WTF is Polkadot (DOT)?

Fondly referred to as a blockchain of blockchains or protocol of protocols in some circles, Polkadot is considered to be one of the most promising steps towards the realization of a decentralized internet.

While web 2.0 has been widely praised for the multi-functional and dynamic experiences offered to users across a variety of devices, it has also come under serious criticism; with many wondering whether this system is really beneficial to users. Web 2.0 is blamed for being too centralized, a trait that has led to reduced privacy, decreased security, widespread cases of data theft and regular mass surveillance. Web 3.0 seeks to overcome these drawbacks by converting centralized applications into decentralized protocols through the use of blockchain technology.

Polkadot aims to further the creation and implementation of blockchain and decentralized web applications in order to create a transparent internet that provides users with more control over their privacy.

Read on below to find out more about the Polkadot blockchain project.

What Is Polkadot?

As one of the fastest growing projects in today's crypto world, Polkadot is seen as a highly formidable foundation of web 3.0 (i.e. the future of the decentralized internet). This bold project, which was started in 2017, aims to combine different blockchains into a single and highly secure network.

In essence, the protocol which is governed by holders of DOT (Polkadot’s native crypto) facilitates interoperability with other blockchains within and without the cryptocurrency world. In addition to being upgradeable, this network also allows for the creation of new blockchains and cryptocurrencies as well as communication between blockchains.

Commissioned by the Swiss non-profit Web3 Foundation, the Polkadot network is being developed and maintained by Parity Technologies. As such, the network is built using the company’s blockchain building tool, Substrate.

To deliver on functionality, the Polkadot network is designed with a unique architecture made up of several different layers. These layers make up the overall Polkadot network ecosystem. To have a real understanding of how this network operates, one must have an understanding of how each layer works.

At the heart of Polkadot’s functionality is the relay chain. In addition to being responsible for interoperability and consensus, the relay chain is also responsible for the security of all other blockchains connected to the network. To confirm all transactions performed on connected blockchains, the network uses a system of validators.

Connected to the relay chain are secondary chains referred to as parachains. These blockchains run simultaneously, without interrupting each other, thanks to the network's parallelized operation. Parachains are capable of executing a variety of functions, as well as following their own unique set of governing rules. Furthermore, they can exchange tokens and even communicate with each other, if and when necessary.

Parathreads are the next layer in the network's architecture. These are designed to work like parachains, but with a small difference. While parachains are continuously connected to the relay chain, parathreads only connect to it when necessary. With their unique mode of operation, these blockchains give rise to a pay as you go model that can be used to boost cost efficiency for networks that don’t need to be connected to the relay chain at all times.

Lastly, you have bridges. These are used to broaden the interoperability of the network. These bridges are designed to make it possible for parachains and parathreads to link up and communicate with external blockchains such as Bitcoin among others.

What Makes Polkadot Exciting?

Now that you have a good understanding of what Polkadot is, and how it works, it is time to look at why so many people in the crypto world are excited about this project. In general, Polkadot appears to solve a variety of issues that most blockchains seem to face as time passes. Here are some of the reasons why Polkadot is attracting so much attention from developers as well as investors:

• Time Saving – Polkadot is seen as a blockchain for blockchains. Its heterogeneous foundational structure combined with its interoperability helps save developers a lot of time and effort when developing applications in its environment.

Every time developers want to start developing a new project on the Polkadot network, they don’t have to start from scratch.

• Scalable – Congestion is one of the main reasons behind the eventual slow down in the progress of blockchains. Polkadot seeks to overcome this issue with the help of its Parachains. Simply put, each application in the network has its own mini-chain, connected to the main chain; this means that transactions on each separate chain can be processed simultaneously, in parallel, instead of being pushed through a single network sequentially.

This ultimately means that any increase in the demand for one application on the network will not have an effect on the performance of other applications connected to the main chain. As such, congestion issues are resolved in their entirety.

• Growing Popularity In The Developer Community – Last but not least, Polkadot has recorded healthy growth in the number of developers working on the project. From 2019 to 2020, this number grew from around 197 to 388 according to figures published in a report from Electric Capital. And, while this is nowhere close to those working on Ethereum for instance, it is a good indicator of the project’s rapidly growing popularity and profile in the developer community.

Based on the above, Polkadot is considered to have a promising future. And even though it still faces stiff competition from a few other cryptos, its unique features and functionality give it an essential role to play in the evolution of the crypto world, and the internet as a whole.

Who Is On The Polkadot Team?

The Polkadot team is made up of a number of notable members who are widely recognized in the crypto world by having worked on a variety of previous projects involving cryptography and distributed technology. The three founders of this project are Dr. Gavin Wood, Peter Czaban and Robert Habermeier.

Of the three, Dr. Gavin Wood, is perhaps the most recognizable name. In addition to being a highly established coding expert, Dr. Wood is popularly known for his involvement in Ethereum – as the Chief Technology Officer. It is also worth mentioning the fact that Dr. Gavin Wood is credited with having invented Solidity, a blockchain programming language that drives the core functionality of Ethereum.

Robert Habermeier on the other hand has a rich history in the research and development in the field of cryptography, distributed systems and blockchains. A Thiel Fellow, the Polkadot co-founder also has a long history as a Rust community member – and is dedicated to using the language to build highly performant and parallelized solutions.

Peter Czaban rounds up the team of founders at Polkadot. He focuses on providing support for the creation and establishment of next-gen distributed technologies in his post as the Technology Director at the Web3 Foundation.

What VC Firms Backed Polkadot?

Polkadot is backed by a list of VC firms, the most notable one being Polychain Capital. As one of the most well known VC firms in the crypto world, Polychain Capital focuses on encouraging the adoption of cryptocurrency globally by being actively involved in blockchain networks and investment.

In addition to participating in Polkadot’s ICO as one of the main private investors, the firm has also partnered with Web3 Foundation in the establishment of the Polkadot Ecosystem Fund.

How To Participate In The Polkadot Network?

The unique architecture and functionality of the Polkadot network has given rise to a variety of roles for different participants.

1. Nominators – These are similar to the miners of the current Proof of Work blockchains - Polkadot uses Proof of Stake (PoS). These stake-holding participants are normally charged with the work of securing the network’s relay chain. To do this, Nominators have to stake DOTs in the ecosystem and also participate in the selection of validators that can be trusted.

2. Validators – These can be considered to be similar to mining pools of current Proof of Work blockchains. In essence, vaidators are tasked with ensuring the security of the relay chain. To fulfill their task, validators stake DOTs, validate proofs from collators and, together with other validators on the network, participate in consensus.

3. Collators – Similar to Nominators, these participants play a similar role to miners in the current Proof of Work blockchains. Their main task is to help validators produce valid parachain blocks. To fulfill this role, Collators (also referred to as Transaction Collators) usually compile shard transactions from users. Once all the necessary data has been collected, they produce the proofs to validators.

4. Fishermen – These are comparable to the full nodes seen in current blockchain systems. In their most basic form, Fishermen can be seen as a unique form of monitoring protocols employed by the Polkadot network. They do not have a direct role in the block authoring process. The work of Fishermen is to monitor the network and report any issues to validators.

Where To Learn More?

If you wish to learn more about this exciting new blockchain project you can check out the Polkadot Wiki by Web3 Foundation (https://wiki.polkadot.network/docs/learn-implementations). The Polkadot website (Polkadot.network) also has a lot of useful information on all things Polkadot.

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