There’s been a bit of a buzz surrounding the recent arrival of software developer Brandon Wilson to Ripple Labs, mainly due to what he’ll be working on—smart contracts. Brandon will be leading the initiative to add a scripting layer to the protocol, which will unleash exciting new functionality on the network.
How’s it going?
I’ve really enjoyed meeting the team so far and I’m really impressed by the talent. I also have a lot of learning to do.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I studied linguistics at the University of Texas. As a result of that, I studied a bunch of Arabic and lived a year in Egypt doing some Arabic studies. Then I was hired by my previous company, Neuric. They were doing some artificial intelligence work.
I was initially working on specifying the rules of the English language so developers could use that in the application, but shortly after I started, they said we needed more developers and asked if I could help. I had pretty much only taken C++ in high school so I essentially had on the job training and picked it up as I dived in. After a few months, I was working full-time as a developer and was the main guy working on the search routine and relevance scoring for a concept search application.
How did you hear about cryptocurrencies?
Matthew Fettig, a developer at Ripple Labs, turned me onto the technology. We knew each other in Austin. One day last summer, he came to me all excited and told me about Ripple. It sounded cool, but I wasn’t that into cryptocurrencies or anything at the time, but I ended up helping him work on gateway before he joined the company.
As a result, I sort kept up with it, passively educating myself about Bitcoin and Ripple. In January or February, he reached out about a potential job opportunity.
Why Ripple Labs?
I really enjoyed the interview process. Everything I learned about the company was pretty cool. When I actually came out for the interview, I got to see the office and meet a lot of the team. That same day, a group of the guys were going down to Google for a meeting that had to do with what we had to do for contracts.
By the end of the day, I’d had this glimpse of Ripple and a glimpse of Google. I had previously thought it would have been really cool to work at Google, but to my surprise, I liked what I saw at Ripple Labs more.
When did you find out you were going to be working on smart contracts?
Prior to that interview day, I had been screened by Stefan. He had started talking about contracts, in particular, the concept of software fault isolation—so I kind of had the idea that I wasn’t just getting hired to code.
Why do you think people are so excited about the initiative?
I’m still learning about what this is going to look like. It’s making Ripple extensible. Other people, like third-party developers are going to add functionality to the network and the ledger. There’s been lots of examples thrown around—this technology could allow auctions or Kickstarter-type campaigns. The possibilities are endless.
Ripple could continue to exist and never have contracts, but getting contracts up and running will broaden our horizons. It will create some cool new opportunities, some of which haven’t even been thought of yet.
What are the biggest challenges?
When we are running other people’s code, we have to ensure that the network is secure. For instance, if it’s malicious code, we have to have layers of security so we won’t let it do anything harmful. That’s the foundation we’re trying to lay before we can start adding the cool functionality.
What are your thoughts about Ripple?
I think it’s a really exciting opportunity to be apart of something that could have such a big impact. The impact is so broad, anyone who makes any kind of financial transactions or is moving money at all electronically—this could affect them and make their life easier in a small way. I wish that I had Ripple when I was living in Egypt to easily exchange money and to send money to and from the US.
Another cool thing I like about Ripple is the open source nature of it. My last job was always just closed source stuff. I recently read a book called Hackers and after reading that, I wanted to work on some open source stuff.
Then there’s the network itself, the distributed exchange. It’s decentralized and the transactions are super fast.