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Powering the decentralized web: Cosmos vs Substrate

Cosmos vs Substrate

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Innovative blockchain architectures address fundamental issues like scalability, usability, and interoperability. Many state-of-the-art frameworks that abstract common infrastructures like consensus and networking are also in development. This allows developers to focus on their core business logic and not reinvent the wheel. Substrate and Cosmos SDK are two blockchain development frameworks designed to allow developers to create custom blockchain solutions. The Cosmos SDK allows developers to create custom, scalable and secure blockchain applications easily, whereas Substrate is a framework that can be used to create custom blockchains using a variety of customizable building blocks. Both projects are designed to convert the application’s State Transition Function into reusable modules. However, their standard libraries contain additional features.

This article will present a comparison between Cosmos and Substrate. Let us first take a look at the basics of both frameworks.

What is Cosmos?

Cosmos is a decentralized network of independent, scalable, and interoperable blockchain systems. It is a layer 0 blockchain designed to enable the creation of secure, scalable, and customizable blockchain applications, with a focus on enabling interoperability between different blockchain systems. No official statistics are available on the Cosmos SDK, as it is an open-source project maintained by a community of developers and users. However, there are several ways to gauge the popularity and adoption of the Cosmos SDK:

  • GitHub activity: As of December 2021, the Cosmos SDK repository on Github has over 8,800 stars and over 1,000 forks, which are indicators of the project’s popularity and community engagement.
  • Network statistics: The Cosmos network is made up of several independent blockchains built using the Cosmos SDK. These blockchains can be viewed and tracked on the Cosmos Hub, which is the central hub of the Cosmos network. According to the Cosmos Hub, there are currently over 100 blockchains connected to the network, and the total value locked in these blockchains is over $5 billion.
  • Partnerships and integrations: The Cosmos SDK has been integrated into a number of projects and initiatives, including the Interledger Protocol (ILP), which is a decentralized protocol for transferring value across different networks, and the Trustlines Network, which is a decentralized network for peer-to-peer payments. Additionally, the Cosmos SDK has partnerships with a number of companies and organizations, including ChainGuardian, Tendermint, and the Ethereum Foundation.

Cosmos technology stack

The Cosmos technology stack is a collection of tools and technologies used to build and operate the Cosmos network, a decentralized network of independent, scalable, and interoperable blockchains. The Cosmos technology stack includes the following components:

  • Cosmos Software Development Kit (SDK): The Cosmos SDK is a modular framework that enables developers to build custom blockchains quickly and easily. It is designed to be scalable, flexible, and easy to use. It has several features that make it attractive to developers, including support for multiple programming languages, a powerful modular architecture, and a simple and intuitive application programming interface (API).
  • Tendermint Core: Tendermint Core is a high-performance blockchain engine that is used to power the Cosmos network. It is designed to be fast, secure, and scalable, and it uses a novel consensus algorithm called Proof-of-Stake (PoS) to ensure the integrity and security of the network.
  • Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC): IBC is a protocol that enables the Cosmos network to interoperate with other blockchain networks, allowing for the exchange of value and information between different networks. IBC is designed to be fast, secure, and scalable, and it uses a novel data structure called a “relay chain” to facilitate communication between different networks.
  • Cosmos Hub: The Cosmos Hub is the central hub of the Cosmos network and serves as the hub for all other blockchains connected to the network. It is designed to be scalable, secure, and decentralized, and it uses a novel governance model called “Proof-of-Stake Democracy” (PoSD) to ensure the integrity and security of the network.

Overall, the Cosmos technology stack is a powerful and flexible toolkit for building and operating decentralized networks of blockchains. It is designed to be scalable, secure, and easy to use, and it has a number of features that make it attractive to developers and users. In addition, to focus on its interoperability and scalability, the Cosmos framework also emphasizes the importance of security and decentralization. It uses a decentralized governance model in which users of the network can participate in the decision-making process and have a say in how the network is run.

