Introducing the Gravity Bridge for Cosmos

An open and interoperable bridge between Ethereum and Cosmos has long been a shared vision of a fully connected Interchain, bringing together many teams to work towards the common goal of unlocking the liquidity and potential between the two ecosystems. The future of Interchain Security together with IBC, enables us to see the Cosmos ecosystem as it’s meant to be — “an ever-expanding ecosystem of interconnected apps and services, built for a decentralized future”. No one is gated away — liquidity, commerce, and staked security are all tradable assets.

In this interoperable ecosystem, Gravity Bridge’s place is a foundational piece of infrastructure, available to all Cosmos chains openly, purpose-built to update and iterate quickly, and facilitate the bridge needs of the chains that interact with it. Open markets and frictionless trading unlock liquidity for all. This is the future that uplifts all in the Cosmos network and supports the ATOM value and ecosystem for the Internet of Blockchains.

It’s no surprise that instead of silos and walled gardens, both Althea and the ICF would support an interoperable and open future. But, it hasn’t always been clear how we should get there. To understand this better, let’s look back to the history of Gravity Bridge:

The Cosmos whitepaper originally referenced “two-way pegs” as a term to describe sidechains that bridge networks like Bitcoin and the Cosmos Hub. These bridges would be hampered by trust assumptions around proof of work that would ultimately require bespoke solutions. These bespoke solutions were meant to be put in place when IBC, a more robust solution, would not be viable. In 2017, before he became a core IBC engineer, Joon Yun, submitted an entry to the Cosmos Hackatom 2 called “ETGate” that was a bridge solution between the Cosmos Hub and Ethereum. From there, in 2019, Swish Labs submitted an ICF grant proposal to take the work further dubbing the new project “Peggy”. This team would later go on to become SifChain where they continue to develop bridge protocols.

In 2020, a distributed bandwidth platform called Althea started looking into how they could build a bridge between Ethereum and Cosmos chains. They needed stablecoins for their distributed bandwidth network, and they needed them on a sovereign chain to ensure telecom level reliability. Recognizing the importance of bridge technology and the compliments of their background in secure infrastructure with efficient Ethereum components, Althea began discussing taking on the work of Peggy with the Interchain Foundation. Based on the fact that Althea was a Cosmos SDK chain that wanted to use the chain in their own infrastructure that was complementary to a bridge on the Cosmos Hub itself, they received the service agreement to take Peggy to production.

Althea’s bridge design began with a fresh start and as such was deemed to merit its own name and so called the work Gravity bridge — an Ethereum to Cosmos bridge that focused on simplicity and decentralization. This design had clear value beyond just Althea’s bandwidth network and soon garnered interest from other teams looking for access to Ethereum.

In 2020, Althea and the Iqlusion team partnered to form Peggy JV, and together brought more funding and development resources to the project. PeggyJV has now evolved to use the bridge software on the Sommelier blockchain, a Cosmos DeFi project.

The code for the bridge is open-sourced and shared work between many different teams who have a common vision of an interconnected ecosystem with access to stable coins and liquidity of the Ethereum ecosystem.

Firstly, Althea who brought the bridge into existence with 70,000+ lines of code, rigorous testing and supporting the bridge across the projects working on it. Next, the Sommelier team, with code improvements, feedback, ergonomic improvements, and testing. The Injective team has also been working on the bridge for their blockchain and has contributed code improvements and bug fixes to the ecosystem. Since then many other chains have forked the Gravity Bridge codebase to add bridging technology to their own blockchains.

Althea has been testing the software in 100 validator testnet for many months, with an awesome Cosmos community of validators. Althea also conducted a $100k crowd sourced audit, an audit by Informal, and a third audit by Least Authority is nearing completion.

In the early summer of 2021, Althea asked the Cosmos community with a signaling proposal if Gravity bridge should be implemented as a module on the Cosmos Hub. This vote indicated the community was in favor. The proposal contained no monetary value or pay out and left open the exact manner and timing of implementation and deployment. After discussions with Hub maintainers, the module readiness committee, and other Cosmos blockchains, it became clear that the Hub takes a safe and conservative pathway, and not the quick and iterative model better for the bridging needs in the Cosmos ecosystem. This would delay deployment and preclude many in the Cosmos ecosystem from participating.

