Last week, Cosmos Network launched, which I believe to be a great event. Yes, it's a blockchain initiative – but certainly not just another. If I am right, its consequences for one day will also reach your life, although it is sufficiently bleeding that these ripples are unlikely to hit you for a decade. Perhaps five years, for a groundbreaking TechCrunch reader like you.
(Yes, it's bold words, but if I say it myself, my track record is pretty good with this kind of thing. The last blockchain launch I wrote about was Ethereum, which you may have heard of … and I was the only one non-specialized commentator / journalist to cover it at that time.)
This launch is an abstraction and extremely technical achievement that is currently only important to those who already live in the midst of the tiny, subculture of humanity, which is being cracked as the way to a better, decentralized, and just future. (Not to be confused with the much larger number who see cryptocurrencies first and foremost as an opportunity to get rich quick, nothing so sketchily.) But it is a very impressive technical experience, with every chance of ultimately becoming important to many more people.
Cosmos calls itself "Blockchains Internet" and that is it, but it is also something else important: it is one of the first major decentralized Proof-of-Stake networks to be launched. (No, EOS does not count.) In this model, instead of being secured by "miners" solving computationally hard problems at the expense of gigawatt and electricity counting, block chains have been verified by "validators" who buy ( or is delegated) cryptocurrency as the "stake."
These validators, by name, make sure that the chain transactions are valid, knowing that they will earn rewards if they are honest and correct … but if they are dishonest or erroneous or offline, their efforts become "slashed" "ie. They will lose money. (At present, there are 100 validators, this number is due triple.) It has been shown, at least theoretically, that while validators are outrageously assembled as long as at least two-thirds of them remain honest, the chain remains secure.
This is a very large part because the much better efficiency and speed of Proof-of-Stake opens a path to decentralized systems that support many many more actions than Proof-of-Work chains like Bitcoin or (today's) Ethereum, with much long less ecological footprint. If Proof of Stake succeeds in the hard, cruel real world – admittedly a big if; its implementation is complicated and has a much larger attack surface, both social and technical, than Proof of Work. Then, blockages can ultimately be capable of severely scaling with acceptable security without consuming a noticeable portion of the world's electricity.
Cosmo's ambitions, however, go much further. Cosmos is not intended as just another blockchain. We have more than enough of them already. It is intended as a node that connects other blockbeds with each other – hence "Blockchains Internet." In addition, it provides tools that in theory make it much easier for any software engineer to build a brand new, specially designed blockchain … which in turn can interoperate with any number of others.
Why does it matter? Because if blocks are important in addition to cryptographic curves – if they are to be used for applications such as namespaces, file storage, digital collectibles, supply chains, self-contained identities, and decentralized social media to drive out the usual list of desirable decentralized apps – these applications would benefit greatly from could interact with each other.
To some extent they can already. One can perform atomic swaps, which trade Bitcoin for Zcash in a single indivisible transaction. But this kind of interoperability is difficult and limited by the host chains' limitations, whatever they may be. Cosmos offers a compelling alternative vision: instead of a single "world computer" chain, where all decentralized applications run, it suggests many block chains, one for each application, talk to each other and pass assets, collectibles, data and cryptographic curves to and from each other via agreed "hubs".
This week's actual launch was the first of them, Cosmos Hub. In principle, in the future anyone can drive a hub. Much of Cosmo's vision remains "in principle in the future." At present there are no other blockages connected; In principle, Cosmos & # 39; validators in the future will vote to begin to interact with them. (Cosmos also includes built-in "control" in the parable of blockchainers, ie on-chain voting.)
Yet, only certain types of blocks, those with an architecture similar to Cosmos itself – with "fast finality" to be precise – connect via a hub. In principle, adapters for other chains, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and ZCash, can be constructed in the future; This makes the Cosmos a Bitcoin "sidechain" and / or a competitor / coopetitor for the Lightning Network as if it didn't have enough hats and offers enough futures already.
Do I sound skeptical? No more than usual: I'm just cautious about making statements before vaporware becomes software. Launched last week, Cosmos Hub is, however, the latter not the first, and although I am mistaken for the ultimate reality in the world, it is still an important, significant technical achievement. Congratulations and kudos to the team. It may seem like investors and speculators that we remain in grip of an apparently endless crypt winter; But for engineers, the launch of Cosmos is a strong sign that spring is underway.