Today it was announced that the Research and Development team from the Interchain Foundation (ICF) has officially spun out into a new Canadian company, Informal Systems (Informal), to continue its R&D work on the Cosmos Network software and protocols in an independent operating structure that allows for more flexible experimentation. See the corresponding announcement from the ICF.
Informal is headquartered in Toronto, with offices in Vienna, Lausanne, and Berlin, and a team comprised of world-class researchers and engineers with expertise in distributed systems and formal verification. The mission of Informal Systems is to bring verifiability to distributed systems and organizations.
Distributed software systems are the foundation for many critical systems in our society, but building and maintaining them is difficult, expensive, and error-prone. The more complex the system, the more likely critical bugs go undetected during testing and monitoring. Formally verifying a system’s design before beginning implementation saves time and money while providing confidence in system behavior. Informal is applying state of the art techniques in formal verification to make distributed systems more verifiable to achieve greater assurances of correctness.
Distributed organizations have also become increasingly fundamental to business globally, through building and maintaining them is also difficult, expensive, and error-prone. Informal is applying open-source, plaintext, and version control philosophies to develop tools to better manage the complexities of human organizations. These tools will significantly reduce the operational overhead of managing a corporation and interpreting the validity of its state, in turn, reducing barriers to entrepreneurship. Informal believes that once new tools and standards for version-controlled corporate management are developed, a viable intersection emerges between blockchain applications and real-world corporations.
Informal will be a key contributor to the Cosmos ecosystem, continuing and expanding the Interchain Foundation’s research and development efforts in systems and protocols related to the Cosmos Network. In particular, Informal is working to formally verify critical components of Cosmos like the Inter-Blockchain Communication protocol (IBC) and the Tendermint consensus protocol, and to implement them in Rust. This work is expected to greatly benefit the Cosmos ecosystem by increasing the correctness guarantees of the underlying protocols, providing an alternative implementation of core components, and expanding the developer ecosystem into the flourishing Rust programming language. Informal will also continue to provide significant administrative support to the ICF’s funding program as it works to decentralize the program across a larger group of stakeholders.
Informal envisions a sustainable future of cooperatively owned and governed, open-source, distributed organizations running on reliable distributed systems. In alignment with these values, Informal is structured like a worker’s cooperative, where important corporate actions, like the election of board members, are subject to one-person-one-vote democratic control by the member-employees. Informal is also experimenting with models for long-term economic alignment in small R&D organizations, both for employees and investors, without targeting an exit event. The goal is to export a new model of a technology company that can be readily adopted by others; a financially and culturally sustainable alternative to modern Silicon-Valley style capitalism.
The Informal team is comprised of world-class researchers and engineers, led by Ethan Buchman, who co-founded the Cosmos project, along with Arianne Flemming, and Zarko Milosevic. Ethan, Arianne, and Zarko previously served as the Technical Director, Managing Director, and Head of Research at the ICF, respectively.
Initial funding for Informal comes in the form of a Convertible Note, Software Development Agreement, and Research Grant from the Interchain Foundation for the formal verification, Rust development, and protocol research work related to the Tendermint and Cosmos systems. More broadly, Informal’s services include technical and executive education, consulting and design, and research and development with a focus on blockchains, distributed systems, and their formal verification.
“We are beyond excited about the founding of Informal Systems, and about broadening our prior work at the Interchain Foundation; making major contributions to Cosmos and pushing the entire blockchain space forward with advancements in formally verifying distributed systems. We look forward to working with the expanding galaxy of other leading organizations to advance the Cosmos ecosystem. We are committed to upholding our values in the pursuit of sustainable entrepreneurship and to making distributed systems and organizations more verifiable for all.”
– The Informal Systems Team