On the first day of the city-wide crypto event that was EthDenver, Stephen Fluin, head of developer relations at Axelar, put the onus on developers to build a more connected network3, stating that “dApps developers have a responsibility to bring together “.
Speaking at the InterOp Summit, Fluin began by asking the audience to join a poll asking who had participated in Cosmos, Bitcoin, or Ethereum. After a sea of hands for both Cosmos and Ethereum, Bitcoiners were few in number but still ever-present. Fluin then announced that “InterOp is the only place during EthDenver Buidl week where you can talk to each other.”
Regardless of the humor, the message was in line with Axelar’s goal of creating a cross-chain world where blockchains interact safely without using risky bridging mechanics and sub-par UX. However, Fluin’s talk, titled “Think Cross-Chain,” opened up a series of important questions that need to be addressed in relation to the difficulties of managing a multi-chain world.
Fluin recounted an anecdote most crypto users will be familiar with about trying to link a token to another blockchain. While working on a personal project, Fluin wanted to implement a smart contract on the Polygon blockchain. First, he bought some MATIC on Coinbase only to discover that it was MATIC on the Ethereum blockchain, not Polygon.
He then had to transfer MATIC to Polygon using the native bridge, only to find out that he needed some ETH to pay for the gas involved in the connection. Finally, Fluin made a bold statement about the current developer perception of a cross-chain world, saying that thinking is “fundamentally flawed.”
“The way we get developers to think about these circuits is fundamentally flawed[…] It’s a problem that’s getting worse.”
While interchain is “the future” from the perspective of the Axelar team, there is work to be done to bring benefits like better, more accessible dApps and more “meaningful abstractions.”
The growth of web3 chains and decentralization
Fluin found that “the number of chains is increasing,” with over 455 major EVM chains listed on Chainlist. However, the reality of a decentralized world means that there is no single truth regarding the total number of public blockchains available to developers.
“Decentralized needs lead to decentralized innovation.”
Each user has different needs in terms of privacy, cost and security. However, Fluin pointed out that the needs of users and developers do not always coincide. For example, the ability to upgrade a smart contract via proxy exists to allow developers to update and “fix” smart contracts if required. However, end users must trust developers not to build on the contract to implement logic that is detrimental to their own experience.
Given that web3’s core philosophy is “verify, don’t trust,” asking users to trust that developers won’t maliciously upgrade a smart contract doesn’t seem to meet the industry’s decentralized goal.
Lack of standards
Fluin then disavowed the story of the birth of the Internet, where standards such as SMTP and HTTP helped build the single global network we now call the World Wide Web. However, there are no such standards in web3, given that each blockchain acts as its own “internet” of connected smart contracts and wallets, with its own languages, standards, functions and logic.
Here, Fluin tasked the developers to “unify” in terms of connecting the decentralized world of web3. To scale, Axelar’s representative claims that “being interchain should be a primary architecture choice…not an afterthought.” Evaluating gas, tokenonomics, security, performance, reliability and chain selection should be tied directly to the need to connect to other blockchains.
The adoption of cross-chain standards is something that Fluin believes will bring “meaningful abstractions” and “a world where which chain doesn’t matter” along with full token availability across all chains, real dApps interactivity and universal web3 identifiers.
Also, as an example, he argued that having a semi-centralized marketplace like OpenSea with access to NFTs across all chains would be better for users.
In a call to action, Fluin announced that “we must come together” to explain web3 to the web2 world, to enable them to embrace the ability to build software on-chain, create cross-chain standards, focus on the end user and to cooperate with a “yes and” mentality.
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