The Polkadot Ecosystem: An Introduction

With the Polkadot ecosystem thriving and the community around it getting more excited about what is to come, I felt a brief into what Polkadot is all about would be a great start for enthusiasts who would like build and/or explore the Polkadot ecosystem.

The Polkadot ecosystem comprises of Polkadot and Kusama, two live blockchain networks; along with Substrate — the ecosystem development portal. Now let’s connect the dots!

What is Polkadot?

Polkadot is a scalable, interoperable and secure network protocol for the next generation of web.

What is Kusama?

Kusama is a canary network with features similar to Polkadot but accords users greater opportunity to explore while developing on the blockchain. It’s Polkadot but faster, a bit more rugged and a bit more disruptive. Anything that goes on Polkadot; first comes to Kusama.

What is Substrate?

Substrate is a modular framework that enables you to create purpose-built blockchains by composing custom or pre-built components.

Navigating the Substrate Developer Hub will be addressed in a separate article.

Features of Polkadot

Features of Polkadot

A brief overview of the features of Polkadot:

Interoperability: By enabling cross-blockchain transfers of any type of data or asset, Polkadot gives applications from other blockchains the ability to interoperate with a wide variety of blockchains in the Polkadot network.

Economic & Transaction Scalability: By enabling a common set of validators to secure multiple blockchains and by spreading transactions across multiple parallel blockchains Polkadot provides economic and transaction scalability.

Ease of Usage: By using the Substrate framework it is easy to build a custom blockchain as well as getting the shared security from day one by connecting to Polkadot.

Forkless: By doing away with hard forks to upgrade or to integrate new features or fix bugs, Polkadot enables ease of adaptation as better technologies become available in the near future.

Secure: By enabling pooled security, Polkadot allows chains to interact with each other in a way such that though the chains remain independent in their governance, yet united in their security.

User-driven network governance: Polkadot has a sophisticated governance system where all stakeholders have a voice in decision making for the network to ensure that Polkadot’s development reflects the values of the community.

The DOT token

The utility token for the Polkadot network is DOT. The DOT token serves three distinct purposes:
a. Governance: The engaged Polkadot community has complete control over the protocol inclusive of managing exceptional events such as protocol upgrades and fixes.
b. Staking: Game theory incentivizes token holders to behave in honest ways. Good actors are rewarded whilst bad actors lose their stake in the network by this mechanism, thereby ensuring the network to remain secured.
c. Bonding: New parachains are added by bonding tokens. Outdated or non-useful parachains are removed by removing bonded tokens which depicts a version of proof of stake.

KSM is the Kusama network utility token has similar utility in the Kusama network of blockchains.

Security Model

Unlike other blockchains using the approach of Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake; Polkadot takes a different approach by letting blockchains pool their security and applying it to all joining in the network. Thus by connecting to Polkadot, blockchain developers can secure their blockchain from day one with the combined security model.

Applications in the Ecosystem

The applications to be built on Polkadot cover multiple domains including decentralized social networks, decentralized financial networks, DeFi aggregators, gaming, music, messaging, DAO, oracles, etc. Bridges with a few prominent blockchains have been established and a few applications in the pipeline are very promising.

Concluding insights

In this article I briefly touched upon the highlights of the Polkadot ecosystem. This will be followed by a series of articles in which I will deep dive into most topics to help make the journey for users with a basic understanding blockchain and interest in exploring the Polkadot ecosystem easier.

Blockchain learner, enthusiast and mentor