Cosmos, a highly anticipated blockchain itself designed to improve the interoperability between any number of other blockchains, has officially released a live software. With the mining of its first block at 23:00 UTC, the project has launched Cosmos Hub, the first in a series of proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchains that will be created in the Cosmos ecosystem. At present, users of the network will not be able to swap tokens between blockchains or otherwise connect to Cosmos Hub with existing blockchain networks until validators officially vote to activate what is called the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol. The first phase of today’s Cosmos network launch comes after nearly three years of planning and development. Having debuted the concept for the blockchain interoperability platform back in summer 2016, Cosmos later raised over $16 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) in 2017.
Since then, Tendermint Inc. – a for-profit entity behind the core technology of the Cosmos network – has been releasing preliminary developer-focused products. Speaking to CoinDesk, Tendermint Inc director Zaki Manian explained:
“We want to take the blockchain development cycle from idea to implementation down from years to months. This is how we’re trying to transform the blockchain space.”
As such, Manian said that the Cosmos Software Development Kit (SDK), which debuted back in February 2018, is already being used by high-profile crypto companies such as the Binance exchange. In addition, Tendermint Core – the blockchain networking and consensus mechanism underlying the Cosmos Hub – is another key tool that Manian envisions will help “fundamentally remove barriers to innovation” in the blockchain space and ultimately help “compose an entirely new system of finance.”
“Out of all these building blocks, [you’ll be able to compose] an entire … open system of finance that operates to scale and can be composed of individual, specialized chains that do different things,” Manian said.
Today’s launch was a significant step toward that broader, expansive vision – one that Manian points out will “take years to fully manifest.” The main purpose of Cosmos Hub launch is to establish the broader ecosystem of validators, entities that stake tokens on the network, while Manian’s team continues to work toward cross-blockchain capabilities.
“In order to make this whole vision of connecting blockchains work, there needs to be a set of operators who have skin in the game to coordinate this blockchain network,” said Manian.
Normally, in a proof-of-work (PoW) system similar to bitcoin or ethereum, these validators are miners who compete for block rewards by operating computer servers and expending large amounts of electricity.
Validators in a PoS system, on the other hand, are “selected” by the system based on a separate metric of staked tokens in order to participate in block creation and transaction finalization.
“In proof-of-stake, the costs and rewards [of the system] are internal,” said Manian. “So, we had to come up with a very sophisticated system of distributing rewards, of distributing the speculator taxation system, of punishing people for malicious behavior, of punishing people for going offline.” He added:
“All of it has to be internal to the system and that’s why proof-of-stake is such a significant engineering feat over proof-of-work.”
And while Cosmos participants successfully tested this system of validation with roughly 200 computer servers called nodes in a former dummy environment called Game of Stakes, there had never been real value at stake by participants before today. “[Today’s launch] is about unleashing those live economic incentives and having value at risk for the first time and then letting this set of economic incentives that we’ve designed select who the [validators] are,” said Manian. According to Manian, this is a crucial foundational step that Cosmos developers are cautious about getting right.
He told CoinDesk: “Building interoperability. Establishing mechanisms for workers of some kind to custody bitcoin or ether or ERC-20 assets and manifest synthetic versions of them in [the Cosmos] environment. If you don’t know who your validators are none of this is possible.”
For now, Cosmos users are not allowed to transfer their holdings of the native network currency – ATOM tokens – just yet. Since ATOM tokens are intended to act as “the collateral that people put at risk to be [validators] in the system” according to Manian, these tokens will be strictly used as the “mechanism for selecting membership into the system.”
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