Note: hyperchains have been renamed subnets, due to the trademark for "hyperchains" already being registered. Learn more here.
Enabling “Hyper” Growth on Stacks
The Stacks blockchain architecture makes deliberate design choices that optimize for a decentralized, permission-less environment. In particular, the protocol prioritizes two integral traits that decentralize the ecosystem: open membership (anyone can become a miner) and user verifiable (anyone can validate the state of the Stacks blockchain).
However, one side-effect of those design choices is that the Stacks architecture is not great for certain workloads, namely those that require high throughput and low latency. Even after the network upgrade in December, we have seen high congestion and bursty behavior around major NFT launches. The community is growing—this is a great problem to have!
In just one year since the launch of mainnet, Stacks has become the largest and fastest-growing Web3 project on Bitcoin. It’s clear we need scalability solutions, and we believe in giving developers (and users) choice, by making opt-in systems with explicit trade-offs.
Rather than loosening these “decentralization axioms” for the entire network, Hiro is working on an open-source solution called hyperchains, a new scalability layer designed for flexibility and experimentation that will enable hypergrowth on the decentralized Stacks network. Like many other Hiro products, hyperchains will be built and maintained by the Hiro team and made available under an open source license and will be open to community contributions.
Hiro is working on an open-source solution called hyperchains, a new scalability layer designed for flexibility and experimentation that will enable hypergrowth on the decentralized Stacks network.
Hyperchains trade decentralization for performance, allowing users to deposit assets into a hyperchain to benefit from that improved performance and later withdraw those assets out to the more decentralized Stacks main chain when they’re done. At a high level, here’s how hyperchains and the Stacks blockchain will interact with each other:
We favor a design that allows for multiple hyperchains with different consensus rules, trust assumptions, and use cases that range from general to application-specific. Our proposed design also allows multiple hyperchains to simultaneously coexist on the Stacks chain, giving users optionality in which hyperchain (and which level of decentralization) they want to participate in. Our GitHub conversation has more protocol level information if you want to learn more about hyperchains.
Use Cases for Hyperchains
Hyperchains are designed for workloads that require high throughput and low latency. From our perspective, there are a few specific use cases for hyperchains that come to mind.
We believe that NFT launches, decentralized exchanges (DEXs) and collectible games will benefit from hyperchains. What these examples have in common is that they trigger a high volume of time-sensitive transactions. A delay could mean the difference between minting an NFT or missing out altogether, between executing a critical trade at the right time or the wrong one, or between hitting an all-time score or letting your competitors best you.
That high volume of transactions requires low latency (the time it takes to process data) for a good user experience. Simply put, hyperchains will enable these applications to process transactions faster.
Say goodbye to wait times for thousands of users, and say hello to instant settlement for millions.
Of course, there are a myriad of future use cases we haven’t imagined yet, and we embrace that innovation too! We look forward to seeing the creativity of Stacks developers as they experiment with the hyperchains MVP later this year. As mentioned, the code is open source, and anyone will be able to iterate off Hiro’s version to explore new ideas.
The Road to a Hyperchains MVP
Hyperchains will involve multiple phases of development, from MVP to feature-rich implementations in the future. Each step will test out scaling solutions to support the continued growth of Stacks.
For the very first hyperchains MVP, we’re starting with a trusted approach and plan to gradually open up hyperchains to increasing levels of decentralization. You can follow and bookmark our repo to track the action.
The goal for Milestone 0 [M0] is to build a minimum end-to-end testable version that ingests a Stacks event stream, uses it to download hyperchain blocks from peers or validate pushed blocks, and responds over the RPC interface. We are on target to have this ready for the end of February.
The next key milestone M1 is expected in April 2022 and will allow users to spin up a local instance for testing. At this phase, we plan to support committing hyperchain blocks to the Stacks chain, as well as reading commitments out of the Stacks chain using the actual event listener interface. While this iteration won’t be able to test withdrawals and deposits yet, it will provide the ability to interact with the Hyperchain and peek under the hood.
This stage will also be a key point for us to bring in our enthusiastic early adopters and gather early feedback. We will share more details on what to expect at this milestone and ways to join the previews in the coming weeks.
Milestone 2 [M2] introduces multi-party trust: miner commitments must be signed by a coalition of participants. Block assembly will require passing proposals between participants.
At Milestone 3 [M3], hyperchain contracts will be capable of deposits, withdrawals, and mints.
Finally, as part of our testing and documentation plan for the hyperchains MVP, we plan to launch a case study either involving a DEX or an NFT launch, working in collaboration with developers from the Stacks ecosystem to test the very first marketplace on hyperchains.
While our current focus for MVP is a federated model, we have plans for evolving the hyperchains design to an ideal fully trustless model. The rollout of MVP should provide us with valuable feedback and observations to iteratively add to the Hyperchains experience.
Watch for periodic updates at each of the milestones as we race to build our MVP! If you’re craving more action, please chime in on the GitHub conversation and watch Aaron's talk on hyperchains from the Bitcoin Innovation Summit. Hyperchains are an open-source effort, and we encourage contributions from other companies and developers. See you on a hyperchain soon.