This AMA (Ask Me Anything) features Viacheslav Bakshaev from Bithomp - the go-to block explorer for the XRPL developer community.
Check out the full recap below, and head to xrpldevs.com to join the community and tune in for the next AMA!
BiasGoose: Everyone please join me in welcoming Viacheslav Bakshaev to our AMA this month! It’s an honor to have you here sir and we’re very excited to chat about Bithomp. Send your questions as usual to #ama-questions.
Viacheslav Bakshaev could you start with an intro about yourself first? Who are you and what was your background before Bithomp?
Viacheslav: Hi, and thanks for having me here today. It's an honor for me! I'm the founder and the front-end dev at Bithomp. Previously I was working full time at the biggest Swedish on-ramp/off-ramp crypto broker for 5 years, as a front-end and node.js dev. I've been interested in e-money since 2003, so I’ve been in the space for some time now.
BiasGoose: Solid background! Please tell us a bit about Bithomp too. How did the idea to build it come about?
Viacheslav: I was using Bitstamp, and in 2015 I noticed they had this weird IOU staff which piqued my interest. That's how I got into RCL. There were no really useful explorers at that time, everyone was using rippletrade as a wallet. So, I wrote a script for myself to check balances, and then published it and shared on the ripple forum, later on xrpchat. I received a lot of positive feedback, so I started to identify accounts, and make explorer even more user-friendly.
At that time it could take a week or two to get through Bitstamp's KYC, and XRP wasn't widely available at that time…It was not easy to activate accounts, I remember many users were using the "Pay it forward" method where you activate one account and then they activate another. So I made a website which eventually turned into Bithomp, where people could instantly activate accounts for $1 USD via PayPal.
BiasGoose: I love that! Quite the OG story of a very popular explorer now! To jump into the questions sent right away, here is the first one - is the content/data on your page loaded from a DB you created? (e.g. historical data, volumes, etc) or do you run clio node(s) and/or get all data "live" from rippled's APIs?
Viacheslav: We have a very complicated system 🙂 We do have our own crawler, and most of the time we serve data from our own databases, but in some cases when the crawler gap is more than a ledger, we have clio nodes as a backup to serve the freshest data. We have our own nodes, but we also use cluster and public clio nodes, depending on what performs better. Volumes comes from our DB always.
BiasGoose: One more question - about username registration, will users be able to change their name registration to a different name? If so, when?
Viacheslav: We have plans to add that, but we do not have an ETA yet 😦 If someone needs to make a change, you can reach out to us directly, we can probably help.
BiasGoose: Before the next question, I have one myself that I’ve been wanting to ask! You built a very robust interface for NFT owners to visualize and browse NFT data on the XRPL. It makes me think you had a previous interest in NFTs as well? Is that so? Or what was the motivation?
Viacheslav: At Bithomp we always try to show as much available data as possible on the ledger. NFT's are just another type of data. I've never really had an interest in NFT before implementing it on Bithomp, but it's a whole new world, and I like it now.
BiasGoose: It’s very well done, and beyond anything I’ve seen on the XRPL or outside of it. Kudos to you!
Another question from the community: “Now that your team has been working so closely with NFTs and XLS-20, where do you see some room for improvement, maybe spec but also community wise to help make the experience better?”
Viacheslav: We completely rewrote our "NFT ipfs engine" from node.js to GO to make images and videos to process and load faster 🙂 now it performs much better compared to when we started. I think we should make some standards for TOML files for NFT collections, rarities, descriptions, icons, and it would be nice to extend metadata for NFTs like 3dModels (we're working on this right now). So it will be more flexible for creators to show their work.
BiasGoose: Another question from the community: “how did you manage to build a platform so effective that I’ve used it almost every day for almost a decade?”
Viacheslav: It's all because of the community... we feel the love and that motivates us to continue 🙂
BiasGoose: As far as what is coming ahead for Bithomp, what are you most excited about building?
