Xunlei pushes ThunderChain, promises more open-source projects

Xunlei Ltd., a Shenzhen-based and NASDAQ-listed cloud network provider, is rolling out details of its proprietary blockchain platform, as part of the company’s push into blockchain.

The company held a seminar in Hong Kong on October 25 that focused on ThunderChain Open Platform, which it describes as a high-performance blockchain infrastructure capable of processing more than one million transactions per second.

Xunlei says ThunderChain will help third-party developers and companies, especially startups, build, migrate and manage decentralized applications, or dapps, in a cost-effective way. The product was officially launched in May.

Dapps are software run on a decentralized peer-to-peer network. Different from traditional apps where the backend code is hosted on centralized servers, it’s hosted on many computers across the world. It’s generally characterized by decentralized operation, open source codes, and trustless protocol. Although daaps are still in early stages of development, it, and its underlying blockchain technology, are widely seen to have strong potential.

Xunlei previously was known mainly for file sharing and downloading services. The company is hoping to catch the boom in decentralized technology and become a leader in the field by tapping its experience in peer-to-peer data.

“The upcoming era will be one that requires and sees implementation of mass blockchain applications,” Lai Xin, ThunderChain’s chief engineer, told participants at the seminar.

Lai said that, the blockchain technology Xunlei has, particularly those established in pooling and renting out idle bandwidth among users, allowed internet and online game services provider NetEase to increase game downloading speed by 40%.

The same technology reduced operation costs of video streaming platform iQiyi by around 50% due to improved bandwidth function.

Speaking at the same seminar, Professor Chen Lei, acting director at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Big Data Institute, said that the period 2018 to 2020 would be the adoption phase for real applications. Security issues including privacy, scalability and storage are among the major challenges, Chen said.

Realizing the potential of the technology depends on having frequent, big-scale user actions. Lucas Ma, head of product development at ThunderChain, said another current obstacle is the shortage of blockchain users and costs associated with educating new users.

“Calculating from bitcoin and ethereum currency wallet decentralized application (dapp) users, the total number of global blockchain users is around 20 million. The real number should be lower if we deduct users holding multiple these dapps,” Ma explained.

“Mass-adopted products like WeChat, the early-stage user experience of which was not satisfactory, rely on gigantic user base as trial takers and feedback givers, which is not likely to happen to the industry in near future,” Ma added.

As a result, the company is aggressively forming alliances to extend collaborative power. On October 23, the company unveiled a lab it co-built with Beijing-backed People Capital.

An earlier plan by the company to use a reward system called LinkToken to encourage idle bandwidth and blockchain product feedback had to be suspended in China. Earlier this month, Xunlei  announced  it was restructuring that program, by transferring operation rights of overseas LinkToken projects to an independent third party.

As for ThunderChain, “Key tasks at the moment include innovation in public chain’s fundamental tech and good maintenance of Xunlei’s ecosystem,” Ma said, and pointed to more open-source projects. “In the future, [more] resources we own will be opened up for developers to build their own projects on and commercialize.”