After dedicated work from builders across the Antelope ecosystem and much anticipation from the EOS community, Antelope IBC is finally live on the EOS mainnet!
This article dives into some of the most important topics around Antelope IBC, including how it outperforms competitors and enables nearly limitless horizontal scaling for EOS and all other Antelope powered chains. Jump down to the bottom for the tl;dr if you’re short on time.
What is IBC?
Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) has become a popular phrase in recent years. Many consider it to be a holy grail of blockchain technology, but few fully understand what it is and the benefits that it brings to networks implementing it. That’s what this article will cover first.
In its most basic form, IBC is a way that two separate blockchains can communicate with each other, sharing information about their individual ledgers. To put it another way, IBC allows anyone to prove to contracts on one blockchain that a particular contract action occurred on an entirely separate blockchain.
There are many reasons that a developer may want to utilize this technology, the most obvious being a bridge to move tokens such as cryptocurrencies or NFTs from one blockchain to another. However, there are plenty of additional use cases that could be undertaken with this tool. For example, an application may want to leverage the governance utility of a token across multiple blockchains or a GameFi project may need to route transactions to a separate network for scaling purposes.
More details on further use cases will be shared later in this article. For now, it’s important to understand that IBC is essentially a technology to allow entirely separate blockchains to talk to one another and move assets seamlessly between each other.
Current IBC Solutions
There are a number of projects in the space working on IBC solutions, but they all have varying shortcomings. Many do not respect the immutability ethos that the Web3 space was founded on. This is largely due to the fact that traditional IBC is achieved with bridges that are essentially multisignature oracles.
In this scenario, multiple trusted parties look at actions on one chain and create new instances of these actions on a different chain. Going this route creates a potential attack vector by introducing additional trust into the equation, as users must trust the bridge’s smart contract and the third parties operating it.
With this method, the more funds that are held under a contract, the more it incentivizes a malicious actor to attack the funds. This has been a major roadblock in the path to mass adoption of Web3 technology. One that the Antelope Coalition is intent on overcoming with Antelope IBC.
Antelope IBC Explained
In developing an IBC solution for Antelope chains an important requirement was that the user had to be able to make the transaction without relying on any additional third parties or added trust. The goal of this was to make sure that users could move tokens and execute cross-chain functions themselves, without requiring separate infrastructure operated by permissioned entities.
In order to achieve this there is still a bridge methodology in play, but it’s happening at the chain’s base layer, rather than through a third party.
Let’s take an example, where a user wants to move a token to another chain via IBC. On the source chain (Chain A) there is a wrap lock contract that holds the native asset, which the user wishes to transfer to the destination chain (Chain B).
On Chain B there is a wrap token contract that allows the user to mint a wrapped version of their token. There is also an IBC bridge contract that allows for the verification of blocks and actions from the source chain and holds last verified proofs of blocks and block producer schedules for each chain it is configured to interact with.
In less technical terms, a user can lock up a token on Chain A, then prove on Chain B that the token is locked, in order to mint a new token representing that asset on Chain B. When a user wants to move their tokens back to Chain A, they can reverse the process. This involves burning the token on Chain B and proving that it’s burned on Chain A, so that the original token can be unlocked there.
With the solution developed, the user is the carrier of all of the proof elements required to demonstrate that the action took place on the source blockchain and prove it on the destination blockchain. A user of one Antelope chain is likely to trust the consensus of another Antelope chain. So, with this implementation, the two chains are acting as trusted clients of each other.
Additionally, the transactions must reach finality on the source chain in order to generate the action on the destination chain. This means a user is guaranteed to always have a matching state on both networks and won’t run into the issues that other chains face in regards to failing bridges. This is as clean and secure as it gets for IBC solutions, making traditional bridges obsolete between Antelope chains.
What is Instant Finality & How Will It Affect IBC
As noted above, an action must reach finality on the source chain (Chain A), before it can be proven on the destination chain (Chain B). Finality is the point at which a transaction is permanent and cannot be reversed by the user or the network validators.
Currently, on an Antelope chain with 21 block producers it takes ~3 minutes for the chain to get to a state where a transaction cannot be reversed. This is much faster than Bitcoin, which reaches finality at ~60 minutes and Ethereum, which takes ~6 minutes. However, it’s extremely slow compared to Web2 standards. If Antelope wishes to excel in areas such as DeFi or GameFi, then a much quicker finality time is required.
This is why the Antelope Coalition launched the Instant Finality initiative at the same time as IBC. As the name implies, it will make it possible for a user’s transaction to be settled practically instantly. This is achieved by moving away from the current finality mechanism and replacing it with a method based on the HotStuff mechanism. This allows block producers to explicitly signal to the other nodes that they agree on finalizing a specific block as fast as network conditions allow.
With these modifications in place, the network is able to reach finality within seconds. Better yet, unlike other networks such as Bitcoin which reach probabilistic finality, Antelope chains reach deterministic finality. Probabilistic finality allows the user to assume with a reasonable probability that the transaction will not be reversed, though the protocol rules technically allow reversing even very old transactions with sufficient mining power. But deterministic finality means that a transaction in a finalized block cannot be reversed without violating the protocol rules.
Once Instant Finality is implemented, the user experience and technical possibilities of Antelope IBC will increase dramatically. This leads to one of the most innovative use cases for IBC in the next section.
After Antelope IBC and Instant Finality are launched on EOS, developers will eventually be able to take advantage of a concept known as elastic sidechains.
