ZetaChain to go live on mainnet within days, aiming to unite Bitcoin, Ethereum and other chains

Quick Take

  • ZetaChain is set to go live within days, enabling decentralized applications that can natively use cryptocurrencies from a wide array of blockchains.
  • The ambitious project is not without risk and plans to grow slowly over time.

The ZetaChain mainnet is set to go live in a few days' time, marking the beginning of one of crypto’s latest cross-chain experiments.

The big picture is that ZetaChain will integrate with many blockchains of different types, from Bitcoin and Ethereum to chains in the Cosmos ecosystem. It will offer the ability to build applications that natively use cryptocurrency held on each of these chains, essentially bringing them all together.

But there is a lot of risk involved. A similar project called Thorchain relies on the same core technology and is limited to just making swaps between these chains. Yet its network was hacked multiple times in weeks in 2021, raising concerns as to whether this type of approach is far too ambitious.

“If you're building a cross-chain, multi-chain app, there's more complexity than just building a single chain system because different chains have different finality, different security models. I think there are a lot more factors to consider,” said ZetaChain Core Contributor Ankur Nandwani.

Growing ZetaChain slowly

Nandwani emphasized that in response to these concerns, the project is planning to expand slowly. He said the project will cap the amount of value that can be locked in its smart contracts, a figure known as the TVL, and increase this in stages over time. “We'll run the blockchain in the real world and see what happens, how things work, and then slowly, gradually increase the TVL,” he said

Nandwani is no stranger to crypto, though. He was formerly a product manager at Coinbase and when he was an advisor to Brave, he co-created the Brave Attention Token project, all during a decade-long crypto career, he said.

In July 2021, Nandwani started the ZetaChain project. Over the last 18-20 months, the project has been operating a testnet to get prepared for mainnet, Nandwani said. During this time, one of the main challenges was to work out how to deal with chains that have different finality times — the time it takes for a transaction to be seen as fully confirmed. 

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Nandwani explained that ZetaChain addresses this similarly to crypto exchanges by having different confirmation times for deposits to the network. Blockchains like Ethereum would require more blocks to be confirmed before a transaction is seen as valid than, say, Bitcoin. 

Bringing bitcoin to other blockchains

For ZetaChain to work, its validators have to run either light clients or full clients for the blockchains that the network supports so they can confirm transactions from all of the chains. While this is a challenging setup, if the network is able to combine the different ecosystems, it paves the way for more interesting use cases, such as stablecoins backed by bitcoin.

“I think success would look like more use cases for Bitcoin, even in using Bitcoin for more than a store of value,” said Nandwani. “And I think developers are not locked on one chain. They can build on any chain they want and still access any chain they want, without having to deploy ten smart contracts on ten different chains.”

Nandwani suggested that other use cases could be decentralized exchanges like GMX using bitcoin as collateral or projects like Curve creating pools that combine bitcoin with other assets — a platform that it’s already started working with.

Ahead of the launch, ZetaChain announced plans to integrate with OKX wallet to let bitcoin be used in decentralized applications. It is also working with decentralized exchange Sushi to bring bitcoin to its platform.

In August 2023, ZetaChain raised $27 million in a funding round from Blockchain.com, Human Capital, VY Capital, Sky9 Capital, Jane Street Capital, and others.


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Tim is the Editor-In-Chief of The Block. Prior to joining The Block, Tim was a news editor at Decrypt. He has earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of York and studied news journalism at Press Association Training. Follow him on X @Timccopeland.

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