Blockchain Agnostic: What, Why, and How?
Blockchain-agnostic infrastructure underpins much of Web3, helping create a thriving multi-chain ecosystem. Blockchain-agnostic infrastructure is why a variety of the same decentralized applications and developer tools are available in distinct on-chain environments; Aave and MetaMask are widely available on many blockchains and layer-2 networks, for example.
As many in the Chainlink community are aware, Chainlink’s blockchain-agnostic design is one of the key reasons it’s now the industry-standard oracle solution across many leading blockchains and layer-2 networks. With a highly generalized foundation rooted in chain and API agnosticism, Chainlink is also able to build toward a cross-chain future for Web3, particularly through the ongoing development of the Cross-Chain Interoperability Protocol (CCIP).
Given its importance to the current and future state of Web3, understanding what blockchain-agnostic architecture is, why it matters, and how it works can give developers, projects, and users a distinct advantage when navigating the space. Let’s start with what “blockchain agnostic” actually means.
What Does Blockchain Agnostic Mean?
Blockchain-agnostic solutions are software and hardware that are compatible with many different blockchain networks, including layer 2s. They can seamlessly plug into multiple blockchain networks—transacting, reading, and making state changes—based on a single messaging format, framework, or interface.
In computing more broadly, data-agnostic design refers to devices and programs that can receive and process data in multiple formats or from multiple sources. To get a better insight into what blockchain agnostic really means, we can look at other types of data-agnostic solutions. For example, XML is a programming language and file format that can store, transmit, and reconstruct any arbitrary data. Another example is gaming engines, which are software frameworks that enable game developers to use a single codebase to create a game that’s accessible across multiple platforms such as PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.
Comparatively, Apple provides an example of non-agnostic design, as apps are only available in the App Store and require an iPhone or iPad to access.
Why Does Being Blockchain Agnostic Matter?
Blockchain-agnostic designs offer many benefits for developers, enterprises, Web3 startups, and end-users.
Accessing Digital Asset Markets Across the Entire Web3 Ecosystem
Web3 has evolved into a thriving multi-chain ecosystem spread across numerous blockchain networks. While many of the early digital assets were only tradeable as ERC-20 tokens on Ethereum mainnet, many new digital assets have launched on or been bridged to Ethereum layer-2 networks like Arbitrum, Optimism, and StarkEx, along with alternative layer-1 blockchains such as Avalanche, BNB Chain, and Solana.
By using a blockchain-agnostic design, projects can access liquidity and markets that are spread out across the entire Web3 ecosystem. For example, stablecoins like USDC have been minted across multiple chains and are now storing tens of billions of dollars worth of value. Similarly, DeFi protocol Aave has launched markets on an array of networks including Ethereum, Avalanche, Optimism, Fantom, Polygon, and Arbitrum.
Future-Proofing an Application
What if end-users and liquidity migrate to another network? What if the network effects or technology of another ecosystem improves dramatically? Flexibility through a blockchain-agnostic solution helps mitigate these risks by future-proofing projects against unexpected ecosystem developments.
This flexibility empowers individuals, startups, and enterprises to start building immediately—knowing that their blockchain-agnostic infrastructure enables them to reuse their code (or a slightly modified version of it) on another network or across an array of different chains if necessary. This saves valuable engineering time, significantly reduces costs, and enables projects to seamlessly evolve alongside the continuously developing Web3 space.
Leveraging the Unique Technical Advantages of Different Blockchains
Each blockchain and layer-2 network optimizes for different variables, such as transactions per second, consensus mechanisms, time to finality, economic models, scalability, data availability, privacy, and degrees of decentralization. This optimization gives each chain unique technical advantages.
Blockchain-agnostic solutions empower developers to select the network that best serves a specific use case, deploy separate instances of a protocol across several chains to allow users to choose which technical features they want to leverage, or even combine the unique advantages of several chains within a single multi-chain application. Ultimately, they enable developers can build more feature-rich and performant applications.
Examples of Blockchain-Agnostic Infrastructure
Blockchain-agnostic designs underpin a wide range of infrastructure across the Web3 ecosystem, such as protocols, hardware devices, and programming languages.
