Harmony is one of the newer blockchain platforms that try to solve scalability problems. Harmony utilizes what they call as FBFT or Fast Byzantine Fault Tolerant, which is a major twist to the more-known standard Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) consensus algorithm. Harmony also uses BLS signatures for signature aggregation. They claim they are able to scale the blockchain speed up to 100x faster compared to the standard cryptocurrencies that utilize normal Proof of Stake consensus. So, what exactly is Harmony, how does it work, and what’s the story behind it? Let’s find out together!
History of Harmony
Most people know Harmony as one of those projects that got launched on Binance Launchpad. But the real story behind Harmony goes far before the IEO (initial exchange offering) itself. The Harmony core team consists of members from high profile tech companies such as from Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and many others. The CEO, Stephen Tse, was an employee at Microsoft Research and an infrastructure engineer at Google. He was also the search ranking’s principal engineer at Apple. He created Spotsetter before it got acquired by Apple.
The CTO, on the other hand, is Rongjian Lan. He is the co-chair of ABC Blockchain foundation, and they claimed they had more than 100 engineers from different high-profile tech companies as members (such as from Linkedin or Google or Facebook). He got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Science and Technology Beijing. Other core members include Minh Doan and Nick White. Minh used to work for Google, particularly in the mobile area, where he contributed to Google Assistant and Google Play for over four years. Minh also holds the specific patent at Google for “Publisher Click-Ring Fraud Detector”.
Meanwhile, Nick White has both bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Stanford University in electrical engineering. He also worked for Zeroth.AI where he held a position as an AI specialist. Not only that, he used to mentor over 20 teams from multiple continents for various fields, including blockchain, finance, and agriculture. You can see the full list of Harmony members here.
Stephen Tse (the CEO) first publicly introduced the concept of Harmony in July 2018. His idea at the time was to have an open, scalable marketplace for the decentralized economy. While they got some “free publicity” at the time, but the crypto bear market made them unable to stand out from the sea of new altcoins that people completely ignored. But one year later (in 2019), Harmony finally got the publicity it deserved. On May 28th, 2019, Harmony successfully collected $23 million from its IEO funding, and they did it on Binance Launchpad (arguably the most crowded IEO platform on the planet right now). To be fair, most publicity about Harmony has been about its IEO and token price. Without the IEO, Harmony probably wouldn’t be as half as popular as they are today.
Purpose of Harmony
The purpose of Harmony is to create a secure, scalable, and yet still decentralized blockchain platform. It is trying to become the all-in-one solution, just like everybody else. Ethereum, NEO, Tron, EOS, and all others are all trying to find the best “scalability” solutions for their blockchain networks, and Harmony is not an exception. With its twists and consensus algorithm, Harmony is hoping it can finally break the stereotype that the public blockchain platform is not good enough to support millions of transactions.
And yes, just like all these other platforms, Harmony is also trying to become the best solution for smart contract utilization. As of today, Ethereum, Tron, and EOS are still leading the race in the industry of decentralized apps (dApps). Harmony is trying to become one of the big challengers.
Technical Features of Harmony Blockchain
Three biggest technical components of Harmony blockchain are its unique consensus algorithm, adaptive state sharding, and its distribution and networking mechanism. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
The first point to understand about Harmony is its Fast Byzantine Fault Tolerance (FBFT) mechanism. Yes, Harmony also uses Proof of Stake (PoS), but it doesn’t utilize the concept of standard Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) algorithm.
So, on Harmony, the consensus utilizes BLS signatures, which is a multisig protocol for constant-sized signature aggregation. With BLS, Harmony’s Fast Byzantine Fault Tolerance becomes significantly faster than a standard PoS cryptocurrency that utilizes the BFT algorithm. The claim is that they can be 100x faster than other crypto projects with Proof of Stake.
The second point is about Adaptive State Sharding. Just like some crypto projects that offer sharding as scalability solution (i.e. Zilliqa), Harmony also uses the same thing. The idea here is that Harmony “shards” transaction history as well as the network, and it even uses state sharding to scale the blockchain even more. Keep in mind that other projects, like Zilliga itself, do not apply state sharding due to the theoretical limitations and unproven track record.
Harmony team, on the other hand, believes that state sharding can still be applied to its blockchain network as long as they are “done” the right way. Harmony developers believe you can actually do this by splitting the network’s state sharding into more subsets of shards. By doing this, the sharding groups only maintain a certain portion of the state instead of the whole state.
To get into the level that they realistically want to employ, Harmony developers use what they call as the “Beacon Chain,” which uses a verifiable random function called the VRF, and it serves a purpose to validate the PoS mechanism.
Last but not least, let’s talk about their distribution and networking mechanism. In Harmony, they use a Kademlia routing protocol. For your information, Kademlia is a distributed hash table which is created to improve the transfer of information for node lookups. With smoother communication, the goal is to have an even faster consensus mechanism and to also reduce the networking loads for all the nodes in the blockchain network.
Controversies and Criticism
The biggest controversy is not really about Harmony itself but rather about the IEO process of Harmony. Harmony IEO was completed on May 28th, 2019. And while it was a “big success” for the Harmony team, but many IEO participants felt left out due to the lottery rules on Binance launchpad. Many people felt that Binance manipulated people to buy and hold BNB just to be able to participate in the IEO, but then the ones who won the lottery tickets were already “pre-allocated” from the very beginning. There was no evidence of this, but there was basically no transparency of how the lottery winners were selected.
And of course, another big controversy is the “pump and dump” accusation following the IEO. Harmony token called ONE achieved as high as $0.027 just a few days after it got listed the first time on Binance exchange. However, the price kept on going lower to less than $0.006. And some skeptics accuse Binance and Harmony team of participating in the “pump and dump” scheme, which of course, was denied by both parties.
Another important criticism is the “novel” promise of Harmony blockchain. Harmony core team promised they could go as high as 100x faster than other typical Proof of Stake public blockchain systems. However, the theory is often far from the truth. Many public blockchain networks also promise a lot of “fantasy” when it comes to speed and scalability. Nobody really knows if Harmony can really live up to its own promises. It’s actually very hard to achieve a really good speed on top of a strong, secure, and decentralized ecosystem.
Harmony has some decent partners in their partnerships list even though the majority of them are still part of the blockchain space (and not really from the traditional or mainstream tech industry). Some of the biggest partnerships involve Chainlink (LINK), Shyft Network, and NOIZ Chain. Even though Harmony has released its main net, but it still remains to be seen whether they can finally receive some type of acknowledgment from the “real world” outside the crypto bubble.
Harmony Token (ONE) In The Crypto Market Today
At the time this post was written, Harmony token (ONE) had a market cap of $13,770,619 USD. With that market cap size, it was sitting on the 197th place in the crypto rankings. It had a $2.4 million daily trading volume with a 12.6 billion token supply. You can find ONE on many crypto exchanges, including Binance, BitMax, Huobi, Bilaxy, KuCoin, HitBTC, and Gate.io. When you want to trade ONE against USDT, Bilaxy is your best bet. When you want to trade ONE against BTC, it seems Binance remains the most popular choice.
Harmony is a promising blockchain scalability solution that might give Ethereum a run for its money. It has its own promising theories on how to properly scale a public blockchain network. However, its promises still need to be taken with a grain of salt. Harmony is still new, and it still has a lot to prove before it can gain trust from the crypto community itself.