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What Are Appchains? A Guide to Application-Specific Blockchains

June 10, 2024

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One of the latest innovations in blockchain is the concept of application-specific blockchains, also referred to as appchains. Appchains bring customization and efficiency to blockchains. But what exactly is an appchain, and how does it work?

Read on as we explore appchains, their benefits and drawbacks, make comparisons, and discover some of the leading appchains.

What Are Appchains?

Appchains are specialized blockchains built for a specific use. Unlike broad-use blockchains that aim to support various applications, appchains are crafted to serve the distinct needs of individual applications.

Because appchains are built for a particular use, their architecture can be tailored to satisfy precise business ne­eds. This design boosts performance and e­ffectiveness in ope­ration, ensuring smooth integration with workflow systems meant for use­ by such applications.

Focusing on a specific use case means that appchains have better efficiency, alleviate network congestion and lower transaction costs than their general-purpose counterparts. They also excel in managing large transaction volumes and handling specialized data types, making them optimal for niche applications.

How Do Appchains Work?

Appchains work on the basic principles of blockchain but are created to address the requirements of individual applications. Each appchain allocates resources to the selected task, ensuring efficient utilization without dispersing efforts across unrelated applications.

Appchains can adopt different consensus mechanisms, such as Proof-of-Work (PoW) or Proof-of-Stake (PoS), to meet each application's specific needs. Smart contracts within appchains are also tailore­d to each appchain's precise re­quirements.

Full-fledged appchains typically consist of five layers:

  • Network layer: Manages peer-to-peer network functionalities, facilitating communication, data exchange, and transaction validation among blockchain nodes.
  • Application layer: Hosts decentralized applications (DApps) and provides interfaces for developers to build, deploy, and monitor application operations.
  • Consensus layer: Implements the appchain's consensus algorithm, which can vary based on the application's requirements, incorporating mechanisms like PoW or PoS.
  • Smart Contract layer: Facilitates the automation, verification, and enforcement of smart contracts within the appchain.
  • Data layer: Responsible for organizing and storing blockchain information, including maintaining state, recording transactions, and managing smart contract data.

Appchains usually work on top of other main blockchains like­ Ethereum. Still, they are independent, ofte­n connected to Laye­r 0 protocols such as Cosmos. Layer 0 serves as a foundational network, providing interoperability and infrastructure, enabling multiple Layer 1 appchains to coexist and interact within a broader ecosystem.

Examples of Leading Appchains

As the concept of appchains grows, a growing number of appchains are being introduced. Here are some of the leading appchains.

Cosmos Zones

Cosmos zones function as standalone blockchains connected to the Cosmos Hub, analogous to appchains within the Cosmos ecosystem. These zones utilize the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol, allowing seamless data transfer across the network.

Avalanche Subnets

Avalanche subnets are independent blockchains within the Avalanche network that facilitate the creation of application-specific blockchains. Each subnet is supported by a unique set of validators responsible for achieving consensus on the state of associated blockchains.

Polkadot Parachains

Polkadot's parachains are individual blockchains that operate side by side within the Polkadot ecosystem. Each parachain is linked to the main Relay Chain and equipped with its tokenomics, governance models, and functionalities, allowing them to be customize­d for different uses.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Appchains

While appchains have a lot of benefits, such as scalability and interoperability, they still present some drawbacks.


  • Scalability: Appchains allocate resources to specific tasks or functions, increasing transaction throughput and reducing latency for individual applications.
  • Interoperability: Many appchains enable seamless communication and collaboration between different decentralized applications (DApps), allowing users to have a cohesive ecosystem.
  • Modularity: Appchains’ modular architecture allows developers to customize blockchain functionalities to suit the unique requirements of individual DApps, enhancing flexibility.
  • Specialization: Appchains tailored to serve specific applications result in superior performance and efficiency compared to general-purpose blockchains.


  • Security concerns: While customization is a key advantage of appchains, it also opens the door to security risks if proper security measures are not implemented.
  • Smaller ecosystem: The limited ecosystem could restrict access to resources, support, and collaboration opportunities, potentially hindering the growth and adoption of appchains.

Resource-intense: Developing an appchain can be resource-intensive, potentially deterring developers or organizations with limited resources from pursuing appchain development.

Appchains vs. Other Blockchains: Similarities & Differences

The Bottom Line

Appchains are specialized blockchains designed for specific applications. They can offer scalability and flexibility compared to general-purpose blockchains. In addition, developers can customize their parameters to suit an application's needs to improve performance without putting pressure on general-purpose chains.

While they won’t provide the public benefits of open blockchains like Bitcoin, there’s arguably room for application-specific chains for specific use cases.

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