Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum and creator of Kusama, sat down with Laura Shin in January 2021 to discuss his latest smart-contract adventure, Polkadot. When prompted to describe the goals of the platform, Wood emphasized the concept of being a “meta-protocol,” which is the genius of Polkadot’s structure.
Now, what is a meta-protocol? Wood describes it as being “a protocol of protocols – an underlying, much simpler protocol on which we build what we would normally consider to be the protocol.” That appears confusing but, in fact, it’s a very simple concept. “Designs always need changing — we want to allow ourselves to evolve.” By taking something that is already thoroughly developed – in Wood’s case, the internet – Polkadot is able to build a foundation on that existing protocol, allowing for enhancement, improvement and the ability to adjust more rapidly to growth or change.
In other words, rather than reinvent the wheel, build and improve the car around it.
Polkadot and Web3
Polkadot is a project of the Web3 Foundation, whose mission is “to nurture cutting-edge applications for decentralized web software protocols.” Web3 provides Web 3.0, a decentralized, fair web space where users control their own data and identity. It takes the root and heart of DeFi and applies it to arguably the most ingrained part of our daily lives–the internet. Juan Benet, founder of Web3, pointed out the powerful truth that computing power has already evolved drastically over the past 80 years of its existence and changed the entire world. With its continued advancement and the ability to become inaccessible or controlled by specific parties, Web3 believes it is up to us to determine the web’s positive growth in the coming decades.
After all, the rising concerns over internet governance cannot be ignored. The coincidental mention of a product can cause ads for it to pop up just moments later, leaving many to wonder who’s using their data. It’s a hot button issue that finds itself becoming more and more exacerbated with every election, every fight over freedom of speech, and every two-second, anxious pause we incur prior to typing in our personal info. Web3 has been lauded as the solution to these issues by encouraging the use of dApps instead of apps, removing the need for intermediaries. CEO and co-founder of Platinum Software Development Company, Anton Dzyatkovskii, spoke out about the relevance and dire need for Web3, saying, “in the future, one could access content based on content relevance, not geo-relevance. This way, information can be accessed and retrieved without relying on a single point of failure in the form of a single server.”
In keeping with the goal of crypto to fix these global inefficiencies, Polkadot includes plans for solvency on these issues into the framework of its platform.
Features of the Polkadot network
Governance - the process of governance on the Polkadot network echoes the views of Web3’s mission by giving users voting control over network decisions. Users propose, prioritize and vote on referendums, as well as on who become council members. This way, the future of the network is in the hands of those who are building it.
Security - Polkadot makes it easy for users to connect their networks to the Polkadot existing security system. That way, they don’t have to focus on building their own from the ground up, and all users have access to dedicated security features.
Ease of Upgrades - Polkadot doesn’t need to split the blockchain, an action known as forking, to make changes to it. This allows for upgrades to the network without major interruption.
This is to say nothing of what is perhaps the most impressive and game-changing feature on the Polkadot network, known as parachains.
What are parachains?
In a leap toward maximum scalability, Polkadot is bringing about the advent of the parachain. Blockchains, currently, do not have the capacity to speak to each other. Parachains create bridges between different blockchains, allowing for an open flow of communication and information transfer. In terms of transaction speeds, this new technology should allow the platform to see, at a minimum, 166,666+ tps (transactions per second), but testing shows that it could reach as high as 1 million tps. To put this in perspective, Bitcoin’s network can support 4.6 tps, Ethererum around 10-15 tps, and Visa, with the highest, around 1,700 tps. This puts Polkadot in a position to be more efficient than the current standard for transactions, including all of the banking solutions we currently use day-to-day. This version of Polkadot, version 0.9, is currently in the audit process and set to be released in the near future; its cousin chain, Kusama, is already equipped and ready to host the new technology upon release.
The promise of Polkadot
With a truly scalable network, built-in security, open communication, and fair governance policies, Polkadot is positioned to be a revolutionary platform in the crypto industry. It will be exciting to see what Polkadot version 0.9 will yield, as well as what advancements it will bring out of crypto competitors. After all, it’s not just about growing independent networks, but also about furthering the world of crypto–and Polkadot is doing just that.
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