IOHK (IOG): The Engineering Company Behind the Cardano Blockchain

Does Input Output Global have an identity problem?

Humanoid butterfly robot with an IOHK logo for wings speeding upwards.
Created by Gabor Kovacs from DailyCoin

Whether you call it IOHK, IOG, or Input Output Global, you cannot deny that Charles Hoskinson’s engineering company is a bastion of creativity and innovation in the crypto space. The engine room behind revolutionary protocols like Cardano (ADA), Input-Output Global champions the fundamental principles of blockchain technology. 

Their commitment to decentralization and transparency is evident. Every product launched under the IOHK banner is battle-tested and peer-reviewed by the world’s top blockchain researchers, ensuring a secure and efficient system at every level. 

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While Input Output Global is best known for developing the Cardano blockchain, the engineering firm has also built many products and services that expand and improve the Cardano ecosystem.

This article will dive into IOHK’s history and products and explore this engineering company’s influence on the wider cryptocurrency industry.

What Is IOHK, or IOG?

Before going any further, I want to deal with the elephant in the room. For all its technical prowess, Input Output Global suffers from an identity crisis. 

The engineering company boasts a multitude of savvy programmers but struggles to communicate effectively. Case in point: The company officially rebranded from Input Output Hong Kong (IOHK) to Input Output Global (IOG) in 2021, yet most official branding (such as their website, iohk.io) still uses the IOHK acronym.

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Records show that the software engineering company filed the rebrand in 2018, so they’ve had plenty of time to update their communications.

Great. Now that’s out of the way, what is IOG?

IOHK logo.
Source: IOHK

IOG is the technology company behind the Cardano blockchain. It’s a conglomerate of thinkers, researchers, and developers dedicated to building cryptocurrencies and distributed systems for a range of stakeholders, from academic institutions to governmental entities. 

With a commitment to open-source principles and a preference for peer-reviewed research, IOG envisions a world where the Cardano blockchain offers people greater access to financial tools and blockchain services worldwide.

IOHK History

Input Output Hong Kong was founded in 2015 when the blockchain landscape was still nascent. Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson started the company alongside Jeremy Wood following disputes with other ETH co-founders regarding the network’s commercial vision.

Ironically, while Charles wanted Ethereum to be a commercial pursuit, he and Jeremy Wood chose to build IOHK and Cardano as a non-profit platform. The pair aimed to create a company that would push the boundaries of blockchain technology through rigorous research and evidence-based methods.

The resulting network was built from the ground up by three founding entities: IOHK, the Cardano Foundation, and EMURGO. After years of development and preparation, the founding pillars unveiled their flagship Cardano Blockchain product in 2017. 

Backed by the ADA cryptocurrency, Cardano quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the largest digital assets in the industry. Offering a fresh perspective on blockchain consensus mechanisms, the open-source network amassed a passionate community of enthusiasts.

In 2021, IOHK officially moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to Wyoming, USA. Coinciding with the move, the software development firm rebranded to Input Output Global.

Over the years, IOG has grown exponentially. Today, IOG boasts over 300 remote working employees across more than 50 countries worldwide. As the new name suggests, IO Global welcomes a vast myriad of cultures, skills, and perspectives into its thriving workforce. 

IOG Products

Looking closely at IOG’s product suite, you can’t help but be astounded by the depth of what’s on offer. Every platform is designed to improve the Cardano ecosystem’s capabilities and user experience.

1. Cardano Blockchain

Cardano logo.
Source: Cardano

The Cardano blockchain is the centerpiece of IOG’s endeavors, a Layer One smart contract platform that gives users complete control over their digital assets. The open-source network aims to solve the daunting blockchain trilemma and perfectly balance scalability, security, and decentralization.

The network relies on its own dedicated Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism, Ouroboros, to achieve water-tight security and energy efficiency that puts legacy networks to shame.

Launched in 2017, the Cardano blockchain has been in a constant state of evolution. The network’s passionate developer community has built hundreds of decentralized applications and tools that leverage the blockchain’s capabilities and onboard thousands of users.   

IOG and its partners are consistently working to improve the network. Frequent Cardano hard forks and scaling solutions, like Hydra, enable the blockchain platform to exceed its limitations, ensuring a brighter future for the Cardano network.

2. Daedalus Wallet

Daedalus logo.
Source: IOHK

The official wallet of the Cardano blockchain, Daedalus, boosts the decentralization and security of the network by running a full node on every device it’s installed on. Not only is Daedalus a safe place for ADA investors to store their coins, but the platform also allows users to deposit their ADA into staking pools to secure the network and earn rewards. 

For all its importance, the Daedalus Wallet has one glaring flaw. It cannot interact with dApps on the Cardano blockchain. This means that Daedalus users can’t take advantage of Cardano’s growing DeFi and NFT ecosystems or explore the range of Cardano dApps. 

Fortunately, IOG has a solution for this problem, but more on that later.

3. Atala

Atala logo.
Source: Atala

Atala PRISM is a decentralized identity system designed to empower individuals and institutions. The platform issues DIDs (Decentralized Identifiers) to offer a tamper-proof, secure way for users to share their credentials, building trust without compromising privacy.

The framework is versatile, catering to many use cases, from financial services to education and government applications. Atala is best known for collaborating with the Ethiopian Government to provide 3,500 schools, five million students, and 750,000 teachers with secure educational credentials.

Whether verifying academic credentials, ensuring transparent supply chains, or facilitating seamless governmental processes, Atala is an excellent example of how blockchain technologies can disrupt and reinvent existing industries.

