Technology and Accreditation at Woolf
At Woolf we have been engaged in three major projects since launching in March: ensuring the institution’s accreditation, developing the core technology, and raising funds for the future university. But why did we leave Ethereum and decide to build on top of Stellar, using Hyperledger Fabric to manage some of our data-rich transactions?
The Woolf platform is not yet complete, but it is designed for growth in student numbers over the coming year. Blockchain technology is rapidly improving, and we need the best available technology to achieve our aims of a borderless, non-profit, accredited, democratic university. So our question is, what is the best underlying technology stack that we can deliver, for students, teachers and regulators, if we are expanding globally in 2019?
The answer is not Ethereum — at least not right now. I wrote in the white paper that we could not allow the development of the university to be hampered by underlying problems with Ethereum, and that we would need to plan for the possibility of a move off of the platform. We have decided that the time for that move is now.
Major elements of the Woolf platform were previously coded in Solidity for Ethereum and tested in March 2018. A further range of features were finished in May. This included student check-in contracts and core management contracts (college endowment vesting, multi-signature wallets, and the all-important Woolf Reserve). Our Technology Director, Johann Lilly, oversaw this implementation, writing the code in Solidity for the public Ethereum blockchain.
While working with Ethereum, we also developed a wider architecture for identity management in compliance with European General Data Protection Rights. This is a serious task for an organisation using a public permissionless ledger, and we settled on a design that would allow university members to exercise their right to be forgotten.
However, Ethereum faces significant challenges of scalability. The network continues to experiences periods of congestion. Under such conditions, our students would face sharp rises fees for basic transactions on the network. We thus began designing an alternative. We are very pleased with the results.
We will be launching Woolf on the Stellar network. Stellar allows us to perform 100,000 transactions for one penny — and to confirm those transactions in seconds, anywhere in the world. Stellar will form our value layer for the network, the layer in which WOOLF (the native token of the Woolf system) is moved with ease and speed.
Stellar itself allows us to deploy powerful smart contracts on the network, and do so with significantly less security risks than experienced on the Ethereum network. The smart contracts on Stellar are adequate to our needs for a wide range of transactions using WOOLF.
On top of Stellar (the value layer), we are using Hyperledger Fabric to handle our most sophisticated and data-rich smart contracts. This is our heavy-lifting layer, which will manage core university administration, the performance and ranking of colleges across the network, and a range of quality assurance mechanisms. We are also exploring ways to maximise the self-sovereign ownership of all personal information on the network, and the Hyperledger portfolio is best-positioned to meet this demand. We have been investigating whether Stellar would meet our use-case at Woolf, and we have been pleased with the results. We are exciting to announce our move onto the Stellar network in combination with Hyperledger Fabric.
Technical Overview (Partial)
- TypeScript 2
- Bootstrap 4 (grid only)
• HTML 5
• React Native
• NodeTS (NodeJS with TypeScript)
Database and data visualization (NoSQL)
- AWS S3
• Hyperledger Fabric (NodeJS SDK)
Containers and networking
• IBM Blockchain Platform