What is Flow? A complete guide to the Flow blockchain
The Flow Blockchain helps power some of the most popular apps, games, and digital assets. Here's everything you need to know.
By Corey Barchat
Geoffrey Lyons also contributed to this article.
If you've ever bought an NBA Top Shot pack or adopted your very own CryptoKitties, then you're already familiar with Flow, the powerful blockchain that powers some of the most popular applications in crypto, NFTs, and gaming. Launched by Dapper Labs in 2019, Flow is quickly becoming the go-to blockchain for businesses to build and grow their user-base.
With a focus on low transaction fees and a truly user-centric experience, Flow is positioning itself to help build the next generation of apps, games, and digital assets. It has also launched its own native currency, FLOW, which is leveraged by validators, users, and developers to participate in the ecosystem
What is the Flow blockchain?
Flow is one of the leading blockchains for the next generation of apps, NFTs, and games. It’s designed to scale in a way that doesn’t use sharding techniques, so transactions are fast and low-cost.
Most notably, Flow is focused on reducing the complexity that is seen in other blockchains. Take, for example, purchasing a CryptoKitty. Behind the scenes, that process can involve dozens of blockchain transactions. But on Flow, the same action is handled by one atomic transaction in a single block.
The Flow blockchain is designed not just to improve the end-user experience but also to allow developers to build, test, and launch projects quickly and sustainably.
How does Flow work?
Every blockchain has its own validation mechanism to process transactions and secure the network.
For example, the Ethereum blockchain’s Proof-of-Stake (PoS) allows for a decentralized and secure network. However, it has run into difficulties scaling and processing such large quantities of transactions while keeping costs down. This has led to the rise of layer 2 solutions that can handle many orders off-chain at faster speeds and lower transaction fees than the mainnet.
Flow, on the other hand, splits the work of processing transactions into four separate nodes that each have their own role and responsibility. Instead of relying on off-chain solutions to scale the network, Flow’s native node subdivisions give it a great advantage in blockchain scalability.
What is the Flow node architecture?
Collection nodes are the first layer of the Flow node architecture. Their primary responsibility is to manage the transactions pool to collect well-formed transactions. Once a well-formed transaction is collected, these nodes will hash the text off and sign them.
Collection nodes then propose well-formed transactions to consensus nodes, which allow the network to reach consensus on the order and presence of transactions to be processed. As a decentralized blockchain, Flow allows anyone to participate in network consensus by running a node with even modest hardware and internet connections.
Execution nodes are responsible for computing and executing each transaction, while being kept in check by verification nodes. Dishonest execution nodes can be punished by just a single honest verification node, if the latter finds that the former processes any invalid transaction data.
By dividing validation stages between its four nodes, Flow is able to process transactions efficiently and with low fees compared to other blockchains.
What are the benefits of the Flow blockchain?
As cryptocurrencies, virtual worlds, and NFTs continue to become more mainstream, low transaction costs and ease of use are critical for both developers and users alike.
Flow was built with long-term sustainability in mind. Using Proof-of-Stake (POS) to run, it is significantly more energy-friendly than Proof of Work (POW), roughly in line with other online services that are regularly used. Additionally, the launch of the stablecoin FUSD helps further strengthen the Flow ecosystem and is incredibly promising for its long-term growth.
Here are a few additional benefits of the Flow network:
1) Flow is user-friendly and mainstream ready
Flow is built for mainstream adoption, with a heavy focus on being developer-friendly and making it easy for non-crypto users to get involved. For example, with the Flow network, users can easily recover lost keys. Additionally, Flow works to reduce the many steps involved in getting started with their favorite projects. Because of this, Dapper Labs uses Flow for all their portfolio projects.
2) Flow doesn't use sharding
As Flow notes: "Smart contracts and user accounts on Flow can always interact with each other in one atomic, consistent, isolated, and durable (ACID) transaction. In other words: all applications on Flow can run in the same shared execution state…. Sharding and layer 2 solutions break composability and reduce network effects for dapps and smart contracts by removing ACID guarantees from the execution environment."
While sharding can be helpful in some instances, it's not a long-term solution. By integrating its blockchain without the use of sharding, the Flow ecosystem is able to bypass some of the issues this technique can cause.
3) Flow focuses on decentralization
Because it's incredibly easy for developers and users to participate in the Flow ecosystem, this ensures that more individuals can participate in the consensus process that secures the network.
As Flow writes: "Flow is committed to a diverse and decentralized participation in the Flow Network, and therefore the distribution of the token, in compliance with securities law and other relevant regulatory frameworks."
4) Flow is backed by some of the world's biggest investors and brands
Additionally, Flow is backed by some incredibly well-respected investors, ensuring the long-term growth and sustainability of the ecosystem.