With interchain security development moving rapidly forward, an alternative plan was hatched that would see an independent Gravity Bridge blockchain which uses Interchain Security to rent security from the Hub while still having an independent development cycle — the best of all worlds. Interchain security will allow ATOM holders to earn staking rewards on many different cosmos chains, including the Gravity Bridge Chain.

The Gravity Bridge Chain will also have it’s own token, Graviton, (GRAV), and a decentralized validator set, which can be used to boost adoption through strategic incentives. The ATOM token wasn’t built for that kind of use and having an extra token support adoption would go a long way in ensuring the success of a primary Cosmos Network bridge to Ethereum. For these reasons, the Althea team now believes that the most effective use of the Gravity Bridge technology, that most benefits ATOM holders and the Cosmos Ecosystem, is as an independent chain instead of as a module on the Cosmos Hub directly.

The team has been working closely with the Interchain Foundation to confirm these product features and have found great feedback on how to make sure that a Gravity Bridge Chain will be good for ATOM holders and the Cosmos Ecosystem at large.

A purpose built chain, meeting the needs of the community, and bringing value to ATOM is a win for the ecosystem, allowing the more agile development to meet the needs of Cosmos chains seeking to interoperate with Ethereum. Moreover, upgrading the Gravity Bridge Chain to use interchain security allows us to future-proof this key infrastructure for years to come.

The Althea team is working closely with the Interchain Foundation to support Gravity Bridge renting security from the Cosmos Hub, allowing us to improve the security of the Gravity Bridge with the value of the Cosmos Hub’s staked tokens.

What is Interchain Security?

From Interchain Security is Coming to the Cosmos Hub:

While existing shared security architectures have opted for top-down designs, Cosmos continues to build from the bottom-up. It’s not that we don’t admire a grand cathedral, we just can’t imagine living anywhere but the Bazaar. Cosmos subscribes to the notion that sovereignty and interoperability are the two key ingredients for building an open ecosystem of blockchains that can scale for mass adoption. While the Cosmos Hub is not required for an Internet of Blockchains, the purpose of the Cosmos Hub is to make using the Internet of Blockchains better in every way. Not only that, the Hub will compete to provide the best service.

For a detailed description of how the Cosmos Hub is doing this, take a look at “The Cosmos Hub is a Port City”. By allowing anyone to participate in the Internet of Blockchains, Cosmos is like the Bazaar model. There may be fewer guarantees about orderliness or consistency but this design allows for faster and more diverse ideation and development to take place.

It’s this difference in design and ideology that has caused an explosion of Cosmos-based blockchains with a diverse set of features and stakeholders.

Cosmos® Gravity Bridge™ will launch with a decentralized validator set and roughly half of the tokens allocated to community DAO discretion for airdrops, future ecosystem support, and liquidity mining. The Gravity bridge is a permissionless bridge, supporting any Cosmos blockchain and frontend that wishes to access and bridge assets. It will be supported by an active and healthy community of token holders and validators who will make guiding decisions like implementation of interchain staking, LM and airdrops.

Cosmos isn’t about walled gardens and empire building — what makes Cosmos stronger is an open marketplace and interoperability of sovereign chains. It’s in the core of our ethos and the clear differentiator between other proprietary layer one blockchains.

Currently, DeFi in Cosmos is ready for an exponential growth period, and Cosmos blockchains are excited to access the liquidity the bridge provides. The Cosmos® Gravity Bridge™ gives the Cosmos ecosystem the power it needs to fulfill Cosmos’ true destiny — the leader in the DeFi ecosystem and the community working together to make the Internet of Blockchains a reality.

*COSMOS is the registered trademark of the Interchain Foundation, and is being used by permission. GRAVITY BRIDGE is the trademark of Gravity Bridge.