Symbiotic aims to be the Uniswap of shared security

The protocol’s ambitions for securing networks go beyond Ethereum

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Shared security protocol Symbiotic came out of stealth today. 

Symbiotic allows networks to customize their staking implementation, including collateral assets, node operator selection, rewards and penalty mechanisms. Ethereum serves as the protocol’s coordination and orchestration layer.

Whereas EigenLayer is pitched as “a marketplace for decentralized trust,” Symbiotic is a sort of operating system for decentralized coordination.

“The goal was to create a protocol that is suitable for almost any decentralized network,” Symbiotic co-founder and CEO Misha Putiatin told Blockworks.

Symbiotic acts as a thin coordination layer that offers high flexibility and control to network builders. As such, it will be immutable from launch — like Uniswap — and does not require a token to function.

Ambition to “create an industry”

Truly decentralized networks alter how we think about security, trust and coordination in the digital world. Bitcoin’s proof-of-work allowed a decentralized network of miners to secure digital transactions without relying on a central authority​.

Ethereum’s proof-of-stake achieves broadly similar levels of security using economic collateral rather than electricity consumption.

Shared security extends these concepts further by allowing multiple networks to share their resources. This enables new and emerging networks to bootstrap their growth by piggybacking on the established security of larger, more mature networks.

Implementations can involve complex coordination to ensure that node operators meet the protocol’s rules across various networks​​. Some of the most well known purveyors of shared security are Polkadot’s Relay Chain, Cosmos’ Interchain Security and EigenLayer.

“Polkadot was one of the pioneers of that, and then Cosmos proceeded with their own flavor,” Putiatin said. “Our idea is that we wanted to create a protocol [with as few] tradeoffs as possible.”

Listen: Restaking and Shared Security: Lessons from Cosmos, Polkadot, and Beyond

Symbiotic began development about nine months ago, co-founded by Putiatin and Algys Ievlev and built by the team behind auditing and security firm Statemind. Before that, Putiatin was CEO of MixBytes, a smart contract auditing firm where Ievlev served as chief technology officer. The pair both studied in Moscow and now live in Dubai.

Their experience at Statemind led the team to “expand their mission to secure everything blockchain and everything decentralized” with Symbiotic, Putiatin said.

Symbiotic has raised a $5.8 million seed round from venture firms Paradigm — which also funded Uniswap — and cyber•Fund, the venture firm founded by early Lido contributors Konstantin Lomashuk and Vasiliy Shapovalov, as CoinDesk previously reported.

The protocol’s overarching design architecture is “permissionless, neutral and flexible.”

Neutral means Symbiotic won’t ​​compete with other market participants — so no native staking, rollup or data availability offering.

To be “symbiotic” means “to run from competition like [from] fire and to be as selfless as possible, as unopinionated as possible,” Putiatin explained.

Maximally flexible

All major decisions remain with the networks who build on top of Symbiotic, such as what collateral they will accept, which node operators can participate, who resolves disputes — so slashing and punishment — and how much stake they want from each party.

A key differentiator compared to other shared security systems is that Symbiotic can accept any token and, in theory, from any chain.

To create an industry around shared security, “we needed to create a protocol that can be super modular, and the abstraction of collateral is one of these.”

Putiatin lumps that in the “neutrality” category, since even though Symbiotic is an Ethereum protocol, collateral need not be on Ethereum, although Lido staked ether (stETH) is a likely candidate as a core collateral asset.

“You can create an obligation on the Ethereum side,” he explained, “and if [the] network sees that the messaging is trusted enough, within the slashing window, the asset on another chain might be even in DeFi — actually be used somewhere — yet is reliably slashed.”

This modularity ensures that networks can adapt and evolve according to their specific security needs and stages of decentralization​.

“When you launch a centralized network there is a gap between you being super creative and innovative, having a great idea, and you are starting in a way that is safe — because you needed to build your own economic security model,” Putiatin said.

This is why we have seen a proliferation of tokens, and decentralization compromises like multisigs, proof of authority networks, or subpar validator sets, in Putiatin’s view.

“The goal for our project is to shift the narrative — you don’t have to launch natively — it’s going to be safer and easier for you to launch on top of us, on top of shared security,” he said.

He imagines the system being applied to jumpstart all kinds of networks, mentioning cross-chain oracles, threshold networks, reconfirmations and MEV infrastructure, interoperability and shared sequencers, to name a few.

“We believe that this sort of primitive can help a lot of people, and for that we need to be as neutral as possible,” Putiatin said.

While the protocol’s ambitions for shared security are massive, its architecture is deliberately minimalist.

It will be permissionless and immutable, with no multisig anywhere. It will not collect fees, nor will it rely on any centralized frontend.

“If I die and every engineer dies, our system will still be fully operational. I don’t expect our front end to be used a lot,” he said.

Launch partners include familiar names like Ethena, LayerZero and Hyperlane, plus a slew of networks that are still in the early stages of development, according to a Symbiotic blog post.

Putiatin expects the Symbiotic mainnet to be up and running for some networks as soon as the end of the summer.

“Why should you create a complex protocol when you can create a really simple and flexible one?”

Updated June 12, 2024: Noted that CoinDesk previously reported Symbiotic’s venture backing.


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