4. Lace

Lace wallet homepage.
Source: Lace

In response to Daedalus Wallet’s integration issues, IOG unveiled Lace, a second Cardano wallet platform. Designed as a light Cardano wallet, Lace is a gateway to Cardano’s expansive universe of dApps, CNFTs, and DeFi services.

Lace offers users a seamless experience, bridging the gap between the complexities of blockchain technology and the everyday user. With its intuitive interface, Lace ensures that even those new to the crypto realm can navigate easily, making Cardano more accessible than ever.

5. Project Catalyst

Conceived by IOG, Project Catalyst is an innovation fund for the Cardano ecosystem. Essentially, Project Catalyst empowers the Cardano community to take the reins of the platform’s future. 

Members propose startup ideas and new initiatives, deliberate on potential challenges, and collectively decide which projects receive funding. This democratic approach ensures that the Cardano ecosystem evolves in harmony to fit the diverse needs of its users.

Project Catalyst is a melting pot of creativity where the Cardano community can join forces to brainstorm, collaborate, and bring new ideas to life. Everyone, whether you’re a blockchain developer or a DeFi power user, is welcome to suggest and vote on proposals they believe will improve the ecosystem.

6. Marlowe

More catered for developers than end users, IOG’s Marlowe is a DSL (domain-specific language) and ecosystem of tools that facilitate the development of financial applications on the Cardano network.

With the Marlowe Playground, developers, even those unfamiliar with blockchain intricacies, can visually construct smart contracts. This intuitive environment offers a new way of looking at smart contract development, making it accessible to a broader audience.

7. Plutus

Written in Haskell, Plutus is the native smart contract programming language of the Cardano blockchain. The Turing-Complete language was specifically developed by IOG to be used exclusively within the Cardano ecosystem.

One of the things that makes Plutus unique is its ability to unify on-chain and off-chain code. By allowing developers to write both facets in Haskell, Plutus ensures a seamless integration, optimizing both performance and security. On top of that, Plutus’ UTXO accounting model offers greater flexibility during contract execution. 

While Plutus undeniably adds a layer of exclusivity to the Cardano blockchain, it also makes developer onboarding more difficult. With dozens of other EVM-based languages all using similar languages like Solidity and Vyper, it’s far easier for Web 3 programmers to hop between other networks than migrating to Cardano.

8. Midnight

Midnight logo.
Source: Midnight

A relative newcomer to IOG’s product suite, Midnight is breaking new ground in the Cardano ecosystem. Midnight is a zk-proof sidechain that runs parallel to the Cardano mainnet, offering users greater privacy and anonymity online.

IOG’s founder, Charles Hoskinson, claims that Midnight is the most sophisticated product they’ve ever worked on. In short, zk-proofs allow parties to prove they know sensitive data, like a password, without revealing the information.

The initial announcement of the Midnight DevNet launch was met with mixed feelings from the Cardano community. Despite IOG’s excitement, the announcement was light on details that left ADA fans with plenty of questions. 

IOG Pros and Cons

Cardano’s founding engineering company is bursting with talent and ingenuity, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have flaws. Let’s take a look at IOG’s pros and cons.

Pros

  • Versatile Product Range – IGO is constantly building innovative products that improve and expand the capabilities of the Cardano blockchain.
  • Research-Driven Approach – IOG’s commitment to peer-reviewed research ensures that its solutions are robust and sustainable.
  • Open-Source Dedication – Everything shipped under the IOG umbrella is open-source, meaning users can verify its safety and build upon its existing features.
  • Global Inspiration – With collaborations spanning continents and a team sourced from all over the world, IOG is a breeding ground for creative thought.

Cons

  • Poor Communications – While IOG’s tools and architecture are top-notch, its communication and marketing efforts leave much to be desired. Most of the world still refers to the company as IOHK, and new product launches often leave users with more questions than answers.
  • Slow Development – IOG’s products are burdened by slow development times. Network hard forks are frequently delayed. Moreover, in many respects, such as zk-proofing and scaling, IOG is still years behind rival networks. 
  • High Expectations – As leading figures in the blockchain industry, IOG and Cardano suffer the burden of high expectations. Users are often disappointed with products when they eventually go live.

On the Flipside

  • IOG is the beating heart of the Cardano network. Yet, the company struggles to communicate effectively and manage the Cardano community’s expectations. To stay relevant in the exceptionally competitive blockchain industry, IOG must devote more time to ecosystem education.

Why This Matters

The driving force behind the technical growth of the Cardano blockchain, IOG carries enormous influence in the crypto sphere. Learning about the role and responsibilities of IOG should be an essential part of every ADA supporter’s education.

FAQs

What is the meaning of IOHK?

IOHK stands for Input Output Hong Kong, the engineering company behind the Cardano blockchain. 

Who owns IOHK?

IOHK was founded by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood in 2015 after they split from the Ethereum development over disagreements in the project’s direction.

Why did IOHK change to IOG?

IOHK rebranded to IOG in 2021 after shifting its headquarters from Hong Kong to Wyoming, USA.

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

Author
Finn Miller

Finn Miller is a New Zealand-based blockchain writer for DailyCoin who specializes in simplifying complex blockchain topics. He is experienced in crafting whitepapers, researching on-chain data, and advising emerging crypto projects, and uses his unconventional approach to learning and passion for knowledge to provide cornerstone educational content for readers of all levels. When not exploring the depths of DeFi, Finn can be found exploring his other passion, the great outdoors.