In the beginning, there was only one blockchain and it was called Bitcoin and all crypto believers transacted on it. Terms like “interoperability,” “siloed ecosystems,” and “cross-chain compatibility” weren’t a thing. But then someone had the idea of cloning Satoshi’s creation to create Namecoin, followed by a spate of other altcoins, and thus the poly-chain era began. Pretty soon everyone was developing their own blockchain, with its own set of rules, each incapable of transferring value outside of its own network.
Following the Cambrian explosion of blockchains, which peaked in 2017, developers scrambled to engineer solutions that could solve what was now being called the “interoperability problem.” A plethora of bridges, links, and atomic boondoggles was proffered, some ingenious, others wildly ambitious, but despite millions of dollars having been thrown at the problem, in 2020 the holy grail of blockchain interoperability has yet to be achieved.
Enter Hybrix. Yet another project intent on uniting the chains, it’s attracting attention because of the unorthodox approach it’s taking to this most pressing of problems. Most interoperability solutions on the market involve introducing yet more blockchains that can carry transactions between the original chains, or involve routing transactions through decentralized exchanges, which is more of a workaround than a solution. It turns out, there may be a better way to transmit value across blockchains.
Changing Chains with Multi-Ledger Swaps
Atomic swaps, and variants thereof, require the assets on one blockchain to be locked in place so that the corresponding asset on the other chain (e.g. a synthetic representation of the locked asset) can be moved. The process is inefficient, subject to lengthy time locks, and prone to a lack of liquidity.
Hybrix’s solution comprises a second-layer protocol that facilitates cross-chain transactions through encoding data into the underlying blockchain. This serves as an anchor point that can be used to order transactions transmitted on the Hybrix protocol. Blockchains enable arbitrary data to be encoded into each block; think of the OP_RETURN field in Bitcoin, for example that allows coded messages to be sent on-chain.
Hybrix uses this provision to attach data representing the token value and a computational proof of its chronological order on the blockchain in question. This permits transactions occurring across multiple chains to be merged together, complete with proof of the order in which they occurred. The beauty of this approach is that it allows assets on opposing chains to be swapped far quicker than existing solutions.
There’s More Than One Way to Bridge a Blockchain
If Hybrix’s vision of an interconnected highway of blockchains comes to pass, it will be realized with the aid of a full stack of components that includes a multi-ledger platform for developers, cross-chain swapping protocol for businesses, and consumer dApps. To get there, it will have to best robust competition from other interoperability champions such as Polkadot, Cosmos, and Blocknet. Blockchain bridging is not a zero-sum game, however, and there is room for several projects to shine.
In all likelihood, different interoperability solutions will be deployed for different purposes. For example, an atomic swap may be required when transmitting a high value asset such as BTC across an opposing chain, whereas Hybrix’s utilization of a second layer protocol will prove more suited to transmitting data and for lower value transactions. There is still some way to go before crypto reaches the promised land where all chains are compatible and fully interoperable. When that day finally arrives, crypto networks will be united at last. The prospects of their supporters attaining similar concord, however, seems remote.