Examples of blockchain-agnostic solutions include:
- Chainlink—Oracle networks that have already powered 1,470+ projects with off-chain computation and over 4.2 billion on-chain data points across multiple blockchain ecosystems.
- Ledger—Hardware crypto wallet that holds private keys in order to securely store thousands of tokens from a variety of different distributed ledgers.
- USDC—US dollar-pegged stablecoin that’s natively available on eight networks and also as a wrapped asset across several layer 2s, helping it grow to $49B in total value locked (TVL) as of September 2022.
- Solidity—A programming language that’s used by a diverse array of blockchains with vastly different data and execution models, including Avalanche, BNB Chain, and Ethereum.
- Beefy Finance—DeFi application that enables end-users to access yield across sixteen chains from a single user interface. This has helped it attract deposits worth $281M as of September 2022.
Chainlink’s Blockchain-Agnostic Design
Chainlink is a blockchain-agnostic oracle network that can run natively on any blockchain without dependencies on other blockchains, meaning it can support public blockchains and enterprise blockchains. These advantages have led to the Chainlink Network helping secure tens of billions of dollars across Ethereum, BNB Chain, Polygon, Gnosis Chain, Heco, Avalanche, Fantom, Arbitrum, Harmony, Optimism, Moonriver, Moonbeam, Solana, and more chains.
Oracle networks play a key role in the Web3 ecosystem. Because blockchains are isolated, deterministic systems, they cannot pull in data from or push data out to any external system as built-in functionality. Chainlink overcomes this “oracle problem” by connecting blockchains to off-chain data and computation via decentralized networks of highly secure and reliable node operators. These oracle networks power a suite of trust-minimized services which developers can integrate into on-chain smart contracts to create more advanced, feature-rich smart contracts known as hybrid smart contracts.
Given the diverse array of blockchains and their technical differences, the design of a blockchain-agnostic oracle network ensures that the off-chain resources it provides and the hybrid smart contracts they power don’t undermine the security, speed, or availability of the underlying blockchain. That’s why Chainlink uses a heterogeneous framework for building decentralized oracle networks.
Chainlink’s heterogeneous network consists of numerous independent oracle networks running in parallel without cross-dependencies. This means specialized Chainlink networks can be purpose-built and optimized for the blockchain they’re serving, allowing them to provide any blockchain or layer 2 with any optimized external data and off-chain computation.
The architecture of Chainlink oracle networks means they can operate at the native speed and cost of any blockchain or layer-2 network. Because these networks scale with the Web3 ecosystem, smart contracts on higher throughput and lower cost blockchains or layer-2 networks can access higher frequency and lower cost oracle updates.
Furthermore, because Chainlink oracle networks operating on a blockchain don’t have dependencies on any other blockchain, they will continue to receive timely oracle updates even in the event that other blockchains experience downtime issues. This helps create more secure smart contracts and a more robust Web3 ecosystem.
Chainlink’s blockchain-agnostic design and wide adoption across the Web3 ecosystem makes it the ideal network to underpin a cross-chain messaging protocol that seamlessly connects disparate blockchain networks. With the infrastructure to power truly secure cross-chain applications and token bridges, the multi-chain ecosystem can become interoperable and generate even more advanced applications.
In support of this vision, a global open-source standard for cross-chain messaging known as the Cross-Chain Interoperability Protocol (CCIP) is currently under development. Once connected to CCIP, a blockchain will be able to interact with any other CCIP-connected blockchain through Chainlink decentralized oracle networks.
“Blockchain agnostic” may not be one of the most well-known terms in Web3, but it’s certainly one of the most important given how it enables highly performant, secure, and advanced hybrid smart contracts and allows for a cross-chain future.
Ultimately it’s connecting hyper-specialized and more general blockchain-agnostic solutions that will create the most powerful applications and most impactful Web3 ecosystem. Chainlink is being built with this in mind, with its heterogeneous blockchain-agnostic design allowing it to supply oracle services to any chain at their native speed and cost, as well as connect them all together via CCIP to create an interoperable Web3 ecosystem.