What Are Blockchain Bridges?
In this article, we examine the concept of Blockchain Bridges, how they function, and the risks and advantages to be mindful of when moving funds between blockchains.
A blockchain bridge, like a real-world bridge, connects two different blockchain networks, allowing easy interaction or exchange from one system to another. Blockchain technology has the advantage of decentralization and the system is designed in such a way that control is distributed to all users rather than being centralized or controlled by a single corporation.
As the blockchain ecosystem grows, several new blockchain networks are being developed. These networks each have their own functionalities and communities. Also, they cannot interact or exchange data with the other networks. As a result, data sharing has been limited, and inter-network communication has been constrained.
To address this matter, bridges are built between networks to help stimulate interaction between blockchain networks. This however also helps to achieve interoperability within the ecosystem.
In this guide, we will explore blockchain bridges to know how they work, their benefits and their risks.
What Exactly Is A Blockchain Bridge?
A blockchain bridge, also known as a cross-chain bridge, is a protocol that connects two blockchain networks to allow them to communicate with one another. The two chains may differ in functionalities, protocols, economies or rules that govern them, but the bridge provides a path which allows the chains to interact and exchange data regardless of their variation.
For example, If you have Bitcoin (BTC) but want to participate in an activity on the Solana network, you can easily do so using a blockchain bridge without selling your Bitcoin to buy Solana (SOL).
In general, the Internet interoperates to function properly and easily exchange information or value. In the case of the blockchain ecosystem, bridges make it easy for distinct protocols to interoperate and exchange any kind of data, which includes smart contracts, decentralized identity, off-chain data from oracles such as market price feeds, and so on.
Why Do We Need Blockchain Bridges?
In the blockchain space, one of the notable limitations in the functionality of blockchain has been the inability of different networks to interact with one another.
Individually, the networks have their own governance model, protocols and smart contract calls. The blockchain bridge helps settle this limitation by generating a means that enables networks to interconnect and interact with each other. This allows any form of data, information or even tokens to be easily exchanged between two distinct networks. In addition, the bridge provides users with access to new platforms on other blockchain networks. Bridges enables developers to work together with members of various blockchain communities. Blockchain bridges are crucial for achieving interoperability and further decentralization in the blockchain ecosystem.
How Do Blockchain Bridges Function?
A token transfer is a well-established use case for blockchain bridges.
For example, if you own Bitcoin (BTC) but want to participate in an activity on the Ethereum network. The usual way to do this is to sell your Bitcoin (BTC) and then purchase Ethereum (ETH). This would require a transaction fee and also expose you to market volatility. However, using a blockchain bridge, you can easily carry out this process without selling your Bitcoin to purchase Ethereum.
When bridging to another network, you simply deposit BTC on the bridge and withdraw ETH. A blockchain bridge will lock the BTC and then mint a new and equivalent quantity of Wrapped BTC (WBTC) on the Ethereum network. The Ethereum wallet receives a "bridge" version of Bitcoin that has been converted into an ERC-20 token.
Wrapped tokens are tokens that represent cryptocurrency from another blockchain. Its worth is determined by the target asset it represents.
Furthermore, the minted tokens can be reclaimed or unwrapped at any time, they can be burned and then unlocked. Bridges use the mint and burn strategy to keep the token cost and supply equivalent between the two chains.
Types of Blockchain Bridges
Blockchain bridges are classified into two different kinds, Trust-based and Trustless bridges.
Trust-based bridges, also known as custodial bridges, require the stance of a central authority to function. This type of bridge is centralized, and users must rely on a central entity to keep the system running safely. These centralized entities validate and confirm the transactions of users.
It is important to note, however, that central authorities are concerned with keeping the transactions running rather than detecting and preventing crime in the system. In this case, users should conduct research and verify the entity's credibility.
Bridges that rely on smart contract algorithms to function are known as trustless bridges or non-custodial bridges. These bridges operate in a decentralized manner, with smart contracts managing and validating the transaction process without the need to rely on any central authority. Users benefit from increased system security when using trustless bridges.
Blockchain Bridge Advantages
The ecosystem benefits greatly from bridging from one blockchain to another.
Bridging has the proficiency to improve interoperability between two blockchain networks, which is a significant advantage. Data and tokens can be exchanged across networks, which improves the decentralized nature of blockchain and increases the ecosystem's future success.
The blockchain bridge enables network scalability. Bridges can handle high-volume transactions, allowing greater efficiency and improving scalability. Transferring assets on another blockchain may be less expensive than on the native blockchain. In the case of Ethereum, which has high transaction fees, users can easily transfer assets without incurring high transaction fees by using bridges. Tokens can also be swapped without leaving the platform, making the bridging process simple for users.
Risk of Blockchain Bridges
While bridges provide numerous advantages, they also present some challenges. Blockchain bridges have their own set of security concerns. Hackers who take advantage of the vulnerability of bridge smart contracts have mismanaged vast sums of money.
Furthermore, custodial bridges may expose users' assets to risk. The central entity may mishandle the funds of users.
Interoperability is an important aspect that contributes to the growth of blockchain, laying the groundwork for the future of a decentralized ecosystem. With the introduction of blockchain bridges, different protocols are now combined to improve the ease of interaction between them and their users.
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PUBLISHED 4TH MAY 2022
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