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A look at how Cosmos is enabling swaps between blockchains

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A look at how Cosmos is enabling swaps between blockchains

by Tim Copeland
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Quick Takes
  • Blockchains in the Cosmos ecosystem can make cross-chain swaps once they have adopted the IBC standard.
  • While takeup of IBC is reaching an inflection point, it’s starting to result in some growing pains. 
Cosmos is moving full-steam ahead with its radical plan to enable swaps between blockchains.

The plan, in development for two years, finally kicked off earlier this year with the launch of the Inter‑Blockchain Communication Protocol (IBC) — a technological standard for enabling crypto assets to be swapped between blockchains. A blockchain that supports this standard can connect to any other blockchains that do as well.

The Cosmos ecosystem is made up of around 50 blockchains, all built using the Cosmos software. One such blockchain is Cosmos Hub (ATOM), supported by a company called Tendermint. Others include Terra (LUNA) — the 13th biggest blockchain by market cap — ThorChain (RUNE) and Osmosis (OSMO).

There are also a few firms developing the technologies underlying the ecosystem, including Informal Systems, which has been rolling out IBC gradually. Lately, the adoption of the protocol has started to pick up steam. So far, 22 blockchains have activated IBC, with several more on the way.

As more chains have integrated IBC, one result has been a big increase in cross-chain swaps. Since its launch at the end of March, it took just six months to see more than a million swaps across these blockchains in a single month, namely September. Then, in October, there were 1.5 million swaps.

“IBC adoption has exceeded my expectations, grown faster than any of us at Tendermint/Cosmos core companies have expected,” says Tendermint CEO Peng Zhong at Cosmoverse, a community-run conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

So how does IBC work? And what are the biggest challenges standing in the way of the Cosmos dream for interconnected blockchains? 

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To date, most blockchain unicorns are either part of the Trading/Brokerage vertical or provide crypto financial services. Historically, crypto exchanges have been one of the most lucrative business models, generating most of their revenue from trading fees.
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