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Aphelion is a P2P trading platform project built on the NEO blockchain. Its APH token sale was the second to ever be launched on NEO, and it aims to enable the trading of cryptocurrencies in a trustless environment through its Distributed Exchange Asset Ledger (D.E.A.L). On September 4th, 2018, Colin Closser from NEO News Today spent an evening speaking with Aphelion founder, Ian Holtz, from Barcelona, Spain, where he discussed the origins, development, and future of the Aphelion wallet-based decentralized exchange.

Colin – NNT: Hi Ian, it’s Colin from NEO News Today.

Ian Holtz: Hey man, good timing we literally just got approved by Apple.

Colin – NNT: Oh nice, congratulations. I know Apple likes to sandbag everything coin related.

Ian Holtz: Yeah, took forever, but better late than never.

Origins

Colin – NNT: So Aphelion was pretty fast out of the gate in terms of projects launching on NEO. How did your project get started?

Ian Holtz: I had ongoing nightmare experiences across several centralized exchanges, so much so, that I was losing sleep over the frustrations. Between lost or frozen tokens, near impossible KYC processes, insane fees, and high latency, I realized right away I wanted to assemble a team to solve those issues. I formed a core team, we researched, landed on NEO and I wrote the whitepaper while I was losing sleep. Aphelion was born.

Colin – NNT: What’s your elevator pitch for Aphelion these days?

Ian Holtz: Aphelion is a wallet based decentralized exchange (DEX), powered by the APH token. There is nothing like it currently available in that we have a unique fee structure and redistribution model. In short, the DEX requires APH for market takers, is free for market makers, and 80% of the fees collected are redistributed to APH holders who commit their APH to the contract. In addition, our pricing structure is trade based, not percent based. So not only will it be significantly less expensive for common traders, it will be incredibly less expensive for volume traders, while everyone benefits with the redistributions and passive income. It is truly a unique model we built to transform how trading is conducted: inexpensive, peer to peer, safe, fast and truly decentralized.

Colin – NNT: Does the APH team have past experience with on-chain ETH exchanges or smart contracts?

Ian Holtz: Yes, we have a world class full stack dev team very familiar with ETH, having worked on past projects. In fact, cross chain has been scoped for some time and we are ready to move full speed ahead when our onchain DEX hits MainNet this month.

Colin – NNT: What have your impressions been programming and compiling smart contracts for NEO? For instance, I ran into some NEO-GUI bugs a year ago.

Ian Holtz: With any new technology there is bound to be challenges. With NEO in particular there are a number of “gotchas”, but it is getting better. We don’t use NEO-GUI in our development, but we have run into various workarounds that are needed due to certain C# constructs the compiler doesn’t support. Some of those, such as using the not operator, now work, but only recently was support for this added.

Colin – NNT: Why did you decide to create an exchange for NEO and not another project?

Ian Holtz: NEO’s overall mission of a Smart Economy aligns with ours and rather than starting over we felt like our energy was best spent contributing and collaborating.

Development

Colin – NNT: You mentioned maker fees and fee structures as one way to encourage liquidity. Do you have other insights on how to achieve a liquid DEX?

Ian Holtz: Four ways:

  1. Aphelion’s unique fee structure;
  2. API documentation for bot trading:
  3. Marketing outside the NEO community and enticing new users to join the ecosystem;
  4. Cross-chain integration

But we all know real liquidity will be garnered through a market recovery that we are thankfully starting to see, albeit very early still.

Colin – NNT: How do you view the debate between on-chain matching engines (Switcheo) vs. off-chain (Neon Exchange)? You mentioned nightmare experiences with off-chain institutions.

Ian Holtz: While we do match orders on the chain, we do matching off-chain too. It won’t be the same implementation as NEX, though, as our solution allows for someone to be able to trade without using centralized matching servers; we take it a step further by matching the experience using our own servers that our own clients talk to. Our external API will also use our matching engine servers by default. As far I can tell, NEX will require using their servers to trade no matter what you do; by design this is more centralized. Regarding Switcheo, as far I know, isn’t doing matching completely on-chain either; they must be doing something similar to Aphelion but not quite the same.

Colin – NNT: That’s really interesting. Is on-chain matching used as a backup?

Ian Holtz: To really answer that question, it’s important to understand how NEO works. For one, it’s impossible to do matching in the smart contract with NEO as their storage doesn’t use sorted sets, it uses hash tables. So we match on the server; sign on the client; and then send back to the server to forward to the chain to create what is the most decentralized process possible while still having a tip top user experience, all while open sourcing our server code.

Colin – NNT: I’ve noticed your GAS claiming mechanism is very methodical compared to other NEO wallets. How did this come about?

Ian Holtz: Regardless of the client, claiming GAS has several steps and we felt walking users through those steps as they were completed made for a better experience. Without it, users are in the dark on what is happening which can create insecurity for the user.

Colin – NNT: In your opinion: What is the biggest obstacle to effective communication with NEO’s consensus nodes?