Both the Flow ecosystem and FLOW token continue to grow rapidly, and with more people around the world getting involved in crypto, it is well-positioned to become a key part of the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency.
Exploring the Flow ecosystem
Flow’s most notable projects include NBA Top Shot, an NFT marketplace for NBA “moments”, and CryptoKitties, an Ethereum game in which players breed and trade virtual cats. Still unreleased are the LaLiga, NFL, and UFC Collectibles, which are similar to NBA Top Shot (NFL All Day is currently available in Closed Beta only). All are the creations of Dapper Labs, the Vancouver-based gaming company that’s pioneering developments at the intersection of crypto and play.
But while these three standouts are where Flow gets most of its fame, the blockchain has a thriving consumer-focused ecosystem that’s rapidly expanding and taking on some of the most exciting and unique new projects in crypto.
GigLabs: The NFT facilitator
GigLabs connects premium brands with exciting user experiences by providing the tools to generate, mint, and sell NFTs. Their NFT Bridge acts as an entry point to the crypto ecosystem, offering all the capabilities needed to create, list, distribute, and display an NFT.
What makes this exciting project stand out is that brands are able to fully customise their NFT marketplace to meet the needs of their user base. For example, Athletes Unlimited launched an in-stadium NFT redemption via QR code for fans to purchase at USA’s softball team games; NASCAR released a first-of-its-kind NFT marketplace for race fans; and The University of Miami created its Canes Vault featuring commemorative tickets and digital championship rings telling the stories of the university’s student-athletes.
These are just a few of a growing list of partners using GigLabs to tailor their NFT offerings. As the NFT market continues to mature and new use cases emerge, the demand for custom NFTs will inevitably grow, and GigLabs will be a player to watch.
Chainmonsters: Monster taming with an in-game economy
Chainmonsters is a free-to-play blockchain-based game with a player-driven economy in which players can capture, train, battle, trade, and breed characters (“Chainmons”). Users have the option to go through the game solo or link up with friends and other players in designated group quests to earn special rewards. Chainmon variations, environmental effects, mutations, and traits give each Chainmon its unique likeness — they’re NFTs after all, so each has its own identity. With over 70,000 registered just during closed Alpha, Chainmonsters is experiencing tremendous interest from crypto and mainstream players alike.
There are countless blockchain games on the market, but Chainmonsters is up there with the best of them due to its compelling in-game features. For example, the game uses temporal seasons which are the only periods that a specific NFT character series can be minted. After that, there are no other chances to collect these Chainmons. There are also certain rare Chainmons that are only available to players who breed specific characters together. All characters and items are created and exist on the Flow blockchain.
Chainmonsters is cross-platform compatible so players can log in and out of multiple accounts to continue playing on different devices or on-the-go. It’s also suitable for blockchain newbies since it doesn’t require an NFT or other token asset holdings to start playing. As of February 2022, the game is available in Closed Beta on iOS and Android.
Chainmonsters is a project to watch, both for its in-game features and for introducing people to the blockchain through what appears to the untrained eye to be a standard video game.
Dark Country: A revolutionary trading card game
Dark country is a free-to-play, multi-chain NFT trading card game where users can collect cards to build lands, go on quests, and battle against other players. Cards in the game are NFTs that are owned by players and can be exchanged in-game or on secondary marketplaces.
Traditional trading card game players will notice Dark Country’s familiar feel. Inspired by Magic: The Gathering, Dark Country has all the spirit of physical card collecting with the added twist of being a digital, blockchain-based game.
Much like a cross-console compatible video game, users from various blockchains such as WAX are able to play the same game together. Additionally, each blockchain has its own perks: specific cards are reserved for Flow users, for example, giving special rewards and bonuses that you can only get on Flow.
By choosing to launch on the gaming platform Itch.io, Dark Country is attracting non-crypto native gamers into the NFT gaming world. Adding Flow as an in-game blockchain was a natural pairing, given Flow’s track record of introducing decentralised apps and blockchain-based products to non-crypto native users.
Dark Country even has its own Discord channel for devoted players of the game.
Want to learn more about Flow and get involved with its ecosystem? The Flow Discord channel is open to everyone looking to participate in the growing community.
Why does FLOW have value?
The blockchain has seen a growing number of adopters building on Flow from such industries as digital fashion, art, music, and social media. With a launchpad that caters to mainstream audiences, Flow is one of the most promising blockchains for any business to build on.
Its native token FLOW is used to power the network, and can also be held as a store of value. At the time of writing, the coin ranks #51 of all cryptocurrencies, with a market cap of over $1.8 billion after peaking at $5 billion in October 2021.
Where to buy Flow cryptocurrency
You can buy FLOW now via MoonPay. Just use your credit card or other preferred payment method and enter the desired Flow wallet address to purchase.
Flow is available to customers in all our supported countries, states, and territories.