While many developers prefer the relative safety and big mainnets, risk-taking mavericks might feel a bit constrained.
That’s what canary networks like SNOW are for.
The ICON network’s extension network and parachain on the Kusama network, SNOW — which officially launched last month — will serve as the faster, nimbler, more bleeding edge cousin to ICE, a parachain for Kusama’s “parent” Polkadot network.
This is where developers can innovate and experiment in an environment that is not only fully functional, but also completely interoperable with not one but TWO major ecosystems: Kusama and ICON’s BTP.
Canary in the coal mine
SNOW is ICE’s canary network, akin to how Kusama functions as Polkadot’s canary network.
What’s a canary network, you might ask? Put simply, a canary network is a fast-moving “testbed” for a related, larger main blockchain network.
Note that we use the word “testbed” here, and not “testnet.” Canary networks are living, breathing, fully functional blockchains with their own limited supplies of tokens with actual value (Kusama’s token, the KSM, was trading at just over USD 35 at the time of writing, and was ranked #117 overall in market cap), actual governance and actual applications built upon them.
The term comes from the mining industry of old, when miners would bring caged canaries into the mines. If there was a buildup of toxic gas, it would kill the canary first, alerting the miners to trouble.
Typically, canary networks use almost the exact same coding as their bigger cousin chains, but with advanced, experimental features that have yet to be deployed to the bigger, more conservative networks. They also typically have faster upgrades and governance procedures. This keeps the canary network on the cutting edge, but it also makes them riskier, and requires stakeholders to pay closer attention and be more active to keep up with all the action.
On the plus side, the stakes tend to be lower in canary networks. And no actual birds are killed. Presumably.
In the case of SNOW, this means developers can use the network to test or innovate applications before deploying them to ICE. Best of all, they can do this in a fully functional, real-world environment, without having to guess about tokenomics and the like.
And if you prefer playing on the cutting edge, you can even forgo deploying to ICE and keep your service on SNOW. This is certainly the case with Kusama:
“Many projects will maintain parachains on both networks, experimenting and testing new technologies and features on Kusama before deploying them to Polkadot. Some teams will decide just to stay on Kusama, which is likely to be a place where we see some exciting experimentation with new technologies going forward. Projects that require high-throughput but don’t necessarily require bank-like security, such as some gaming, social networking, and content distribution applications, are particularly good candidates for this use case.”
Connecting the Kusama and BTP
SNOW is a Kusama parachain, i.e., a project-specific blockchain integrated into the Kusama network. Polkadot — and Kusama, of course — functions on a spoke and wheel model, more or less, with the base blockchain (Polkadot or Kusama) providing security, consensus and interoperability for the spokes (the parachains).
This makes SNOW instantly interoperable with the rest of the Kusama ecosystem. As of the time of this writing, Kusama had no fewer than 41 parachains, with over USD 18.4 million in value locked in.
Notable Kusama parachains include the smart contract platform Moonriver (MOVR: USD 11.11), the DeFi platform SORA Network (XOR: USD 7.41), the DAO network Dora Factory (DORA: USD 5.55), and DataHighway canary network Tanganika Network (DHX: USD 4.52).
What sets SNOW apart from all those other cool parachains, though, is that once ICON’s innovative, chain-agnostic interoperability solution BTP is launched, SNOW will be interoperable not just within the Kusama ecosystem, but also with the wider BTP ecosystem, serving as a bridge between the two.
Just to put that into perspective, BTP’s ecosystem includes major blockchain networks like ICON, Algorand, BNB Smart Chain, NEAR Protocol and — quite possibly soon — Ethereum, as well as upcoming chains such as the HAVAH NFT platform and pretty much anything built using ICON SDK.
That’s serious interoperability. As an added bonus, SNOW is EVM and eWASM-compatible, meaning you could migrate Ethereum dApps to SNOW and not only benefit from lower gas fees and faster transaction times, but also plug your service into SNOW’s sprawling interoperability network.
ICZ, ICZ Baby
SNOW’s native token is the ICZ.
As we stated above, SNOW is not testnet. It’s a cutting-edge blockchain. ICZ is the fuel that makes it go.
Most dApps on SNOW will use ICZ for payment. You’ll also use ICZ for transaction fees, on-chain governance and other network functions.
If you took part in the snapshot that took place way back on Dec. 29, 2021, you can already claim your airdropped ICZ tokens with your eligible wallet.
If you didn’t participate in the snapshot, you can still get some ICZ — when liquidity permits — using Everest Bridge (powered by ICON Bridge) and EverestSwap, the ICE network’s AMM.
Also be aware that SNOW will be rolling out its $ICZ Staking Vault on Nov. 14, which will reward participants based on their entry dates, staking amounts and selected lock-up periods.