Viacheslav: There are a few things I'm excited to build, but we usually do not announce things unless they are already live 🙂 You know, we are a community-driven explorer, when we get a lot of requests for one feature or another, we just focus on it. When XLS-20 went live, we were mostly focused on it, so our features often depend on the community voices. We do have things we are excited to build though.. but it will be announced when it's ready 🙂 We are waiting for hooks for sure.
BiasGoose: Very respectable approach! On the username registration, do you plan on expanding on these sorts of services?
Viacheslav: Yes, it's on our roadmap. We're updating our stack right now, but when it's done we will continue on the user features.
BiasGoose: Since you touched on hooks, do you plan some expansion in the future potential hooks sidechain?
Viacheslav: It's just the two of us, and we have a lot of roles and a code in a lot of different languages. We prioritize performance of our API scaling as many services rely on it. We're going to support hooks, hook transactions and rippled based sidechains, and we might build some services around hooks. We offer Bithomp as a service - explorer for a sidechain. And we have a tool to publish and sign UNL for a sidechain.
BiasGoose: A follow up question on re-loading NFT images: do you store all images locally somewhere? Because it is crazy how fast images are loaded on your website. Do you already load/resolve/fetch them on NFTokenMint transactions or just when a user requests / opens the NFT in your explorer?
Viacheslav: In short, we do download metadata as soon as it is available, we start trying as soon as the NFT is minted. The images are loaded on demand from the API or from our website, then they are cached, but we have three different levels of cache, and then we convert them, resize and store.
BiasGoose: What were the biggest technical challenges in developing Bithomp?
Viacheslav: I don't really have a specific answer, I think we like the challenges. It's fun to improve the system to make it perform milliseconds faster. I think the biggest challenge is we each have too many roles, it would be nice to get more people on board, but for that we need funds.
BiasGoose: How many daily/weekly/monthly users does Bithomp have? Can you give us any insights?
Viacheslav: It actually really depends on the market, if XRP’s price starts to move we can have 20x the amount of users. I think the most unique users per day we had was around 70k, but usually much less.
BiasGoose: Wow that’s a very high number indeed! How did you invent the name "Bithomp" and what does it mean?
Viacheslav: Bit is from bittorrent or bitcoin or just bit.. and ihomp is my username, so it is a combination of the two. Ihomp is an acronym, but I won't tell you what it means 🙂
BiasGoose: This is the perfect mystery for people to try and solve before the next Bithomp AMA. What led you to build on the XRP Ledger and how have you seen the technology evolving since you joined?
Viacheslav: I liked the high speed and low fees, and the DEX (possibly the world’s oldest DEX!) I also liked the community projects inspired by Ryan Fugger where the community could pay each other in tokens, or build a network of trust with IOU limits, and pay each other in borrowed USD. I have joined in the time of the gateways, and I think there are some upcoming features which will be adopted sometime soon. There are ups and downs, but the XRPL is awesome and ready for increased adoption, more and more new things are coming and it never stops evolving. I like to see it grow.
BiasGoose: And just a last question that I think is important before we close this AMA, which has been one my favorites. How can users support Bithomp and the services you provide to this community?
Viacheslav: We have never paid for any ads, it's all because of the community spreading the word about us. Rather it was our paper wallet and Bithomp-tools or explorer. Just sharing about us is already a big thing. The more traffic we get, the more we can earn from our partners. We don't have many services yet, it's only usernames for now, but it also supports our work. We recently added the donation page as well, as it was requested by the community members. One more thing, you can buy some of our merch and get a free username.
BiasGoose: Ohhh I’m about to jump on that merch! Thank you so much Viacheslav Bakshaev for joining this conversation today. It was a pleasure to chat with you! Great AMA and thanks everyone for the questions.
Viacheslav: Thank you very much for hosting me today! ❤️
To learn more about Bithomp, please visit https://bithomp.com/.
To catch upcoming AMAs, join the XRP Ledger developers discord.