The Cosmos network aims to create a decentralized and scalable ecosystem of interconnected blockchain systems that can support a wide range of applications and use cases. It is a promising project that has the potential to significantly improve the scalability, interoperability, and security of blockchain technology, and it is worth keeping an eye on as it continues to develop and grow.

How does Cosmos work?

The Cosmos network is built on a modular architecture that consists of a series of interconnected blockchain systems called “zones.” These zones are independent blockchain systems that are connected to the Cosmos network through the use of a hub called the Cosmos Hub. The Cosmos Hub serves as the central hub for the Cosmos network and is responsible for coordinating communication and interoperability between the different zones. It is secured by a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithm called Tendermint, which is designed to ensure the security and decentralization of the network.

In order to participate in the consensus process and help secure the network, users must stake their tokens (i.e., hold them in a special wallet) and then participate in the validation of transactions. This process is known as “validating,” and users who participate in it are called “validators.” Validators are responsible for proposing and voting on new blocks of transactions and are rewarded for their efforts with a portion of the transaction fees.

How does Cosmos work Cosmos Hubs and Zones

In addition to the Cosmos Hub, the Cosmos network also includes a number of other components, including the Cosmos SDK (a software development kit that allows developers to build custom blockchain applications on top of the Cosmos network), the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol (which enables interoperability between different blockchain systems), and the Cosmos governance model (which allows users to participate in the decision-making process for the network).

Overall, the Cosmos network is designed to be a decentralized and scalable ecosystem of interconnected blockchain systems that can support a wide range of applications and use cases. It is a complex and powerful platform that is constantly evolving and improving, and it has the potential to advance the capabilities of blockchain technology significantly.

What problems does Cosmos solve?

The Cosmos network was designed to address a number of challenges and limitations that have historically been associated with blockchain technology, including:

  • Scalability: One of the main limitations of many blockchain systems is their inability to process a large number of transactions per second. This has made it difficult for these systems to be used for applications that require high transaction throughputs, such as payment systems or decentralized exchanges. The Cosmos network is designed to be highly scalable, with the ability to process thousands of transactions per second.
  • Interoperability: Another limitation of many blockchain systems is their inability to communicate and exchange information with one another. This has made it difficult for different blockchain systems to work together and has limited the potential for innovation and collaboration within the blockchain ecosystem. The Cosmos network addresses this issue through the use of the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol, which enables different blockchain systems to communicate and exchange information with one another.
  • Decentralization: Some blockchain systems are highly centralized, with a small number of powerful actors controlling the network. This can compromise the security and integrity of the network and limit its potential for widespread adoption. The Cosmos network is designed to be decentralized, with a decentralized governance model that allows users to participate in the decision-making process and helps ensure the security and integrity of the network.

Overall, the Cosmos network aims to address these and other challenges by creating a decentralized and scalable ecosystem of interconnected blockchain systems that can support a wide range of applications and use cases. It is a promising project that has the potential to significantly improve the scalability, interoperability, and security of blockchain technology.

What is Substrate?

Substrate is an open-source framework for building blockchain systems. It was developed by the Web3 Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the development of decentralized technologies. Substrate is designed to be a modular and flexible platform that allows developers to build custom blockchain applications easily. It provides a set of core building blocks and a set of tools that make it easy for developers to build, test, and deploy their applications. The following statistics reveal the popularity of Substrate framework.

  • Github activity: As of December 2021, the Substrate repository on Github has over 12,000 stars and over 2,000 forks, which are indicators of the project’s popularity and community engagement.
  • Network statistics: The Substrate framework is used to build several different blockchain networks, including the Polkadot network, a decentralized network of independent blockchains that are interoperable with each other. According to the Polkadot network, there are currently over 100 blockchains connected to the network, and the total value locked in these blockchains is over $10 billion.
  • Partnerships and integrations: The Substrate framework has been integrated into a number of projects and initiatives, including the Interledger Protocol (ILP), which is a decentralized protocol for transferring value across different networks, and the Trustlines Network, which is a decentralized network for peer-to-peer payments. Additionally, the Substrate framework has partnerships with a number of companies and organizations, including ChainGuardian, Tendermint, and the Ethereum Foundation.

