What is the Polkadot Network? A Simple Guide

Polkadot’s core features can open up a world of services

Blockchain technology is evolving at an incredible pace, and Polkadot is leading solutions in providing scalability. This fairly-recent project is innovating the industry and cannot go unseen by anyone entering the Web3. In this complete article, you will find all the need-to-know information about Polkadot. Keep reading for some Polkadot 101.

Table of Contents

What is Polkadot?

Polkadot is a next-generation platform that enables blockchains and other parachains to work together under one umbrella. It’s known as a layer-0 blockchain, where, besides its main Polkadot relay chain, there can be multiple Polkadot parachains that link to it.

The network was built to allow any type of data to be sent between any type of blockchain and has the potential to unlock a wide range of real-world use cases.

Who created Polkadot?

Polkadot was built by Parity, a company founded by Ethereum co-founder Dr. Gavin Wood and former Ethereum Foundation Head of Security Dr. Jutta Steiner.

Parity has essentially molded the blockchain industry from building the widely used Parity Ethereum client and implementations of Bitcoin and Zcash to now working on ‘the next generation of blockchain technology’ with Polkadot. 

Why is Polkadot different?

The Polkadot blockchain marketing efforts propose a strong ethical standpoint from the outset on the issues surrounding personal data and how it is used (or abused) by centralized entities in today’s world.

“Because that data can often paint a detailed picture of our personal lives, it’s become a resource more valuable than oil”

Polkadot Lightpaper 

The Polkadot team wants to prioritize individual sovereignty but at the same time recognizes that blockchain technology, in its current form, isn’t ready to break free from the corporate grip on the web yet. Something they want to change. 

By bringing together features from multiple specialized blockchains, Polkadot intends to pave the way for new decentralized applications (dapps) and marketplaces to emerge and offer ways to access services. 

Polkadot aims to build further on the promise of previous blockchain networks and offer fundamental advantages to builders and end-users. Take a look at Polkadot’s main features below:

1. Scaling

Blockchains that operate in isolation can only process a limited amount of traffic. Polkadot is a sharded multichain network, meaning it can process many transactions on several chains in parallel, eliminating the bottlenecks that can occur on older networks. 

This parallel processing power significantly improves scalability and has the potential to create the right conditions for increased adoption and future growth. Arguably, these are the most important growth metrics for the blockchain industry right now.  

2. Optimized for use-cases

As mentioned, Polkadot is a sharded blockchain, meaning it connects several chains in a single network. This allows the processing of transactions in parallel and the ability to exchange data between chains. 

Each chain in the network can be optimized for a specific use case rather than being forced to adapt to a one-size-fits-all model. More chains and more specialization means more possibilities for innovation.

3. No Forks

Blockchains, like other software, need to be updated to function correctly and efficiently. However, upgrading conventional chains requires what are called “hard forks”, which create two separate transaction histories that can break a community and often take a lot of time-consuming work. 

Polkadot promises forkless upgrades, which would allow blockchains to evolve and adapt easily as better technology becomes available. 

4. Collaborate

Networks and applications on Polkadot can share information and functionality like apps on a phone, without needing to rely on centralized service providers. Polkadot offers interoperability and cross-chain communication. 

For example, a chain providing financial services can communicate with another that provides access to real-world data such as stock market price feeds for tokenized equities trading.

5. Governance

Governance procedures in the blockchain arena are quite a new concept. Older blockchains do not give Individual stakeholders or token holders a say in proposing or refusing protocol changes. Polkadot is governed by anyone who owns the DOT token, Polkadot’s native currency. All DOT holders are able to propose a change to the protocol or vote on existing proposals. 

Overall, the DOT token serves three distinct purposes: governance over the network, staking, and bonding. Polkadot token holders have complete control over the protocol as all privileges, which on other platforms are given exclusively to miners, are given to all DOT holders. Whilst staking simply incentivizes token holders to behave honestly in order to be rewarded.  

