ETH-Denver Episode 4: War and Peace: The Multichain Reality Featuring NEAR Co-Founder Alex Skidanov


The fourth episode of ETH Denver featuring NEAR Team members included none-other than NEAR Co-Founder Alex Skidanov on an interesting panel focused on interoperability and the development of alternative L1 blockchains.  For a full transcript of this session, check here.

For the YouTube video of the session, check here. 

A Multichain Reality in Context

For the current state of crypto, the question of Layer 1 interoperability is a crucial consideration for future innovation within the space. The panel kicked off by emphasizing the importance of interoperability while also mentioning that there will be a suite of new use-cases, once assets are not confined to a single protocol: 

“And I think one of the interesting developments that’s happening in the interoperability is there are bridges that are being built between many protocols. So as they get deployed, the boundaries will disappear. And so assets will not be confined to the protocols on which they are born. And that will uncover many new use cases. So that’s pretty exciting.”

In many ways this conversation is reminiscent of the early, early days of the internet before large amounts of information, images, and even videos could be sent between users. From the perspective of the numerous L1s that are already rapidly developing, it is clear that a multi-chain reality in which assets are based across multiple Layer 1 Blockchains is the future of crypto. 

But Interoperability Is Not Enough By Itself

Notably, while the panelists discussed how interoperability will drastically change the number of use-cases for blockchain based solutions, they were keen to emphasize that there is another consideration that is equally important: Developer Friendliness. 

As explained in the quote below, not only is a multi-chain reality about making assets portable across different protocols, but more importantly, it is about attracting developers to build on a specific protocol in the first place:

“And that’s why I say if there’s going to be a winning interoperability solution, or most adopted interoperability solution, it’s going to be a protocol that’s doing a lot more than just connecting the blockchains, right? It needs to have a robust infrastructure of applications at the nexus of these interoperable links, in order to fulfill that end user vision that we all have, right? So if you’re looking at a pure, just simple bridge, or, you know, trustlessly, swapping tokens between chains, like that’s interesting and a good step towards an interoperable future, but what you really are going to want, an application developers are going to want, is the ability to access all of the different technologies in the space from one, I want to say a central protocol that’s enabling that trustless transaction across chain, and presenting it in a way to the end user that they don’t even necessarily see any of what’s happening under the hood.”

In the context of NEAR, this bodes extremely well: NEAR is one of the most developer friendly blockchains currently running on a Main network, with developers able to build in Rust and AssemblyScript. This advantage was clearly pointed out: 

“So, you know, I think the first chain that does have users, developers will go there. You have to if you want people to use your stuff, you have to go where there are  users, but in lieu of users, ease of experimentation, and then ease of just integrating your tech makes it a much easier pill to swallow. And that’s where I think actually NEAR has some serious advantages.”

The Future Of Multi-Chain Interoperability is Largely Speculative

One final point worth mentioning is just how unclear the future of multi-chain interoperability really is. As the panelists discussed, while many new L1s have ambitious plans for interoperability and cross-chain assets, specifically with Ethereum, few of them have actually realized their ambitions yet: 

“I’m also not seeing people beat down the door and say, give me the most abstract and fancy library that can do everything. Because mostly, they’re just on Ethereum. And everything else that we’re talking about right now, it’s sort of speculative, right? So I hope that our community, across all of our networks, continues to care about being permissionless, and open innovation, rather than just sort of like pay-to-play from the get go. But a lot of that, I think, is about the ideals of people on this call, rather than what the market has said. And we’re gonna find out over the next few years, you know, the market will weigh in.”

Importantly, what also is yet to be determined is the place that L2s will play in this rapidly developing future ecosystem of Layer 1 Protocols: 

“I’m a very strong believer that with respect to layer twos, we’re not going to see just one or even two. I think users will self select for the right type of use case. And I think it’s gonna be very similar with different layer ones. Maybe the shared security is preferable for some types of DApps and users.”