Use Cases of Substrate Framework

One of the key features of Substrate is its modular design, which allows developers to customize and extend the functionality of their blockchain applications easily. It includes a variety of pre-built modules that can be used to add common blockchain features, such as governance, staking, and token economics, and it also allows developers to build and integrate their own custom modules.

In addition to its modular design, Substrate also includes a number of other features that make it a powerful and flexible platform for building blockchain applications. These include:

  • A high-performance runtime environment: Substrate includes a high-performance runtime environment that is optimized for building scalable and efficient blockchain applications.
  • A rich set of development tools: Substrate includes a rich set of development tools that make it easy for developers to build, test, and deploy their applications.
  • A decentralized governance model: Substrate includes a decentralized governance model that allows users to participate in the decision-making process for the network and helps ensure the security and integrity of the network.

Overall, Substrate is a powerful and flexible platform for building custom blockchain applications, and it is widely used by developers building applications on the Cosmos network and other decentralized platforms.

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How does Substrate work?

Substrate is a framework for building custom blockchain applications. It is designed to be a modular and flexible platform that allows developers to build and deploy their applications swiftly and efficiently.

Substrate technology stack

The Substrate technology stack is a collection of tools and technologies that are used to build and operate decentralized systems, including blockchain networks. The Substrate technology stack includes the following components:

  • Substrate Framework: The Substrate framework is a modular framework that enables developers to build custom blockchain systems quickly and easily. It is designed to be scalable, flexible, and easy to use. It has several features that make it attractive to developers, including support for multiple programming languages, a powerful modular architecture, and a simple and intuitive application programming interface (API).
  • Polkadot Network: The Polkadot network is a decentralized network of independent blockchains that are interoperable with each other. It is built using the Substrate framework and designed to be fast, secure, and scalable. The Polkadot network uses a novel consensus algorithm called “Babe” to ensure the integrity and security of the network.
  • Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC): IBC is a protocol that enables the Polkadot network to interoperate with other blockchain networks, allowing for the exchange of value and information between different networks. IBC is designed to be fast, secure, and scalable, and it uses a novel data structure called a “relay chain” to facilitate communication between different networks.
  • PolkadotJS: PolkadotJS is a suite of tools and libraries that enable developers to build applications on the Polkadot network. It includes a range of features, including a user interface, a JavaScript library, and a command-line interface, to make it easy for developers to build and deploy applications on the network.

Overall, the Substrate technology stack is a powerful and flexible toolkit for building and operating decentralized systems, including blockchain networks. It is designed to be scalable, secure, and easy to use, and it has a number of features that make it attractive to developers and users.

Core concepts of Substrate blockchain development

There are several core concepts that are important to understand when developing blockchain applications using the Substrate framework. These include:

  1. Pallets: Pallets are modular components that provide core blockchain functionality, such as governance, staking, and token economics. They are the building blocks of a Substrate-based blockchain application, and developers can use them to quickly add common blockchain features to their applications or build and integrate their own custom pallets to add custom functionality.
  2. Runtime: The runtime is the core of the Substrate framework and is responsible for managing the execution of the blockchain application. It is written in the Rust programming language and is optimized for performance and efficiency.
  3. Chainspec: The chainspec is a configuration file that defines the properties of a Substrate-based blockchain, including its runtime environment, pallets, and other core parameters. It is used to configure the blockchain application and can be customized by developers to suit their specific needs.
  4. Events: Events are a way for pallets to communicate with each other and with external applications. They allow pallets to trigger actions or send notifications when certain conditions are met.
  5. Extrinsics: Extrinsics is the basic unit of work in a Substrate-based blockchain. They represent a single operation that can be performed on the blockchain, such as a transaction or a call to a smart contract.
  6. Transactions: Transactions are a type of extrinsic that represents a transfer of value or an update to the state of the blockchain. They are signed by the sender and validated by the network before being included in a block.

