Tendermint isn’t a name most cryptocurrency users know, but it’s a company that was partly behind the creation of the Binance Chain, the native blockchain of Binance’s BNB token.
The Cosmos Network, often referred to as the “internet of blockchains,” was initially built by the Tendermint team. Cosmos is a “decentralized network of independent parallel blockchains, each powered by BFT consensus algorithms like Tendermint consensus.”
CryptoGlobe recently caught up with Tendermint’s director, Zaki Manian, who revealed he started getting interested in cryptography back in 2012, and that he started learning about cryptocurrencies after founding a civil liberties organization.
Manian noted that in 2018 he joined Cosmos as an employee, and was behind its launch earlier this year. When asked to explain in simple terms what the core idea of Cosmos is, he explained that there is a “wave of 2.0 blockchains largely inspired by ideas” that surround fast consensus algorithms, proof-of-stake that are emerging. However, his team observed people have different preference and "political" allegiances when it comes to cryptoassets and blockchains, and they don't believe there will be a “one size fits all” solution:
We do not believe there will ever be one final system that like encompasses everyone. Because, not for technical reasons, I believe you can build very scalable blockchains. But for political reasons, that you will never be able to get everyone to agree with each other.
Manian added that Cosmos’ mission is, as such, to “build the minimum viable product of the next generation blockchain,” which will allow new blockchains that will come into existence to “interoperate economically without interoperating politically,” making them part of a larger economy.
When asked about the potential motivation behind its proof-of-stake consensus algorithm, he noted that while Tendermint’s founder, Jae Kwon, believes proof-of-work is a “waste of energy” and “incredibly damaging to the environment,” he is motivated because it’s more “technically complex.”
He added proof-of-stake opens up possibilities surrounding the types of blockchain and protocols that can be designed:
I'm excited about using this notion of staking and slashing and collateralization to build this sort of expansive universe of useful blockchain protocols. That would be really hard to do under proof-of-work. Proof-of-work definitely favors the simplicity of something like Bitcoin.
Shutting Down a Blockchain
CryptoGlobe then asked Manian on whether it wouldn’t be easier for bad actors, which potentially may one day be government-sponsored, to shut down a proof-of-stake blockchain than a proof-of-work blockchain.
Tendermint’s director replied that he believes it wouldn’t “be any easier for them to shut down Cosmos or a proof-of-work blockchain. I think roughly the same techniques apply.” He noted, however, that if governments were to attack the cryptocurrency space, they’d have a better solution.
Per Manian, it could actually be easier for a government to “just ban large scale Bitcoin mining.” While he conceded shutting down small scale Bitcoin mining operations would be “very difficult,” banning larger operations wouldn’t, and could significantly affect the flagship cryptocurrency’s security.
After shutting down every large BTC mining operation, all governments would have to do is do a 51% attack against it.
Bitcoin Will Use Cosmos
When asked on what he would reply to a Bitcoin maximalist who doesn’t see value in altcoins as BTC may in the future absorb everything, Manian revealed he believes “Cosmos is the technology Bitcoin will use to absorb everything.”
He noted that with Cosmos, Tendermint’s team didn’t create money, as the ATOM token isn’t intended to be money. Instead, ATOMs are intended to be a “form of collateral” users can use to “collateralized the security of many computational assets.”
So we’ve created an opportunity for money to come into the system, because obviously people who are using our blockchains will need mediums of exchange, and I think many people in the project hope that medium of exchange will be big.
He also noted bitcoin is “radically far ahead” when it comes to being widely distributed, sound money, but revealed he believes it doesn’t have an insurmountable lead.
If a cryptocurrency were to challenge BTC’s lead, he added, it wouldn’t come from an initial coin offering (ICO) that raised a few millions, but out of nowhere, when nobody could be expecting it.