Cosmos AMA on 8btc: No Blockchain Is an Island, To Be “Internet of Blockchains”
With the advent of numerous blockchains over these years, the lack of interoperability between blockchains has put a brake on the growth of blockchain industry. In such a context, cross-chain technology has grabbed great attention from the crypto community.
As a prominent representative in the field of cross-chain technology, Cosmos, with the aim of becoming the “internet of blockchains”, has been the most talked about cross-chain project these days.
On June 6, we (8btc) invited Cosmos’ core developer Sunny Aggarwal and its director of community Chjango Unchained to have an online AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the Chinese crypto community. The discussion mainly centered around four keywords of the project.
Keyword 1: ATOM
ATOM is the main cryptocurrency existing on top of the Cosmos platform which is designed to facilitate communication, scaling and interoperation between independent chains.
Q1: What’s the distribution of ATOM? And what’s the function of it in Cosmos ecosystem?
Chjango: ATOMs are a staking token, which means it’s utilized as a digitized version of specialized hardware that simulates how GPUs, FPGAs, and ASICs are used for mining Proof-of-Work chains. Since the Cosmos Hub is secured entirely through Proof-of-Stake, there needs to be a token—in this case, the ATOM—that acts as a unit of voting power to act as the analogue to what would otherwise be hash power.
Q2: Can every ATOM holder participate in Cosmos on-chain governance? How can they do that?
Chjango: Every ATOM holder has the opportunity to participate in on-chain governance of the Cosmos Hub. They can do so easily via most wallet providers. Lunie.io is one fully-featured desktop wallet that lets you vote through its interface when you log in through your Ledger hardware wallet.
In Bonded PoS (BPoS), you have somewhat of a “direct democracy” where the validator that you bond ATOMs to can vote on your behalf but if you disagree with their vote, you can simply override their vote with your own. A list of wallets that support Cosmos can be found on hub.cosmos.network, but keep in mind that not all of them have been audited and not all of them let you vote directly from their wallets.
Q3: Good validators can benefit ATOM holders, while malicious validators have the risk of losing Token, how to choose the best validator?
Sunny: Look at things like their security setup, commission rate, social reputation, governance voting history, etc.
Keyword 2: Cosmos SDK
Cosmos SDK is a technological tool set designed to simplify the process of creating secure blockchain applications on top of Tendermint. With it, the developers claim that building a blockchain should be simplified to the degree that the whole process should not be harder than coding several modules.
Q4: What function modules does Cosmos SDK cover in the application layer?
Sunny: Some of the “core modules” that are included in the SDK are tokens, staking, governance, reward distribution, IBC, etc. However, there are many modules built by other chains that are constantly being built. We are working on a common repository to list all of these community modules.
Keyword 3: Tendermint
Tendermint is a software which can be used to achieve Byzantine fault tolerance (BFT) in any distributed computing platforms.
Q5: If the validators get more and more in the future, the network will get slower. Do you have any solutions for that?
Sunny: Yes, couple of ideas:
1.BLS Signature Aggregation (can combine signatures as gossip layer so less network load)
2.Pipelined Tendermint (multiple tendermint rounds at once)
3.QUIC (Currently we use TCP for a lot of things we should use UDP/QUIC for)
Q6: What are the advantages of Tendermint BFT？
Sunny: The guiding principle of Tendermint Consensus is practical, fast finality BFT. Blocks are finalized after 1 block and byzantine faults are cryptographically attributable, allowing the malicious node to be slashed. Tendermint also allows a rotating block proposer every block and is optimized for operation over public p2p gossip networks, both of which are important for public blockchains.
It’s not the most complex BFT protocol in the world, but it is very practical and simple. Tendermint Core is probably currently the only production-grade BFT consensus engine.
Q7: Are there any solutions for Tendermint to avoid CartelFormation compared with Casper?
Sunny: One of the nice things about a Cartel in Tendermint is that any cartel of less than 33% is pretty powerless, they cannot to anything malicious. We are working on incentives to make griefing your cartel easy and beneficial (the best way to stop cartels is to sow distrust). For example, we can make it that if you expose your cartel, you can benefit from it. Also, governance is a good anti-cartel mechanism and governance can also punish found cartel members.
Chjango: To add to Sunny’s point about leveraging on-chain governance as an anti-cartel mechanism, Casper FFG faces the same risks as Tendermint in the face of collusion. Casper CBC, on the other hand, theoretically bakes in an anti-cartel mechanism via cryptoeconomic disincentives, but again, the benefit for CBC is that its algorithms are largely theoretical.
