Hot on the heels of our recent article detailing exactly what application-specific blockchains are, Ankr is proud to announce our new “App Chains” product offering. Ankr’s App Chains are designed to help Web3 projects and dApps operate on a dedicated blockchain tailored to fit their exact needs and specifications — all without having to compete for resources on popular L1s, L2s, or having to create a new Layer 1 from scratch.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly how Ankr’s App Chains work, and how they benefit Web3 developers immensely. Let’s dive in!
In the current Web3 landscape, most dApps are based on Ethereum mainly thanks to its first-mover status (it was the first blockchain protocol to support smart contract development). As almost anybody involved in Web3 knows, Ethereum has become quite a congested and expensive network, driven by its popularity.
Aside from Ethereum, several other Layer-1 smart contract protocols have arisen (e.g., Solana, Avalanche, Fantom, etc.) along with innovative sidechain scaling solutions (e.g., Polygon) in an attempt to facilitate and accelerate Web3 development and adoption. All of these platforms have one thing in common: they attempt to make it cheaper, quicker, and easier to build on Web3.
But even with these new protocols and scaling mechanisms, many dApps still experience high gas fees, congested networks, complex transactions, and a number of other tech-related problems that stand to impede mass adoption. This is because dApps that are built directly on a Layer-1 blockchain using smart contracts are all using the same virtual machine and its limited resources to operate.
Simply put, all the dApps on Ethereum (or on Avalanche, the BNB Chain, Polygon, etc.) are competing against one another for a shared, finite pool of resources. It’s essentially the Web3 version of the “noisy neighbor” problem from traditional cloud computing.
Web3 developers really only have four options when it comes to launching their dApps:
- Build a Layer-1 blockchain from scratch to host their dApp
- Build their dApp on top of a Layer-1 blockchain (like Ethereum) using smart contracts
- Build their dApp on a Layer-2 scaling solution (like Polygon)
- Launch their dApp on an App Chain
Option 1 is, frankly, unfeasible for most projects. Layer-1 blockchains are incredibly difficult and expensive to create, secure, and foster network participation on. This requires developers to take on the colossal task of building a new blockchain from scratch, and bootstrapping all the infrastructure for validator nodes, RPC nodes, block explorers, testnets, faucets, staking mechanisms, and more.
Option 2 is the most popular, but it can be quite slow, expensive, and hard to scale. This is the problem we see happening in real-time with the Ethereum network. Because option 2 is no longer as viable as it once was, developers are looking for alternatives.
Option 3 is becoming increasingly popular. Layer 2s are generally more scalable, quick, and affordable than a base Layer 1, but they can still get bogged down by an ever-expanding number of applications the same way Layer 1s can. In other words, Layer 2s start from a better place (scalability-wise), but they’re susceptible to the same problems in the long-term. Layer 2 scaling solutions also come with the added hazard of relying on complex and potentially vulnerable asset bridges.
The rest of this article is dedicated to exploring option 4, and why it holds so much promise for the future of Web3 development.
App Chains Are Scalable
An App Chain is a dedicated blockchain that houses only one specific dApp. It’s like the blockchain equivalent of a single-tenant bare-metal server, without “noisy neighbors.” With only one dApp per chain, projects can eliminate the need to compete for network resources. Under this model, there’s only one dApp processing transactions and using computational power.
So instead of launching an application on an existing L1 to compete with thousands of other apps for traffic, or building a new L1 from scratch, developers can simply launch their own custom, dedicated App Chain on networks like the BNB Chain, Polygon, or Avalanche. These App Chains act like sidechains that are attached to a mainchain, or parent-chain. They can have their own consensus mechanisms, process only their own transactions, and have maximum flexibility when choosing the right degree of speed versus security for each particular use case.
App Chains Are Flexible
By developing on an App Chain, developers are afforded much more flexibility than building with smart contracts. Without getting too into the details, smart contract development relies on particular programming languages and the constraints of specific virtual machines like the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).
But with an App Chain, developers can choose which programming languages, consensus mechanisms, and development frameworks they want to use. This reduces the technical barriers to joining Web3 by enabling developers to choose development tools and programming languages they’re already familiar with instead of newer Web3-native programming languages that are necessary for smart contract development.
And if a ready-made solution isn’t suitable, they can customize and tweak the components as they see fit. If more security is needed, it can be added. If they want to use custom cryptography, they can. If the App Chain creator wants to create additional revenue streams by taking a global gas fee from all transactions on the network, that’s possible too.
