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Can You Use Multiple Blockchains?

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Blockchain technology has many nuances that make it different from other types of technology or even technology as a whole. There are important things to note about blockchain technology that keep it unique, but they also make it like other technologies and incompatible with them. There are two major differences between blockchains that we need to discuss:

Blockchain Protocols

The first difference is the blockchain protocol. Typically, there is a set of rules associated with a blockchain protocol such that any blockchain using that protocol will behave in a specific way. The Bitcoin blockchain is an example of a blockchain protocol where transactions are broadcast to nodes and then the nodes verify the transaction before adding it to the blockchain in blocks. The Ethereum blockchain is another example where its protocol can run programs (called smart contracts) instead of just recording transactions. 

These protocols have different states that result from network communication with other nodes, which may or may not be compatible with other protocols. The Bitcoin blockchain protocol for example, cannot interoperate with the Ethereum blockchain protocol. This is because they have different rules about how nodes are supposed to broadcast transactions and verify them, and therefore they result in a different state of the network. 

If you can’t see why this would prevent interoperation between these types of blockchains, let’s look at an example and some facts about The News Spy. We are going to suppose that someone made two smart contracts which both depend on each other and perform some action if the required amount of funds is deposited. On the Ethereum blockchain, a programmer named John creates a smart contract for Alice and Bob to do business together where Alice gives 100 Ethers to Bob after he gives her a widget. 

On the Bitcoin blockchain, Bob creates another smart contract for Alice and Carol to do business together where Alice gives 100 Bitcoins to Carol after she gives her a steak. Technically they can both exist as independent smart contracts that can be triggered on their own separate blockchains if enough money is deposited in them. However, since the Bitcoin blockchain can only work with its own native currency, it would not be able to find out if 100 Bitcoins were deposited into the other smart contract. Because of this incompatibility, two different kinds of blockchains cannot interoperate at a technical level. This is one example of way that you will not be able to use multiple blockchains together.

However, there are other ways that blockchains can be different and incompatible with each other. We now need to examine the unique differences between blockchains.

Blockchain Features

The second difference is the features of a blockchain protocol. It seems silly to talk about features when we just talked about incompatibility problems with protocols but in this case, we can talk about features in a more general sense. Features are characteristics of blockchains that make them different from other blockchain protocols and therefore they have special properties. 

Features can be anything from using tokens to mine blocks (instead of only proof-of-work), or from having Turing complete smart contracts. This includes blockchains like Ripple and Stellar which have different rules about how the consensus process works and thus may behave differently than other kinds of blockchains.

Closing Remarks

We have covered a lot of information in this article, from the definition of blockchain to the properties that make them different. It is important to keep these things in mind so that you will know how blockchains differ and why they may not be suitable for applications requiring interoperability between multiple chains.

If you want to use an existing blockchain protocol then it is also important to read the documentation and understand how it differs from another blockchain protocol. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!