Polkadot is an open-source project promoted and developed by the Web3 Foundation. It is a next-generation shared protocol that enables the connection of multiple blockchain networks. This connectivity seeks to create a unified network configured by the union of several blockchains.
Designed as part of a broader vision of a network that returns control to individuals over Internet monopolies, Polkadot builds on the previous Blockchain network's revolutionary promise, offering several fundamental advantages over them. This post is a brief introduction to the Polkadot structure.
Origin of the Project
Polkadot is a project that was born from the need to have a platform with the characteristic of serving multiple blockchains in a decentralized and parallelized way. Polkadot also needed to adapt to innovations implemented on the network, such as the Web 3.0.
In 2016, Gavin Wood, Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of York, with extensive code development experience for multiple specialized cryptocurrency applications, published the Polkadot whitepaper. It specifies the project's technical characteristics, objectives, and operating structure within the network.
What does Polkadot offer to Blockchain networks?
The processing capacity of blockchains is limited. Polkadot is a fragmented multi-chain network, which means that it can process many transactions on several chains in parallel, thus eliminating the famous bottlenecks in networks that process transactions one by one. This concurrent processing capability dramatically improves scalability, providing the right conditions for further adoption and future growth.
The distinct fragmented chains connected to Polkadot are known as Parachains because they work on the network in parallel.
When we talk about architecture in the Blockchain, we know that a single model does not cover all use cases. Therefore, changing conditions force blockchain networks to carry out changes to achieve different characteristics for their separate use cases. For example, one can improve identity management, while another can optimize file storage or compression. In Polkadot, each chain can have a novel design optimized for a specific use case. That means that Blockchains can offer better services and at the same time improve efficiency and security, leaving out unnecessary code. By building on the Substrate development framework, programmers can develop and customize their Blockchain in a fast and efficient way, not previously known.
Thanks to this feature, Polkadot can communicate between blockchains of different nature; this allows developers to create innovative services and users the possibility of transferring information between blockchains. A clear example can be that of a network that provides financial services. It can communicate with another that provides access to real-world data (known as a blockchain oracle), such as data on stock market prices for the exchange of tokenized securities or assets.
Polkadot communities govern their network using a consensus among the members. Users have transparent participation in the future of the Polkadot network's governance as a whole, allowing each group to customize and optimize their Blockchain's management according to their own needs and experiment with new ideas swapping out prebuilt modules for faster implementation. In this way, blockchain governance models can refine and update as conditions change over time.
Network upgrades without the need for hard forks
Blockchains need updates to stay relevant and improve over time. However, updating conventional blockchains requires a "hard fork," which creates two separate transaction ledgers that can split a community in two. Polkadot allows fork-free upgrades, allowing Blockchains to evolve and adapt easily and quickly as better technology becomes available.
How does Polkadot work?
Polkadot creators based the platform on four fundamental pillars:
The validators are in charge of sealing or finalizing blocks in the Polkadot network, which is the most significant load within the system. These validators are at the core of the PoS (Proof of Stake) algorithm, and they stake their DOT (Polkadot's native token) in the system. Validators can be appointed by Nominators (see below) to work in the network on their behalf.
A validator must run a high availability hardware node. For each block, the node must be ready to accept the role of confirming a newly nominated parachain (Parallel Block).
Validators receive candidate blocks from Collators, who propagate selected blocks to parachain validator's subsets and finalize the relay chain blocks through a deterministic selection process.
Nominators also have a stake in the network. Their task is to select reliable validators as they stake DOT in the network. The nominator's function is to help strengthen the Relay Chain's collective security.
The Collators work at a higher level: the parachain. They are not directly involved in securing the relay chain. They collect transactions from the parachains and build an unsealed block with its corresponding proof and send it to the selected validator to seal the block. Collators have to maintain two nodes: one for the relay chain and the other for their particular parachain. Their role is equivalent to that of miners in a Proof of Work blockchain.
The fishermen are not involved in block creation or verification processes. They look for malicious behavior on the network that they report to validators. For a small DOT stake, fishermen monitor how validators and collators act, getting an important reward if they spot someone breaking the rules. They act as the police in the Polkadot ecosystem.
Polkadot in the real world. Applications and uses
One of the essential characteristics of Polkadot is its flexibility that empowers developers to create blockchains with a specific purpose within an application: focusing on privacy or some particular aspect of a Dapp.
Beyond interoperability, Polkadot makes it easy to take advantage of the features of other parachains. And with this, it is possible to achieve quicker developments or innovate through interactions between developers.
The Web3 Foundation, the organization entrusted with managing Polkadot's development, supports many of these teams with grants, funding projects, from low-level infrastructure to ecosystem components such as wallets, parachains, bridges, and tooling.
The Polkadot ecosystem is growing bigger and gaining strength as blockchain devs realize the benefits of deploying their Polkadot projects. Its unique design gives developers more possibilities for innovation and quick iteration than ever before in previous networks.
By bringing together multiple specialized chains into a scalable network, Polkadot enables Blockchain technology to reach its full potential for real-world use cases, spawning new markets and paving the way for future decentralized economies.