What Is Golem?
In a nutshell, Golem is building a platform that will serve as a decentralized marketplace for computing power. For the sake of simplicity, they often identify themselves with the tagline of being “AirBnB for computers”. An apt analogy, it would seem, for Golem is basically aiming to put to use otherwise idle CPU/GPU cycles found in devices like smartphones, laptops, and servers, much like AirBnB has seen people earn some additional income off of utilizing living space that simply would’ve gone unoccupied in the past.
Not only is Golem Network the first blockchain-based initiative in this area, but having been conceptualized throughout 2014, it stands as one of the oldest players in the entire cryptocurrency industry. Coming as a surprise to most, Golem’s ERC20 token, GNT, once sat among the top-10 cryptos (by market cap).
Golem was built completely from scratch, and by August of 2016, the team had released its alpha version – Brass. Months later on November 13, Golem’s ICO ended within just thirty minutes after it raised its cap of 820,000 ETH; creating 820 million GNT. A further 180 million GNT were pre-allocated to both the founding team and the Golem enterprise itself.
Since then, the Golem team has ballooned to 25 people. They currently have offices in the capitals of Poland (Warsaw) and Germany (Berlin), as well as Zug (i.e., the city being dubbed ‘Crypto Valley’), where the parent company, Golem Factory GmbH, is based out of.
Team Long Before Golem
Golem has its roots in Warsaw-based imapp, a consulting and software development company co-founded in mid-2013 by Julian Zawistowski and Andrzej Regulski.
It was through imapp that Zawistowski and Regulski took on Piotr Janiuk and Aleksandra Skrzypczak – among others – as software developers. Having been introduced to Ethereum in February 2014 (i.e., ~17 months before its official release), imapp proceeded to work with Ethereum’s development arm, ETHDEV, and later with Omise and its Blockchain Lab.
Applying what they’d learnt throughout 2014, these four individuals co-founded Golem Factory GmbH, with Zawistowski serving as CEO, Regulski as COO, Janiuk as CTO, and Skrzypczak as Lead Software Engineer.
For those interested, here is the first-ever pitch of the Golem platform, presented by Janiuk at Ethereum DEVCON 0 (November 25, 2014); the inaugural Ethereum DEV symposium.
How’s This Going To Play Out?
Golem is seeking to create a decentralized global computer, with blockchain and smart contracts acting as the conduit which makes everything possible. Using GNT, ‘requestors’ will be able to pay ‘providers’ for access to their otherwise idle computing power. The reasons why people would demand this are near-endless (more on this later).
To help better conceptualize how Golem’s team plans to achieve their ambitious goal, it’s worthwhile exploring the four developmental phases outlined in their whitepaper – each of which demands a longer timeframe (and thus, greater funding) than the previous.
Brass Golem: the proof-of-concept stage that focuses exclusively on CGI rendering based on the open-source software platform, Blender. Brass will demonstrate to users of open source rendering software that Golem offers a cheaper, more reliable, and superior user experience when compared to existing cloud-based solutions (e.g. render farms).
Clay Golem: developers will be able to integrate with Golem. However, this will (temporarily) compromise stability and security, and so Clay will still see Golem considered as ‘experimental’. Beyond rendering, Golem will now be able to implement use cases like computational chemistry and machine learning.
Stone Golem: enhanced security and stability, as well as improved functionalities. By its release, software developers will have access to a much more advanced version of Golem, which includes things like a fully functional API, and support for SaaS.
Iron Golem: a platform which is thoroughly tested to ensure it is robust, highly resistant to attacks, stable and scalable. Iron will again be heavily focused on developers, with the team planning to, by this release, allow them more creative freedom (i.e., running application outside the sandbox). Such applications will be easier to create, too, as Iron will also introduce various tools for developers (e.g. Golem Developer Toolkit).
Countless Use Cases
Assuming Golem sees through the above four milestones, the applicability of their platform would appear expansive. With an ever-increasing reliance on technology, the demand for computational power is fertile.
Golem would prove particularly valuable to anything considered compute-intensive, such as CGI rendering, machine learning, and computational biology (e.g. protein folding).
This all, of course, comes as welcome news to everyday people who fail to realise the sheer amount of computational power that they leave unused every single day. Should Golem prevail, GNT would serve as a tidy income booster to millions worldwide (again, much like AirBnB hosts have come to realise in recent times).
Competitors In (And Out) Of The Cryptosphere
Whilst no two cryptocurrencies are ever identical, there are some that appear to be striving for goals not all that dissimilar from Golem, namely, iExec (RLC) and SONM (SMN). In fact, Golem actually makes a point of distinguishing their project from both iExec and SONM on their GitHub repository.
There are many other cryptocurrencies that occupy the computing space in one way or another, and so ought to be deemed as indirect competitors to Golem. Such projects are aelf (ELF), Storj (STORJ), DeepBrain Chain (DBC), Elastic (XEL), VDT Network (VDT), GridCoin (GRC), and Curecoin (CURE).
Of course, it’d be remiss of us to ignore the fact that Golem is seeking to disrupt powerful centralized cloud providers such as like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Right now, customers must go through these oligopolistic companies in order to access additional computational power. With Golem seeking to decentralize this space, it will be interesting to see the response from these market leaders, be it via a lowering of price, or even through a value-adding technological innovation of their own.
From a business perspective, first-mover advantage is commonly looked to as a fast-track to long-term profitability. Golem can certainly lay claim to this re: their particular niche of the cryptosphere. However, it’d be premature to expect that this concept transfers over to the newly discovered world of cryptocurrencies which, in many ways, is ‘rewriting the rulebook’.
Should the notion of first-mover advantage prove just as applicable to the cryptocurrency market, it would hold that the opposite (and far less discussed) notion of first-mover disadvantages remains a possibility.
Indeed, market pioneers are often vulnerable to the threat posed by things like technological advancements. No more would this seem true than for the dynamically innovative realm of digital currencies.
And so, in the case of Golem Network, we can expect to see younger projects like iExec and SONM continue to threaten their prospects. What can’t be ignored, either, is the possibility of a future market entrant that is built upon a superior, not-yet-invented technology.
The reason I raise this is because, despite having scheduled Brass Golem for release within six months from the date of the ICO, the beta mainnet launch is still yet to go live (expected in early 2Q18). Granted, delays are commonplace for blockchain projects. Even Ethereum, the network which Golem operates on, has faced unexpected roadblocks (this itself it worth monitoring when assessing Golem).
When you consider Golem’s (soon-to-be updated) roadmap allocates this proof-of-concept stage the shortest timeframe (and the least financial capital) of the four, there certainly remains a real chance that another player will come forth and ‘disrupt the disruptor’ between now and the years preceding the release of Iron Golem.
It must be said, though, that Golem’s experienced team appears capable of seeing this ambitious roadmap through. Also, what is particularly encouraging is that they are consistently hiring additional developers (and others), presenting at industry conferences, and establishing new international offices.
Fun Fact: What’s In A Name?
In Jewish folklore, a golem represents an animated being that’s magically created from inanimate matter. The four roadmap phases of the Golem Network (i.e., Brass, Clay, Stone, and Iron) derive from the popular fantasy-based game Dungeons & Dragons.
HuobiPro | Liqui | Bittrex | Poloniex | Bitfinex | OKEx | Yobit | Gate.io | Cryptopia | LiveCoin | Koinex | Ethfinex | Cobinhood
Image From Shutterstock