LayerZero Explained: The 1s and 0s of LayerZero
What is LayerZero?
LayerZero is an interoperability protocol that aims to solve the issue of limited blockchain interoperability. It uses a novel technique to make it easier for different blockchain networks to connect with each other, aiming to create a true 'omnichain' solution to serve as a base interoperability layer for the entire blockchain ecosystem.
While other protocols such as Polkadot and Cosmos also aim to enable transfers of arbitrary data across blockchains, LayerZero aims to go even further and create a blockchain for blockchains.
Interoperability: The Future of Blockchains?
Blockchains have emerged as a revolutionary technology with the potential to transform various industries by enabling secure, decentralized, and transparent data transactions. However, similar to the early days of the internet, blockchains face the challenge of interoperability and connectivity. The lack of communication and collaboration between different blockchain networks leads to isolated ecosystems that can not seamlessly share data and value.
Blockchain interoperability refers to the ability of different blockchain networks to communicate and interact with each other seamlessly, enabling them to share information on decentralized applications (DApps), assets, and functionalities. This is essential for the broader adoption of blockchain technology as it allows for the creation of more complex applications and services that span across multiple blockchain networks. Without interoperability, each blockchain network would operate in its own silo, limiting the potential of blockchain technology.
The importance of interoperability in the blockchain ecosystem cannot be overstated. It enables blockchain networks to work together to address the challenges faced by various industries, leading to the development of more innovative and efficient solutions. The seamless flow of data and value across different blockchain networks can accelerate the adoption of blockchain technology and enable businesses to tap into the benefits offered by blockchain networks.
A widely used method for facilitating cross-chain message transfers involves the implementation of a middle chain that provides consensus and validation services to enable the exchange of messages between chains. For instance, Polkadot’s Relay chain serves as the backbone of the platform.
An alternative method utilizes on-chain light nodes, which are connected to full nodes to ensure validation of every block header received from the opposing chain.
Both approaches offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, as the middle chain approach is cost-effective, but its reliance on a single point of failure lessens security, whereas the on-chain light node approach is highly secure, but is hindered by its high costs.
LayerZero: Achieving Cross-Chain Interoperability
A possible solution to address these challenges is to combine the strengths of both methods while mitigating their limitations.
LayerZero Labs proposes to achieve this by utilizing an Ultra Light Node (ULN) as part of the LayerZero project. The ULN is a proposed solution that can facilitate cross-chain message transfers in a cost-effective and secure manner. By combining the consensus and validation features of the middle chain approach and the security features of the on-chain light node approach, the ULN may offer an ideal solution for cross-chain interoperability, which could facilitate the widespread adoption of blockchain technology.
Oracles and Relayers: Laying the Foundations
In blockchain, an oracle is a trusted source of information that can be used to trigger smart contract execution. It is a software program or service that gathers and verifies data from external sources and relays it to the blockchain. This allows smart contracts to execute based on real-world events, such as weather conditions or stock prices, that are not available on the blockchain itself.
On the other hand, a relayer is a network node that helps transfer messages or assets between different blockchains or systems. Relayers facilitate cross-chain communication by submitting transactions or proofs of transactions to different networks. This enables the exchange of assets or information between different chains or systems without the need for a centralized intermediary.
Together, oracles and relayers can be used to create decentralized applications (DApps) that can access external data sources and communicate with other blockchains or networks. By using oracles and relayers, DApps can be designed to work with real-world data and other blockchains, making them more versatile and useful.
Here's How LayerZero Works
LayerZero’s method utilizes on-chain light nodes, but in a much more economical way. It makes use of decentralized oracles to stream block headers on demand, so it doesn’t need to keep all block headers sequentially.
In brief, here's how LayerZero works:
When sending a message from one chain to another, the origin chain’s endpoint notifies the specified Oracle and Relayer of the message and its target chain. The Oracle then forwards the relevant block header to the target chain’s endpoint, and the Relayer submits a transaction proof. Once that proof is validated on the target chain, the message can be sent to its designated address.
LayerZero's Use Cases: Bridging, Swaps, and More
LayerZero’s technology offers a range of cross-chain functionalities, with its most direct application lying in bridging. The first DApp built on LayerZero was Stargate Finance, an omnichain bridging protocol that supports transfers across multiple L1 and L2 chains, including Ethereum, BNB Chain, Avalanche, Polygon, Fantom, Arbitrum, Optimism, and Metis.
However, LayerZero's capabilities extend beyond bridging to include cross-chain swaps, which decentralized exchanges such as Sushi, Hashflow, and WOO Network have already integrated. Additionally, money market protocols like Radiant Capital, deployed on Arbitrum and the BNB Chain, enable cross-chain borrowing for users who deposit with them.
Furthermore, LayerZero’s technology also allows for cross-chain governance, as exemplified by Pendle, a yield tokenization protocol that facilitates cross-chain voting, reward accrual, and reward boosting for users who lock the PENDLE token as vote-escrowed PENDLE (vePENDLE).
Advantages of LayerZero
LayerZero's approach to blockchain interoperability offers a unique and cost-effective solution with heightened security features. Unlike other solutions, LayerZero's reliance on an Oracle-Relayer pair ensures enhanced security over user transactions. Both the Oracle and Relayer have to be compromised in order for a malicious act to successfully take place, thereby largely mitigating the odds of a security breach.
The main objective of LayerZero is to create a general interoperability solution that can facilitate seamless communication and interaction between multiple blockchain networks. This is particularly important in a multi-chain future where different chains may not be able to communicate with each other. With LayerZero, all chains can connect to each other via a single interface and code, making multi-chain DApps much more convenient to use.
This greater level of interoperability is expected to have a profound impact on blockchain-powered activities such as swaps, liquidity mining, lending, and borrowing.
What's Next for LayerZero's Future?
LayerZero has recently achieved a significant milestone by processing nearly 80 DApps and handling a transactional volume of slightly over $6 billion, resulting in securing over $7 billion in total value locked (TVL) with more than four million messages sent on their protocol as of date of writing.
The LayerZero method is a significant step forward in achieving true interoperability between different blockchain networks. It combines the strengths of both the middle chain and on-chain light node approaches while eliminating their weaknesses, and in doing so, could potentially unlock new opportunities for blockchain technology to be applied in different industries.
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