Blockchain Interoperability: The Key to a Connected Future

Adrià García
August 8, 2023

Introduction

Imagine a world where different countries speak different languages, but there's no way to translate between them. The result would be isolated nations, unable to share knowledge or conduct trade efficiently. This is the current state of blockchain technology, with numerous isolated ecosystems unable to exchange information. But just as translators bridge the gap between languages, the concept of blockchain interoperability emerges to weave these isolated ecosystems into a cohesive network.

What is Blockchain Interoperability?

Blockchain interoperability refers to the ability of different blockchain systems to freely exchange data and value. It's like a universal translator for blockchains, allowing them to understand and interact with each other. This is crucial because, without interoperability, each blockchain operates in a silo, constraining the scope for collaboration and innovation.

Why is interoperability Important?

Blockchain interoperability is the key to unlocking the full potential of blockchain technology. It allows for the seamless flow of data and value across different networks, reducing fragmentation and enhancing the overall user experience.

Consider the case of a decentralized exchange (DEX) application that needs to be deployed on Ethereum, BNB Chain, and Polygon networks. Without interoperability, each deployment of the DEX would function in isolation. This would lead to fragmented data islands, resulting in a disjointed user experience. Users would have to manage separate accounts, maintain different wallets, and face inconsistent pricing and liquidity across these networks.

Now, let's take another example, say a supply chain management system that leverages blockchain technology. In a scenario without interoperability, each participant in the supply chain - manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers - would need to operate on the same blockchain. This could limit the choice of technology and hinder scalability. However, with interoperability, each participant could choose the most suitable blockchain platform for their needs, while still maintaining seamless data exchange and transparency across the entire supply chain.

Lastly, consider a user who owns different types of cryptocurrencies across various blockchains. Without interoperability, the user would have to use a variety of wallets and (centralised) exchanges to manage each type of cryptocurrency. With interoperability, the user could manage all their assets from a single platform, simplifying asset management and enhancing security.

How is Blockchain Interoperability Achieved?

Several techniques are being used to increase interoperability between blockchain networks. These include:

  • Sidechains: These are separate blockchains that are linked to the main chain, allowing for the transfer of assets between the two. For example, the Liquid Network is a Bitcoin sidechain that enables faster transactions and features like Confidential Transactions.
  • Notary schemes: These rely on a third-party notary to manage the lack of trust between the two parties to the transaction. An example of this is the BTC Relay, which uses Ethereum smart contracts to verify Bitcoin transactions.
  • Oracles: These bridge the informational gap between on-chain and off-chain settings. Chainlink, a decentralized oracle network, is a prime example of this. It allows smart contracts on Ethereum to securely connect to external data sources, APIs, and payment systems.
  • Blockchain routers: These are protocols or systems that facilitate direct communication between different blockchain networks. They act as a 'router' by routing transactions or information from one blockchain to another. They understand and translate different blockchain protocols, enabling them to process and validate transactions across these disparate networks. For instance, the Interledger Protocol (ILP) is a type of blockchain router. It connects different blockchains and other types of ledgers, allowing for the seamless transfer of value across these systems.
  • Industrial solutions: These include cross-chain interoperability protocols like Polkadot and Cosmos. Polkadot, for instance, allows different blockchains to interoperate while maintaining their own unique characteristics and governance models.
  • Hashed TimeLocks: These are used to build smart contracts with the ability to modify payment channels. Lightning Network, a second layer solution for Bitcoin, uses Hashed TimeLock Contracts (HTLCs) to enable off-chain, scalable, and instant payments.

The Risk of Blockchain Interoperability

While blockchain interoperability can streamline the cryptocurrency user experience, enable the creation of Web3 applications, and facilitate the transfer of data and value for independent businesses, it's not without its challenges. Every blockchain ledger has a different trust model, and transferring information from a less reliable ledger to one that is more reliable can leave the more robust blockchain open to manipulation.

For instance, the Ronin network, a sidechain developed for the popular game Axie Infinity, suffered a significant security breach in 2022. Hackers exploited a vulnerability in the network's bridge contract, leading to a loss of approximately $625 million in assets. This incident underscores the potential risks associated with blockchain interoperability. When different blockchains interact, the security of the entire system is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, while interoperability can unlock significant benefits, it also necessitates rigorous security measures to prevent such exploits.

Conclusion

In the vast LEGO playground of the blockchain world, each blockchain is akin to a different set of LEGO blocks representing unique networks. While each set has its distinct strengths and functionalities, the true magic lies in blockchain interoperability, akin to building bridges that connect these separate structures. This enables seamless communication and data-sharing, just like allowing characters and elements to move freely between LEGO sets, creating a diverse and vibrant environment. Blockchain interoperability unlocks the full potential of blockchain technology, fostering collaboration, and innovation as different networks can work together harmoniously. Like combining various LEGO sets to create sophisticated structures, the interconnected blockchain ecosystem opens up a future where blockchain networks collaborate and bring about unprecedented advancements across industries.

t3rn is one of the projects building the multichain future. If you are interested in following us on our journey, please make sure to stay updated with our latest developments and breakthroughs that drive blockchain interoperability forward and learn why t3rn is so unique.

About t3rn

‍t3rn is a multichain protocol that brings fail-safe, interoperable execution and smart contract composability to the Polkadot ecosystem and beyond. t3rn’s ultimate goal is to enable trust-free collaboration between blockchains and to create an ecosystem in which anyone can utilize and deploy an interoperable smart contract, in an ecosystem where developers are fairly rewarded for their contributions.

Turn multichain with t3rn.

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