The Case for a Multi-Chain Attestation Solution

NFT-based art is much more than just an image referenced from a blockchain. A piece of art grows in cultural and monetary value as its history and the number of stories around it grow. And here is where the problems start. Where is that contextual data stored? What wallet was used for signing? Can you easily find that data? Even years, decades, or centuries after the NFT attestation was done?

It may sound unlikely, but there is a solution. But first, let’s discuss the main problem of NFT attestation in its various forms.

Problem: most attestation services are specific to a chain or contract

Collectors and curators share a problem: NFTs exist on multiple blockchain platforms. Any sizeable NFT collection inevitably contains NFTs from several sources unless the collector explicitly focuses on one particular platform. Likewise, galleries and other curators receive NFTs for exhibition from any blockchain platform that supports NFTs.

Attestations for NFTs are typically made on the blockchain platform where the NFTs were minted. Therefore, an NFT owner needs to find appropriate attestation services for each blockchain. Newer or niche blockchains might not even provide any attestation services, which means that some kind of cross-chain attestation must be found for these chains.

The result of this situation is fragmentation and complexity.

  • Fragmentation happens when attestations are saved on different storage solutions per chain.

  • Complexity and overhead occur from having to manage all chain-specific attestation solutions, and each new chain adds more tooling and increases the maintenance efforts and costs.

Users, especially galleries, are therefore faced with a dilemma. Either they take on the management overhead of managing lots of different tools or they give up trying to capture and store these attestations altogether.

The lack of a suitable cross-chain attestation solution

Unfortunately, NFT attestations have no simplified and unified user experience across all blockchains. Ideally, an NFT owner could use one wallet to sign NFTs of any provenance. Moreover, the attestation and other NFT metadata should be stored in a unified way as well.

Common storage and indexing services are insufficient

The current, chain-specific attestation services use their own storage solutions that differ between blockchains. As a result, an NFT collection sooner or later ends up being spread across storage solutions. Retrieval of NFT metadata becomes increasingly difficult.

Even if one of those solutions would emerge as a cross-platform storage for NFT metadata, this solution alone would be insufficient.

  • Example: IPFS Despite the name “Inter-Planetary File System,” IPFS is a peer-to-peer data transport protocol rather than a file system. Peer nodes may or may not hold the data sent to them for an extended period. It is possible to pin data to specific IPFS nodes (by paying an incentive to the node owner), but even this does not ensure the longevity of the stored data. Nodes can go out of business or disappear for other reasons, and the data disappears along with them.

  • Example: Bitcoin block storage Bitcoin provides a form of block storage through inscriptions. Blockchains like Bitcoin were not designed to provide ample storage space (e.g. a behind-the-scenes video), however. Storing NFT attestation information would be prohibitively expensive, and the Bitcoin community still discusses the feasibility of inscriptions long-term.

  • Example: Ethereum calldata Calldata is a space reserved for passing arguments to Ethereum contracts. The calldata space can also be used to store data, by sending a transaction to a contract’s method. Querying the transactions to that contract returns the information stored in the calldata. While calldata space is reportedly cheaper than other on-chain storage options, it is not as permanent as it may seem. Ethereum nodes and clients may prune historical data, including calldata, to save space.

In summary, no single on-chain or off-chain storage solution has the required quality for long-term storage of attestations.

Current NFT attestation solutions in the market

The NFT market is well aware of the problem and currently offers two solutions:

  1. A smart contract (SC) protocol for the entire chain

  2. A smart contract library that can be optionally included in a specific smart contract

A smart contract protocol for an entire chain governs how NFT attestation works across the entire network (e.g. EAS). The main benefit of this approach is that it creates a cohesive and standardized attestation system for all NFTs on a specific blockchain, but this concept cannot transcend to covering multiple blockchains in a unique way.

A smart contract library works with a specific minting contract. An NFT would therefore only be able to use the SC library feature if such a library is included in its specific minting contract. With more than one billion NFTs, there are many different minting contracts in use, so an SC library approach serves a more limited set of NFTs.

