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Avalanche vs. Minima

When DeFi enthusiasts look for protocols to deploy their funds, swap tokens or play crypto games, they now have various blockchain ecosystems to choose from.

One of them is Avalanche, which has quickly grown to be the 3rd largest DeFi ecosystem with $9.61 bn TVL (total value locked), placing it just behind Ethereum and BSC.

With the Otherside drop revealing the tremendous gas fees that Ethereum’s lack of scalability means for traders, and Solana experiencing another outage, Avalanche might capture those disillusioned. But how exactly does Avalanche work, and is it actually as decentralized as you’d expect from a blockchain?

Read on to learn more about Avalanche and how it compares to Minima.

Short history

Avalanche is the brainchild of Dr. Emin Gun Sirer, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Sciences and started working on the protocol with two of his doctoral students at Cornell University in 2019. One of the most significant aims with Avalanche was to create the fastest time to finality for blockchain transactions.

Finality: how long it takes for a transaction to be irreversible, final. This number varies across blockchain protocols depending on block speed and how many confirmations are necessary for transactions to be final. You can find an in-depth explanation here.

Throughout July 2020, the team behind Avalanche, Ava Labs, raised $42 million from investors in a first ICO. The following year, 2021, they conducted another token sale raising a staggering $230 million from VCs and individuals.

In September 2020, the Avalanche mainnet went live and quickly became a serious contender for DeFi activity.

How does Avalanche work?

Avalanche isn’t just one blockchain. It consists of three different blockchains specialized in specific tasks in the ecosystem. This architectural choice is based on acknowledging that one chain can’t cater to all use cases. The team hopes to solve the blockchain trilemma by distributing tasks.

Source

Exchange Chain (X-Chain)

The exchange chain is the chain where users can create and transact Avalanche-based assets. Currently, the most-used asset on the platform remains the native token AVAX, but other DeFi tokens, usually with Ethereum associated assets, are catching up. In total, 176 tokens exist on Avalanche, according to cryptorank.

All fees for the creation and transacting of tokens are paid in AVAX.

Contract Chain (C-Chain)

Smart contracts are a vital building block for any blockchain-based application. The Avalanche contract chain enables developers to build dApps on Avalanche while relying on the underlying security and reliability of the platform.

All smart contracts on Avalanche are EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatible. Therefore, developers can quickly port their existing Ethereum-based contracts to Avalanche, and we’re already seeing projects like Aave deploy on Avalanche.

Platform Chain (P-Chain)

The third chain in the Avalanche ecosystem is the platform chain. On it, anyone can create Layer-1 and Layer-2 blockchains. You can imagine it as a template for a blockchain. These chains are called “subnets” in the ecosystem, and the default for all of them is the P-Chain.

The P-chain manages the landscape of existing subnets by keeping track of validators. At the same time, subnets validate the P-chain.

It’s worth mentioning subnets more in detail since they are how Avalanche scales. In practice, these subnets work similarly to Ethereum 2.0 sharding. That means every subnet is a clone of the underlying blockchain and connected to it but focused on its own specific task.

One can create subnets on-demand. If Alice ran her app on her subnet and noticed that it was reaching its transaction limits (4500 tps), she could launch a new subnet to meet that demand.

Each subnet creates its own rules for running the blockchain. Logically, subnets have to validate their chain and secure the primary network chain. In practice, that requires subnets to become a validator on Avalanche by staking 2000 AVAX tokens. At a current price of $66 per token, over $130,000 worth of AVAX.

Now that we understand that Avalanche is a three-in-one blockchain, we will move on to compare it with Minima.

Consensus

Avalanche: uses its own consensus protocol, first proposed in 2018, which combines sets of classical and Nakamoto consensus protocols

  • classical: fast, green, and low maintenance consensus protocols. Not decentralized
  • Nakamoto: decentralized, robust, and scalable

It builds on Proof-of-Stake, requiring validators to lock up AVAX to participate in constructing the network. Whenever a transaction is initiated, it’s received by a validator node. The node will then sample a small, random set of other validators to check for agreement.

They do this repeatedly until reaching an agreement. This sort of communication between nodes is also called “gossiping.”

Once agreed upon, the transaction is added to the ledger. The main ideas behind the Avalanche consensus protocol are subsampling (only requiring a little set) and transitive voting: one vote for a transaction also is a vote for all its ancestors, which aids scalability.

As in all PoS consensus protocols, there is a danger of those with a lot of capital taking over a significant portion of the network — and accumulating control at the expense of integrity.

Minima: Unlike Avalanche, Minima’s consensus is based on a variation of Proof-of-Work: Tx-PoW. While many people associate big, inefficient mining farms with PoW consensus, Minima empowers everyone to contribute some computational work, which adds to the entire block’s worth of work. Every new node entering the chain will increase its security without asking node runners for huge capital or technical requirements.

Tx-PoW is a collaborative mechanism that doesn’t require nodes to gossip, reducing messaging overhead. We believe that only by making everyone an equal, can consensus be reached in a truly decentralized manner.

Speaking of node runners, how easy is it for anyone to start running a node?

Avalanche: To run a node on Avalanche, you need an 8-core CPU at up to 3 GHz, 16GB of RAM, and 200 GB of hard disk space. Note this does not mean you can participate in validation since that will require you to stake tokens.

Minima: Running a node on Minima requires an Android phone. (iOS is on the roadmap). Once installed, you are running a full validating and constructing node without any technical skills.

Finality

Avalanche: 1–2 seconds, on average 0.85 in the last 24 hours, according to Avascan.

Minima: 150 seconds

Token models

Avalanche: 720 million AVAX maximum supply and a deflationary system whereby transaction fees are burned.

Minima: capped at 1 billion Minima coins, also deflationary with the burn depending on network traffic.

Decentralization and security

Avalanche: 1,584 validators securing the chain. The threshold of overtaking the Avalanche network is 80% of the nodes. An attacker will have to control 1,267 validators to launch an attack with the current numbers. However, there are likely to be entities running multiple validators. Therefore, the number is likely smaller.

Minima: More than 50,000 active nodes are currently running our test net. As with other PoW chains, the security threshold of launching an attack on the chain is 51% of the network. Consequently, an attacker would have to convince over 25,000 individual (!) node runners that it’s a good idea to launch an attack. And the network is growing; by mainnet, we aim for 1 million active nodes.

Clearly, Avalanche has become popular for a reason — mainly cheap transaction fees and fast transfers. Yet, when it comes to decentralization, we believe that we need to aim a lot higher than just having 1,584 validators securing a blockchain.

To finish this post, a word on scalability. As Avalanche can create an unlimited number of subnets, it’s infinitely scalable in theory. Minima will work very similarly. Anyone can create a Layer-2 solution on top of Minima, from sidechains, to statechains or lightning implementations that will facilitate further throughput. You can learn more about the architecture of Minima below

If you found this comparison helpful, let us know what other chains you’d like to see a comparison with. We’re always happy to investigate and share our insights.

And to discuss Minima with us, join us on discord. 🙌

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