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Does an interchain future mean dApps developers have the responsibility to unify?

On the first day of the city-wide crypto event that was EthDenver, Steven Fluin, Head of Developer Relations at Axelar, put the onus of developers to build a more connected web3 by stating that “dApps developers have the responsibility to unify.”

Talking at the InterOp Summit, Fluin began by asking the audience to join a poll asking who had participated in either Cosmos, Bitcoin, or Ethereum. Following a sea of hands for both Cosmos and Ethereum, Bitcoiners were slim in numbers but still ever-present. Fluin then declared that “InterOp is the only place during EthDenver Buidl Week where you guys can talk to each other.”

Regardless of the humor, the message aligned with Axelar’s goal of creating an interchain world where blockchains safely interact without using risky bridging mechanics and sub-par UX. However, Fluin’s talk, entitled ‘Think Interchain,’ opened up a series of important issues that need to be considered related to the difficulties of managing a multi-chain world.

Multi-chain frustrations

Fluin retold an anecdote that most crypto users will be familiar with concerning attempting to bridge a token to another blockchain. While working on a personal project, Fluin wanted to deploy a smart contract to the Polygon blockchain. Firstly, he bought some MATIC on Coinbase only to discover that it was MATIC on the Ethereum blockchain, not Polygon.

Next, he then had to bridge the MATIC to Polygon using the native bridge, only to realize he needed some ETH to pay for the gas involved in bridging. Finally, Fluin made a bold statement regarding the current developer perception of an interchain world, stating that the thinking is “fundamentally flawed.”

“The way we make developers think about these chains is fundamentally flawed[…] This is a problem that is getting worse.”

While interchain is “the future” from the point of view of the Axelar team, there is work to bring benefits such as better, more accessible dApps and more “meaningful abstractions.”

The growth of web3 chains and decentralization

Fluin established that the “number of chains is increasing,” with over 455 mainnet EVM chains listed on Chainlist. However, the reality of a decentralized world means there is no single point of truth regarding the total number of public blockchains available to developers.

“Decentralized needs drive decentralized innovation.”

Every user has different needs concerning privacy, cost, and security. However, Fluin pointed out that users’ and developers’ needs do not always necessarily align. For example, proxy upgradeability of a smart contract exists to allow developers to update and ‘fix’ smart contracts should there be a requirement. However, the end users must trust the developers not to upgrade the contract to perform logic detrimental to their own experience.

Given the core philosophy of web3 is “verify, don’t trust,” asking users to trust that developers will not maliciously upgrade a smart contract appears to fall short of the decentralized goal of the industry.

Lack of standards

Fluin then recanted the story of the birth of the internet, wherein standards such as SMTP and HTTP helped build a unified global network that we today call the world wide web. However, in web3, there are no such standards, given that each blockchain acts like its own ‘internet’ of connected smart contracts and wallets, with their own languages, standards, functions, and logic.

Here, Fluin put the onus on developers to “unify” regarding connecting the decentralized world of web3. In order to scale, the Axelar representative argued that “being interchain should be a fundamental architecture choice… not an afterthought.” Assessing gas, tokenomics, security, performance, reliability, and chain choice should be tied directly to the need to connect with other blockchains.

The adoption of interchain standards is something Fluin believes will bring “meaningful abstractions” and a “world where which chain doesn’t matter” along with full availability of tokens across chains, real interactivity of dApps, and universal web3 IDs.

Further, as an example implementation, he argued that having a semi-centralized marketplace like OpenSea with access to NFTs across all chains would be better for users.

In a call to action, Fluin declared that “we need to unite” to explain web3 to the world of web2 to allow them to embrace the ability to build software on-chain, create interchain standards, focus on the end user, and collaborate with a “yes and” mentality.

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