Microchains are lightweight chains that operate in parallel within a common set of validators.

What Are Microchains?

Microchains are lightweight chains that operate in parallel within a common set of validators. In a microchain-based network, the role of proposing blocks is separate from the role of validating them. In many cases, block production is delegated to users, allowing an unlimited number of microchains to run in parallel, while ensuring low transaction fees, quick transaction finality, and giving users direct local access to their on-chain data.
First introduced in the Linera whitepaper, microchains are a particular approach to blockchain network architecture that ensures horizontal scalability. A microchain is similar to a regular blockchain in the sense that it is made of a chain of blocks, each containing a sequence of transactions. However, their implementation differs in two important ways:
  1. An arbitrary number of microchains can coexist in a network, all sharing the same set of validators and the same level of security. Microchains communicate with each other using cheap cross-chain messages. Creating a new microchain only takes one transaction on an existing chain.
  2. The task of proposing new blocks in a microchain can be assumed either by validators or by user wallets depending on the configuration of a chain. Allowing end users to propose blocks directly to their own chain is an important specificity of microchains allowing for greater scalability and lower operational costs.

Altogether, the core innovation of microchains is to put users at the center of the protocol by allowing them to manage the production of blocks in their own chains without trading off security or finality guarantees. This framework not only guarantees optimal performance for transaction latency and fees, but it also ensures that users have direct, local access to their on-chain data, enhancing transparency and accessibility.

The Role of Microchains in Web3

The concept of microchains looks at scalability from a new perspective: scaling at the validator level instead of at the blockchain level. The result is a game changer for web3 applications that require quick on-chain interactions between an unlimited number of users.

Microchains are a preferable solution for many web3 use cases due to their flexibility and ability to ensure that applications can consistently and predictably perform at scale, for any number of users. Some important use cases for Linera include:

  • Messaging and social data feeds in decentralized social (DeSoc)
  • Peer-to-peer financial transactions, auctions, and payments
  • Real-time coordination and data streams in decentralized physical infrastructure (DePIN)

  • Version control systems for software, data pipelines, or AI agents

  • Micro-rewards and low-latency user interactions in web3 gaming

Beyond scalability, the advantages of the microchain approach are also seen in an improved user experience as well as added transparency and data accessibility. One way to look at microchains is to see them as a step away from monolithic blockchains and their layered, modular add-ons, and as a step towards what we could call The Personal Blockchain.

Author: Mathieu Baudet, Linera Founder and CEO

Mathieu Baudet is the founder and CEO of Linera, the first low-latency blockchain designed to scale elastically through the introduction of microchains. During his nine-year tenure as an infrastructure engineer and researcher at Meta (formerly Facebook), Mathieu was instrumental in the development of the Libra/Novi project, where he worked on an academic protocol called FastPay which laid the foundations for the Linera protocol. Mathieu holds a PhD in Computer Science from École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay and specializes in BFT consensus protocols, cryptographic protocols, and formal verification.