While Polkadot Parachains and Avalanche Subnet have been among the first to build personalized solutions, with the recent Cosmos 2.0 whitepaper and the coming release of Theta Metachain, many more options are becoming available. It is crucial to understand the differences between the major proponents in the space and how enterprises can leverage the best ecosystem to match their needs.
As in any engineering problem, there is no solution, only trade-offs.
All protocols have similarities and differences in terms of securing the chain.
While Polkadot uses the Relay chain (the “main chain”) to randomly assign a validator to secure the state transition for Parachains, in Avalanche, Subnets have to manage their own validators who are required to validate the primary network.
Also, in Cosmos, each chain/zone has its own set of validators and security, although they are working on a model where zones can delegate their security to “hubs”.
Analogously, each Theta subchain has its own security, but the subchain’s governance tokens are issued on the mainchain, giving the token holders a chance to still exercise their governance
right on the fully functioning main chain in the event of its compromisation.
Transaction Fees and User Experience
Polkadot was created partly to ensure that gas fees do not hinder users’ ability to use the Parachain. Each Parachain can customize its fees, although there are usually no fees set for users given that operators pay a “rent fee” for a Parachain slot in advance.
Avalanche Subnets and Cosmos Zones are very similar in this aspect. Both are highly customizable and usually require a project-related token to pay for gas fees. This might limit the on-chain experience since users need to buy each token required to transact on the specific Subnet or Zone in advance.
On the other hand, Theta Metachain requires TFUEL, the same “gas token” of the main chain, to transact on the subchain. This lowers the barrier to entry in using subchains, since users don’t need to acquire multiple gas tokens for transactions that involve multiple subchains. Even so, the gas-fee structure is highly customizable on each subchain.
Another important feature of the Theta Metachain is “uniformity” – the main chain and all the subchains are EVM compatible. This provides a uniform interface to both DApp developers and users. In comparison, the Cosmos network is inherently heterogeneous as not all hubs/zones support EVM. This is also the case for Avalanche, which could potentially adds complexity to the users and DApp developers.
Scalability and Speed with Theta Metachain
Scalability is uniform among Avalanche Subnet, Cosmos Zones and Theta Subchain with potential unlimited transactions throughput. Comparing transaction finalization time, the protocols range from 1-2 seconds for Theta Subchain and Avalanche Subnet to 6-7 seconds for Cosmos Zone.
Due to its shared security model, Polkadot is the only one with a limited number of 100 Parachains and a slower finalization time, ranging from 12 to 60 seconds.
Something to note is that while Theta Subchain, Cosmos Zone and Polkadot offer deterministic finalization (i.e., a block is considered to be final once added to the chain or, in the event of forks, the longest chain will eventually be the final, authentic chain), Avalanche’s uses a probabilistic finalization scheme, meaning that it requires more extended network confirmation.
Interoperability has always been a significant obstacle in personalized scaling solutions.
Avalanche and Cosmos lead with interoperability enabled between blockchains and subnets. Thanks to Cosmos hubs and the IBC protocol, it’s reasonably easy to operate between Cosmos blockchains, although it may require different gas tokens along the way.
Theta subchains are connected through the main chain via Interchain Messaging Channels (IMC). IMC is similar to the Cosmos IBC protocol but requires less overhead given the single gas token, and is less complex since subchain validators control the interchain messaging channels rather than a 3rd party intermediary. Because communications are routed through the main chain any message or transaction requires at most two hops between chains.
Polkadot Parachains can communicate with each other, although with limited functionality, by using the XCMP protocol. The main chain could use bridges to connect to another system even if the initial project was to include in Parachain each primary protocol.
The Final Clash
As we have seen, these solutions have differences and similarities, providing a vast choice when choosing between personalized blockchains.
Following DYDX’s decision to migrate to Cosmos, many DeFi apps are considering doing the same, due to the high fees some of these projects require to run on the main chain, such as Ethereum. Cosmos is also well-known for making it simple to create your own chain and ecosystem, similar to the (in)famous Terra blockchain.
Launched with very high expectations and following the recent step-down from Gavin Wood (ex-co-founder of Ethereum) as CEO, Polkadot has struggled to find suitable applications to enter its ecosystem, given the “entry fee” required to join the network. Many projects decided to stay on Kusama, a public Polkadot-like chain, to test and gain validation of their product.
As a result of personalization and affordable gas charges, Avalanche Subnets have experienced some respectable traction, even on the main chain. Many gaming projects are looking closer to Subnet developments; others have been building or migrating to Avalanche Subnets since its release.
Given its extensive specialization in the media business and the soon-to-be-released Metachain, which will enable public and customized solutions, Theta might become the go-to platform for a broad spectrum of content providers looking to create unique experiences for their audiences. With its simplicity and user-centric approach, Theta is primed to attract a new influx of blockchain users.