As we all know there’s a new ethereum killer that comes every quarter, Resides in the Top-10 Cryptocurrencies for few months and eventually fades away with time. It all comes down to blockchain maximalism. That’s what polkadot aims to solve by bringing cross-chain solutions and enabling the co-existence of most of the blockchains that support web3.
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The project was conceived by Ethereum cofounder Dr. Gavin Wood and the developer has worked on the protocol for the last four years. The project also stemmed from the initial coin offering (ICO) period and was one of three blockchain protocols (Dfinity, Filecoin) with a lot of hype behind them.
“Polkadot is a next-generation blockchain protocol that unites an entire network of purpose-built blockchains, allowing them to operate seamlessly together at scale,” the light paper further details. “It connects several chains together in a single network, allowing them to process transactions in parallel and exchange data between chains with security guarantees.”
Essentially, any type of arbitrary data can traverse across Polkadot’s multi-chain application environment like real-world assets and tokens. Any blockchain can join the Polkadot infrastructure, which is basically an aggregated set of validators that leverage heterogeneous shards.
Heterogeneous sharding has been discussed within the blockchain development community for quite some time. Sharding is basically breaking up the workload (data) peer-to-peer nodes deal with and so nodes essentially hold their own shards of data. Every shard is shared amongst the network of nodes. Like traditional sharding techniques, the network offers interoperability between multiple chains, but heterogenous sharding allows every chain to remain unique.
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There are three main parts to the Polkadot network, which include the main relay chain (Polkadot blockchain), parachains, and bridges. The parachains are made up of the heterogeneous blockchain shards and everything is secured by the main Polkadot Relay Chain.
The parachains can mint native tokens, transfer tokens, and connect to external chains via bridges. Bridges leverage Polkadot shards in order to communicate with blockchains like Ethereum (ETH) or Bitcoin (BTC). For instance, a startup called Interlay plans to create tokenized BTC product called “PolkaBTC” on the Polkadot blockchain.
Can Polkadot connect any blockchain?
Polkadot can connect any previously existing blockchain if it matches two criteria:
- It should also be able to form fast and compact proofs of the finality and validity of its blocks and state changes (this would include new UTXOs in a Bitcoin-like chain or new logs in an Ethereum-like chain).
- In order to authorise a transaction, multiple independent authorities (maybe up to 1,000) must be involved. The Schnorr scheme is one method of recognizing threshold signatures, or an automatic smart contract could detect a multi-signature condition based on structures in the smart contract.
Bitcoin and Bitcoin-like chains fall short on these characteristics. To address the first criteria, Polkadot validators can simply run a full Bitcoin node. To address the second criteria, either a soft-fork allowing extra-protocol controls over funds or a hard-fork enabling a threshold-signature-friendly signing scheme such as Schnorr is needed. Neither are impossible goals, however a significant degree coordination would be required to achieve them.
Ethereum conforms to these characteristics, particularly after the Metropolis protocol update, and therefore integration should be possible.
Private “proof-of-authority” (PoA) chains generally fulfill the first characteristic, since authorities attest to the validity of blocks, and the proof-of-validity attestation is little more than checking signatures. The second is possible Ethereum-like chains that have either smart contracts or threshold signature schemes. Interoperability with non-Ethereum blockchains such as Hyperledger and Quorum is feasible.
Where Polkadot works best is connecting new blockchains expressly designed to fit the parachain model. Under this model, Polkadot manages the chain’s consensus and validation activities. A parachain is an integrated member of the Polkadot network and benefits from immediate finality and disinterested validation (as opposed to the “interested” validation that facilitated the DAO hard fork). Parachains need not secure themselves, and are therefore free to focus purely on innovating in terms of its state machines.
What is the difference between a Parachain and a blockchain connected via a Bridge?
Parachains are the name given to the parallelized chains that participate in the Polkadot network. Polkadot’s natively supported blockchains achieve consensus using the greater network’s consensus mechanism, both adding to and benefiting from pooled security.
Bridges are connecting layers that will enable existing blockchains with their own state histories and methods of consensus to link with Polkadot without having to be a native parachain. These include Bitcoin and Ethereum.