The concept of elastic sidechains is based on the understanding that at some point any blockchain, no matter how fast, will reach a point of maximum throughput. Rather than increasing the speed of the operating blockchain, the application can utilize Antelope IBC and Instant Finality to route those transactions to a side-chain running in parallel with the main chain.
Users can leverage the tokens from the main chain to manage resources and operation of the sidechains, without the need for a separate set of network of validators. This enables an elastic method of scaling, allowing for better throughput, a higher number of users and isolated or segmented applications. It also keeps the value generated by applications within the ecosystem, as opposed to dissipating it to other chains with their own tokens that would otherwise be launched to accommodate the scaling.
As Web3 gains adoption, this feature will become more and more important, especially for high throughput use cases such as social media and GameFi. As an example, a blockchain game may host a number of battles that become extremely intensive on network resources. Rather than carry out the actions of the battle on the main chain, the battle can take place on a side chain. Then the results of the battle can be logged on the main chain for references in other areas of the application.
What’s most exciting about this innovation is that it essentially creates the opportunity for nearly limitless horizontal scalability. Not only can the main chain of each Antelope network interact with the main chains of other Antelope networks, but each Antelope network can also have a large number of side chains that ultimately connect back to the network’s main chain. When one imagines several Antelope blockchains running in parallel, each offering unmatched speed and scalability, it’s easy to illustrate how EOS can outperform all major competitors.
Improving DeFi With IBC
There are many benefits that IBC brings to the current DeFi landscape on EOS and Antelope chains alike. Users will now be able to easily move assets between Antelope networks and take advantage of the various staking opportunities.
This lines up perfectly with the ongoing Yield+ initiative, which is designed to build economic activity on EOS through incentivizing DeFi dApps that increase total value locked (TVL) and generate yield. More details on the current staking platforms engaged in this initiative can be found on TokenYield.io.
IBC also makes it possible for other Antelope powered blockchains to take advantage of the EOS version of USDT. This comes shortly after the announcement that Binance integrated EOS USDT. With this in mind, EOS USDT will serve as a much more secure USDT on-ramp than traditional bridges for users across the Antelope ecosystem.
Development Timeline & UX AMM
While the Antelope implementation of IBC has only been discussed for a short period of time, it is something that has been in the works for a very long time. The team behind UX Network has been working on the concept of IBC for many years.
They started working on a solution at the end of 2019 and it took a year for a prototype to be developed. Shortly after, they began working on an AMM that would sit on top of UX with IBC serving as a tool to connect all Antelope chains.
In 2022, the Antelope Coalition was formed and in planning priorities for protocol features, the coalition realized that other networks would also benefit from having access to IBC functionality. With this in mind, the UX Network team was contracted by the Antelope Coalition in order to finish development and open source the work for all Antelope chains to access.
Work was funded through the 4 networks with their own network tokens, as opposed to the USDT that funded the initial roadmap. The intention of this approach is that the UX network can utilize these tokens as liquidity within the UX AMM, creating further opportunities for synergy and positive sum economics across all Antelope Coalition blockchains.
There are still a number of steps that must be completed before this is possible however. The first major milestone, launching IBC, is now complete. Next, development will be completed on the Instant Finality upgrade. Finally, Instant Finality will be implemented within the IBC framework to bring full capacity IBC functionality to all Antelope networks.
Conclusion: EOS Scales Into the Future With Antelope IBC
After years of dedicated work from the UX Network team, the EOS ecosystem finally has access to the most cutting edge inter-blockchain communication technology. In case you didn’t have time to read the entire article, here’s the tl;dr:
- IBC is a technology that allows for separate blockchains to communicate with each, enabling features such as cross chain token transfers.
- Unlike other IBC solutions in the space, Antelope IBC offers unmatched security by implementing IBC without any additional trusted third parties.
- IBC will dramatically improve the Antelope user experience by allowing for seamless communication and asset transfers across all Antelope powered chains.
- Instant finality takes this to the next level by processing transaction requests within seconds.
- By combining IBC and Instant Finality, Antelope Networks will be able to enable Elastic Sidechains for nearly limitless horizontal scaling.
- Initiatives such as Yield+ and the UX AMM can leverage Antelope IBC to bring an even greater user experience to DeFi projects on EOS.
Visit AntelopeIBC.io for more information and developer documentation about Antelope IBC.
With the launch of Antelope IBC underway, there’s never been a better time to build on EOS! Check out the Learn & Earn Hub and Developer Documentation Portal to find out how you can get started building on EOS. Then, check out some of the funding opportunities available to projects in the ecosystem.
The EOS Network is a 3rd generation blockchain platform powered by the EOS VM, a low-latency, highly performant, and extensible WebAssembly engine for deterministic execution of near feeless transactions; purpose-built for enabling optimal Web3 user and developer experiences. EOS is the flagship blockchain and financial center of the Antelope framework, serving as the driving force behind multi-chain collaboration and public goods funding for tools and infrastructure through the EOS Network Foundation (ENF).
EOS Network Foundation
The EOS Network Foundation (ENF) was forged through a vision for a prosperous and decentralized future. Through our key stakeholder engagement, community programs, ecosystem funding, and support of an open technology ecosystem, the ENF is transforming Web3. Founded in 2021, the ENF is the hub for EOS Network, a leading open source platform with a suite of stable frameworks, tools, and libraries for blockchain deployments. Together, we are bringing innovations that our community builds and are committed to a stronger future for all.