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Blockchains bring many promises for industries worldwide. But one of the biggest challenges they face is the inability to communicate and interoperate with each other.
This creates multiple a network of high potential applications and platforms that are siloed within their own blockchain ecosystems.
There are many projects currently working to solve the interoperability challenge, and Moonbeam is leading the charge in that aspect, allowing projects to easily deploy cross-chain platforms.
For the seventh part of Unhashed, I sent out a few questions to Derek Yoo, the CEO of Moonbeam, to explore more about interoperability and how Moonbeam is making seamless interoperability a reality.
Q1. How did you first get introduced to blockchain and crypto and what inspired you to work in this space? And what’s the story behind building Moonbeam?
Before founding PureStake in 2019, I previously co-founded and served as CTO for a company called Fuze. I had led that company for ten years with my co-founder, Steve Kokinos, who eventually left to become CEO of a blockchain company called Algorand. This sparked my interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency, and I researched it to learn as much as I could. In 2019, I founded PureStake with a focus on blockchain infrastructure, and have always been drawn to the idea of multi-chain and the corresponding importance of cross-chain connectivity.
As we evaluated new blockchains for expansion of our infrastructure services, it became pretty clear that Polkadot was onto something, both in terms of technology and community. We see Polkadot as the future of interoperability, and their vision for a network of blockchains is extremely powerful. As we became more ingrained in this ecosystem, we realized that there was an opportunity for a project to serve as an easy on-ramp to this growing network, and nobody seemed to be thinking about this in the same way.
So we created Moonbeam, which is a fully Ethereum-compatible blockchain that is part of the Polkadot ecosystem. It has Polkadot-native implementations of all of the key Ethereum technologies such as the EVM and Web3 RPC. The idea here is to eliminate some of the hurdles that developers face when expanding to new chains, and to make it much simpler both upfront and on an ongoing basis to deploy one set of smart contracts to many blockchains at the same time. And by being part of Polkadot we are also able to offer native cross-chain integration capabilities — something that other Ethereum-like blockchains can’t offer.
Q2. The lack of interoperability in blockchains is a major hurdle in the path to blockchain adoption. Why is it such a huge issue for blockchains to communicate data with each other? Can you explain with examples how lack of interoperability impacts the adoption of blockchain?
Scalability and the growing need to find available blockspace are the driving force behind the increasingly multi-chain environment we find today. Blockchains are traditionally islands onto themselves, isolated from other chains. So you have this splintering of users and assets across different chains happening today, which is a challenge for blockchain adoption.
For developers, when they choose to deploy on any given blockchain, they are foregoing the ability to serve users and assets on all other chains. For end-users, they need to understand a lot about which underlying blockchain they are interacting with, and how that blockchain works, leading to a poor user experience when compared with web2 UX. We believe that cross-chain interoperability is the key element of a solution to both of these problems.
Q3. What are the potential methods to solve this lack of inherent interoperability of blockchains and how can developers ensure that their applications can function across multiple blockchains?
Interoperability requires standards. The fact of the matter is that Ethereum — along with the Ethereum technology stack and developer toolchain — is the de-facto standard when it comes to the development of blockchain-based applications. It has been around the longest, it has the widest developer adoption, and it has the greatest number of tools and services built around it. This includes core components like the EVM, and also supporting services like MetaMask, Truffle, TheGraph, and many other Ethereum development tools. 4
The protocol standards that have built on top of Ethereum such as ERC20 and ERC721 are also the de-facto standards and have really fueled the growth of DeFi on Ethereum and other chains. As a developer, if you want to build an interoperable application that can be deployed to a variety of blockchains, your best bet is to develop using the Ethereum technology stack and standards.
Q4. Many developers are currently focusing on deploying applications that function across the three largest smart contract blockchains — Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, and Polkadot. How does Moonbeam ensure seamless cross-chain deployment of these applications?
Moonbeam is an Ethereum-compatible developer platform targeted to Ethereum and Solidity devs. We aim to provide the easiest development environment and the richest set of developer integrations on Polkadot. By making it easy for developers to build on Moonbeam, we are able to attract and onboard new and existing applications to the Polkadot ecosystem very quickly.
Teams that are pursuing a multi-chain deployment strategy are largely implementing their application using the Ethereum tech stack. This allows them to deploy to Ethereum and Ethereum-like chains such as BSC. Moonbeam, given its full Ethereum compatibility, is the natural destination for Polkadot-based multi-chain deployments.
Q5. The recent spike in developers’ interest to deploy their applications across these three blockchains seems to be coming from Ethereum’s lack of scalability and spiking gas. Do you think either BSC or Polkadot can replace Ethereum as the top smart contract blockchain? Why?
The goal isn’t to replace Ethereum, but to have many blockchains that are each specialized for different use cases. In some instances, the current fees and scalability constraints may be just fine for a project given the type and frequency of transactions. In other instances, projects may need a high volume of low-cost transactions or a high degree of flexibility and autonomy over the architecture of their chain.
Polkadot in particular is designed for this: heterogeneous sharding allows many varied blockchains to share security (and users, and assets) with the main Relay Chain. That creates a situation where projects have many viable options and are able to choose an environment that makes sense for their use case. In general we believe that developers will continue to pursue multi-chain deployments across Ethereum, BSC, and Polkadot.
Q6. Moonbeam is a parachain on the Polkadot network. What’s the reason behind choosing Polkadot over other blockchain networks that offer similar functionalities?
The most important reason we are building on Polkadot is the developer activity we see there. Outside of Ethereum, Polkadot is the most active ecosystem in terms of developers. Given that we are building a developer-oriented platform, we need to go to where the developers and builders are. And Polkadot offers more of a greenfield opportunity vs Ethereum, where there is a more mature and established ecosystem.
The Substrate and Polkadot technology stack was another important factor. Substrate is a Rust-based blockchain development framework that helped us build Moonbeam much faster than if we had built it from scratch. We were drawn to Polkadot based on its vision of cross-chain integration.
We believe the design of Polkadot and its built-in cross-chain capabilities will lend itself to new kinds of native cross-chain applications in the future. We envision Moonbeam as ultimately being an integration hub on Polkadot, helping developers easily create Polkadot-native multi-chain applications which will be much more scalable than the dApps you see today.
Q7. Apart from interoperability, what other hurdles do you think DeFi and blockchain have on their path to mass adoption, and what potential solutions are being developed to tackle them?
Coming from the Web2 space, I still believe there are big challenges in terms of end-user experience for Web3 applications that need to be improved before large-scale mass adoption can happen. With multi-chain deployments and applications, this UX can be even more challenging. One thing I believe is that every day end users need higher levels of abstraction.
As a user, you shouldn’t need to know the underlying technical details about how a blockchain works in order to use it. Connecting MetaMask to different chains, being prompted to sign certain kinds of low-level transactions are not things that regular users have a mental model for. MetaMask has recently added more features to help transition users between chains by automating the addition of new networks and I think their snaps extension system will provide important UX improvement opportunities for developers.
Disclaimer: The sole purpose of Unhashed is to unhash (decode) information about projects innovating using blockchain and cryptocurrencies and share it with the community. The writer does not have any vested interest in any of the projects covered herein. Not that this article shares any, but still, taking investment advice from strangers on the internet is not a wise thing to do.
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