Web Chain Abstraction: The Next Evolution for the Open Web
In a year marked by a slow market, the open web experienced significant growth. The crypto industry witnessed major strides in Zero-knowledge (ZK) technology, the layer and rollup-driven stack gaining traction, and the launch of new primitives that attracted ample attention. These trends have set the stage for an important evolution in the web – chain abstraction.
Chain abstraction refers to a paradigm shift where blockchains and other underlying infrastructure become increasingly invisible to both users and developers. Illia Polosukhin, CEO of the NEAR Foundation, believes that this shift will have profound implications for the crypto industry. Developers prioritize distribution, user access, liquidity, speed to launch, as well as the security and reliability of the infrastructure they use. However, end-users, particularly those utilizing applications with mainstream potential, are primarily concerned with value and seamless experiences.
Polosukhin argues that users simply want applications to work effortlessly, without much thought given to the underlying infrastructure. This sentiment can be observed in our use of everyday websites; we rarely consider or care about whether a webpage runs on Google, Amazon, or any other platform – as long as it works.
One of the key technological advancements driving chain abstraction is Zero-knowledge proofs (ZK). ZK introduces a novel approach to ledger security by allowing a single computer to prove that rules were followed, eliminating the need to trust a decentralized set of validators. With this breakthrough in ZK cryptography, developers no longer have to choose between building on an existing shared chain or launching a new one at great expense. Instead, they can spin up a single server, greatly reducing the barriers to entry.
This shift also enables the settlement of transactions and value across different chains with some technical caveats, regardless of the security of these chains. The unification of security across networks has significant implications for app builders, as it changes their decision-making process when choosing where to build. The ability to prove actions taken with a ZK proof diminishes the importance of the underlying infrastructure. Additionally, unifying security allows developers to tap into liquidity from any network at any layer, increasing flexibility for both users and developers.
To further improve user experience, account aggregation plays a crucial role. Account aggregation eliminates the need for users to manage separate accounts for each application or community, which are becoming silos in the decentralized space. NEAR, for example, is working on multichain non-custodial accounts that enable cross-chain transactions. Developers must keep the concept of account abstraction in mind to provide a unified experience across web applications.
A significant aspect of the open web’s transformation into a unified cross-chain ecosystem is the emergence of decentralized frontends. These frontends offer developers a programmable environment for building applications that span across blockchains while shielding users from the complexities of the underlying technology. This new paradigm has the potential to unlock smoother user experiences, surpassing what is currently available on the web.
The NEAR Foundation is not alone in envisioning a unified cross-chain ecosystem. Collaborations with Eigen Labs on a fast finality layer for Ethereum rollups and with Polygon on a zkWASM prover highlight the industry’s collective belief in this future. The entry points to the web are critical for driving adoption of the open web. Chain abstraction calls for the end of maximalism, acknowledging that technology matters, but prioritizing users’ seamless experiences across different applications.
In conclusion, the crypto industry is on the brink of a major evolution with chain abstraction. The invisible infrastructure allows developers to focus on delivering value and excellent user experiences without being burdened by the underlying complexities. Unifying security across networks and enabling liquidity from any network at any layer provides flexibility for both users and developers. Account aggregation and decentralized frontends further streamline the user experience, leading to a unified cross-chain ecosystem. As the open web continues to evolve, the emphasis shifts towards the user, marking the end of maximalism and the beginning of a new era.