The Evolution & Impact of Autonomous Cross-Chain DApps

In a presentation, Hilmar Orth, founder of Gelato Network, presented on the evolution of multi-chain applications and the impact autonomous cross-chain dApps would have on the ecosystem.

What Is Gelato?

Gelato Network is web3’s decentralized backend that enables projects to augment their smart contracts by being able to leverage smart contract automation, gasless transaction relaying and off-chain data and computation.

Gelato is currently the largest decentralized protocol used by projects such as MakerDAO, Optimism or Yearn Finance to automate their smart contract executions across all Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible blockchains. It was founded in 2019 by the developer duo Hilmar Orth and Luis Schliesske.

Gelato aims to accelerate the adoption of web3 by providing DeFi, NFT and gaming applications with reliable and decentralized backend services which enable them to operate their web3 apps without a single point of failure. Gelato supports all major EVM blockchains, including Ethereum, Polygon, Fantom, Arbitrum, BNB Chain, Optimism and many more.

A smart contract platform that operates on a blockchain compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) can facilitate exchanges on the Ethereum network. EVM compatible platforms allow developers to create decentralized applications (dApps) that are similar to those that run on Ethereum.

Evolution Of Cross-Chain Applications

Before we discuss the impact that autonomous, cross-chain dApps could have, we must understand how decentralized applications (dApps) have evolved so far.

The first generation of decentralized applications was powered by Ethereum and had no cross-chain capabilities. These dApps could only be used by native users of the chain and were limited in functionality. Soon, the idea of multi-chains developed, and other blockchains, like Polygon, Avalanche, BNB chain etc., emerged by forking from Ethereum. Forking refers to a decision to branch off and generate a new blockchain with features or updates unavailable on the previous chain. This move enabled developers to redeploy their smart contracts on a different network, enjoying advantages like scalability or cheaper costs while remaining compatible with the previous ecosystem. Still, the protocols on other chains had very little communication, dissimilar interfaces and were not always managed by the same team.

With the rise of blockchain bridges, this situation eventually improved, and now we have multi-chain networks which can communicate with their instances on other chains. This works by triggering cross-chain messaging, which bridges to the other chain and performs the requested transaction.

Cross-chain messaging protocols utilize smart contracts to allow information to flow freely between blockchains that are otherwise isolated within the confines of their networks, making them similar to oracle networks as they both feed data across various chains. Multichain networks are an impressive development, but users still have to initiate the process and deal with the usual time delay that occurs.

Hilmar believes that the next stage in the evolution of dApps is the establishment of autonomous cross-chain applications. Autonomous cross-chain dApps are revolutionary because users will no longer need to initiate the cross-messaging between chains. Instead, the smart contracts will automatically connect to the other chains when required.

The two components required for this seamless setup are a cross-chain messaging protocol and an automating network like Gelato. With these two combined, smart contracts can be deployed autonomously across multiple chains. Abracadabra protocol is a practical example of an autonomous cross-chain dApp.

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Informative piece