Q8: Have you ever concerned about the issue of compatibility of safety, efficiency and decentralization, particularly decentralization, how to balance them?
Chjango: You just brought up the tradeoff space that’s best known as Vlad’s triangle. Vlad Zamfir illustrates a fundamental tension between (fast finality, low communication overhead, low # of nodes), (slow time to finality, low communication overhead, large # of nodes), and (fast finality, high communication overhead, large # of nodes). If you want to maximize decentralization (high # of nodes), then you must trade off time to finality, which means you’re happy with higher block times (for safety). Tendermint, on the other hand, has high communication overhead (block headers are >4KB in signatures alone), is relatively more decentralized compared to alternative blockchains that run DPoS, yet has fast finality as a feature (low block times). There isn’t a costless way to get the best of all worlds outside of the physical limitations of this tradeoff space.
Keyword 4: present and the future
Q9: What’s the update of Cosmos these days? Are there any difficulties in developing?
Chjango: Currently, core developers on the Tendermint team is soliciting input from projects that are going to be using IBC as their cross-chain solution. The repository for tracking IBC development can be found on github.com/cosmos/ics.
We recently successfully separated the Gaia (Cosmos Hub) logic from the Cosmos SDK framework, making a clean separation between the Cosmos SDK and the Cosmos Hub. You can see the new Cosmos Hub repository live here: github.com/cosmos/gaia.
On the business development end, the Tendermint team has worked with key projects (cosmos.network/ecosystem) to get complementary solutions out the door. The Interledger protocol, for instance, is a useful cross-chain payments solution that we think would benefit users of Cosmos SDK.
The Interchain Foundation has started ramping up its grants program, of which the first batch of grants closed recently after receiving high demand. (It will open up for grant applications again later in the year after it processes the first batch.) Learn more about which projects are funded by ICF on interchain.io.
ICF is funding many complementary projects like Thorchain which can help build out Interchain ecosystem initiatives such as the Cosmos <> Ethereum two-way peg.
Q10: Do you have any future work plan in cross-chain smart contract and data privacy?
Chjango: We highly encourage ecosystem contributors to build out smart contracting languages/VMs that are ecosystem compatible with Cosmos. While smart contracting and privacy tech like ZK-SNARKs and STARKs are not on the immediate roadmap for Tendermint team’s core developers, those are initiatives that the Interchain Foundation (ICF) grants funds for other teams to build. There are currently projects in the pipeline that have applied for funding. Kadena for example has applied for a grant in order to integrate their smart contracting language, called Pact, into Tendermint. This may in turn develop into work that enables developers to spin up Pact Zones within Cosmos, which would effectively be smart contracting chains that could interoperate with the rest of the Cosmos Network.
Q11: At present, you are focusing on the value transfer through the blockchain. Do you have any roadmap for information transfer?
Sunny: Yes, IBC is designed to be generalizable enough so you can transmit different types of data on top of it. It will be like how there are higher level protocols like HTTP, SMTP, FTP, etc on top of TCP/IP. Same way, on top of IBC there will be different protocols. We are starting with Token Transfer Protocol, but will also want to add more like NFT, oracle data, Agoric, etc.
Chjango: The first iterative step is to make value transfer across chains secure. Over time—and this is where the roadmap gets fuzzy—general data transfer, NFT transfer, smart contract calls, etc. could be done over IBC, but those functionalities need to be built out one step at a time. It is a goal in the long term and is the end-state of IBC, so yes.
Q12: What’s your roadmap? And what will you do for the community next step?
Chjango: There’s currently a very high-level roadmap at cosmos.network/roadmap. The biggest milestone we’re aiming to cross is deploying Interblockchain Communication. Since IBC is the dependency that all of our other projects need in order to work, it needs to be completed first. After IBC, we can build a working Peg Zone, we can have Ethermint, and most importantly, we can have cross-collateralized chains with the Cosmos Hub.
The last one is the most interesting milestone to me: cross-collateralized chains. This is distinct from shared security in that you’re not using the same validators to validate your chain, as in Polkadot or ETH 2.0, under the same virtual machine, but your chain could essentially be collateralized in ATOMs so that if any malicious activity happens on your chain, those malicious actors will get slashed in ATOMs.