In a nutshell, Cosmos bills itself as a project that solves some of the “hardest problems” facing the blockchain industry. It aims to offer an antidote to “slow, expensive, unscalable and environmentally harmful” proof-of-work protocols, like those used by Bitcoin, by offering an ecosystem of connected blockchains.
The project’s other goals include making blockchain technology less complex and difficult for developers thanks to a modular framework that demystifies decentralized apps. Last but not least, an Interblockchain Communication protocol makes it easier for blockchain networks to communicate with each other — preventing fragmentation in the industry.
Cosmos’ origins can be dated back to 2014, when Tendermint, a core contributor to the network, was founded. In 2016, a white paper for Cosmos was published — and a token sale was held the following year. ATOM tokens are earned through a hybrid proof-of-stake algorithm, and they help to keep the Cosmos Hub, the project’s flagship blockchain, secure. This cryptocurrency also has a role in the network’s governance.
The co-founders of Tendermint — the gateway to the Cosmos ecosystem — were Jae Kwon, Zarko Milosevic and Ethan Buchman. Although Kwon is still listed as principal architect, he stepped down as CEO in 2020. He maintains he is still a part of the project but is mainly focusing on other initiatives. He has now been replaced as Tendermint’s CEO by Peng Zhong, and the whole board of directors was given quite a substantial refresh. Their goals include enhancing the experience for developers, creating an enthusiastic community for Cosmos and building educational resources so greater numbers of people are aware of what this network is capable of.
A major concern for some in the crypto industry centers on the levels of fragmentation seen in blockchain networks. There are hundreds in existence, but very few of them can communicate with each other. Cosmos aims to turn this on its head by making this possible.
Cosmos is described as “Blockchain 3.0” — and as we mentioned earlier, a big goal is ensuring that its infrastructure is straightforward to use. To this end, the Cosmos software development kit focuses on modularity. This allows a network to be easily built using chunks of code that already exist. Long-term, it’s hoped that complex applications will be straightforward to construct as a result.
Scalability is another priority, meaning substantially more transactions can be processed a second than more old-fashioned blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum. If blockchains are to ever achieve mainstream adoption, they’ll need to be able to cope with demand as well as existing payment processing companies or websites — or be even better.
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ATOM has a very specific total supply — 260,906,513 to be exact. Of these, at the time of writing, about 203,121,910 were in circulation. It is worth noting that these cryptocurrencies aren’t mined — instead, they are earned through staking.
Two private sales were held in January 2017, followed by a public sale in April of that year. This raised a total of $16 million, which is the equivalent of about $0.10 per ATOM.
Breaking down the token distribution, about 80% was allocated to investors, while the remaining 20% was split between two companies: All In Bits and the Interchain Foundation.
Cosmos has compared ATOM tokens to the ASICs that are used to mine Bitcoin. As a technical paper written by the Tendermint team explained: “It is a piece of virtualized hardware (economic capital) that you need to obtain in order to participate as a keeper in the network.”
As we mentioned earlier, Cosmos uses a proof-of-stake consensus algorithm. Validator nodes that stake a higher quantity of ATOM tokens are more likely to be chosen to verify transactions and earn rewards. Nodes that are found to be acting dishonestly are penalized — and they can end up losing the tokens that they had at stake.