Crypto Bridge Misadventures
Besides being Kima’s CTO, I’m also a regular crypto user – one might call me a “degen”. While building our ultimate cross-chain solution at Kima, I still find myself using crypto bridges from time to time. And like many other users, I assume, I encounter the dark corners of those bridges. The following are actual stories from my time in the crypto space.
Trying to bridge assets over Wormhole bridge (or “PortalBridge” as they call themselves post-hack) has always been challenging. With different requirements for the origin and destination chains, the number of confirmations required is sometimes downright excessive.
Undoubtedly the worst experience using this bridge is having your tokens taken from the origin wallet, completing the transaction, and getting a cryptic red message “Requested VAA not found in store”. After trying to reclaim my tokens, I joined the Wormhole Telegram support channel.
As anyone who has tried using the Telegram or Discord support channels can relate, I was soon hit with dozens of scam DMs as soon as I outlined my problem. Furthermore, a quick search showed that “my transaction is stuck” is the most common complaint. To top it off, when one of the actual team members gets to you, 99.99% of the time, their advice is just to wait.
As it turns out, observers go in and out of sync, and messages get stuck during relay all the time. While chatting with a support team representative, my transaction was quietly completed. The error was still showing prominently, and the transaction was marked as erroneous when I refreshed the page, but somehow the tokens found their way to the wallet on the other side.
Needless to say, this is a nerve-wracking experience that happens way too often on Wormhole. You only need to look at their support channel to see dozens of similar cases occurring daily.
Following the closure of the Binance Bridge last year, Orion Bridge is one of the only options left to transfer esoteric tokens (i.e., not stablecoins) from the Binance Smart Chain to Ethereum. It relies on the Orion protocol, which uses smart contracts to facilitate a trade on both chains. You lock your tokens in the contract at the origin, a market maker provides the same tokens at the destination, and you pay a higher gas price at the destination to release the transferred tokens.
I tried transferring a fairly well-known token using this protocol. It showed that the quantity I needed was available on Ethereum. After paying gas for approval and locking on BSC, I paid ETH on the Ethereum side to reclaim my transferred tokens. The transaction was marked as “settled,” but no tokens appeared in the wallet. Using blockchain explorers, I could see that both BSC and Ethereum transactions were successful – but still no funds.
The site recommends giving a transaction up to three hours to settle. I did – nothing happened.
The Orion site has a support widget. I left a message. After 24 hours, I received a request for details – which I shared. They told me to wait.
I tried the Orion Telegram channel as the next line of support. I was messaged by even more spam bots and people telling me terrible things when I called them out on their scam tactics (no kidding: try telling a scammer who asks for your private key so they could “help you with your funds” that you know what he’s trying to do). The Orion team member tried his best but couldn’t provide any technical support. He suggested I wait 24 hours.
I returned to the support channel every 24 hours for four (!) days. I was asked to use the support widget again every time, where I received the same bot answers or the official response to “give it 24 more hours”. Finally, I got my tokens five days later. Needless to say, their dollar value dropped throughout this period.
Harmony One Bridge
This is an easy one: I wanted to bridge some tokens to the Harmony blockchain. The Harmony One bridge was hacked a couple of weeks ago. It lets you try to bridge until the final stage, where it shows this message:
If you try to bridge to Harmony using the Synapse bridge, you see this:
My guess is Synapse is using Harmony One Bridge in the backend.
The bottom line is there’s no easy way to bridge assets to/from Harmony. The large APYs you see in DeFi projects on this chain right now stem from low liquidity.
Stuck transactions in bridges constitute a significant issue. Due to the technologies involved, reverting a transfer is almost impossible. Most of the time, you have no choice but to wait and hope funds will eventually pop up.
The support experience is horrible as well. Using Telegram and Discord is an excellent way to introduce yourself to scammers, spammers, and shillers. The idea of relying on the community for help is also less than ideal, as most people in a standard community channel do not understand where or why your transaction is stuck.
If bridges want to become a serious part of the crypto infrastructure, they need to shape up. They need transaction explorers, ways to revert transactions, informative error, info messages that clearly explain the situation, and a dedicated 24x7x365 support team.