Op-ed: Interoperability needs its ERC-20 moment

Undoubtedly, one of many stipulations for the mass adoption of blockchain know-how is safe and seamless cross-chain interoperability. Many potential purposes, significantly in advanced and controlled sectors, merely can’t be deployed with out widespread tips and interface definitions.

With out these, as is at the moment the case, purposes that intention to go cross-chain should depend on customized off-chain elements and mechanically inherit the accompanying dangers and belief assumptions. The one various is to stay constrained to a single, remoted community.

At the moment’s interoperability options – or  “bridges” – have matured to the purpose the place nearly any two blockchain networks can be linked. The issue is that every bridge is an advert hoc development, which limits scalability and value.

This situation is amplified when coping with networks which have drastically completely different infrastructures, as is the case with non-EVM blockchains. Limitations apart, bridges are clearly wanted and stay in excessive demand. Even following declines throughout the bear market, the Complete Worth Locked (TVL) in main cross-chain bridges on Ethereum alone hit $23.5 billion in January 2024.

Regardless of these gaudy totals,there are nonetheless many hurdles to beat earlier than blockchain know-how is prepared for mass adoption. There stay three main challenges impeding the progress of blockchain interoperability: Safety, UX and Compatibility.


The obvious impediment to blockchain interoperability is the ever-present safety issues. Detached to market efficiency and hype cycles, the repeated failures of poorly-designed cross-chain bridges has left a black mark on the trade and dissuades individuals from participating with options. People who’ve suffered losses because of a bridge hack naturally develop a mistrust for all cross-chain bridges. Idiot me twice, and all that.

And it’s laborious accountable them. An estimated $2.9 billion was stolen within the prime 10 cross-chain bridge hacks between 2021 – 2023. It didn’t take lengthy for 2024 to kick off on the identical, with Orbit Bridge being hacked for $80m over the brand new 12 months interval. With the mainstream adoption of blockchain know-how counting on safe interoperability, these traits can’t go on. Any remaining safety points merely want to be solved.


A seamless person expertise is paramount in driving person adoption and engagement, which contributes on to the sustainability of digital services. This reality is as basic in Web2 as it’s in Web3. Cross-chain bridges aren’t any exception. 

At the moment’s bridges are something however seamless. Whereas mature options have abstracted the person’s direct involvement to a single transaction, the person journey continues to be too advanced. Customers would reasonably not transact utilizing a number of property whereas manually switching between a number of wallets and RPC servers.

That is largely attributable to present limitations of blockchain know-how however is exacerbated by immature interfaces. Many could also be shocked to study that there isn’t even a unified system for cross-chain options to establish a singular blockchain community!

With out seamless interoperability, UX can solely be improved incrementally except sure unpalatable concessions regarding safety and decentralisation are made. Collaborative efforts are wanted, or blockchain interoperability options will stay fractured and mainstream adoption will stay stymied – resigned to worth storage and area of interest monetary purposes.


Compatibility, or reasonably, the incompatibility between completely different blockchain interoperability protocols is without doubt one of the nice ironies of our trade. Because it stands, the overwhelming majority of blockchain interoperability initiatives are centered on constructing proprietary merchandise with customized relayers, message definitions and verification mechanisms. Too many are centered solely on rising their very own merchandise.

With so many competing approaches with shockingly little overlap, it turns into impractical, if not unimaginable, to correctly vet the safety of every. The struggle to grow to be the one-and-only answer is finally detrimental and poses a danger to the trade’s long-term outlook. Frequent infrastructure and shared interfaces are wanted as these will be correctly vetted and examined. Blockchain interoperability have to be core infrastructure first, product second.

The Answer

Underpinning safety, UX and compatibility challenges is the shortage of an open, unified interoperability customary. Such a regular is important as a result of it will present a universally accepted framework for communication between blockchains and blockchain-like techniques. This might guarantee safe interoperability and seamless world connectivity, in flip stopping fragmentation throughout completely different initiatives.

Think about a world with out ERC-20, the de facto customary for issuing fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. Each mission that points a token on Ethereum would comply with its customary and one mission’s token can be incompatible with one other’s. Functions like decentralized exchanges may nonetheless theoretically be constructed, however their development can be hamstrung by the necessity to comply with standard-agnostic design ideas.

Every token would signify an advert hoc integration and customers may solely use purposes that explicitly assist their token. And not using a customary defining a algorithm and features, the event of Ethereum’s ecosystem would have been vastly hampered.That is the present state of blockchain interoperability.  

Nevertheless, as a result of the ERC-20 customary has been vetted and adopted, all purposes can work together with, handle, and belief unknown fungible tokens. Even tokens deployed after the creation of a selected software can be utilized with none extra engineering work required, and tokens will be suitable with a number of purposes. That is the ability of an open, unified customary. That is what blockchain interoperability so desperately needs. 

The advantages of an open, unified customary for blockchain interoperability could also be much more profound. 

A typical plug-and-play structure that follows a vetted, standardized framework may span three layers – messaging, operate calls and purposes. This might allow safe and seamless communication between EVM and non-EVM blockchains alike. Prioritizing interchangeable elements may also speed up the event of true blockchain interoperability powered by a number of suppliers. 

Establishing such a regular has the extra advantage of helping enterprises and regulators in comprehending the technical intricacies to develop a good, knowledgeable regulatory framework. Developed alongside technical developments, a good stability between innovation and regulation may then be achieved.

Blockchain know-how has the potential to vary the world for the higher. Safe and seamless blockchain interoperability between blockchains and blockchain-like techniques are a prerequisite for mass adoption. With out an open, unified interoperability customary, true mass adoption will stay out of attain.

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