Developers on Polkadot govern their network as they see fit, and hold a transparent stake in the future of Polkadot’s network governance as a whole. Teams can customize their blockchain’s governance to their needs, experiment with new ideas, or swap in ready-made parts for faster deployment. 

Read also: What is a Blockchain? DappRadar’s Ultimate Guide

Who is building on Polkadot?

Polkadot is the flagship project of the Web3 Foundation, a Swiss Foundation founded to facilitate a fully functional and user-friendly decentralized web.

To date, the Web3 Foundation has supported several teams with grants, and funding projects at all levels of the web3 technology industry, from low-level infrastructure to ecosystem parts such as wallets, parachains, bridges, and tooling.

Furthermore, in early 2021, Interlay introduced Polkadot’s first trustless wrapped Bitcoin – PolkaBTC – once deployed, users were able to mint 1:1 Bitcoin-backed assets onto Polkadot, marking a critical step toward a truly interoperable ecosystem. 

Over 100 projects have or are currently being built in the Polkadot ecosystem. These projects range from core technical infrastructure to applications for decentralized finance (DeFi), privacy-oriented data, digital identity systems, social networking, IoT, gaming, robotics, and supply chain logistics. 

For example, some applications currently being built on Polkadot have functionality in which a user’s account and data are stored by encrypting them locally on their own devices rather than on a centralized server. 

This approach gives people full control over their data in a user-friendly way and further fulfills the ethical standpoint outlined by Polkadot since its inception. By building systems that are fundamentally incapable of abusing user trust by design, Polkadot hopes to move society in a fairer, more representative direction.

You’ve heard the phrase the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, the keyboard is going to become even mightier than the pen pretty soon. The world, in some sense, belongs to coders.”

Polkadot founder Gavin Wood remarked

Top projects built on Polkadot

As Polkadot is a layer-0 blockchain, it allows for other blockchains to be built on top of it (known as parachains). Some of the most famous projects built on Polkadot include:

  • Kusama: Polkadot’s experimental network designed to be a testbed for Polkadot applications but that ended up becoming its own entity – also a layer-0;
  • Moonbeam: A Polkadot parachain that is a purpose-built platform for deploying smart contracts;
  • Acala: Polkadot’s DeFi hub that is designed to offer financial primitives and stablecoins;
  • Polkastarter: Polkadot’s cross-chain decentralized exchange and crowdfunding platform.

Polkadot is a game-changer in the blockchain space, and its potential is only beginning to be realized. With Polkadot, we can finally move away from the single-chain paradigm and enter into a world of true interchain interoperability.

Read further: DappRadar Now Tracking Dapps on Moonbeam & Moonriver

What is the DOT token?

The DOT token is Polkadot’s native cryptocurrency that is used to secure the network and reward validators for their contributions. It also allows users to interact with Polkadot applications and govern the network.

Much like DappRadar’s RADAR token, DOT ownership gives holders a vote on Polkadot’s referenda, which determine the direction of the project’s development.

Polkadot In Summary

All blockchains are forced to make tradeoffs to support specific features and use cases, and as chain specialization increases, the need to transact between them will only increase. 

When combining the benefits listed above with a world-class team and infrastructure behind Polkadot, it becomes clearer that these core features can open a world of possibilities for new services.

Furthermore, it should give a better indication of why there is so much hype surrounding Polkadot. 

Polkadot offers developers a scalable, interoperable, specialized, and easily upgradable blockchain solution on which to deploy decentralized applications (dapps), and as Ethereum’s scalability and cost issues persist, they could prove to be a thorn too big to shake out. 

As other solutions, such as Polkadot, start deploying projects offering higher levels of efficiency coupled with lower fees, developers will be forced to take notice, and users will simply enjoy benefits without care for the underlying operations or their providers. 

Keep learning with DappRadar

Accessing quality content is essential to stay ahead of the game when looking for opportunities in the cryptoverse. At DappRadar, we will continue following Polkadot’s leading role in blockchain innovation to keep you posted.

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The above does not constitute investment advice. The information given here is purely for informational purposes only. Please exercise due diligence and do your own research. 

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