There's an ongoing debate in the Cosmos community about the utility of Atom.
Though the Cosmos Hub remains the chain with the highest level of security by tokens staked and the highest value chain by market cap, there are legitimate concerns about the long-term utility and value proposition of the Cosmos Hub in the Interchain ecosystem.
Indeed, one can wonder what the Cosmos Hub's utility today is. Certainly, it serves as an essential on-off ramp for the ecosystem as the only IBC token listed on centralized exchanges with any significant amount of liquidity.
Past attempts to create a core value proposition have failed. The Emeris, an AMM hosted on the Cosmos Hub, was shut down and respawned as a sovereign chain: Crescent. And attempts to leverage the Cosmos Hub as a bridge to other blockchain ecosystems have not materialized.
Looking at on-chain activity, the situation is bleak. Although it is the longest-running chain in the ecosystem, the Cosmos Hub has little on-chain activity. With only 1.9 transactions per block at the time of writing, it has more than 10x less activity than Evmos, a chain launched in 2022. The Cosmos Hub is more than three years old at this point.
So how does the Cosmos Hub avoid becoming obsolete?
The precipice to zombie-chain status may still be a long way away, but The Hub needs to start planning for its future. As with climate change, there may be a point of no return.
The glimmer of hope that many in the ecosystem, and well-respected global investment firms, are touting is Interchain Security. Once enabled, provider chains (like the Cosmos Hub) will be able to produce blocks for consumer chains. Validators will receive fees for producing blocks on both the provider chain and any number of consumer chains it secures.
Shared security is an excellent feature as it lowers the barrier to security for new chains. Where new sovereign chains previously had to build a robust validator set, they will now be able to latch onto the Cosmos Hub's security, allowing developers to focus on building apps.
Yet, a significant challenge remains: competition. There are more blockchains today and a growing number of ways to deploy decentralized applications, whether as a rollup using Celestia, as a smart contract on Juno or Evmos, or on other shared security zones, as they will certainly exist. Not to mention platforms like Ethereum, Avalanche, and Solana, which have massive communities and significant developer mind share.
The Cosmos Hub can carve out a path to remain relevant and where Atom continues to accrue value. But the moat hasn't been dug yet. Currently, two chains have announced they will launch on the Hubs shared security, Neutron and Quicksilver. It will need at least 100x times as many apps if it wants to stand a chance at remaining relevant long-term.