VariabL is one of the first decentralized derivatives platforms being built on the Ethereum network. It is being developed by the StabL team working as part of Consensys. A few weeks ago, they launched their first version of VariabL and I got to try the platform during their first Beta round.
Here are four things I learned while testing VariabL during Round 1 of the Beta.
The price of Ethereum is Super Volatile… and for VariabL Users, that’s a good thing!
VariabL works by offering a users a series of orders that they can choose to participate in. In a way, you can think of them like normal derivatives products, where you bet on the price of an asset going up up or down within the given time period.
Currently, there are four products being offered in the beta, allowing for 4x/2x long and 4x/2x short on the price of Ethereum. For the purposes of the beta, the team is using a test network and giving 100 testETH to users who participate.
Over the course of the first beta, there were about 2,000 transactions made. The winner in that time period was able to make over 70 ETH by correctly timing the market. If this were real money (and very soon, it will be), that would equate to $3,500. This volatility makes blockchain based derivatives an exciting platform to be apart of.
MetaMask is the wallet of the Dapp era
In order to place bets in this platform, you have to execute specific contracts against the Ethereum blockchain. Fortunately, all of these processes are handled through the web interface, so you just have to decide how much money you want to make. Until the transaction needs to be executed.
This is when Metamask comes in handy. Metamask is a chrome extension that not only acts as a light Ethereum wallet, but also allows you to send transactions to the blockchain. In this case, the UI created the contract that would become your derivatives order, and then an interface came up to confirm the order.
This was very easy to use and allowed for me to give the ‘final say’ on whether a contract would go through. I can see most, if not all, Dapps in the next few years being run via Metamask as the ease of use was impressive.
As Blockchain Grows, the Rest of the World Will Get In It’s way
At one point during the beta test, I decided to check my account to see how my activity was when the site just stopped working on me. I contacted support and did some basic troubleshooting to see what the issue was. After finding some weird port issues from the console, I decided to get out of my office building and go to a Starbucks. I went back to the site and it worked just fine.
It turns out the network wifi blocked the port used by blockchains, thus shutting down my access. This is just one of the many structural issues that will happen as blockchain integrates into society causing these early growing pains. Having issues is to be expected, but the way they impact your applications will be completely unexpected.
If you’re building new blockchain apps, it will happen to you!
This community is really accessible and wanting to help people learn
During my discussion about my port issue, I got connected with Antoine Estienne, a blockchain developer working on VariabL. Through StabL’s slack channel, we worked through a couple of issues with the site. Hadrien Charlanes, the CEO of StabL, even jumped onto the conversation to help with some of the issues. During the beta, they were 100% accessible and were even joking around with the testers.
This is not uncommon for Ethereum. If you go on reddit, you can see the founder of the Ethereum blockchain, Vitalik Buterin, answer questions directly from the community just like any other user. If you have questions, you can get them right from the source. It’s hard to find any tech community where you can reach out to the founders of the industry and expect a response. It’s truly something special.
Round 2 of the VariabL beta test is about to begin, and there have already been significant changes made to the site.
You check out the site at http://variabl.io and see the site for yourself. If you’re interested in joining, more beta test will come out in the future, so sign up for VariabL’s email list and join in!
Update 5/11/2017: In the original version of this article, I stated that VariabL was the first decentralized trading platform. However, this may not be true. Projects such as etheropt (https://etheropt.github.io/) have existed before VariabL, with reports of an early derivatives platform existing as early as two years ago. Most were basic in functionality or were not entirely functional in some cases. This article has been altered to reflect this new infromation.
Edit: Thank you for users joseph, vincent and simonp on the STABLteam slack channel for info on other trading platforms.