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What are Sidechains?


The increasing demand for scalability and efficiency in the cryptocurrency space has led to the emergence of innovative solutions, one of which is sidechains.

The concept of sidechains was introduced in October 2014 in the paper "Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains." This research, authored by Adam Back in collaboration with other cryptographers and Bitcoin developers such as Matt Corallo, Luke Dashjr, Andrew Poelstra, and Pieter Wuille, marked a significant milestone in blockchain technology development.

But what exactly are sidechains and what role do they play in the blockchain ecosystem?

Definition of a Sidechain

A sidechain is a parallel blockchain that operates independently of the main blockchain (mainnet) but is connected to it via a two-way peg. This connection allows for the transfer of digital assets or tokens between the main network and the sidechain.

How Sidechains Work

The key feature of sidechains is their autonomy. Unlike the main network, sidechains can use their own consensus algorithms and block parameters tailored to specific tasks. This allows them to process transactions more quickly and with lower fees.

Sidechains can implement various consensus algorithms, such as Proof of Authority (PoA) or Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS). Validators in the sidechain network play a crucial role by verifying transactions, creating blocks, and maintaining overall network security.

Sidechains can also differ in block parameters. While the main blockchain may have strict limitations on block time and size, sidechains can adjust these parameters to increase throughput. However, this flexibility can come at the cost of decentralization, as it may reduce the number of powerful nodes required to maintain the network.

Compatibility with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

Some sidechains are compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), allowing them to execute smart contracts written in Solidity. This creates a familiar environment for developers, enabling them to deploy their decentralized applications (DApps) and smart contracts designed for Ethereum on the sidechain.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sidechains


  • Scalability: Sidechains help scale the main network by offloading transactions, increasing overall performance.

  • Flexibility: Their autonomy allows for experimentation with different consensus mechanisms and block parameters, fostering innovation.

  • Compatibility: EVM compatibility facilitates an easy transition for developers, allowing for quick deployment of Ethereum smart contracts on the sidechain.


  • Reduced Decentralization: High throughput often comes at the expense of decentralization, potentially concentrating power among a few nodes.

  • Security Risks: Sidechains are responsible for their own security, which can introduce additional risks.

  • Complexity: Implementing and maintaining sidechains require significant resources and effort, potentially hindering widespread adoption.

Examples of Sidechains

Several projects utilize the concept of sidechains, each offering unique features and addressing specific challenges in the blockchain ecosystem:

  • Polygon: This project uses multiple sidechains to scale Ethereum, offering fast and low-cost transactions for decentralized applications (DApps).

  • SKALE: SKALE provides a platform for building high-performance, scalable decentralized applications using elastic sidechains.

  • Gnosis: Gnosis employs the xDai sidechain to provide fast and stable transactions, making it suitable for applications that require quick and affordable transactions.

  • Loom Network: Loom Network focuses on creating scalable games and social applications, using the Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus mechanism to achieve high throughput.


Sidechains represent a promising solution to the scalability challenge in the cryptocurrency space. Their independence, EVM compatibility, and bridging capabilities open up numerous applications and use cases.

However, users and developers need to be aware of the drawbacks of sidechains, such as reduced decentralization, security risks, and implementation complexity. As blockchain technology continues to evolve, the role of sidechains in creating a scalable and versatile ecosystem is likely to grow.

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