In July of 2021, the ICON Foundation announced plans to build and deploy a new EVM-compatible blockchain, identified as “ICE”, that would serve as the application hub for the ICON ecosystem.

This initial vision was relatively straightforward: rather than having the core ICON blockchain serve as both an interoperability and application hub, we would instead separate the two, with ICE serving as the extension chain.

While the ICON team initiated planning with a definition of core direction and a suggestion to build with Substrate, they wanted ICE to be decentralized from the beginning so they left further specification of identity, mission, scope and technology until they had added three main committed independent founding teams as partners. A great deal of internal discussion and deliberation took place during which many questions were settled and the four teams began to come together as one.

It wasn’t until after the initial announcements, including the snapshot window, that we really visited the parachain question. It was observed that teams and communities are really only inspired to great success through bold and ambitious visions, and for ICE to reach its potential and inspire a larger community it would have to be built to win a parachain slot. We had agreed that a key value for ICE would be to make it the best chain to build on to leverage connections through BTP. Combining BTP with the connectivity achieved through a parachain slot would multiply the opportunities available to developers through both ecosystems.

Judging from the successful teams ahead of us, the path with the highest chance of success to win a Polkadot parachain slot also requires us to build a canary network for ICE that would integrate with the Kusama ecosystem. Thus, SNOW was born.

The snapshot for token airdrops of both ICY and ICZ took place at the end of 2021 as planned, and the team has been working hard at building out both chains in the meantime. We should note that airdropped tokens will not be available until their respective chains launch.

While we believe our focus on the Polkadot ecosystem is in the best long-term interest of the ICE ecosystem, doing so adds some additional layers of complexity to building and launching the ecosystem.

Rather than simply building and launching a solo blockchain as initially envisioned, there are a number of requirements we must adhere to in order to succeed within the Polkadot ecosystem. These include both technical requirements, but also outreach efforts that will allow ICE to prevail in a future Parachain auction.

Accordingly, a key focus of our internal team at the moment is designing a sustainable and effective crowdloan strategy to ensure the support necessary from the Polkadot community to secure a Parachain slot. We look forward to unveiling our strategy in the near future.

While this pivot has added complexity to our vision, our team of developers have been making significant progress. Thanks to the release of our initial testnet, Frost, builders have already been able to start experimenting and deploying their contracts. Accordingly, the launch of SNOW–and eventually ICE–will likely be accompanied by the launch of a number of dApps, ensuring both chains have immediate use cases.

Moving forward, we will be providing quarterly updates on the buildout of both the SNOW and ICE chains, while providing additional interim updates on notable developments including tokenomics, our crowdloan strategy, airdrops and other topics.