Ola: More Than Infrastructure - A New Gateway Connecting Web2 and Web3 Worlds

4 Jun 2024

Through Ongoing Exploration, We've Found Our Path Forward...

Inception Ideals: Riding the Industry Boom, Emphasizing Infrastructure

In July 2021, the Ola project (formerly known as OlaVM) officially took off, incubated by Sin7y Labs. Back then, the blockchain industry was thriving, witnessing a surge in users and transactions. The primary challenge plaguing the industry was blockchain scalability, prompting the inception of the Ola project.

The mission of Ola at that time was initially to construct a technology infrastructure project primarily focused on high performance, thereby accelerating the industry toward mass adoption.

Back then, the core challenge of this technical project was how to use ZK technology to verify a virtual machine. ZK is an excellent technology. I first encountered it in 2018 and had my first experience optimizing and exploring its privacy features on the Nightfall codebase. Later on, with the rapid iteration of Ethereum technology, the scalability potential of ZK was vigorously explored.

We made efforts to understand how to use ZK technology to prove a complete virtual machine. At that time, the only resource we could find was a video explanation ofzkEVM by Alex from MatterLabs, and we've lost count of how many times we watched it. We soon realized that due to the EVM's inherently non-ZK-friendly design, it might lead to slow ZK proofs (due to the massive circuit size).

Therefore, in order to truly achieve scalability, we started from scratch to design how to build a fully ZK-friendly virtual machine. Throughout the entire design process, we learned a lot from Starkware's Cairo VM whitepaper.

Ola's Milestones:

Fig1. Ola Roadmap

July 2022: Release of Ola's first technical whitepaper.
April 2023: Release of Ola's second technical whitepaper.
July 2023: Completion ofOla's first pre-seed financing round.
November 2023: Launch of Ola's developer testnet.
February 2024: Rollout of Ola's public testnet pre-alpha.

Initially, Ola envisioned high-performance infrastructure as a cornerstone for unlocking blockchain's widespread utility. However, as time progressed and the market cooled, we faced a sobering reality: user growth had hit a plateau. Despite the launch of various performance-centric mainnets, the market failed to ignite. This compelled us to reassess the industry's trajectory.

Harsh Realities: Peaking Growth, Navigating Challenges

The enhanced infrastructure failed to significantly bolster the industry's recovery. It was then that we gradually realized the true missing element in this industry: a continuous influx of new users.

While everyone believed that massive adoption of blockchain was inevitable and thus focused on constructing various infrastructures, the question remained: how to attract new users? Should we develop a blockbuster application, a game? Social platform? AI? The industry still hadn't found the answer.

Ola, as an infrastructure project, aimed to support the deployment of more complex applications on-chain based on high performance, thereby unlocking more scenarios. However, while the vision was alluring, the reality was stark.

As Ola marched toward this goal, the performance of similar projects provided us with a sobering realization: the industry lacked users, and attracting them through the creation of new scenarios was challenging.

Therefore, before the Ola testnet went live, we pondered for a long time: what kind of application could attract users? And ideally, how could we continuously attract Web2 users? To be honest, we didn't find the answer.

So, we tried a different approach: if we didn't know what application could attract users, then what behavior could? We reviewed past projects that had gone viral and attempted to derive answers from them, as shown in Figure 2.

The common theme among these projects is "earnings." It's not hard to understand why. It's easy to grasp why - when users navigate the challenges of the Web2 world and worry about making ends meet, an additional source of income naturally becomes the most enticing lure for users. And if this income stream has a very low entry barrier, it will naturally attract even more users.

However, these methods are not sustainable, thus they eventually fade away.

In contrast to building a blockbuster app to attract users (which comes with high trial-and-error costs), we prefer to establish a low-threshold, sustainable earnings model to draw users in. A low threshold means we aim for minimal participation costs for users, while sustainability implies enduring technological value.

Bold Endeavors: Innovating to Break New Ground, Building Foundations

As a team that has been deeply involved in the field of ZK for many years (with its founding members having spent as long as 8 years), we firmly believe in the future role of ZK. In the process of modularizing blockchain design, ZK plays a particularly important role.