With App Chains, developers have maximum flexibility and sovereignty. That sounds like an ideal solution, right? Why doesn’t everybody do it? Because, until now, there have been some big hurdles to launching an App Chain — mainly technical difficulty and lack of expertise — but that’s where Ankr’s App Chains come in.
Typically creating a blockchain — sidechain, mainchain, or otherwise — entails bootstrapping all the infrastructure for validator nodes, RPC nodes, block explorers, testnets, faucets, staking mechanisms, and more. In general, the requirements to creating a blockchain are:
- Acquire enough validator nodes (block creators) to secure and decentralize the network
- Have enough RPC nodes for developers to read/write data to/from the chain
- Create a block explorer (like Etherscan) to track on-chain data and transactions
- Implement a faucet for testnet tokens and other developer tools to help those building on the chain
- Gain sufficient network participation
- Achieve “exchange-readiness” so the chain’s native asset is viable for exchange listing
But with Ankr’s App Chains, any Web3 developer can create a new App Chain easily, complete with all of the above infrastructure needs taken care of. Depending on the protocol of choice (currently, these are the BNB Chain, Polygon, and Avalanche), these requirements and technical specifications will vary. Ankr is here to alleviate any potential concerns for developers to satisfy those requirements.
Ankr’s App Chains provide projects with:
- Validator binary + config file (.toml)
- Load-balanced RPC endpoint
- White-labeled block explorer
- Faucet for testnet tokens
- Direct staking support through a UI
- Ankr’s “Exchange Readiness” program
In this section, we’ll go through each of these items one-by-one.
Thanks to Ankr Protocol V1’s Node Deployment service, Ankr was able to create a downloadable binary hosting for App Chain validators. This makes it easy for anyone to get validator nodes up and running on an App Chain. The validator binary and config files (.toml) that we provide contain all of the necessary information to launch validators in accordance with your chosen parent-chain. Or, if you prefer, you can opt for full validator setup and support for 7 hosted validator nodes for one year through Ankr.
Ankr provides the decentralized infrastructure for load-balanced RPC endpoints and empowers App Chain developers to have as many full nodes as they would like in the countries they want, depending on where the majority of their traffic is coming from. Choose the RPC service that best suits your use case, and receive 3–6 RPC nodes fully set up and hosted with varying degrees of on-hand engineering support.
Transparently display transaction and address data for your users without building anything on your own by integrating your chain with Ankr’s white-label block explorer. Choose between using Ankr’s block explorer codebase, integrating with Ankr’s multi-chain block explorer (Ankr Scan), or having a custom block explorer built from scratch just for you.
Faucet tools are what allow users to obtain public addresses and receive testing tokens to interact with. Developers can utilize Ankr’s existing codebase to create customizable testnet faucet solutions to provide their application or game with the resources and infrastructure needed for testing before going live on the mainnet.
In order for developers to grow their dApps, they need a high staking TVL. As an App Chain, projects have access to Ankr liquid staking, an integration that will empower your App Chain token holders to stake their assets for a considerable APY while maintaining liquidity of their tokens. Ankr Staking provides dApp creators with a dedicated pathway for token holders to stake to validators with an easy-to-use interface. Choose between regular delegated token staking, or Ankr’s liquid staking integration which enables users to mint liquid staking tokens in return for securing your App Chain.
Ankr’s App Chain exchange-readiness program helps you get your token ready for listing on major exchanges. Ankr’s standing relationship with popular CEXs for the various projects we have partnered with is invaluable in proving reliability. Ankr will provide expertise to App Chains in order to help them complete the technical due diligence process with exchanges.
Ankr’s App Chains represent a new way for Web3 developers to take their projects to market faster than ever before with fast, dedicated blockchain infrastructure. By launching on a dedicated App Chain, projects can customize their chains to suit their needs — including consensus mechanisms and other features — and expect to deliver always-low gas fees to their users. This service also supports projects in boosting their exchange-readiness and fast-tracking new dApps to success.
Whether you’re a Web3 startup with a brand-new dApp, or an already existing project built on a Layer-1 blockchain (with or without App Chain capabilities), Ankr’s App Chains can help you take the next step in creating a tailor-made custom blockchain designed to scale your project for mass Web3 adoption.
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