it was cumbersome. In an interview, Thomas said that building smart contracts into a blockchain was like writing software directly into a database – difficult.
In a 2017 interview with Coindesk, Thomas explained that the team recognized an existing solution from computer science’s history. Back in the 1970s, a three-tier architecture was developed, introducing a “logic layer” situated between the database and user interface layers.
Codius was envisioned to play the role of that intermediary layer, Thomas clarified. He added, “Imagine having a piece of code that accesses assets on the XRP ledger, gathers data from Ethereum, and perhaps even makes an HTTP call. This approach offers a much more flexible structure, and notably, these contracts could also trigger other contracts.”
However, achieving this vision required seamless communication between different ledgers, which wasn’t feasible at the time. As a result, Ripple initiated the development of the open-source Interledger Protocol. This protocol aimed to facilitate the required cross-ledger communication, enabling the realization of the Codius platform’s concept.
What has happened since then?
- In 2018, Stefan Thomas announced Codius as the technical backbone for his new company Interledger, however little to no news has been published about it since then.
- Development of the public Codius Github Repository has gone silent ever since 23 February 2021.
- In 2020, David Schwartz – CTO at Ripple – Tweeted the following:
- More recently, David Schwartz stirred up the Codius debate by Tweeting that he is still trying to revive it [Codius]
- We’ve recently seen exciting developments surrounding Hooks & Evernode. Which together form a global, permissionless “layer 2” smart contract platform composed from the XRP Ledger. Compared to Codius, Evernode & Hooks together operate at a different layer, but still overlap largely in terms of features and usability. The combination of Evernode & Hooks is set to go live later this year on a dedicated side chain to the XRP Ledger.