A multichain interoperable cryptonetwork for launching Web3.0 application-specific blockchains, aka appchains.
Since 2020, the most noticeable trend in the crypto space is that Ethereum has been unable to maintain its dominance due to scalability constraints.
Meanwhile, various new public blockchains have continued to emerge. Some of them have already acquired a large volume of usage and hosted a huge amount of crypto assets.
The trend has made more and more people realize that the future of the blockchain world will not be one-chain-fits-all but rather an Internet of Blockchains.
When it comes to the topic of the Internet of Blockchains, the contributions of Cosmos and its founders cannot be ignored. In 2015, Jae Kwon and his collaborators created Tendermint, a PoS-based BFT consensus that allows anyone to create a blockchain quickly.
At that time, they had already foreseen that a large number of specific purpose blockchains would continue to appear. It’s only rational to reason that those blockchains would be interconnected into a network.
In Cosmos’ blueprint, there is a particular type of blockchain whose function is to link as many blockchains as possible, which is called a “hub.” The Cosmos Hub is the first of its kind. Corresponding with hubs, the specific purpose blockchains are called “zones”.
The designers of Cosmos followed the End-to-End Arguments of the Internet architecture design. That is to say, the function in question can completely and correctly be implemented only with the knowledge and help of the application standing at the endpoints of the communication system.
Therefore, providing that questioned function as a feature of the communication system itself is not possible.
The blockchain version of the End-to-End Arguments is called Hub Minimalism, which is the design philosophy of the Cosmos Network. The functions of the hub should be as few as possible, which brings three benefits.
One is that the code of the hub is simplified, so the security and reliability go higher. The other is that the hub will dedicate its limited capacity to process cross-chain transactions, thereby reducing the cost of cross-chain transactions.
The third is to avoid the overlapping of hub and zone functions. Since the hub is the core of the ecosystem, if the hub competes with zones, it will inevitably inhibit the zones’ innovation.
In 2020, it was proposed that the Cosmos Hub should have its AMM DEX, as a basic service to serve zones. This proposal obviously violated the principle of Hub Minimalism and unsurprisingly caused fierce controversy.
The result of the debate was that pragmatism prevailed. After one year of development and testing, Gravity DEX was launched in mid-2021.
However, the Cosmos community as a whole did not give up Hub Minimalism and only considers Gravity DEX as a special case. But this raises the question: Why should there be a special case like Gravity DEX? Perhaps the more general question is: Where are the boundaries of Hub Minimalism?
Take a look at the real-world blockchain interconnection topology, and you can easily find that Ethereum is at the center of the Hub-and-Spoke network, with bridges connecting all important blockchains.
For every public blockchain and application-specific blockchain, the first requirement for cross-chain interoperability is to connect with Ethereum.
The motivation for doing that is not because Ethereum is minimal, but precisely because Ethereum is maximized and accommodates the most application layer protocols and the largest volume of crypto assets. This makes Ethereum “the de facto hub” of the blockchain Internet — a fat hub.
Polkadot has always been compared with Cosmos. Although the term is not used, Polkadot also practices Hub Minimalism.
The Polkadot Relay does not have any applications and cannot deploy smart contracts. Polkadot is even trying to offload some basic functions of the relay, including DOT issuance, on-chain governance, etc., to “system parachains.”
The minimalized Polkadot Relay means that decentralized applications including DeFi can only be hosted by parachains. The development of DeFi protocols on Polkadot relies on the composability between parachains, which is presently challenged by two hurdles.
First, the internal cross-chain protocol in the Polkadot Network, XCMP, has yet to become fully operable on the mainnet. Until XCMP is fully employed, parachains are isolated and can neither interoperate with other parachains nor be interconnected with other blockchains, such as Ethereum, through common bridges.
The second hurdle is the uncertainty caused by the slot auction mechanism.
The parachain that acts as the source of the interactions needs to consider the following factors when it is trying to compose with a target parachain: How long is left in the current slot lease period of the target parachain? Will the target parachain win the auction again before the slot expires?
Should the counterparty fail to renew its slot and become downgraded to a para-thread, there is a chance that its liveness may be reduced thereby affecting its composability.
While the plan for para-threads is that they will still be able to send messages to other para-objects through XCMP and are still secured under the full economic security of Polkadot’s validator set, the requirement placed upon them to compete on a per-block basis for inclusion in the verification of the next Relay Chain block does not guarantee a right for inclusion, again potentially affecting their composability.
Octopus Network is the third noteworthy multi-chain network after Cosmos and Polkadot. Its goal is to launch and run a large number of Web3.0 applications in the form of application-specific blockchains, aka appchains, which are safe and efficient. The core difference between the three multi-chain networks lies in the way the sub-chain (zone/parachain/appchain) obtains security.
Currently, in the Cosmos Network, a zone is an independent Tendermint consensus blockchain, and the security comes from its own PoS. (Should Cosmos successfully implement its Interchain Shared Security model, this may expand sometime in the future.)
Polkadot is a heterogeneous sharded blockchain. Parachains are not blockchains with independent consensus, but shards. The Relay Chain does all the validation and guarantees that every parachain has the same level of security.
An appchain in the Octopus Network is a blockchain with independent consensus similar to a Cosmos zone, but all appchains’ PoS are entrusted to the Octopus Network, using the OCT token as an exclusive staking asset.
An appchain can determine its own security level by adjusting the block rewards that it pays to validators. The cross-chain hub of the network, the Octopus Relay, is not an independent layer1 blockchain, but a set of smart contracts running on NEAR Protocol.