Ian Holtz: Properly dealing with DDOS attacks and a large mempool. We are working on creative solutions to ensure a consistent and complete experience on our DEX by contributing to the overall health of NEO. Recently, we’ve shared a scenario [proposed by lead Aphelion developer jsolman] involving throttling to identify and shutdown the bad actors; it’s still being worked on. For the network to stay healthy, its nodes need to be resistant to DDOS and need to not forward spam transactions. Solutions are being proposed to address the issues and we are actively working on the problem.

The consensus nodes themselves should be in a private network behind multiple public facing NEO nodes where they are well connected and shielded from DDOS; this will be the case once an appropriate throttling solution is implemented.

Colin – NNT: So Aphelion was the second token sale held on NEO and at the time there was a lot of competition amongst the projects in the community, which seemed to not fully trust the Aphelion team. Since the fundraiser you have done nothing but deliver milestones and contributions to NEO’s code. By doing this you won a lot of people over, including myself. How do you reflect on those initial days? Is there anything you would like to say directly to communities, such as Reddit, that tended to be more skeptical towards your token sale?

Ian Holtz: What is most important to us is fulfilling on our mission and vision while significantly contributing to the Smart Economy along the way. With that being said, we understand some take sides or worse yet spread false rumors for their own gain. That goes with the territory, but instead of focusing on that we choose to build amazing things and let our technology do the talking. The way I see the world is that we are all on a sinking financial planet and dividing towards a solution only sinks the ship. We intend to create and share solutions and help us sail cohesively into the next chapter.

Colin – NNT: Yeah, I’ve recently become worried about the USD’s status as a reserve currency in the future.

Ian Holtz: It’s silly to have currencies tied to economies of countries, if you ask me.

Colin – NNT: Maybe so. I guess it was the only way.

So, has the Aphelion project evolved much since the days of writing the white paper? And where do you see the project in five years?

Ian Holtz: The project’s mission and vision has not changed, but we have changed how we are getting there as we learn, grow, apply and react to curveballs. In five years (much less than that actually) we expect Aphelion to be the #1 DEX on the planet, continuing to give users the best experience with security and speed, and collectively sharing in the fee distributions to finally bring blockchain into the future like it was designed to do.

Colin – NNT: I understand that you are actively developing on NEO so that its Smart Economy will meet your vision. However, what would you like to see changed about NEO’s blockchain that you do not have control over?

Ian Holtz: NEO core is doing a great job of accepting reasonable changes, so hats off to Erik Zhang, Peter Lin and the others.  I would like to see NEO 2.0 and 3.0 getting fast tracked, as well as seeing CoZ as the governing body tasked with NEO maintenance, more actively contributing to the mempool and other issues.

Colin – NNT: Do you have a clear picture for your upcoming Perihelion token, or is it more like a way of maintaining a high level of optionality for your project?

Ian Holtz: We caught quite a bit of flak for that… i.e. announcing prematurely was a mistake. But because it would be available for all to see in our smart contract that we’d minted another token, we wanted to be transparent. Right now Perihelion is only thought, we won’t release it until it has a clear utility. It’s important to point out it has no impact on Aphelion at this time, but yes, we did want to maintain a high level of optionality as you put it.

Colin – NNT: Will you mint Perihelion as planned?

Ian Holtz: Yes. But we won’t airdrop it without declaring its utility, and we won’t hold a token sale. So really a no-brainer to mint it in my opinion.

Future

Colin – NNT: How do you think the exchange landscape will look in the more distant future? As we know, Binance has grabbed the #1 spot in the face of U.S. and Chinese regulations and pressure on centralized exchanges.

Ian Holtz: The dust has settled on the explosion we’ve seen in the last year and we’ll continue seeing fresh faces but stronger, more calculated and legitimate actors as growth and consolidations take shape. We’ve already begun seeing crypto consolidations as Binance recently announced the acquisition of Trust Wallet. Of course the landscape all hinges on regulatory progress or lack thereof. Legislation could change everything in a second, but regardless, blockchain and crypto is here to stay. It’s not a matter of if, because it’s already here; it’s a matter of how big and how soon. I expect solid growth, innovation and consolidation to rapidly progress over the next 1-3 years.

Colin – NNT: Do you think the volume leader in 3 years will be considered a DEX?

Ian Holtz: I sure hope so. If Binance and other leaders continue to invest in DEX through acquisitions and investments, that will help speed up the transition.

Colin – NNT: Are you looking for people to get involved with helping create the Aphelion project? If so, how should they go about it?

Ian Holtz: Great question. There are several ways the community can contribute:

  1. Join our social channels and spread the word;
  2. Contribute to our open github through pull requests;
  3. Use our products and help us make them better by sharing your experiences; especially the DEX;
  4. We’re always looking for solid developers, if qualified. I am pretty responsive on Telegram: @aphelionian

Colin – NNT: Last question. What would you like the reader to take away from this interview? Any parting words?

Ian Holtz: As a takeaway: At Aphelion DEX we are committed to providing user value through our unique fee structure and distribution model. There is only one way to understand the Aphelion difference and that is to experience it. If lower fees and a secure P2P wallet-based DEX trading with built-in rewards is appealing, you’ll love what we’ve built. There is nothing quite like it anywhere in crypto.

More information on Aphelion can be found at the links below.