Overall, these are some of the core concepts that are important to understand when developing blockchain applications using the Substrate framework. By mastering these concepts, developers can build powerful and scalable blockchain applications using the Substrate framework.

Cosmos vs Substrate: The differences

The below table shows the potential difference between Cosmos SDK vs. Substrate

Feature Cosmos Substrate
Description Cosmos is a decentralized network of independent, scalable, and interoperable blockchain systems. Substrate is an open-source framework for building custom blockchain applications.
Consensus algorithm Tendermint (proof-of-stake) “Aura” based on the “grandpa” finality gadget from the Ethereum network.
Interoperability Cosmos enables interoperability between different blockchain systems through the use of the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol. Substrate does not natively support interoperability, but developers can build custom modules to enable it.
Scalability Cosmos is designed to be highly scalable, with the ability to process thousands of transactions per second. Substrate is designed to be scalable, but the specific scalability characteristics depend on how developers implement it. It is less scalable than Cosmos.
Development tools Cosmos provides a software development kit (SDK) and other tools for building custom blockchain applications. Substrate provides a rich set of development tools, including a developer portal, a command-line interface, and a set of libraries and APIs.
Smart contract The Cosmos SDK supports the use of smart contracts through its support for the Cosmos-based Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Substrate does not have built-in support for smart contracts. However, developers can use the Substrate runtime module library to build custom runtimes that support smart contracts.
Interoperability Cosmos SDK is designed to support multiple independent blockchain networks that can communicate and interact with each other, Instead of supporting multiple independent networks, the platform is focused on enabling the creation of custom, modular blockchain networks that can be easily integrated and connected to each other.
Blockchain creation The Cosmos SDK uses a modular approach, where developers can choose from a range of pre-built modules to create their blockchain network. Substrate uses a more flexible, low-level approach that allows developers to build their blockchain network from the ground up
Performance The Cosmos SDK uses a modular architecture that allows developers to easily add or remove features from their blockchain network, which can improve its performance and scalability. Cosmos is generally considered to be more scalable than Substrate, as it is designed to handle a higher TPS throughput.
Security Cosmos uses a variant of the Tendermint consensus algorithm, which is based on the proof-of-stake (PoS) model. This means that validators on the Cosmos network are selected based on the amount of stake they hold, and they are responsible for verifying and validating transactions. Substrate, on the other hand, uses the Aura consensus algorithm, which is also based on the PoS model. However, it is a more flexible and customizable consensus algorithm than Tendermint, allowing for creating custom PoS mechanisms.
Flexibility and customization Cosmos allows developers to create their own custom “zones” on the network and provides various tools and libraries to help them do so. Substrate, on the other hand, offers even more flexibility to developers. It provides a wide range of modular components that can be used to build a variety of different types of blockchains, and it allows developers to customize and tailor their projects to their specific needs.

Endnote

A thorough analysis of Cosmos vs. Substrate reveals that both are powerful and flexible platforms for building blockchain applications, but they have some key differences. Cosmos is focused on enabling interoperability between different blockchain systems, while Substrate is focused on providing a flexible and modular platform for building custom blockchain applications. Both platforms offer a variety of tools and features for developers, and they can be used to build a wide range of applications and use cases. Substrate and Cosmos are popular frameworks for developing blockchain applications. They provide developers with a high level of customization and flexibility and have active and supportive communities. Each framework has its strengths and weaknesses. The best project choice will depend on each developer’s requirements and goals.

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Author’s Bio

 

Akash Takyar

Akash Takyar
CEO LeewayHertz
Akash Takyar is the founder and CEO at LeewayHertz. The experience of building over 100+ platforms for startups and enterprises allows Akash to rapidly architect and design solutions that are scalable and beautiful.
Akash's ability to build enterprise-grade technology solutions has attracted over 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens, 3M, P&G and Hershey’s.
Akash is an early adopter of new technology, a passionate technology enthusiast, and an investor in AI and IoT startups.

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