An Introduction to Polymer Labs, Cosmos, and IBC (Inter-Blockchain Communication)

TLDR; Blockchains are immutable, decentralized data storage systems. Blockchains have grown dramatically over recent years, but there is no standard way to communicate across chains. Polymer Chain provides a seamless way to provide cross chain communication by utilizing IBC to connect chains even when they may not support IBC natively.

What are Blockchains, and what’s all the fuss about?

With this new growth in the industry, there’s also a big gap yet to be filled. These distributed ledgers are bringing forth new and unique use cases, however, the interactions between them have been primitive. The bridges that have been formed have unique designs and implementations, but have a lot of development ahead of them — primarily glorified multisigs and centralized custodians. This has resulted in a majority of lost funds in cryptocurrency markets (Ronin Axie Infinity $625m+, Polynetwork $600m+, Wormhole $325m+, Nomad $190m+, Harmony $100m+, Qubit $80m+, Thorchain ~$10m, Multichain (Anyswap) $3m+, etc). These past 2 years of incessant exploits have clearly demonstrated the need for an open-sourced, community-developed and maintained industry standard, such as IBC x Polymer.

If you think about each blockchain as a computer, we have a world of more than 10,000 siloed computers. Much like the internet (TCP/IP) solves Web2 connectivity for computers, IBC and Polymer solves Web3 connectivity for blockchains.

So what exactly is IBC?

Polymer believes IBC is the frontrunner to become the #1 industry standard for interoperability for the greater blockchain ecosystem. IBC’s extensive use of formal verification positions itself to be the strongest option the industry has for establishing that standard for generic message passing. The Cosmos IBC system is the first to put large economic value on light clients, which has proven to be resistant to compromise.

Polymer Labs is building on top of the Cosmos SDK to enable Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) across chains that do not have native IBC support.

High-level depiction of IBC packet flow between two blockchains

How does IBC work?

A postal service works well as an analogy to explain IBC. The postal service (IBC) will define the standard for the package (IBC message), wrap it up (IBC packet), and send it from one place (sender blockchain) to another (receiver blockchain). It has two main layers.

  1. Transport Layer
  2. Application Layer

Transport Layer

Technically speaking, this layer is responsible for three things: transport, authentication & ordering (or TAO). This layer does not specify what the data in the packet should be or how it will be interpreted on the receiving side: that’s the job of the application layer.

Application Layer

This layer is responsible for interacting with the contents of the IBC packet.

What is Cosmos?

You can see the internet of blockchains in action at Map of Zones!

Cosmos released the Cosmos SDK, a framework for building IBC-compatible blockchains, along with the Cosmos Hub, where all IBC-compatible blockchains are connected using the IBC standard. Cosmos is analogous to interconnected constellations, hence the name “Cosmos.”

What is Polymer?

As an omni-chain hub, Polymer Chain follows the IBC standards and specifications, enabling IBC communication between:

1) IBC-enabled blockchains

2) IBC-enabled blockchains <> non-IBC blockchains

3) non-IBC blockchains <> non-IBC blockchains

High-level view of the Polymer Hub

This concludes our high-level overview of blockchains, IBC, and Cosmos’ & Polymer’s role in the ecosystem. We will share more in-depth details about how IBC works, what Polymer is doing to solve crucial interoperability issues, and the path towards enabling IBC across all blockchains in future posts.

Polymer’s vision: “Scale IBC interoperability to all chains.”

About Polymer:
Polymer is the first modular IBC-based networking protocol. The Polymer chain will enable ZK-IBC connectivity across all integrated chains with a truly trustless architecture based on light client state proof verification. Polymer believes in a multichain future connected primarily by one open-sourced, community-developed and maintained industry standard, IBC x Polymer.

Follow our Twitter, visit our Website, and join our community on Discord! Sign up to become a validator here, and to take part in Polymer’s private testnet here.

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Polymer Labs

Polymer is building a universal IBC router to connect all chains.