This week’s DeveloperWeek 2022 virtual conference opened up some exploration into territories of the metaverse and cryptocurrency and how developers are part of the digital infrastructure behind it all. In separate keynote presentations, Roblox CTO Dan Sturman discussed ways to enable developers to build their own corners of the metaverse. Later, Lewis Tuff, vice president of engineering for Blockchain.com, spoke about leading engineering teams in the crypto boom. These new aspects of the digital world may seem a bit nebulous for now, but developers may have significant roles in further shaping their future.
Cloud-Based Development Meets the Metaverse
Sturman said Roblox views the metaverse, the 3D world meant to introduce new layers of connection and interaction, in terms of “human co-experience.” This includes users of the metaverse having access to a customizable identity they want to present in the virtual landscape. He also spoke about being able to connect with friends, coworkers, and others via the metaverse; the desire for immersion in the metaverse; and variety of activities that should be available to users.
On the Roblox platform, which developed a cloud-based platform for creating online multiplayer games and environments and sees close to 50 million daily active users, it is possible to find retailers, corporate branding, music experiences, and even workouts, Sturman said. “That’s all community built. It’s not built by Roblox,” he said. “That’s where developers come in; this is all driven off a very developer-centric experience.”
Developers who use Roblox may be independent contributors to the platform and, according to Sturman, can range from a 10-year-old who is coding for the first time to professionals in studios.
The Roblox economy is essential to its developer economy, he said, which powers the rewards system between users and developers and encourages developers to continue to produce content. This system uses its own currency, Robux, where one Robux is about equivalent to one US cent Sturman said. “Users pay for premium experiences on the platform and developers are rewarded to build better content,” he said. There are 1.4 million developers on the platform earning Robux. “That sum payout we’re making to developers is roughly half a billion dollars,” Sturman said. “That was 2021.”
Key Lessons in Building Products for Crypto
Blockchain.com’s Tuff spoke about adapting to lead engineering teams in a fast-moving environment that can see exponential change. His cryptocurrency, financial services company has accrued some 37 million verified users with 81 million wallets globally. “We have users representing over 200 different countries,” he said. In its more than 10-year history, Blockchain.com has processed more than $1 trillion-worth of crypto transactions, Tuff said. “We account for around a third of all bitcoin network transactions.”
The technical infrastructure needed to operate such a platform, he said, runs on a hybrid deployment with a majority of it in the cloud. “What does that actually look like in terms of numbers? Currently, a quick snapshot is 3,700 cores, over 10 terabytes of virtual memory, and over 200 microservices,” Tuff said. Blockchain.com is building a lot of stateless infrastructure to be able to scale horizontally, he said.
In addition to building for the cloud and public internet, web-based applications accessed through mobile devices, Tuff said the company is expanding its infrastructure to support its offerings.
With cryptocurrency gaining critical mass and continuing to build momentum, which can be volatile, finding the right engineers to hire is a challenge, he said. Blockchain.com sat down with its teams, Tuff said, and worked out how to quantify the technical assessment of potential developer hires and optimize the process that could lead to presenting an offer. He said that included rubrics for each team and a qualitative element tied to company cultural fit and employee mindset. “Having product-driven engineers that are excited by the mission and able to adapt, work, and upgrade in an unknown, abstract space that is evolving really fast,” Tuff said.
Finding the right talent to tackle the shifting world of crypto at Blockchain.com has included looking for engineers who have contributed to opensource projects, he said, or have built side projects or prototypes in their own time. An essential quality in such professionals is a desire to take proactive stances in this transforming environment. “Focus on building,” Tuff said. “Don’t get lost in paralysis by analysis.”