cLabs Pirate Radio - Cross Chain League of Bridges Series: Interview with Anna Rose & Optics Team

Welcome to the cLabs Pirate Radio! In this interview, Anna Rose and the Optics team discuss their work on cross-chain messaging and the Optics protocol. They provide insights into the concept of messaging between blockchain networks and how it enables interoperability. The discussion covers various aspects of Optics, including its role as a communication layer, the ability to build cross-chain applications on top of it, and the potential for applications to communicate with each other without token transfers.

Introduction to Optics

Optics is a cross-chain messaging protocol that facilitates the passing of messages between different blockchain networks. It is not exactly a bridge but rather a communication channel that connects multiple blockchains. Optics serves as a messaging layer, allowing the development of various cross-chain applications on top of it. The first application to be deployed on Optics is a token bridge, which enables the transfer of tokens across chains.

Understanding Cross-Chain Messaging

Cross-chain messaging allows smart contracts on different blockchains to communicate with each other. It operates similarly to smart contracts within a single blockchain, where a transaction triggers code execution at another contract. In the cross-chain environment, instead of sending a transaction, messages are sent across Optics, acting as a messaging standard. This facilitates communication between smart contracts on different chains.

Building Cross-Chain Applications with Optics

To build cross-chain applications on Optics, a router pattern is often implemented. Each router standardizes a messaging format that other routers on different chains can understand. When a transaction is triggered on a router, the information is encoded into a messaging format and sent across chains. On the receiving side, the message is decoded, and application logic is implemented to process the message. The router pattern enables the development of various cross-chain applications beyond token bridges.

Token Bridges and Cross-Chain Applications

Token bridges are a type of cross-chain application built on Optics. They allow the transfer of tokens between different chains while maintaining the integrity of the token supply. The process involves locking the native token on the source chain, deploying a representation token on the destination chain, and minting the representation tokens. If the representation tokens are sent back, they can be burned, unlocking the native tokens on the source chain. This process provides a mechanism for seamless token transfers across chains.

Optics as a Mesh of Hub-Spokes

Optics operates on a hub-and-spoke model for communication between blockchains. However, it is possible to create a web of interconnected hub-spokes by deploying Optics on multiple chains. This allows bidirectional communication between different blockchains, forming a mesh-like network. While the communication channels between individual chains follow a hub-and-spoke model, when viewed as a system, each spoke acts as its own hub, enabling end-to-end cross-chain messaging.

The On-Chain and Off-Chain Components of Optics

Optics consists of both on-chain and off-chain components. The on-chain component includes the messages recorded on the blockchain. Off-chain agents play a crucial role in the Optics protocol. They notarize the messages by signing a merkle root, proving the inclusion of updates on the source chain. Off-chain agents also relay the notarized routes to replica chains and process the messages by calling methods on the smart contracts. These agents operate off-chain but are responsible for facilitating the movement of messages across chains.

Customization and Flexibility of Optics

While there are canonical implementations of the Optics smart contracts and off-chain agents, the protocol is designed to be flexible and customizable. Anyone can implement their own version of Optics and adapt it to their specific needs. Optics supports different smart contract languages, including Solidity , allowing developers to choose the language that best suits their requirements.

Potential for Applications to Communicate without Token Transfers

One interesting aspect of Optics is the potential for applications to communicate with each other without the need for token transfers. In traditional token bridges, tokens are locked on one chain and representation tokens are minted on the other chain. However, with Optics, applications can send messages across chains without the requirement of transferring tokens. This opens up possibilities for various types of cross-chain interactions and collaborations between applications.

Benefits of Optics for Interoperability

Optics provides several benefits for achieving interoperability between blockchain networks:

  1. Seamless Communication: Optics enables seamless communication between different blockchains, allowing smart contracts on one chain to interact with those on another chain.
  2. Flexibility: Optics is designed to be customizable and adaptable, supporting various smart contract languages and allowing developers to implement their own versions to meet specific requirements.
  3. Decentralization: Optics operates as a distributed system, with off-chain agents playing a crucial role in relaying messages and notarizing updates. This decentralization ensures the resilience and security of the protocol.
  4. Scalability: By facilitating cross-chain messaging, Optics helps scale applications by distributing their functionality across multiple chains, reducing congestion on a single blockchain.
  5. Interoperable Applications: With Optics, developers can build cross-chain applications that leverage the capabilities of multiple blockchains, unlocking new possibilities for decentralized applications.

Future Developments and Integration with Other Protocols

The Optics team continues to work on improving and expanding the protocol. They are actively researching and exploring new features, such as support for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other complex asset types. Additionally, the team aims to integrate Optics with other protocols and projects to further enhance cross-chain interoperability and create a robust ecosystem.


The Optics protocol provides a powerful solution for cross-chain messaging and interoperability. By enabling seamless communication between blockchain networks, it opens up new opportunities for decentralized applications and collaborations. With its flexibility, customization options, and potential for applications to communicate without token transfers, Optics plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between different blockchains and advancing the adoption of decentralized technologies.