Understanding Cosmos: a beginner’s guide and review
Beginner's guide to Cosmos network, purpose, tokenomics and ecosystem.
By Manny Reimi
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TL;DR: You can get a summary of this article on its last section
The Cosmos Network is an interconnected network of independent parallel blockchains that can scale and operate with one another. Cosmos presents a unique architecture as a solution to the persistent problems of scalability, usability, and governance in existing blockchain solutions.
In presenting this guide and review of Cosmos, I will divide my analysis into 5 sections, each containing a salient feature of the project, as follows:
The Cosmos Network was created by Tendermint, a San Francisco, California -based software developer founded by Jae Kwon and Ethan Buchman. Kwon had been working on an implementation of Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) for a Proof-of-Stake (POS) public blockchain. His work eventually led to the founding of Tendermint, where the Tendermint BFT consensus algorithm would be developed and the Cosmos Whitepaper would be published.
In mid-2017, Cosmos launched an ICO for its $ATOM token, and raised $17.3M in $BTC . The funds went to the treasury of the Interchain Foundation (ICF), based in the canton of Zug, Switzerland. The ICF then invested in teams developing the core technology of the Cosmos Network, like Tendermint, who itself just raised $9M from Paradigm (an investor in Uniswap , Argent, and Keep) with the participation of Bain Capital Ventures. The ICF has also invested in Crypto like Agoric. Through treasury management, the ICF has turned the ICO money into an enviable $103M despite significant outlays already made in development.
Tendermind has developed a Cosmos SDK as well as the specification for Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol, a cross-chain data messaging system for Cosmos. The Cosmos Hub went live in early 2019.
The main objective of the Cosmos Network is to solve the problem of interoperability of public blockchain networks. At the same time, Cosmos Network uses a different consensus mechanism that makes blockchains faster (scalability problem) and facilitates building in it through an aided development process that reduces complexity (the Cosmos SDK — usability problem).
Cosmos considers that it is building Blockchain 3.0, the successor of both Bitcoin and Ethereum, due to a number of architectural advantages. If Ethereum’s leap in design was its turning of the blockchain application layer into the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) so it could run smart contracts, its fault was trying to build a sandbox for all use cases, so it optimized for the average use case. Since the aim of Cosmos is to create a network of interconnected blockchains, each connected blockchain will not need to make major compromises to its design. This Internet of Blockchains would be able to communicate with each other in a decentralized way, with the added advantage of each token maintaining its sovereignty or self-reliance, i.e. being able to optimize its design for its use case and not rely on the governance of the platform to update the environment where the application layer runs, which is a tedious and increasingly political process in projects like Ethereum.
In bridging about its vision, Cosmos has made its core tools open-source: The Tendermint consensus engine and BFT algorithm, the Cosmos SDK that provides a framework for building blockchain applications on Cosmos, and the IBC protocol are all designed to build upon.
Cosmos works on a modular architecture with two types of blockchains: Hubs act as a connector of other blockchains while also securing them against attack, and Zones are the connected chains, which are meant to be application-specific. Cosmos Hub was the first Hub which marked the launch of the Cosmos Network.
$ATOM is the native staking currency of the Cosmos Hub, which is a public Proof-of-Stake (POS) blockchain. While transaction fees in the Cosmos Hub support multi-token settlement, only $ATOM can be used to vote, either directly or indirectly by delegation to the validators who maintain the Cosmos Hub.
All available trading pairs for $ATOM can be found on CoinMarketCap .
The No.1 wallet for $ATOM is the Lunie wallet which also supports Terra and e-Money. Lunie was funded by the ICF. Other wallets which support $ATOM are Atomic Wallet, Trust Wallet, and Ledger.
Flipside Crypto gives $ATOM a Fundamental Crypto Asset Score of A.
The Cosmos Network supports a robust ecosystem. Not only has the IDF supported over 50+ startups, there is an open-source community and toolkits that developers can use to save a significant amount of time and money while building on Cosmos.
Interchain Foundation (ICF) assistance
The ICF provides grants, service agreements, full-time employment, and investments to individuals and projects pursuing the same goals of Cosmos: sovereignty, security, and sustainability in open decentralized networks.
Besides funding for basic research in cryptography, distributed systems, and consensus mechanism and verification design, the ICF mostly funds engineering and product teams that turn research into software and user-experiences that expand on the environment, capabilities, and security of the Cosmos Network. Projects that promote social goods and the community will also be considered.
The current Cosmos SDK is designed to build on top of Tendermint BFT. The design is modular. A blockchain can be released in weeks. Moreover, a socket protocol called the Application Blockchain Interface (ABCI) exists, which can be wrapped in any programming language of the developers choice. Building from scratch a secure ABCI application is complicated business, however. More SDKs are expected to be released down the line that complement the modular design of the ecosystem.
Modular extensions of the Cosmos SDK are available to enable smart contracts in a variety of environments.
- CosmWasm, for writing multi-chain smart contracts in Rust that run in a WASM-based module.
- Ethermint for running Solidity code on an EVM-like module, so Ethereum smart contract support can be added to a POS blockchain.
A number of important projects have been actively built on Cosmos.
- The Akash Network ($AKT ) for cloud-like serverless computing (i.e. super cloud) for the internet to become faster, freer, and more accessible.
- The Band Protocol ($BAND ) for a secure and scalable decentralized oracle for Web3.
- e-Money, a provider of currency-backed stablecoins that are interest-bearing and protected by an insolvency fund.
Many others like Binance Chain, which powers the Binance DEX, the cross-chain DeFi protocol $KAVA , and the ICF-backed Regen Network for ecological regeneration, Agoric for smart contract development tools, and Lunie the staking wallet have built Cosmos into their value propositions.
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