To be clear, the Octopus Network was not designed to compete with Polkadot nor with Cosmos.
In this respect, we rather align our vision with the anti-blockchain maximalist philosophy of Dr. Gavin Wood and Tendermint CEO Peng Zhong’s sentiments of seeing every ecosystem not as a competitor, but as a collaborator.
After all, we are all trying to bridge all chains together. The purpose of this article is merely to discuss why we are not Hub Minimalists and have decided to take a different approach.
But before diving into the logic behind the Octopus Network design, we need to discuss the relationship between DeFi and non-financial Web3.0 applications.
A Web3.0 application is a decentralized marketplace protocol incentivized by crypto tokens. A variety of participants including developers, investors, validators (miners), promoters, service providers, and even end-users contribute to the establishment and prosperity of the market and are then rewarded by the token.
But the market created by Web3.0 applications is not self-contained. Developers need to sell pre-mined tokens to raise funds for protocol development.
Those whose expenditures are denominated in fiat, such as validators, need exchanges in order to complete the process of reinvestment. Now, DeFi provides all these facilities for Web3.0 applications without the need to leave the crypto domain.
The core advantage of an appchain is to focus on a specific use case to achieve the best possible user experience. For appchains, it doesn’t make sense to build their own DeFi, just like a non-financial business company doesn’t need to establish its own bank and stock exchange.
The protocol of the Octopus Network can be regarded as a type of decentralized incubator. The Octopus Network protocol will periodically launch the appchain with the most support from the community and help it run an IDO on Skyward.finance, a decentralized IDO platform on NEAR.
To help appchains raise more capital and establish an economic bond between the two communities, the Octopus Foundation will directly airdrop a fair amount of OCT tokens to the appchain IDO investors.
After the Skyward IDO ends, each appchain team will establish a trading pool on Ref.finance, which is an AMM DEX on NEAR, inject initial liquidity, and may provide an incentive for liquidity providers if they decide to do so.
Obviously, all Octopus appchains establish a close symbiotic relationship with DeFi protocols on NEAR from day one. And the interoperability between Octopus appchains and the DeFi protocols on NEAR is much more valuable than the interoperability between appchains.
In the past few months, several high-profile IDOs have been conducted on Skyward. For example, the number of participants in the Ref Finance IDO was close to 2000.
The amount for Octopus Network was close to 4000, Paras IDO exceeded 4000, and Octopus Network’s first appchain, DeBio, came in at 4380. This does not necessarily mean that DeBio is more valuable than Paras or Octopus is more valuable than Ref Finance.
Instead, it means that each IDO with considerable recognition is expanding the user base of Skyward and helping subsequent protocols hold more successful events.
The TVL of the OCT pool on Ref Finance has reached 7 million USD. Imagine that the Octopus Network will connect hundreds or more appchains in the future, generating thousands of FTs and millions of NFTs.
These assets will all enter into the DeFi network on NEAR. The essence of an ecosystem is that local advancement will always promote prosperity as a whole.
“Ethereum ecosystem has to expand beyond just making tokens that help with trading other tokens.”
The role of the financial system is to allocate capital efficiently for production. If capital cannot flow into the production sector of the economy to create utility for humans, then the product of the financial system will be solely bubbles.
Appchains are decentralized digital economies. Their relationship with DeFi is like the relationship between the industrial economy and the financial system.
Octopus Network has enabled unprecedented complementary and mutually beneficial interactions between DeFi and non-financial Web3.0 applications in the NEAR ecosystem. These interactions will greatly accelerate the adoption of Web3.0.
There is only one Internet. Even after decades of development, the connotation of the Internet is still changing rapidly. For such a single instance, the induction method usually does not work.
The end-to-end arguments are not a priori principles of the Internet but should be regarded as a reflection of the Internet architecture. As the name implies, they are not principles, but arguments, with enough and rethinkings.
The so-called “Internet of Blockchains” is more a metaphor than a definition. This metaphor has helped many people visualize an intuitive impression of multi-chain networks.
But I am afraid that no one will yet seriously claim that the “Internet of Blockchains is an Internet”. In the same sense, why then must we uphold the ideal that Hub Minimalism applies to all multi-chain crypto-networks?
Places with convenient transportation and abundant water sources gradually developed marketplaces and evolved into commercial cities. Under the influence of the network effect, a few cities developed into financial centers, serving large areas and numerous industries. In the real world, basically, all financial centers are transportation centers, and all transportation centers are commercial centers.
For a new public blockchain to occupy a significant place on the Internet of Blockchains, it must first develop into a DeFi center that hosts a large number of DeFi protocols and crypto-assets.
Cosmos Hub and Polkadot Relay are the Schelling point to become DeFi centers in each of their respective multichain networks. Their ecosystems will have to rely on zones and parachains, such as Terra, Osmosis, Acala, Moonbeam, Astar, etc., to achieve the goal. It will be interesting to watch this develop.
NEAR Protocol provides a user experience close to Web2.0 and has a solid foundation of decentralization. With the resources and support from the entire ecosystem, NEAR is rapidly emerging as a prominent financial center in the blockchain world.
Given that NEAR Protocol has almost unlimited scalability based on sharding, it can accommodate hundreds, or even thousands of more crypto protocols and crypto-assets than Ethereum layer1, making it the fattest blockchain Internet hub. At the same time, Octopus Network is becoming the satellite city belt surrounding NEAR and an optimal habitat for non-financial Web3.0 applications.