At the moment, a blockchain tends to act as its own universe with almost no way to communicate with the world outside of its network–without third-party help anyway. As a result, bickering, tribalism, and maximalism among the supporters of the various different blockchains has become the norm. But can there be one blockchain to unite them all? Take a trip as we explore, Cosmos, the "internet of blockchains". 

What is Cosmos?

Cosmos aims to become the “Internet of Blockchains,” where any blockchain is able to communicate, share data, and transact with any other. By allowing many different blockchains to interoperate, there is less of a need for these networks to ruthlessly compete to be the one blockchain to rule them all. Instead, many different blockchains can coexist with their own specialized use cases and advantages.

Cosmos is a complete technology stack that goes beyond simply allowing different blockchains to connect and share data with each other. They have also created a streamlined development process that allows developers to create their own custom blockchain in months or even weeks instead of years.

The combination of a relatively easy blockchain development process with the ability of new and old blockchains to interoperate should more application-specific and less general purpose blockchains are developed.

Did you know?

To showcase the power of the Cosmos technology, the team created a copy of Ethereum on Cosmos called Ethermint. This version of Ethereum works exactly like the original Ethereum and is even compatible with existing [definition slug="smart-contract"]smart contracts[/definition] and Ethereum tools such as MetaMask.

Who Invented Cosmos?

Cosmos is based on the consensus protocol, Tendermint, which was created by Jae Kwon in 2014. To develop the complete Cosmos interoperable ecosystem, Kwon, was joined by Zarko Milosevic and Ethan Buchman.

A brief history of Cosmos

  • April 2017, $17 million raised in first 29 minutes of the initial Cosmos token sale.
  • December 2018, Game of Stakes is launched, which widely tested the Cosmos network for the first time.
  • March 2019, the Cosmos official mainnet is launched.

What’s so special about it?

Cosmos is most similar to the Polkadot project, which also seeks to create an ecosystem of interoperable blockchain networks. However, unlike Polkadot, Cosmos prioritizes the sovereignty of independent blockchains, meaning they must secure themselves, have their own governance, and run their own validators.

The Cosmos technology is based on:

  • Tendermint is a consensus protocol that allows developers to create a proof-of-stake blockchain that is fast, scalable, secure.
  • The Cosmos SDK allows developers to build applications on top of Tendermint-based blockchains.
  • The Inter-Blockchain Communication protocol (IBC) is a system that allows different blockchains to connect and communicate with each other.

Did you know?

Binance recently launched its own blockchain called Binance Chain, which uses Tendermint at its core. Binance Chain is optimized with the specific goal of being a fast, secure, and user-friendly decentralized crypto asset exchange. The Binance Chain is a perfect example of how custom blockchains can be developed for a specific use case through Tendermint.

What else is different?

Blockchains communicate with each other in the Cosmos ecosystem through a hub and zone model. For example, if you wanted to connect Ethereum and Bitcoin through Cosmos, both blockchains would need to connect to their own zone. The Ethereum zone and Bitcoin zone would then each connect to a hub and through this shared hub, Ether and Bitcoin could be transferred between them.

How are ATOMs produced?

The native tokens of the Cosmos network are called ATOMs. Holding ATOMs gives the holder the ability to stake and validate blocks, vote on governance issues, and pay for transaction fees. The initial ATOM tokens were created when the Cosmos mainnet launched and were distributed to initial donors, token sale participants, the Cosmos Foundation, and core developers. New ATOMs are generated as rewards for network validators.

How do you get hold of ATOMs?

ATOMs can be traded on major exchanges such as Binance or Poloniex. You can also receive ATOMs through staking directly as a validator or indirectly as a delegator.

What can you do with ATOMs?

Holders of ATOMs are able to earn a share of the network’s block rewards and transaction fees through staking. As a validator, you must stake or lock your ATOMs and run specialized software, which maintains the Cosmos network by proposing new blocks and validating transactions. Holders can also choose to delegate their ATOM tokens with validators instead of running the validator software themselves, which still allows them to receive some rewards for staking.

The Future

Each change, upgrade, or feature activation in the Cosmos protocol depends on approval by ATOM holders. Because the Cosmos network launched very recently, not all of the network’s main features have been activated yet including the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol. The ability of IBC to allow different blockchains to connect to each other is the last major feature on the Cosmos roadmap and from then on, it will be up to the community to decide how the project will evolve.