Why we are building Nomad, and the future we envision
The Nomad core team's mission is simple:
To enable value and information to flow securely between blockchains.
In service of this mission, we are building Nomad. Our goal is to ensure that all smart contract chains can interoperate using simple, gas-efficient, and trust-minimized standards.
We believe that crypto / web3 ushers in a new paradigm for computing, showing the way for a new internet model that minimizes capture and enables users to transact more freely.
Yet, this paradigm shift is in its infancy, and one of the major limitations right now stems from chains being siloed. This limits composability and standardization, preventing the next wave of applications from being deployed and reaching a world-scale audience.
The good news is that we've seen this play out before.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switched network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies became the technical foundation of the Internet.
As you can see on the map above, the various access points each corresponded to local university or research institute, which through ARPANET, became connected to each other via a common standard.
Until ARPANET, each access point or intranet was effectively siloed and required a separate interface to access. Bob Taylor, a director at APRA recollects the headaches involved:
Taylor recalls the circumstance: "For each of these three terminals, I had three different sets of user commands. So, if I was talking online with someone at S.D.C., and I wanted to talk to someone I knew at Berkeley, or M.I.T., about this, I had to get up from the S.D.C. terminal, go over and log into the other terminal and get in touch with them. I said, "Oh Man!", it's obvious what to do: If you have these three terminals, there ought to be one terminal that goes anywhere you want to go. That idea is the ARPANET".
To current crypto users, the experience described above is eerily reminiscent. This is because we are fundamentally in a similar era regarding the maturity of web3 infrastructure.
To interact with an application on a new blockchain today, many users must determine which chain the app is deployed on, withdraw funds from existing on-chain positions on a different chain, bridge their funds over to the new chain, change their wallet RPC connection, and then interact with the application. This is obviously far from an ideal user experience.
In the best case scenario, the user has to context-switch multiple times, use several disparate interfaces, and pay gas fees multiple times. In the worst case scenario, users are at risk of losing all their funds, as evidenced by multiple nine-figure bridge hacks, totaling to over $1.5 billion USD exploited.
As a result of this complexity, many have opined that cross-chain interoperability is fundamentally unsafe, and that "wrapped assets" generated by bridges can never be secure. This is a fatalistic argument that insists we stay in the walled-off intranet era, and ignores first principles knowledge on how to build secure bridges.
While many of today's cross-chain experiences may in fact be unsafe, these issues stem from the ad-hoc and patchwork nature of current interoperability solutions, which prevents users and developers from having transparent understanding of risk. In order for the cross-chain future to be robust and secure, we need trust-minimized solutions.
- Users Over Systems
- Simple Over Complex
- Safety Over Formalism
We envision a future where users can interact with censorship-resistant applications without knowing what chains they are interfacing with.
Developers will be able to design and write applications once, and deploy on many chains simultaneously, leveraging a simple interface that abstracts away the underlying infrastructure.
Underlying this will be a composite topology of chains, connected by a standardized cross-chain communication protocol that is safe for everyone to use.