Despite the ongoing crypto winter, a season marked by delays and stagnation for blockchain projects across the space, a few outliers have persisted, continuing to build and even exceeding expectations in this challenging environment. UniLayer Network is one such project. Unilayer reached 2000 testnet users just a few weeks ago and has since doubled that number.
UniLayer is an omnichain interoperability platform with the ambitious goal of integrating the major blockchains, enabling the free flow of assets and data across separate networks.
What makes UniLayer so special is its tech. Unlike bridges and other, more centralized solutions, UniLayer uses novel, natively embedded “Universal Nodes” to integrate separate blockchain networks from the ground up, participating directly in the validation process of each network and facilitating secure and seamless transactions.
The recent release of its public testnet marks an important milestone on the journey toward true interoperability. Over 4,000 users have signed up to participate in UniLayer’s testnet over the course of just a couple of weeks. For those interested, the UniLayer testnet is accessible through its main website.
Interoperability: What’s the Big Deal?
Simply put, interoperability is defined as open communication between blockchains. Right now, each blockchain largely operates as an island unto itself. Ethereum’s ledger contains its own transaction history but cannot contain transactions of other networks (Bitcoin, Solana, Near, etc.). The same is true for any blockchain network. Separate blockchains simply cannot interact with each other natively.
True interoperability would remove the barriers between blockchains, allowing them to freely transfer information and assets, with ease and security, without the flaws that come with centralization. It would be nothing short of a radical.
The Benefits of Interoperability: Total Web3 Integration
The implications for an interoperable ecosystem are enormous. To start with, cross-chain liquidity would transform DeFi protocols, opening up funding across networks. According to Defi Llama, as of September 2022, the TVL (total value locked) among all blockchains was nearly $35 billion. That liquidity is siloed within distinct ecosystems, with Ethereum still retaining the largest market share. In a future of open, cross-chain liquidity, DeFi protocols would be able to tap into the resources of a wider array of users, and those users, in turn, would have an enormous number of options at their disposal.
True cross-chain interoperability would mean free movement of all forms of data, and it would bring about massive advances in both the NFT and DAO spaces. Cross-chain NFTs would offer security, flexibility, and innovation to NFT gaming, among other NFT, use cases. Cross-chain voting would usher in a new era of cross-chain DAOs. These DAOs would find new, flexible ways to operate, including the implementation of cross-chain treasuries.
Also, billions would be significantly saved from potential hacks of insecure, centralized bridge protocols. In just the first half of 2022 alone, over $1.4 billion in funds have been stolen through such hacks.
Finally, developers and end users alike would no longer have to struggle to work around the barriers of incompatibility that currently divide the blockchain space.
Interoperability is the “holy grail” of blockchain development.
The Promise of UniLayer
Up to this point, countless interoperability solutions have been attempted, namely bridges and centralized protocols. However, they have all suffered from the limitations inherent in centralization, specifically security, but also ease of use and flexibility.
What sets UniLayer apart is that its concept is both technologically advanced and – in the spirit of Bitcoin itself – truly decentralized. UniLayer is intent on solving the blockchain problem with a blockchain solution.
UniLayer’s platform does not operate like outside, centralized protocols, nor does it require any blockchain networks to make any modifications as a prerequisite for integration. The key to UniLayer lies in the ingenuity of its “Universal Nodes,” nodes that operate within the networks that UniLayer connects.
To incorporate Ethereum into its platform, for instance, UniLayer will operate nodes on the Ethereum network, verifying transactions like any other node on the network but simultaneously recording cross-chain transactions, relaying them to nodes that operate exclusively on the UniLayer Network. These nodes will, in turn, communicate with nodes that make up other separate blockchain networks, such as Near, Algorand, and eventually even Bitcoin. UniLayer’s ledger will record all transactions, storing them on its blockchain.
Vitalik Buterin once remarked, “Interoperable chains open up a world where moving assets from one platform to another … becomes easy and even implementable by third parties without any additional effort required from the operators of the base blockchain protocols.”
This is the promise that UniLayer is set on fulfilling.
The Future of UniLayer
UniLayer’s plans are ambitious and far-reaching: complete integration of 15 major blockchains over 2 years, bringing about true interoperability through native nodes. Secure, streamlined, easy access to all blockchain networks: it is a lofty vision.
Of course, we will have to wait for results as UniLayer progresses along its roadmap. Nonetheless, the UniLayer team has already demonstrated its capabilities through the recent launch of its own EVM-compatible testnet, with Ethereum testnet integration in the works. UniLayer’s testnet users will be able to interact with the network in several ways: by deploying a node, running smart contracts, and adding tokens through UniLayer’s faucet.
Developers, in particular, tend to be interested in “getting in early” – to familiarize themselves with a new protocol that they can later incorporate into their existing dApps, or to create new dApps, designed with that new technology in mind. UniLayer is one of several new, innovative blockchains whose ongoing development will be very interesting to follow in the coming months.
Cross-chain Tech: A Blockchain Development Trend
The rise of blockchains, specifically designed to enable cross-chain communication (Polkadot and Cosmos are two prominent examples), has established a clear direction in which blockchain development is moving – and for a good reason. Unlocking the full potential of cross-chain integration would mean nothing less than mass adoption.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that security and ease of use, as well as cross-pollination among blockchain communities, are prerequisites for further blockchain ecosystem development. The ecosystem as a whole must be capable and adaptable enough to function effectively across a wide range of real-world fields and industries.
The Race to Interoperability
As the first protocol to use a system of embedded “Universal Nodes” to facilitate transfers of data and assets between separate blockchains, UniLayer stands at the forefront of omni-chain solutions. However, precursors (such as LayerZero) are still moving forward, and future protocols are bound to arise. We don’t yet know which network will finally be able to unite the blockchain ecosystem or whether, in the spirit of interoperability itself, each will find its place within the larger blockchain space.