Currently, the blockchain's modular design includes the off-chain execution layer, off-chain DA layer, and on-chain verification & consensus layer. If off-chain execution is aimed at solving efficiency issues, and off-chain DA is aimed at addressing cost problems, what issues still exist in the current modular design? The answer is: the efficiency problem of settlement time.

In the current design, to further reduce costs, it often requires waiting for the aggregation of certain states before they can be settled on the chain; a process that can take tens of minutes. This is a poor user experience, especially for cross-chain interactions.

Therefore, if the verification behavior on the chain is also placed off-chain, there are several benefits:

  1. Faster state verification;
  2. Faster state settlement;
  3. Lower transaction costs.

Of course, like off-chain DA, off-chain verification still represents a trade-off between security and efficiency. However, what we see is the emergence of a truly cheap, efficient, and secure chain, which is a product that can better serve users.

What's even more crucial is that off-chain verification requires very little computational power and is easily run on mobile devices. Therefore, within Ola, a bold concept has emerged: Massive, a decentralized ZKP verification network built on mobile devices.

Massive can address numerous scenarios:

From a Business Perspective:

  1. It can flexibly support the verification of any ZK algorithm.
  2. It can provide a verification network for all ZK applications.
  3. It can serve as a core component of a modular ZK public chain.
  4. It can become a more decentralized and faster bridge.

From a Consumer Perspective:

  1. It can offer users convenient, continuous, and stable earnings.

    1. As long as the ZK applications continue to operate, users will have ongoing earnings.
    2. Users can participate directly as long as they have a smartphone.

  1. It changes the role of ordinary users in the blockchain industry.

    1. Users are not only consumers but also network maintainers.

For the Entire Industry:

  1. It pioneers a new channel for Web2 users to enter Web3.

  2. It attracts more users.

  3. The ecosystem begins to serve existing users rather than just attracting new ones.

The Massive module officially went live on the test network on April 2, 2024. In no more than two months, it garnered over 211K registrations and over 100K user activations through organic growth alone (currently available on iOS, Android, and Solana system) (Fig.3). Within Ola’s community, we have witnessed an influx of new users.

These individuals may have been unfamiliar with the industry before, but they understand that by joining this network, they can earn rewards through ongoing network maintenance, often without any upfront costs, which is highly appealing.

Fig.3 Massive Dashboard: Global Nodes and Activity Overview

Distinct Strategies: Attracting, Retaining, and Serving Users

Ola innovatively adopts a strategy of attracting users first and then building the ecosystem, forming a closed loop in overall planning by offering low-threshold earning opportunities to attract users, retaining them through sustained earning mechanisms, and then providing applications with consumer value to these users.

In Ola's planning, the type of ecosystem to be built originates from the demands of users within the community. In this context, we carefully listen to the voices of the community:

  1. Users hope to participate in the management of the Ola ecosystem.

    (To answer this, Ola has already launched the Propose and Vote product, where proposals from the community are discussed, voted, and listened to. See more at Ola Community Hub)

  2. Users wish for rewards to be transferrable.

  3. Users want to communicate with their invitees and those they've invited.

  4. Users hope to see the introduction of some small games in Massive.

These scenarios are no different from applications in other ecosystems. However, the key difference lies in the fact that we don't assume what users need; we build based on what users actually need. This will ensure that applications on Ola have genuine users. This is the industry state we hope to see, gradually achieving massive adoption.

Unwavering Vision: Pressing Forward, Anticipating Industry Resurgence

Massive is a bold attempt made by Ola to realize the industry's vision. It not only brings technological innovation but also introduces innovative scenarios. Although still in its early stages, its phenomenal performance has given us the confidence to continue. Of course, the success of Massive inevitably relies on more support from various resources.

Whether you're an investor, researcher, or enthusiast in the industry, we look forward to engaging with you and working together to achieve massive adoption in the industry.

Apart from Ola, we continue to see many entrepreneurs innovating and experimenting from various angles. In this industry, any true builder deserves respect, and any attempt made to drive industry development deserves support, regardless of its final outcome.

We look forward to the day when every user will have a Web3 phone filled with various DApps in their hands. We hope this day arrives sooner rather than later.

Written by Ola CEO xb.