How Atomic Form solves the problem of multi-chain attestation

The fragmentation of the NFT landscape causes three separate complications for NFT attestation:

  1. Uncertain attestation availability — whether an attestation service exists for a particular chain,

  2. Lack of attestation standardization — attestation services on different chains are not composable with each other.

  3. Lack of a unified, reliable, long-term storage.

Atomic Form has developed a system for NFT attestation that solves all three problems. We ensure cross-chain availability and standardization by supporting multiple chains and wallets, and we solve the storage problem with a unique combination of two tested-and-proven decentralized storage services.

Multi-blockchain support

Atomic Form expands beyond Ethereum to support attestations for NFTs on other major chains. Solana is the second chain to join the list, and more chains will be added over time.

Every new chain supplies new attestation logic that is specific to the implementation of the chain and its wallets. Atomic Form replaces all chain-specific attestation mechanisms by a universal attestation process that reads and writes directly from and to IPFS and Arweave (more on that below).

Multi-chain wallet signing

Atomic Form enables the creation and signing of attestations for NFTs across different blockchain networks without requiring smart contract functionality. Wallets from any supported blockchain can sign an attestation for an NFT on another blockchain. For instance, a user with a Solana wallet can sign an attestation for an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain and vice versa. Atomic Sign's design separates the content to be signed from the signing mechanism, allowing for a more flexible and interoperable system for NFT attestations.

Permanent decentralized storage

Blockchains provide permanent storage — until they don’t. Storage space inside the blocks of a blockchain is rare and extraordinarily expensive. Plus, block data is increasingly challenging to find as newer blocks are added to the chain. Auxiliary storage spaces have been designed around the core blockchain; however, these have limitations as well, as discussed earlier.

Because of these limitations, Atomic Form created a new kind of storage that is both permanent and easily accessible. This storage is a blend of IPFS and Arweave. Atomic Form combines both in a way that leverages each storage system’s strengths. Arweave guarantees long-term storage and provides features like verifiable time stamps, while IPFS (being a peer-to-peer protocol at its core) provides distributed storage with easy access that can be linked to an NFT. (Read more about IPFS and Arweave in our article “IPFS & Arweave: A Winning Combination For Extending NFT Metadata and Provenance.”)

This storage design decouples wallets from storage. Owners and curators only need a single wallet and do not need to worry about storage internals.

The various benefits of Atomic Form’s multi-chain attestation

So far, we have discussed how multi-chain attestation is possible from a technical perspective, but what benefits does this solution have?

A common user experience

The most visible benefit of unifying the NFT attestation processes and attestation storage is a uniform user experience regardless of the blockchain or wallet being involved. This dramatically simplifies the attestation process and thus directly increases the ease and joy of capturing this history for their NFT art.

A single, aggregated data source

Our storage solution consolidates all attestation data that originates from different chains and makes this data accessible from a single source. Attestation data that is fragmented across multiple, chain-specific solutions is a thing of the past.

Widest NFT coverage

A natural consequence of our multi-chain attestation solution is the broad coverage of NFTs. As we keep adding more chains, our attestation process is available to the largest pool of NFT art.

A significant cost advantage

Provable, long-term storage is costly. Until a clever alternative is created, as we did at Atomic Form: Our combined IPFS/Arweave solution makes storing attestation data provably and reliably possible for a tiny fraction of the cost of most blockchain storage space. And we’re talking about orders-of-magnitude cheaper.

Summing up: Why Atomic Form is your perfect partner for NFT attestations

Building a valuable NFT collection is next to impossible without a functioning multi-chain attestation service. The more chains support NFTs, the more fragmented an NFT collection becomes. Multiply this by the number of wallets needed and the added problem of affordable, reliable storage space for attestations and other NFT metadata.

Atomic Form removes the need to manage multiple, chain-specific attestation services at a fraction of the cost of on-chain attestation storage.

Try Atomic Sign’s new Solana integration, or contact us if you are interested in a new integration.

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