July 3, 2023
What is Shared Security, and How Does SKALE Use It?
There is a new wave of buzz about shared security right now, as it is rightly being recognized as one of the most powerful innovations for powering the blockchain ecosystem toward its natural next step: mass adoption.
That surging interest — including a market cap of more than $150 billion for proof-of-stake models that use shared security — is especially exciting for us at SKALE, given our early belief in shared validation as a key way to scale blockchain networks without sacrificing security or decentralization.
When we posted about our shared security model in 2019, we wrote that decentralized network design was “still in its infancy.” Four years later, the space has evolved to only provide further validation of the validator model, emerging as a proven innovation to address the challenges of high transaction costs and slow speeds on L1 blockchains like Ethereum.
In this article, we'll explore what shared security is, why it's so exciting, what’s next in the space, and how developers and the entire blockchain ecosystem can benefit.
What is Shared Security?
Shared security is a decentralized approach to securing blockchain networks by leveraging the resources of decentralized validators to provide large-scale validation of network transactions. This process for providing security allows chains to then optimize for greater speed, throughput, and other crucial functions that make chains, well, actually usable.
This is significantly different from inter-chain protocols, which use bridges and other forms of protocol architecture that require that each chain remain sovereign with its own validator set and economic security. In those security models, security can be tied to the scale of altcoins, which means that lower market cap coins will have less security (and thus, be potentially subject to attack).
In essence, shared security allows SKALE to benefit from the security of a larger L1 chain like Ethereum (and its wide set of validators) without sacrificing on performance. That enhanced functionality is critical if we want to fulfill the true promise of the blockchain: to not just onboard a few million users into web3, but to encourage real mass adoption across the vast majority of internet users.
Security on blockchains relies on the performance and behavior of its validator nodes, and so a large part of chain security is tied to the quality and quantity of its validators.
A small set of nodes is inherently risky and fragile, while a larger set of nodes makes a network more secure and robust. Additionally, a successful shared security model must include a random selection of chain validator sets and nodes being frequently rotated in and out of chains, which reduces the threat of rogue nodes colluding to extort the network.
While there are many ways to incorporate shared security, SKALE does so by building its nodes off smart contracts on the Ethereum mainnet, which allows it to access the large validator set already present on Ethereum. As such, SKALE is able to operate as a modular blockchain network, one where developers can spin out an unlimited number of fast, on-demand, shared-security chains with zero gas fees to end users.
Why is Shared Security so Exciting?
Shared security is garnering so much attention because it offers a viable solution to the issues of high gas fees and slower transaction speeds on L1 blockchains.
In the long term, blockchain technologies that want to take on massive computing industries, such as cloud storage, will need to be able to manage as much as billions of transactions per second, an output far greater than what a non-shared model can efficiently handle.
In the short term, a number of Blockchain applications, such as video games, virtual worlds in the metaverse, or global payment processors, already require the ability to handle millions of transactions quickly and affordably.
Shared security makes it possible for these heavy usage on-chain applications to run smoothly and cost-effectively, providing a more seamless and immersive experience (what we call “invisible” blockchain experiences).
That’s why a number of blockchain gaming companies are already being built on SKALE, including the Play-to-Earn card game Legends of Elysium, the GameFi building app Roco Finance, and the on-chain mobile game CryptoCrusades.
The combination of being EVM-compatible and having zero gas fees allows such projects to create on SKALE “a scalable and interoperable ecosystem,” a key benefit according to AILAND, which is building on SKALE while using AI technology to give creators more power to build in the metaverse.
How is Shared Security Evolving?
When SKALE was launched in 2018, the validator market was relatively unproven. Many developers and investors wondered if validators could be trusted to provide security at scale, concerned that chains using shared security would be exposed to extortion attempts or collusion between validators that could endanger the network’s assets.
Those concerns have been proven wrong, as there hasn’t been a single successful bribery attack against a major proof-of-stake chain, nor has there been a single significant case of validators colluding to steal from the network they provide consensus on (instead, attacks have been against bridges, and not the result of validator collusion or bribery attempts).
That confirmation of the trustworthiness of validators is a major reason why so many chains, including Ethereum, have recently shifted to proof-of-stake consensus models like ours.
SKALE has continued to use shared security over the years, using its benefits to optimize for larger efficiencies in speed and throughput — a major reason why SKALE was named the best performing blockchain in a recent Dartmouth study, with a TPS of 397.7 (per SKALE Chain) and a TTF of 1.46 seconds.
What Comes Next?
There are a number of different ways to achieve shared security, and we’re excited to see more chain networks adopting similar models, even if most are still in the testnet stage.
Those looking to build on a proven shared security network now can start with SKALE, which is constantly building upon past innovations, including the Levitation Protocol: SKALE's solution for decentralized ZK proofs and other additions to the network.
SKALE is the world's fastest blockchain, designed for fast, secure, user-centric Ethereum scaling. SKALE chains offer zero gas fees to end-users and have advanced features such as on-chain file storage, interchain messaging, zero-cost minting, ML/AI smart contracts, and enhanced security features.
The SKALE network enables developers to deploy their own EVM blockchain in minutes without sacrificing speed, security, or decentralization. Welcome to the SKALEverse.