When you think of Web 2, you must think of its centralization and the limitations of the need for third-party systems to communicate with each other. Today, in order to overcome the various inherent shortcomings of Web 2, Web 3 has been developed. It is a decentralized, high-security multi-chain network. For the blockchain ecosystem to remain open and interoperable, a key innovation has been proposed – interoperability from the perspective of concept, advantages, and composition. This article will describe cross-chain interoperability as an element of building the next-generation blockchain.
1. The origin of blockchain network isolation
The Web 2 era enabled all kinds of data and information to be easily exchanged and used because of a standardized underlying transport protocol. In today’s Web3 era, each blockchain has a different main chain, inconsistent use cases, different consensus mechanisms, and different semantics and hashing algorithms. There is no basis for trust between them, and connectivity has naturally become a big problem. This also makes it difficult for them to form a globally interoperable decentralized ecosystem. Everyone, even businesses, can only run completely isolated DApps (distributed applications) on the blockchain they are registered with, as well as data transfer and information exchange on “silos”.
2. Understand interoperability
Interoperability is a combination of the three words Interaction, Operation and Ability, that is, “interoperability capability”, referred to as interoperability. Wikipedia explains that interoperability describes the ability of different systems and organizations to cooperate and work together. Simply put, interoperability refers to the power of varying hardware and software to freely exchange information without restrictions.
Let’s imagine a scenario where you’re sitting at home, listening to music on your iPhone with Oraimo Pods, and emailing your friends. Your friend uses a browser on the Windows 11 operating system connected to the Netgear WiFi router to open their Yahoo Mail account to receive the message. It can be said that without interoperability, it is almost impossible for us to use multiple devices or networks to coordinate and process with each other.
3. Interoperability in Web3
Blockchain interoperability refers to the ability to share and utilize data between different blockchain networks, and to exchange various digital assets. As we all know, there are already separate blockchain networks such as Ethereum, Polkadot, and Solana. However, one blockchain cannot learn about the information that may exist on another blockchain. For example, since the Bitcoin blockchain is entirely independent of the Ethereum blockchain, the Bitcoin blockchain has no way of knowing any information recorded on the Ethereum blockchain and vice versa. It can be seen that although we have so many hot blockchain projects to choose from, and they all belong to the same industry, they are isolated and isolated from each other.
In recent years, with the rapid expansion of the blockchain community, its user base and audience have also grown. Some users are new to the blockchain system and will only use a specific interface; Some users are “old drivers of the currency circle” and do not mind the flexible interface of different platforms. Therefore, as long as there is cross-chain interoperability, users can access their preferred platform without barriers, speed up communication between blockchains, increase mutual accessibility, reduce the learning and familiarization time before use, and make it easier to use blockchain technology as a tool to expand the business. Arguably, interoperability can pave the way for the interoperability of such networks and facilitate synergy between blockchain-enabled products and services.
Let me borrow a definition from The Knowledge Engineering Review, a core publication: “Cross-chain interoperability refers to the ability of two or more systems to provide or receive services from other systems. This linkage allows different systems to exchange data accurately, efficiently, and consistently, and enables the exchange or retrieval of information or value between different networks.”
4. Advantages of cross-chain interoperability
As the name suggests, operational compatibility across blockchains means that different blockchains can communicate with each other without the need for intermediaries. Thus, enterprises within various blockchain ecosystems will be able to conduct various transactions with other compatible blockchain customers and recognize each other’s information value efficiently. There will be no more conversions throughout the transaction process, and their transaction intermediate fees will be significantly reduced.
5. The basic components of cross-chain interoperability
In view of the three major problems faced by various blockchain fields: difficulty to switch between applications and different underlying chains, difficulty in cross-chain interoperability between different blockchain systems, and difficulty in trusted interaction between on-chain and off-chain chains, cross-chain interoperability will include: application layer interoperability to solve the problem of tight coupling between upper-layer applications and the underlying chain, inter-chain interoperability to solve “chain-level islands”, and off-chain data interoperability to solve secure and trusted interactions between on-chain and off-chain.
Among them, the interoperation of the application layer mainly solves the problems of difficult docking between the upper layer application and the underlying chain. This is in addition to the difficulty of switching. The root cause of the difficulty of docking and switching lies in the inconsistency of interface definition and implementation provided by different underlying chains. In the implementation mode, by unifying and standardizing the intersection of different blockchain system interfaces, we can achieve smooth switching of the underlying database by the upper-layer applications.
Just as traditional relational databases (such as MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, etc.) use ODBC and JDBC to standardize different database interfaces. Of course, application layer interoperability can also be in the form of middleware to solve the problem of differences in different blockchain interfaces. With interface middleware, upper-layer applications can be coupled with a unified standardized interface, and adapters can convert the native interfaces of underlying chains to a standardized interface, allowing for easy expansion and smooth switching between upper-layer applications and the underlying blockchain.
6. Industry prospects for interoperability
In the field of healthcare, medical data is often not directly shared due to the particularity of the industry and the privacy protection of patients. Studies have shown that 86% of industry respondents cannot easily share critical healthcare information. Medical and healthcare organizations still rely on centralized servers to transfer large amounts of data between departments and agencies. Throughout the process, once a security risk arises, a data breach is only a matter of time. Companies and regulators have been looking for technology solutions in this area for a long time.
With blockchain interoperability, healthcare industry participants can maintain control of data, through blockchain’s digital classification technology. This technology provides read/write access logs, immutable keys, limited sharing of information, and reduces accidental data loss and malicious modifications.
From the above discussion, we can see that as a means, cross-chain interoperability can allow users to interpret one digital asset as one recognized by another network lock, and even transact between two different blockchain networks without the need for a centralized authority to facilitate it. At present, there are already many blockchain applications that communicate with each other. In the near future, we will see more blockchain networks with the ability to communicate with each other through the bridge of cross-chain interoperability.