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Understanding the Avalanche Blockchain

Yehia El Amine

Yehia El Amine

September 16, 2022

If you’ve reached this far down the rabbit hole of research in the Web3 space, then you’re already familiar with Bitcoin and Ethereum – the blockchains that support them and the currencies that reside in them. 

While these technologies are considered the industry’s heavyweights, many other technological innovations stem from them, allowing the industry to grow at exponential rates due to its open-source nature. 

One of the most popular of these innovations is the birth of the Avalanche blockchain. Many consider it as Ethereum’s rival as it describes itself as being “blazingly fast, low cost, and Eco-Friendly.” 

But what’s the difference between Avalanche and Ethereum? How did it come into existence? By whom? 

Let’s jump in. 

The Avalanche Origin Story

Emin Gun Sirer
Source: Twitter

Emin Gun Sirer created Avalanche Blockchain while he was an associate computer science professor at the University of Cornell. Sirer previously published over 24 peer-reviewed papers on free economics. 

He built the first proof of work cryptocurrency called Karma earlier in 2003, four years before the launch of Bitcoin. However, Sirer benched the project after receiving feedback from his college friends that a competitor to the dollar would never receive funding. 

Following the launch of Bitcoin, the former associate professor decided to revisit the idea, identifying areas where he could advance the technology’s energy usage and accessibility to the world. 

Sirer noted that to compete with such mighty financial infrastructure systems, a cutting-edge blockchain needs to run circles around centralized financial networks such as Mastercard and the energy that fueled them. 

He then went forward to design a new blockchain to leapfrog these issues, sharing the first copy of Avalanche with one of his students. However, instead of taking it to market directly, Sirer spent years placing the protocol under meticulous testing and questioning. “Does this work? Can we prove it? And if we don’t have proof, then all we’ve got is a bunch of badly written code,” he told his student. 

How It Works

The blockchain runs on the Avalanche protocol, a large-scale decentralized platform for building distributed applications (DApps). It uses this protocol to provide advanced functionality for DApp developers. Additionally, it supports several types of data structures, such as multi-sig wallets and subnets, which are used by dApps built on top of it.

It is important to note that the Avalanche blockchain itself consists only of a few public addresses: one address contains all transactions since genesis, another acts as an account ledger for each person who owns tokens on the network, while another function as an address registry mapping out which accounts own which public addresses within the system.

When you create an Avalanche wallet or address, the system automatically generates a new “Avalanche Project” for your account. This project is essentially just a name and logo you can choose to associate with whatever DApp you’re building on top of the network. 

The project contains its own set of data structures within which developers can build their DApp functionality while taking advantage of the robust platform infrastructure provided by Avalanche.

The easiest way to understand this is by looking at it from an end user’s perspective.

If you want to send tokens between two Avalanche addresses, you must input those addresses into the appropriate field in your wallet interface and click “send.” 

This will generate a transaction broadcast over the Avalanche network, which then goes through validation checks before being added permanently onto the blockchain (i.e., it becomes immutable). 

This whole process can take anywhere from 30 seconds up to several minutes.

The Chains

Avalanche Primary Network
Source: Avalanche

Avalanche has three chains: C-Chain, X-Chain, and P-Chain. 

To explain it, the letters stand for contract, exchange, and platform. The C-Chain is home to Avalanche’s DeFi ecosystem, where most financial transactions occur. While X-Chain is its native platform for creating and trading assets, it is an instance of the Avalanche Virtual Machine (AVM). This API allows clients to create and trade assets on the X-Chain and other instances of the AVM.

While the P-Chain is the metadata blockchain on Avalanche and coordinates validators keeps track of active Subnets and enables the creation of new Subnets. The P-Chain implements the Snowman consensus protocol. The P-Chain API allows clients to create Subnets, add validators to Subnets, and create blockchains.

Validating Transactions

The Avalanche blockchain is a decentralized network, meaning its users don’t rely on a central authority to validate transactions or enforce rules. Instead, these functions are performed by validators: people who have staked their coins and are rewarded for their services. 

As a bonus, anyone can be a validator. They’ll need to stake some tokens (that’s the fancy term for “investing”) to become one of the trusted people who participate in consensus mechanisms (the fancy term for “deciding what happens next on the blockchain”).

Suppose you’re planning on being part of the Avalanche ecosystem as an end user but don’t want to get involved with being an actual validator, no worries. To become an Avalanche validator, you’ll first need some AVL tokens. In that case, you can buy AVLs just like any other cryptocurrency coin through exchanges. 

However, if you want your voice heard and have an opinion about how things should run behind the scenes at each step, this might be worth checking out! 

It takes time and effort, but there are plenty of ways for anyone willing to work towards building up our community so we can all reap benefits together in future years ahead.”

Avalanche vs. Ethereum 

Avalanche is a blockchain platform that aims to solve the three main problems of existing blockchains: speed, scalability, and security. It’s designed for applications with high throughput and low latency requirements, such as payment networks, games, and remittance systems.

It’s important to note that Avalanche is also faster than Ethereum, as measured by time-to-finality. The consensus mechanism allows it to execute transactions in milliseconds instead of seconds or minutes. 

Plus, Avalanche reduces the cost of running an application on its platform by designating resources for developers building apps on top of it through staking tokens. This allows them to use these resources without paying fees or waiting in line for them.

In addition to being much more efficient than rival platforms in terms of transaction speeds and costs per transaction, Avalanche also ensures greater decentralization because no mining pools are allowed (aside from those used by developers).

Eliminating mining pools ensures that no one person has too much control over security issues or governance decisions pertaining specifically to one project/app being built using Avalanche as opposed to another under development somewhere else in space.

Proof of Work vs. Proof of Stake

If you’re new to the world of crypto, there’s a good chance your first introduction was with Bitcoin. The first cryptocurrency to catch on is a proof-of-work (PoW) cryptocurrency that uses miners to validate transactions and create new coins.

Proof-of-work systems are based on solving complex mathematical problems to validate transactions on their respective blockchains. The more computational power one possesses, the more likely one will be able to solve these problems faster than others—and thus become eligible for rewards from verifying blocks of transactions across the network.

The problem with this type of mining is that it requires an enormous amount of energy—so much so that some have argued that PoW currencies have become unsustainable due to their high electricity consumption rates and carbon footprints.

Proof-of-stake (PoS) currencies try to distribute rewards based on how many coins someone has staked; users can stake their coins by locking them up for a certain period in return for proportional amounts back when they decide later to rejoin circulation after receiving interest payments during their tenure offline.

What is AVAX?

Source: Avalanche

Also known as the “red coin” by its holders, AVAX is the native token of the Avalanche blockchain. It has a maximum supply capped at 720 million tokens, and it can be used for three purposes on the network: to pay for transaction fees like ETH does on Ethereum; to pay for gas fees in the same way that ether does; and finally, to be burnt when it’s holders send it in transactions. 

As of time of writing, the network has burned $35 million dollars worth of AVAX according to BurnedAvax.com. 

Second, AVAX is used to stake crypto assets and participate in the validation process. Users who stake at least 2,000 AVAX can run their validator nodes and receive AVAX rewards. Those with less AVAX can join staking pools and combine their assets with others in the network to become a single validator.

The third use of AVAX is more technical and less interesting to regular users. It’s used as a basic unit of account between the multiple subnets deployed on Avalanche. A subnet is a set of validators working to achieve consensus.

This has been a brief introduction to the Avalanche Blockchain. Stay tuned for more coverage related to Web3.

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